Hydroponics gardening entails growing plants without the use of soil; while the concept is startling to some, the fact remains that hydroponics gardening offers a higher yield than regular plant growing techniques.
The “sans dirt” approach is also particularly well suited to apartment dwellers who have space restrictions and would not like to compromise the cleanliness of their home by using mud.
Then, there are the small greenhouse owners to consider; hydroponics is a near perfect approach when it comes to growing plants in an enclosure.
Why consider a hydroponics greenhouse?
There are innumerable environmental benefits to the approach; unlike traditional gardening, with hydroponics, you can tend to your green friends with just 10% of the water than you would normally use.
Also, because your plants will be grown indoors this limits the risk of pests and infections thus effectively lowering the requirements for harmful pesticides etc.
However, the biggest benefit of hydroponics greenhouse gardening is the greater output of the plants.
Since the nutrition is directly supplied to the roots of your plants, they save a lot of energy which would have otherwise been spent digging deeper for food.
This channels all the nutrition into the flowering and fruit bearing stage.
So, if you are all set to try out hydroponics in your greenhouse, here is a list of things that you will need and step by step instructions to get your hydroponics setup in place.
Things you will need for your hydroponics greenhouse
- Gravel or landscape fabric: These act a protective layer which can be used to cover the floor of the greenhouse.
- Plant stands: They can save a lot of space and help you to grow more plants in a small area
- Nutrient reservoirs and solutions: The reservoir holds the water and nutrient solution that replenishes the plants
- Tubing: This is used to transfer the nutrient solution to all the plants
- Plant tray: The tray is needed to hold the growing medium and the plants
- Growing medium: Depending on the type of medium used; it can provide certain nutrients or just help to hold the sapling in the right position
- Net pots: These are well suited for growing small flowering plants and can hold the growing medium very well.
- Vertical supports: You may need these only in case of larger plants
- Growing mechanics: Apart from these set up items, you will also need a pump timer that will provide the plants just enough water without wastage. Grow lights and light timers will be needed to provide your plants with the brightness they need to produce chlorophyll. Finally, you will also need a thermometer to keep the temperature in check and greenhouse vents and fans which facilitate the easy movement of air.
Step by step instructions to setting up the hydroponics system
- Step 1: The greenhouse should ideally be on level ground in a north-south direction with full sun exposure. This will help to channel all the natural elements like heat, brightness and air inside the greenhouse. Apart from this, you will also need to have an electricity connection inside the greenhouse to work your grow lights and fans.
- Step 2: If your greenhouse is not set on a foundation, You can use the landscape fabric or small gravel to cover the floor; this will prevent the easy entry of pests in your greenhouse. Also, this will help you to control surface temperature which can influence the mercury reading inside the greenhouse.
- Step 3: Now would be a good time to set your plant stands; arrange them along the length of the greenhouse with ample of space in between, so you can access the plants.
- Step 4: Set up the nutrient solution containers under the stands. The tubing and the pump should be added to the nutrient reservoir. Connect the system with the pump timer, so you can control the flow of the solution.
- Step 5: The next step involves placing the plant trays in the stands; to complete the set up, connect the other end of the tubing that runs from the nutrient reservoir
- Step 6: With the set up in place, you should be ready to add the growing medium to the trays. There are two ways to keep the plants in the set up; you can plant them in individual containers or directly in the growing medium. If you are using containers, ensure that they have many holes in them for the roots to reach out and access the nutrient solution; net pots will be the perfect choice.
- Step 7: Now, add nutrient solution to the reservoir. In case of tall plants, you will also need to add vertical supports at this point.
- Step 8: Now, set the pump timer, so that the plant trays can be flooded with the nutrient solution several times a day. Hourly or half hourly flooding is best for young plants.
- Step 9: Also, add the grow lights to the set up; these should be placed directly above the plants but at a distance from the foliage. Also, make sure that they are set in such a way that they allow for easy movement, so they can be raised as the plants grow. Set the timer to give your plants a minimum of 12 hours of light each day.
- Step 10: Finally, check the nutrient solution with pH testing strips. Depending on the type of plants that you are growing, and also the plant trays, you will need to adjust the pH of the solution. Most garden plants require a slightly acidic solution; however, this can change significantly based on specific plant species.
Growing plants in your hydroponics green house
With the set up in place and the plants added to the greenhouse; it time to monitor and take care of the saplings to ensure proper growth. Because you control the flow of almost all elements in a hydroponics greenhouse, gardening with this approach is less arduous than traditional forms of plant growing. As your plants mature, make sure that:
- You judiciously monitor the level of nutrient solution in the reservoir and refill as needed.
- Keep a close eye on the ambient temperature, using a thermometer frequently and adjusting the heat or cooling as required.
- Use green house fans and vents to reduce humidity inside and encourage the flow of fresh air inside the greenhouse.
- Use pesticides; preferably organic, and fertilizers based on the specific requirements of your plants.
- Harvest your garden plants when the flowers and fruits are ready.
Apart from the method mentioned above; you can also use the aeration option which involves the use of an aquarium air bubbler to supply the roots with the oxygen they need.
An alternative approach is the nutrient film method in which the plants are suspended from holes cut in hanging plastic tubes.
These hydroponics techniques are ideal for people with space constraints
Remember that even when growing plants hydroponically; their requirements for water, nutrition and light do not change.
However, in a hydroponics set up, your plants cannot access these elements on their own like in an outdoor garden.
So, ensure that you are diligent about providing your green friends with all the nutrition, light and fresh air they need to thrive and offer a bountiful harvest.