By Rebekah Pierce
You don’t have to have a ten-acre property in order to grow your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits at home.
Gardening is a wonderful way to support a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. Not only is it great for the environment - more homegrown plants equals less consumption, less waste and fewer toxins in the air - but it also is great for you, too. Growing your own food means you are reliant only on yourself for what you need to survive.
Unfortunately, there’s a misconception out there that you need to have a ton of space to grow a garden. That’s not the case. While vertical gardens and container gardens are great options for people with limited space (such as apartment gardeners), they probably won’t produce the high yields you’d get with a regular garden.
A great alternative? Hydroponics.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a soil-free media that is fed with a mixture of water and nutrients. You can double your yields by up to ten times - meaning it’s a great option for people pressed for space and time.
If you’re new, here’s what you need to know about hydroponics.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of gardening that eschews conventional techniques. Rather than growing your plants in the soil, outside, you’ll grow indoors (in most cases) in an inert, sterile growing mixture such as clay pebbles, rockwool, or coconut fiber.
Your plants are then given the nutrients and minerals they need via nutrient enriched water that you supply. Plants don’t have to continuously develop their root systems as they seek out water, oxygen, and air. As a result, they can spend more time on producing healthy fruits, flowers, and leaves.
How Hydroponics Can Help You Become More Self-Sufficient
Because hydroponically-grown plants aren’t spending all their time on root development, you need less space (and less time) to grow the same amount of plants.
Plus, hydroponic gardening uses up to 90% less water than traditional farming. Water is delivered right to the root zone, where your plants need it. There is minimal water waste, minus a small amount of evaporation, as water is not lost inside the soil, nor is it lost to the sun.
You can reuse the water in your hydroponic system, too. It can be used to water plants like grasses, native plants, and reeds.
Hydroponic growing promotes faster growth since there is more oxygen in the wroot zone and nutrients are tailored specifically to the needs of your plants. There’s minimal waste and you can produce a viable harvest in half the time it would take to do so with regular gardening techniques.
Not only that, but hydroponics has a smaller footprint than regular gardening. You can grow almost twice as many plants in the same space you ordinarily would, making it a good option for gardeners in close quarters, like apartments. This is because your plants don’t have to compete with each other for things like nutrients and water - instead, they have everything they need at their fingertips (or should we say, root-tips?).
Since there is minimal risk of diseases and pests - grow media are sterile, so you don’t have to worry about viruses and bacteria - you won’t have to use chemical methods of control, like pesticides, in your garden, either.
If you want to grow plants that are more environmentally friendly, more convenient, and more productive, you’ve got to consider starting your own hydroponics system.
What Plants Can Be Grown Hydroponically?
Just about any plant that can be grown in soil can be grown in a hydroponic system - yes, even root vegetables!
Some of the most popular vegetables to grow include bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, kale, radishes, cucumbers, and beans.
You can even grow herbs and certain fruits (like strawberries!) in a hydroponic system. Popular herbs include mint, basil, and chives.
There are very few plants you should avoid when gardening hydroponically, although there are some that can be a bit more challenging to produce. Plants that take up large spaces, like pumpkins, corn, squash, and melons can be more difficult to grow in this manner. That’s not to say that it can’t be done - only that you will want to allow for more space to install your hydroponic grow area.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Hydroponics?
That’s not to say that hydroponics is a perfect system. As with anything, hydroponic gardening is a give and take. You’re going to want to calculate for a few variables before you get started.
For example, there are some costs associated with beginning a hydroponic setup. It’s not quite as simple as soil gardening, in which you buy a few seeds and toss them into the ground as you hope for the best. You will need to buy basic equipment, such as lights, watering receptacles, and nutrients.
There’s a learning curve, too. Some people find that hydroponic growing involves a steep learning curve as some technical know-how is necessary to have a thriving, productive system.
The same can be said of traditional gardening, too, though. Although your mistakes and system malfunctions will no doubt affect your plants more quickly in a hydroponic system, they can easily be resolved and are simple to avoid once you are familiar with the best practices.
Get Help With Starting Your Own Hydroponics System
Starting a hydroponic garden may sound intimidating - but it doesn’t need to be! Hydroponic growing is one of the best ways to increase your yields and maximize your gardening enjoyment. It is also a great first (or third, or tenth!) step in your journey toward self-sufficiency.