It may seem like hydroponics is a bit confusing, especially if a person has never done much traditional gardening before. All of the talk about pH, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and the other facets of this method of growing plants could sound overwhelming. It’s like many other things that become so much easier once you try to do them. It is helpful to know something about the different growing mediums that can be used in this system.
A medium is the material that plants are grown in. The reason for using a medium, rather than just placing the roots in water alone is that the growing plant needs support, and a medium provides this. It also helps with aeration and channels nutrients and water. Various mediums often work better in different hydroponic systems.
Some of the popular mediums that are used with this method of gardening are perlite, vermiculite, and sand. They are inexpensive to buy, but there are others that work better, such as Hydroton which is a very fast draining material. It is made of expanded clay aggregate that allows oxygen to reach the root system of the plant. Expanded shale also works well in this type of system, and it can be reused just like Hydroton, but it may not last as long as Hydroton since it tends to easily break down.
Rockwool is probably the most often used medium for hydroponics. It was first used as insulation in buildings, but it is now possible to get a type that is made especially for gardening. This medium holds far more water than soil, and it also retains more air. The pH needs to be checked when using Rockwool since it tends to raise the pH of the nutrient solution.
It is also important to know a little about different hydroponics systems. One of them is the ebb and flow type system. The ebb and flow system uses a pump that is placed in the bottom part of the gardening apparatus. When the pump is turned on, the water with added nutrients in the bottom is pumped to the roots in the upper tray. This system replaces used oxygen with fresh oxygen so that the roots can absorb the required nutrients.
There are also three other systems that can be used. The wick system uses a candle wick that runs from the reservoir to the roots of the plant, transferring the water from the reservoir to the roots.An additional system that some gardeners use is the nutrient film technique. It flushes the solution over the roots 24 hours each day. This method does not use a medium, so baskets or collars may be used.The continuous drip system also uses a pump, and it has lines going to each plant so that nutrients can be adjusted plant by plant.
Hydroponics gardeners need to decide which system they will use, and they also need to choose a medium that works best with this system. Doing this ensures that the garden will produce healthy and productive plants.