Hydroponics: Bigger Yields – More Nutrition From Your Outdoor Garden!
About the Author: Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard and extend the short Chicago growing season. Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at CaptainHydroponics.com.
Incorporating the elements of a hydroponic system into outdoor gardening is the best way to ensure you get the biggest yields and healthiest most nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and herbs come harvest time!
With indoor hydroponics, proper lighting can be a challenge from a budget perspective, but with the powerful and “free” sun shining down on your crops, bigger yields are always possible using a soil-less, automated growing system.
Hydroponics maximize nutrient and oxygen uptake in plants by eliminating soil from the mix. Plants are rooted in an inert, bacteria free media such as peat moss, tree bark fibers, rockwool, spagnum, perlite, clay or stone.
There are hundreds of variations to the media used, but all provide a non-restrictive base for the plant's root system; where a feeding solution containing water, oxygen, and fertilizer can be introduced to the plants every few minutes via an automated watering system.
Slow and steady wins the race...
The plant's root system is “spoon-fed” what it needs, then the excess drains out of the bottom of the planter, and back to a nearby reservoir where it's held until a pump's activated via a timer a few minutes later, and the plants receive another feeding.
Soil-free keeps the root system clean and healthy, eliminates the plants wasting time searching for nutrients in the soil. This maximizes the plant's ability to produce healthy greens, veggies, fruits, or flowers.
Soil, by comparison can retain too much water, allowing bacteria to form (which bugs and parasites just love) and smothering the root system of the plant blocking oxygen uptake.
Calcium and salt levels build in the soil, slowly restricting its ability to uptake nutrients during the vegetation and blooming phases. The plant's root system is also forced to grow downward in search of more nutrient and oxygen-rich soil.
This means the plant has to use the energy it receives from the sun (photosynthesis) to grow a larger root system, rather than fortifying its stalk and producing seed-bearing fruits, veggies, flowers, etc.
Benefits of Hydroponics:
- Plants get all the nutrients they need – no wasted water or fertilizer (25% of that used in soil grows)
- Little if any pesticides are needed – many crop eating bugs live in soil
- Bigger yields – up to 10 times larger than soil
- Less babysitting your garden – an automated system can thrive virtually on its own
- No weeding – weeds need soil to grow
You can grow anything hydroponically but it's important to do your research beforehand. There are many guides, videos, and blogs out there which it can be difficult to decide where to start.
If you're just getting started, stick to compact plants that don't require too much space, until you learn the ropes of setting up your feeding system, maintaining a proper PH, and all the other particulars. Corn, squash, zucchini, and melons are all best avoided as they are large or create large vine systems.
Instead try these plants...
· Herbs of all kinds – rosemary, tyme, tarragon, sage, parsley, mint, dill, oregano (go nuts!)
· Veggies – lettuce, cabbage, watercress, radishes, peppers,
· Fruits – tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries