Introduction to Plant Growth
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What Is Hydroponics?Close
The word, Hydroponic, comes from Latin and means working water. Simply put, it is the art of growing plants without soil.
When most people think of hydroponics, they think of plants grown with their roots suspended directly into water with no growing medium. This is just one type of hydroponic gardening known as N.F.T. (nutrient film technique). There are several variations of N.F.T. used around the world and it is a very popular method of growing hydroponically. What most people don’t realize is that there are countless methods and variations of hydroponic gardening. In this section, we explain the most common, including the pros and cons of each along with an abundance of great, general information about hydroponics.
Scroll down to view information, or click on a topic below.
- Why does hydroponics work so well?
- What is growing medium?
- What is the difference between hydroponic, organic, and “regular” fertilizers?
- What are micro-nutrients?
- How complicated is hydroponic gardening?
- Is ph important in hydroponics?
That’s simple. If you give a plant exactly what it needs, when it needs it, in the amount that it needs, the plant will be as healthy as is genetically possible. With hydroponics this is an easy task; in soil it is far more difficult.
With hydroponics the plants are grown in an inert growing medium (see below) and a perfectly balanced, pH adjusted nutrient solution is delivered to the roots in a highly soluble form. This allows the plant to uptake its food with very little effort as opposed to soil where the roots must search out the nutrients and extract them. This is true even when using rich, organic soil and top of the line nutrients. The energy expended by the roots in this process is energy better spent on vegetative growth and fruit and flower production.
If you grow two genetically identical plants using soil for one and hydroponics for the other, you will almost immediately see the difference this factor makes. Faster, better growth and much greater yields are just some of the many reasons that hydroponics is being adapted around the world for commercial food production as well as a growing number of home, hobby gardeners.
Growing medium is the material in which the roots of the plant are growing. This covers a vast variety of substances which include Rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, coconut fiber, gravel, sand and many more. The growing medium is an inert substance that doesn’t supply any nutrition to the plants. All the nutrition comes from the nutrient solution (water and fertilizer combined). You can therefore, easily control everything the plants receive. The strength and pH of the nutrient solution is easy to adjust so that the plants receive just the right amount of food. The watering/feeding cycles can be controlled by an inexpensive timer so that the plants get watered on schedule, as needed.
Both hydroponic fertilizers and those intended for use in soil contain the three major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The major difference in hydroponic fertilizers is that they contain the proper amounts of all the essential micro-nutrients which fertilizers intended for use with soil do not. The plants are expected to find these elements in the soil, assuming that the trace elements are in fact present. Problems can arise for the plants if any or all of the micro-nutrients are not present in the soil or are depleted by successive (or excessive) plantings. Hydroponic fertilizers are usually in a more refined form with fewer impurities making them both more stable and soluble for better absorption. Organic fertilizers, in most cases, are very different than either hydroponic or soil fertilizers both in composition and how they deliver the nutrient to the plants. Organic fertilizers rely on the synergistic action of bacteria and microbes to break down nutritional substances for easier uptake by the plants. Hydroponic and soil fertilizers provide nutrients in a ready-to-use form. While once, they were mutually exclusive, in recent years a number of outstanding organic fertilizers have hit the market in formulations refined enough for use in hydroponics. For more information click on the excellent article below.
The micro-nutrients, also known as trace elements that are required for healthy plant growth are calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. When deficient in any or all of these elements plants suffer stress, disease, become more susceptible to pest, fungus’ and bacteria, and may have uptake issues with the N-P-K fertilizer they are being fed. At best, they will never live up to their genetic potential in growth and yield; at worst, they die. In the case of food crops, nutrient deficient plants lead to nutrient deficiencies in the people and animals who consume them. Due to years of over farming the same fields much of today’s commercially produced food has a nutrient level barely exceeding waxed fruit. No surprise that more and more people are choosing to grow the food their families eat in their own gardens. When growing in soil remember to renew the dirt between plantings and when growing hydroponically know that it is absolutely essential to use a hydroponic fertilizer that provides all the trace elements.
It can be but it doesn’t have to be. Hydroponics can be as incredibly simple as growing a single plant in a hand watered bucket or nursery pot, using any number of inert growing mediums. No automation, electricity or grow lights required.
Of course, the potential to go high tech is limited only by your imagination and budget. Virtually every aspect of garden management can be automated and should you so desire, monitored and controlled with your laptop or cell phone from the other side of the world. Dare to dream.
Most hobby oriented hydroponic systems are somewhere between the two extremes mentioned above. The average, home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts: a growing tray, a reservoir, a submersible pump to water the plants, a simple timer and an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. Of course, light (either natural or artificial) is also required.
The control of pH is extremely important, not only in hydroponics but in soil as well. Plants lose the ability to absorb different nutrients when the pH varies. (This topic is answered in much greater detail in the “mini-class” on pH in Hydroponics).
The ability to quickly and easily test and control pH in hydroponics is a major advantage over dirt gardening, where testing and adjusting the pH is much more complicated and time consuming.
Destroying The Myths (Hydroponics F.A.Q.)Close
In the time that we have been in business as Simply Hydroponics and Organics, we have talked with many thousands of people. The majority of these individuals had some knowledge of hydroponics but hesitated giving it serious consideration. Why? Because they harbored misconceptions about growing plants the hydroponic way — they had “heard” things.
Please allow us to share with you some of the things these folks had heard; perhaps they are things you have heard, also.
Scroll down to view information, or click on a topic below.
- What is Hydroponics?
- Myth: Hydroponics is a new technology
- Myth: Hydroponics is artificial or unnatural
- Myth: Hydroponics is bad for the environment
- Myth: Hydroponics is a space-science far too sophisticated and high-tech for the average person to understand or master
- Myth: Hydroponics is far too expensive
- Myth: the use of Hydroponics is not widespread
- Myth: Hydroponics must be used indoors
- Myth: Hydroponics requires no pesticides
- Myth: Hydroponics produces huge super-plants
- Myth: Hydroponics is used primarily for illegal purposes
Let’s start by defining hydroponics. Literally, the name means working water. Simply put, it is the art of gardening without soil. There are six basic kinds of hydroponic systems with hundreds of possible variations. For more information on the different methods of hydroponic gardening see ("Basic Hydroponic Systems and How they Work").
The Pharaohs of Egypt enjoyed fruits and vegetables grown hydroponically. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was believed to be a hydroponic garden. In India, plants are grown directly in coconut husk; hydro at the most grassroots level. If hydroponics is a “new” technology, it is a new technology in general use for thousands of years. Hydroponics is not new — just different.
Plant growth is a real and natural happening. Plants require basic, natural things for normal growth. Hydroponics supplies the plant with what it needs, when it needs it. There is no genetic mutation that takes place inside the equipment nor are there any mysterious wonder chemicals introduced to the plants roots that trick them into thinking they’re on steroids. With the production of more refined nutrients, it is now possible to grow completely organic produce with hydroponics. You can’t get more natural than that
This is totally false. Growing plants hydroponically is far more earth friendly than conventional gardening on numerous levels. As we are coming to realize that water is our most precious resource the first point worth noting is that hydroponics uses 70 to 90 percent LESS water than conventional gardening. The second greatest ecological benefit is that no fertilizer runoff escapes into our lakes, rivers and aquifers. These two items alone, water conservation and the non-pollution of lakes and streams, are major plus values.
Myth: Hydroponics is a space-science far too sophisticated
and high-tech for the average person to understand or master
As we’ve stated, hydroponics is growing without soil and no bells or whistles are required to accomplish this. An inexpensive bucket or nursery pot, filled with a hydroponic growing medium and hand watered with a hydroponic nutrient is hydroponics. A sheet of Styrofoam filled with net cups and floating on an aerated tank is hydroponics and as a point of fact, this system is very popular for elementary school science projects. The technological potential for automation and total environmental control is virtually limitless but in no way required to have a beautiful and abundant hydroponic garden. Basic hydroponics can be taught to the very young, the very elderly and anyone open to learning a few new tricks.
Not at all. As with any hobby, there’s always a new toy to buy or things you may want to upgrade as you expand your knowledge. Gardeners are dedicated to their passion and whether that is bonsai, orchids, organics, kitchen gardening, etc., there are always things to spend money on. However, it is also just as easy to achieve amazing results while staying within any size budget.
Wrong again. Hydroponics is used extensively the world over. It is used in countries where the climate prohibits or limits growth and where the soil is too poor to support large-scale crop production. It is also used in countries, including the USA, where once fertile soil has been so abused and over farmed that it is now depleted or toxic. In British Columbia, 90% of all the greenhouse industry is now hydroponic.
Hydroponics is as easy to use outdoors under the sun as it is indoors. One advantage to gardening indoors under grow lights is that you, not Mother Nature, control the seasons, making the growing season twelve months long. However, that is still true whether you grow in soil or hydroponically. Soil gardening can be done indoors and hydro can be done outdoors.
This is one myth that we wish were true. The need should be greatly reduced because a strong healthy plant is much less susceptible to attack than a weaker plant. Also, soil-born pest will be totally eliminated but even in an indoor environment, intruders still find their way in, catching a ride on your person or sneaking through tiny crevices. Monitor any garden carefully so you can catch problem insects when they first appear and your need for toxic products will be minimal.
This myth has some foundation in truth but there is an important aspect to consider. Every seed, like all living things, already has a genetic code that will determine its general size, yield potential and flavor. Hydroponics can’t turn a cherry tomato into a beefsteak tomato but it can turn it into the best cherry tomato it can be. Therefore, start with the best genetics possible.
Getting a plant to grow to its highest potential in common soil is difficult because of the hundreds of variables in the soil’s make-up which influence the plant and its growth. It is the ability to control these variables that makes hydroponics superior to conventional gardening. In addition, factor that a plant in soil expends a great portion of energy working for its food in a way that hydro plants do not. The diva existence of a hydroponic plant allows it to send that extra energy into faster growth, dense vegetation, larger yields and more flavorful produce.
Dr. Howard M. Resh, in his book HYDROPONIC FOOD PRODUCTION, cites vegetable yield increases that are dramatic; identical cucumber plants produced 7,000 pounds per acre in soil but 28,000 pounds per acre when grown hydroponically and tomato yields that ranged from 5 to 10 tons per acre in soil but 60 to 300 tons per hydroponic acre. The reported results are typical for practically any plant. Said another way, to produce the total number of tomatoes consumed annually in Canada (400 million pounds) requires 25,000 acres of soil. Hydroponically, it would require only 1,300 acres.
Henry Ford once received a letter from a depression-era bank robber responsible for the deaths of several law enforcement officers, killed in their attempt to stop him as he fled the crime scene. In his letter, he thanked Mr. Ford for making his Model A Ford such a good getaway car.
The use of hydroponics for illegal purposes is stressed by the law enforcement community whenever an efficient and successful growing operation is uncovered. This paints a false and slanderous picture of an industry and method which may well hold the key to solving world hunger. The percentage of hydroponic systems being used for illegal purposes parallels the percentage of Ford Motor cars used in bank robbery getaways. Somehow, the multitude of hydroponics systems used in normal, legitimate growing operations just doesn’t make it on the evening news.
Yes, hydroponics is popular with illegal growers. This popularity is founded on the same principles that make it popular with legal growers — a bigger, better, higher quality crop.
Hydrogen Peroxide – What’s it all about?Close
Hydrogen peroxide is water (H2O) with an extra oxygen molecule. The combination is H2O2, an unstable powerful oxidant. It is a natural substance which can be found in trace amounts in rain and snow. Rain combines with ozone in the upper atmosphere. When the two mix, the ozone (O2) loses one oxygen molecule to the water and hydrogen peroxide is formed. Hydrogen peroxide is very unstable and breaks down readily into water and a single oxygen molecule. Oxygen is stable only when the molecules are pairs (O2). A single oxygen molecule is a strong oxidizing and disinfecting agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a simple yet effective substance. Our own immune system produces and uses hydrogen peroxide to control bacteria and viruses.
Merck’s index indicates that hydrogen peroxide can be used as a water disinfectant. In the medical world it is used as a topical disinfectant. The FDA in the US has approved hydrogen peroxide to be used for “Aseptic” packaging in the food industry, as well it can be used in the processing of cheese and related cheese products. It can also be used in mouth rinse products for cleaning and healing mouth injuries.
Hydrogen peroxide is healthy and environmentally friendly. Using hydrogen peroxide, you will be bathing in clean, oxygen enriched, odor free water. Always check with the manufacturer of your pool or tub as to the compatibility of hydrogen peroxide with your system.
35% hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidant and extremely corrosive. Handle with care. Keep out of reach of children. Store in a cool, dark place. There is first aid information in the next section of this brochure. Never dispense hydrogen peroxide into an unlabeled container. Toxic or fatal if swallowed at full strength. Hydrogen Peroxide
Merck’s Index indicates that hydrogen peroxide can be used as a water disinfectant.
Always use 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide in a dilute solution. Never use it as a concentrate without diluting it first. To make a 3% solution, mix 1 ounce 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide with 11 ounces of water. Natural water is best when feasible, especially if the solution can be stored for any length of time.
The following information is for educational purposes and is not meant to treat or prescribe. We are sharing what others have told us has worked for them as they seek to have healthier animals and plants. Man, too, will benefit further down the food chain.
It was in 1985 that the first dairy farmer began injecting hydrogen peroxide in the water system of his entire farm. The water on his farm was polluted and mastitis was a problem with his herd. After continual use since that time, this same farmer has noticed with satisfaction the healthy state of his cows. In April 1988, the butterfat content of his Holstein cows was up to 5.3%. Another farmer who weighs the milk from every cow at every milking reported that his milk production increased from 6 to 8 pounds per cow per milking. Others have reported their bacteria count has gone down to less than 2,000 per cubic centimeter. Many other farmers are continuing this experimental process.
Drinking Water of Farm Animals:
Use 8 ounces of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide per 1000 gallons of water of 30 ppm. If you do not have an injector, start out by using 1 teaspoon of 35% hydrogen peroxide in the drinking cups at the stanchion. This same ratio is used for all farm animals: cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits and birds, increasing the oxygen level to the blood and cells. When hydrogen peroxide has been used for cattle, an increase in milk production and an increase in butterfat content have been reported. Farmers have also reported less mastitis in their herds. Hog farmers have reported less mastitis in their herds. Hog farmers have reported their hogs using less feed in a shorter growing time (as much as 30 days less). Turkey and chicken growers reported increased weight per bird using less feed. A man in Wisconsin has told us that he has had the best reproduction rate of his buffalo by using hydrogen peroxide in their drinking water.
Peroxide application into the well water, or city water can best be accomplished by a metering device, which keeps the application more constant and thorough although manual application can be a second best. The rule of thumb is 8 to 10 oz. of 35% hydrogen peroxide to 1000 gallons water.
The Many Uses of Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide
Use As A Vegetable Wash Or Soak To Kill Bacteria
There are several credible references about the use of hydrogen peroxide on fruits or vegetables. Research published by the Journal of Food and Science in 2003 showed effective results of using hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate apples and melons that were infected with strains of E.coli.
Check with the hot tub manufacturer to determine the compatibility of your system with H2O2. The average size hot tub could be started up with one of two liters or more of 35% H2O2 until it tests 40 parts per million (ppm). Turn the circulation pump on to distribute it evenly during the next 24 hours. Add enough hydrogen peroxide from time to time to maintain it approximately 40 ppm, 3 to 6 ounces daily.
Additional Uses for Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide
Add cup H2O2 to a full sink of cold water. Soak light skinned (light lettuce) 20 minutes, thicker skinned (like cucumbers) 30 minutes. Drain, dry and refrigerate. Prolongs freshness.
If time is problem, spray vegetable (and fruits) with a solution of 3%. Let stand for a few minutes, rinse and dry.
Leftover Tossed Salad:
Spray with solution of cup water and 1 tablespoon of 3%. Drain, cover and refrigerate.
To Freshen Kitchen:
Keep a spray bottle of 3% in the kitchen. Use it to wipe off counter tops and appliances. It will disinfect and give the kitchen a fresh smell. Works great to clean refrigerator and kids school lunch boxes.
Place meat, fish or poultry in a casserole (avoid using aluminum pans). Cover with a dilute solution of equal parts of water and H2O2. Place loosely covered in refrigerator for hour. Rinse and cook.
In the Dishwasher:
Add 2 ounces of 3% H2O2 to your regular washing formula.
Add 1 ounce of 3% H2O2 to 1 pint of water and soak the seeds overnight. Add the same amount of H2O2 each time you rinse the seeds.
House and Garden Plants:
Put 1 ounce of 3% H2O2 in 1 quart water. Water or mist plants with this solution.
Humidifiers and Steamers:
Mix 1 pint of 3% H2O2 to 1 gallon of water.
Add 8 ounces of 3% to your wash in place of bleaches.
Keep a spray bottle of 3% H2O2 in the shower. Spray body after washing to replace the acid mantle on your skin that soap removes.
Use 3% on cotton ball as a facial freshener after washing.
Add 6 ounces of 35% H2O2 to ½ tub of water. May increase H2O2 up to 2 cups per bath. Soak at least at ½ hour.
Add ½ cup of 35% H2O2, ½ cup sea salt, ½ cup baking soda or Epsom salts to bath water and soak.
Add 1 ½ ounces of 35% H2O2, to 1 gallon water and soak.
Use 3% H2O2. Add a dash of liquid chlorophyll for flavoring if desired.
Add baking soda and add enough 3% H2O2 to make a paste. Or just dip your brush in 3% H2O2 and brush.
For every 30 gallons of nutrient solution, pre-dilute three to six tablespoons of 35% H2O2 to a gallon of natural water. Then slowly add to the nutrient solution, stirring gently. If you are mixing up a fresh batch of nutrient solution, pour in half of the water first (preferably with a high purity of essence) and add the H2O2. Add the nutrients to the other half, and then gently combine the two halves.