Introduction to Hydroponics: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Winter is in full swing but that doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening! A hydroponic system is a great gardening option for the wintertime (and anytime, really) so that you can grow delicious fruits and vegetables all year long.

What is Hydroponics?

The short answer: Hydroponics is gardening with water instead of soil.

The long answer: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hydroponics is a technique for growing plants using a water-based nutrient solution instead of soil. The solutions may be an aggregate substrate or growing media such as vermiculite, coconut coir, or perlite. This growing technique has been used by scientists for over 100 years to study plant nutrition.

Hydroponic systems provide users with more control over the growth of plants compared to traditional outdoor gardening. Hydroponic gardeners have control over how much light and nutrients the plants receive, temperature, and pH levels. These systems also eliminate traditional risks like wildlife, pesticides, disease, and unfavorable weather conditions. Hydroponic systems tend to produce higher quality, healthier plants that grow much faster compared to their outdoor counterparts.

Understanding Your Hydroponic System

There are a few components that every hydroponic system will have:

Air Pumps. Air pumps sit outside your hydroponic system and connect to your air stones or an air diffuser inside the tank. 

Air Stones. Air stones work in your hydroponic system by allowing oxygen bubbles to disperse throughout the nutrient solution, evenly distributing those nutrients. They are attached to the air pump via tubing.

Growing Media. This is the substitute for soil that allows your plants to anchor their root structure, and retains moisture and nutrients from the nutrient solution, delivering it to the plants. 

Net Pots. These are the mesh planters that your plants will grow in within your system. They are made with a latticed material that allows your plants to drain and allow your plants’ roots to grow through, providing exposure to needed nutrients and oxygen.

What to Grow in Your Hydroponic System

You can pretty much grow anything you want hydroponically. However, you will be limited based on the size of your hydroponic system. The most common plants grown in hydroponic system are celery, cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes.

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