Basics of Hydroponics

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So you've heard about this way of growing plants called 'hydroponics', but have no clue what it is...

If you’ve heard about hydroponics but find yourself overwhelmed by information and have no clue where to begin…this is for you.

This articles will take you from knowing nothing about hydroponics to knowing enough to grow your own food!

But before we get to all of that, we need to understand exactly how hydroponics works. Without this fundamental knowledge, we would never build a deep understanding of how our hydroponics systems work.


HOW DOES HYDROPONICS WORK?

If you break down the word “hydroponics” you get “hydro” and “ponos”, which mean “water” and “work”. In hydroponics, water and a solution of nutrients do all of the work to make the plant grow- there is no soil!


WHAT ARE PLANTS MADE OF?

If we want to understand how to feed and care for our plants, we must know what they are made of. All living things are made up of organic matter.

Organic matter must be made up of the following elements: Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon.

These four elements account for over 90% of a plant’s weight and serve different roles in the functioning of all of a plant’s different systems.


WHAT DO PLANTS NEED TO GROW?

Now that we know what plants are made of, we need to know what they need from the environment to thrive.

LIGHT
Plants need light in order to carry out the process of photosynthesis. Simply put, photosynthesis creates glucose, which is a sugar that provides energy for the life processes of a plant.

CARBON DIOXIDE
Carbon Dioxide is used by plants in order to breathe. They take in carbon dioxide and breathe out our next compound, oxygen.

OXYGEN
Plants need oxygen as part of the breathing process. They breathe it out as a waste product during photosynthesis. Fortunately for us, their waste product is what we humans need to breathe!

WATER
Water is required for many different biochemical reactions in a plant, as well as being a solvent for additional reactions. It also helps to keep a plant rigid – without it, plants wilt. Lastly, it acts as a transport medium for nutrients.

NUTRIENTS
The many different elements that plants use as nutrients are important because they are the elements that make up a plant. They are used in all biochemical reactions.

MACRO NUTRIENTS
The most essential elements are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. They are known as macro nutrients because they are absorbed in the largest quantities and are the most important for the survival of a plant.

MICRO NUTRIENTS
In addition to these macro nutrients, plants require other elements in smaller amounts. These are known as micro nutrients. They include: Boron, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sulfur, and Zinc.

 

HOW THIS PLUGS INTO HYDROPONICS

Now we what plants need to grow and the basics of hydroponics. What makes a hydroponic system tick?

If we look at it, we're essentially removing soil. This means that we are removing the only source of nutrition for a plant. To counter this, we need to supplement the plant with proper nutrition.

By removing the soil we're doing a few things:​
  • Removing nutrients (which we then add back)
  • Removing the main source of pests
  • Removing a water-retaining medium

You might be thinking, "Hm. These all sound like BAD things. Why would you grow in a hydroponic system rather than soil?"

It's a good question. The short story is this:

You gain almost complete control over your growing environment, which means healthier plants that grow faster.

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