Hydroponics Gardening – A Year-Round Gardening Experience

John R. Shaffer
Adams County Master Gardener

There are many reasons to consider a hydroponics indoor garden. The garden is small and easily maintained. The equipment required is inexpensive, so managing this type of garden is affordable. My favorite reason is this type of garden is perfect for many vegetables, including my favorite, the red, ripe tomato.

The hydroponics indoor garden is perfect for garden lovers who live in apartments or have only limited space to satisfy their green thumbs. Since you can choose the size of the garden, you can set it outdoors on the balcony or patio during the warmer times and then in a corner of your home when the weather turns cold. The proper application of a lighting system will keep the tomato plants growing big and strong.

What exactly is hydroponics gardening? The word hydroponics is derived from the Greek, meaning "water working." It is the practice of growing plants in either a bath or flow of highly oxygenated, nutrient enriched water.

There are various types of systems associated with hydroponics gardening:

· The water culture, aquaculture or nutriculture system is one in which the plant roots are immersed in water containing dissolved nutrients.

· A continuous flow system is commonly used by commercial growers. With this system a nutrient rich solution flows constantly over the plant roots.

· The aggregate culture system is one in which a material, such as sand, gravel, marbles or a mixture of all of these, supports the roots.

· Aeroponics is a system in which the plant roots hang in the air and are misted regularly with a nutrient solution. Obviously, with this system of hydroponics, there is no growing medium, although a small amount may be used to germinate the seed or root a cutting. Plant roots are suspended mid-air inside a chamber kept at a 100% humidity level and fed with a fine spray of nutrient solution. This mid-air feeding allows the roots to absorb much needed oxygen, thereby increasing metabolism and rate of growth reportedly up to 10 times of that in soil. And there is nearly no water loss due to evaporation.

In soil, the lack of organic matter residual on the surface, biological imbalances and contamination all result in less than optimum conditions for the plant’s nutritional needs. The biological decomposition breaks down organic matter into the basic nutrient salts that plants feed on. Water dissolves these salts and allows uptake by the roots. For a plant to receive a well balanced diet, everything in the soil must be in perfect balance.

A perfect balance is achieved with hydroponics. The water is enriched with these very same nutrient salts, creating a hydroponics nutrient solution. In addition, there is no environmental harm from the fertilizer run off since the plants are enclosed in a container. As an added bonus, very little water is lost to evaporation in a hydroponics system.

In addition to a perfectly balanced diet, hydroponics plants have their food and water delivered directly to their roots. This way, the energy normally used to develop long roots can be redirected to growing more plant, which is a great benefit indeed. With the proper exposure to natural sunlight or supplemental grow lights, your hydroponics plants out perform their soiled cousins.

Hydroponics is finally starting to become a more accepted method of gardening. The great thing about hydroponics is that you do not have to have a degree in horticulture. All it takes is an area or container for the garden, some simple tools, the vegetables or herbs of your choice, and you are set to go. With indoor gardening and hydroponics, you can enjoy all the same things that a large outdoor garden offers but on a smaller scale. If you like tomatoes, you can grow cherry or Roma; if you like radishes, lettuce, green beans, or other delicious foods, no problem. Best of all, you can create the garden whatever size you want and in any shape you want.

Hydroponics indoor gardens are easy to set up and provide the perfect amount of light to grow the best tomatoes in the world. If you are interested in growing vegetables indoors, visit your local hardware or home improvement store, gardening center or nursery where you can find a number of different plans. With the hydroponics indoor gardening system, you choose the type of kit that matches your lifestyle; and in no time you will have the most delicious tomatoes on your table.

Read other articles on gardening techniques

Read other articles by John Shaffer