Something that's been buzzing in the growing community is the idea of growing your beautiful plants indoors using a process called: Hydroponics. Now, Hydroponics is something that's no good for those of you who garden specifically to get outside in the dirt and dig around in the manure, but for those of us who do not have large tracts of arable land, or any land at all, hydroponics starts to sound like a much more attractive offer.
- Hydroponic Gardens are compact and can be placed anywhere.
- They use and re-use water over and over and require minimal additional water to function properly.
- They eliminate the need to watch for garden pests such as aphids, caterpillars, potato beetles and fungus.
- They are very efficient growers for plants – plants grow very quickly in a hydroponic setup.
- They are convenient, and most systems are easy to automate so they require a minimum of interference by you.
Any plant can grow (or start to grow) in a hydroponics system, regardless of the time of year, or how north or south you are located.
There are other reasons why one would choose hydroponics over a traditional garden, but there are also detriments. For instance, many people associate hydroponic gardening with the growing of certain illegal plants that are generally abused as controlled substances. It seems like every week there's some large house in a nice neighborhood that's being busted by the cops with hundreds of compact fluorescent fixtures, water sprayers, containers, grow dirt, nutrients and plants removed. However, just like anything, a small percentage of people can ruin a good thing for everyone else.
In reality, the main benefits to Hydroponic Gardening is to give people who would otherwise be unable to grow plants the ability to grow plants. It's very common for avid gardeners to start their tender young plants out in a hydroponic setup, and then transfer those plants to their gardens after the ground thaws.
Orchid growers, in particular, seem to gravitate towards the hydroponic grow systems. The obsession that many people have with Orchids is intense. This obsession, coupled with the frustration of being unable to meet the exacting needs of the orchid in a person's unaltered back yard, leads many to try growing in greenhouses or in a hydroponic setup.
Additionally, the technology for hydroponics is everywhere. Light timers are used in many applications to conserve energy, just as they are used in hydroponics to time the light cycle for plants. The compact fluorescent, metal halide, T5 and other types of intense lighting used in Hydroponics are also used on aquarium systems that strive to meet exacting needs for freshwater plant life or delicate corals and anemones. Water drip systems are used in greenhouses and in large scale agriculture, as well as outdoor gardening and landscaping on a regular basis. Plant nutrients have been in development for quite a long time – as long as there have been people trying to grow non-native plants in partially depleted soils. PH meters are used in scientific applications, and again in all forms of gardening. We wouldn't know where the acidic soils to grow grapes were located if we didn't use a PH tester, aside from costly trial and error.
Hydroponics evolved out of a combination of need and desire. We desire fresh tomatoes, we desire fresh basil, we need somewhere to grow them because we don't all live on farms anymore. The more we hear about plants being coated in wax and pesticides, the more we worry about those substances getting into our children and ourselves, and we want some way to be sure of our food sources. While it's impractical to think that we could go from buying our food at the store to growing it all in our apartments, it's nice to know that we can supplement some of our produce in this way. Specialty sauces, for instance, or your own personal herb garden for fresh cilantro, basil and oregano are a tempting reason to go Hydroponic.
For die-hard, natural gardens only people, hydroponics may not be your cup of tea. If you're using plants that are native to your region, you simply sow your seeds and let nature take its course. However, for many in northern climates, the wait for spring is too far off. These people appreciate the plant life that technology can bring to their homes.
Something to keep in mind: Before this writer knew what hydroponics even was, she was buying “Vine-ripened, hydroponically grown tomatoes” at the local grocery store due to their superior color, texture and flavor. They were consistently bright red, juicy, and devoid of spots. They were always smaller than the so-called “stew tomatoes”, but the bigger, lighter-colored tomatoes had a less rich flavor. The balance of nutrients, light and water combined with the plant's reduced need to fight off infections, insects and fungus produces a much healthier plant specimen than would otherwise be possible.