Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cheap and Compact Hydroponic Garden Options

I found hydroponics to be fascinating from the first time I heard about it. As someone interested in DIY and self-sufficiency, I have wanted to grow my own food for a long time but until recently lived in a place with no yard. Hydroponic gardening would have been very helpful to me in my previous apartment, and hopefully this post by M, a mother of 3 from the  Philippines will help those of you who would like to garden but don't have the space.

Gone are the days of only being able to grow things if you have the right resources, such as space and access to good soil. Today, hydroponics gardening has made home growing a veritable reality for every one of us, whether for commercial purposes or for our own hobbies. So if you have always wanted to prove to yourself that you can grow something - even if you have never had a green thumb - now is your chance to do so.

What is Hydroponics
In the simplest terms, hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. What it instead uses is mineral nutrient solutions, which are fed to the plants along with water. As a result, you can grow anything in virtually any medium, even on sand or gravel.

There are different forms of hydroponic gardening, and these are:

  • Aeroponic System. One of the most advanced forms of hydroponics gardening, the aeroponic system uses air as the primary growing medium. In this system, the roots of the plants hang in the air - which are misted with a nutrient solution every few seconds.
  • Drip System. In a drip system, a timer will control a pump which will deliver water and the Growth Technology nutrient solution to the plants by virtue of a network of elevated water jets. And then a recovery system will collect the excess solution back to the reservoir. The pH level of this reservoir should be constantly monitored to ensure that it is right for the healthy growth of the plants.
  • Ebb and Flow System. Also called flood and drain, an ebb and flow system temporarily floods the grow tray with the nutrient solution before draining it back. A water pump that is run by a timer controls these mechanisms.
  • NFT System. This is the first thing that comes to people’s mind when hydroponics is mentioned. The Nutrient Film Technique system continually pumps the Growth Technology nutrient solution into the growing tray, where the roots are suspended. The excess solution travels back down the system to the reservoir. What makes this amazing is that there is no timer that automates the process, but it requires constant maintenance of the pump and the electrical system to ensure constant operation.
  • Water Culture. In a water culture, the roots of the plants are immersed in the water, which contains the nutrient solution that is necessary for growth. It comes with an air pump that helps facilitate oxygenation of the water, which will allow the plants to breathe. It is necessary to note that it does not work well for most plants, except for lettuce.
  • Wicks System. The Wicks system is the simplest hydroponics gardening system. By virtue of its name, the nutrient solution is taken to the growing tray through wicks. There are various growing mediums for this type of hydroponics, including coco and perlite.

Whichever particular form appeals more to you, hydroponics gardening is considered to be more advantageous than growing on ordinary soil. First, you do not need a lot of space to be able to make it work. So if you live in a residential building that does not have a backyard, you can get away with growing some vegetables along, say, your windowsill. Even closets are used for this purpose!

You also get to save on water, as well as time. In terms of resource management alone, this is great news. Furthermore, there is no weeding to be done, especially if you are keeping your plants away from the worst of the environmental conditions. There are also less chances for pests. And finally, everything can be under your control, provided that necessary maintenance is carried out when it needs to be carried out.

Some of these forms of hydroponics, however, fetch quite a pretty penny. Aeroponics, in particular, can get very, very expensive. Even the simplest of these forms, if they incorporate a lot of accessories and technologies, can get cumbersome on the pockets.

So if you do not have a lot of budget but you still have a lot of hopes in growing your own plants, what can you do? Consider these cheap and compact hydroponic garden options that are all less than a hundred dollars each.

Hydroponic Garden Options For Less Than $100
Home Aquaponics Garden. This hydroponics kit is perfect for those who want to combine two hobbies: growing plants and having a pet fish! In this model, a fish tank comes equipped with a small hydroponics system, where waste from the fish is converted into fertilizer for the plants. Back to the Roots offers one of these for only $60.

Water Farm. The Water Farm from General Hydroponics comes with a two-gallon planter that is filled with clay pebbles, a four-gallon reservoir and an air pump. The pump transports water and the nutrient solution in this drip hydroponics system. It can also be customized to fit your needs. The WaterFarm Module, for example, allows you to create a multiple unit system with the right accessories. The kit is available for around $50.

Click & Grow. If you are looking for something even more space-smart and a tad techie, Click&Grow is perfect for you. Known as an “electronic smartpot”, this kit is designed with Smart Soil, which reportedly releases nutrients in sync with the life cycle of the plant, provides breathing room even when it is wet, and self-manages its pH balance. In addition, it has specialized sensors that monitor garden vitals like light and water to keep the plants in optimal health. This kit is priced at $80, including the starter plant cartridge.

What about DIY hydroponics systems?
If you want to create your own hydroponics system, there are a variety of ways that you can do so - and they can range from basic to complex. Similarly, going DIY does not automatically mean that you will save up on money and time. In fact, certain systems require daily (and frequent!) monitoring and management so that the plants are ensured to be in good condition.