A basic explanation of hydroponics (from their website):
The word hydroponics is derived from the Greek words, “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning labor. In short hydroponics is the art of soil-less growing. Rather than dirt, plants grow in containers using alternate mediums such as clay, gravel, sand, vermiculite and coconut fiber. There is a constant water flow mixed with a nutrient solution to keep plants healthy and happy...
Growing hydroponically is highly efficient and environmentally sustainable. It’s estimated that hydroponic systems use 70%-90% less water than conventional growing because the water is continually circulated through the systems. In addition the problems of run-off and soil erosion are non-existent. Growing hydroponically means that crops can be grown in smaller spaces–a great advantage and practicality in urban settings–while producing significant yields of fruits and vegetables.
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We learned a little about the history of hydroponics, the benefits of hydroponics versus traditional soil growing, and about the many different types of hydroponics systems (aeroponics, floor and drain, Nutrient Film Technology, etc. We even built our own simple drip system with a 5 gallon bucket! I'm trying out lettuce, both in the little spongey "plugs" as well as throwing them directly into the expanded clay balls ("hydroton").
A NFT system (the nutrient water goes along the bottom of these tubes in a thin "film") and gets recirculated around and around.
Me building my bucket (that's the strainer inside the bucket that holds the hydroton in)
Lettuce seedlings! They are being grown in an inorganic sponge-like "plug".
The lettuce roots are coming out of the sponge plug (no dirt involved), time to stick them in the drip system bucket!
The 3 sponge plugs with lettuce seedlings in the bucket, surrounded by the hydroton
The drip system bucket
1. The nutrient-enriched water is in the bottom half of the bucket
2. A large strainer about half the depth of the bucket holds the hydroton (the growing medium) and the seedlings.
3. A plastic vertical tube extends from bottom of bucket to the top, capped with a plastic ring (with holes around the bottom)
4. A low energy use (2W) air pump (not shown) pushes air through the clear plastic tube, which pushes the nutrient water up through the vertical tube and out the holes in the plastic ring.
5. The water continually drips onto the hydroton, which in turn keeps the seedlings wet, and excess water drips back down in the bucket, where it gets recirculated up again.
6. The blue tube on the outside shows the water level inside the bucket, so you know when to refill!
We'll see how it grows!