Have you heard of hydroponics yet? Are you at all curious about this popular new way of growing a garden?
Well, then, I have something exciting to share with you today! Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard, and extend the short growing season in Chicago, where he lives.
Chris has written a guest post for me today, all about this popular new gardening method. It’s pretty cool stuff, Gentle Reader, and I know that you’re going to enjoy learning a bit more about it. Be sure to note, at the end of this post, a most generous and fascinating FREEBIE that Chris has offered to you!
I’ll be quiet now, and turn this space over to Chris:
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponic gardening is a great and fun way to grow your vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in a more controlled way.
The easiest way for me to explain hydroponics to people is to say that it is gardening without dirt. This usually gets their attention right away and gives them a puzzled look. An inert ‘medium’ such as rockwool, coco coir, or clay pellets are used in place of soil. The medium provides a place for the roots to form and grip but does not give of any nutrients to the plants.
The plants instead gets their nutrients from a nutrient-rich water solution which the roots either sit in, or is pumped over the roots. Below is a simple deep water culture or lettuce raft:
What are the Benefits of Hydroponics?
I have seen well over twenty benefits listed for hydroponic growing but here are my personal top 5:
- I can grow more plants per square foot of space.
- Systems can be automated. (For example, I feel very comfortable checking my plants just once a week if necessary.)
- My kids seem to be more interested in helping me with hydroponics than my dirt garden.
- I can grow inside during the Chicago winter.
- Hydroponics gives me something cool to talk about that many people are really intrigued by.
3 Ways to Use Hydroponics (without going all-in!)
So just in case you aren’t ready to completely redo your spring gardening plans and build a full scale hydroponic garden, here are 3 ways you can benefit from hydroponics without going all-in.
Baby steps are cool, right?
1) Improve your watering system
Gardening with hydroponics doesn’t have exclusive rights to dripper systems. In fact, most dripper systems are used in traditional soil gardens. A hydroponic water supply is kept in a reservoir and pumped over the plants. However, a really simple way to water a standard garden is dedicating a faucet in your yard as your water source for your dripper. Adjusting the drippers and adding a simple water timer will let you optimize your watering. Once it’s set you can actually take a summer vacation without relying on your brown thumb neighbor to watch your garden!
2) pH soil testing
One of the biggest realizations I had once I started hydroponics was the impact of the pH levels on the health of my plants. When was the last time you tested the pH of your soil?
My answer was never.
I learned in hydroponics that no matter how well you managed your liquid fertilizer, it could all be undone by pH issues. Plants need many types of nutrients even beyond the Macro nutrients of Potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), and Nitrogen (N). However, if pH is outside of 5.5 to 6.5, the nutrients might as well not even be there. Plants simply can’t utilize it when the pH is out of whack.
Testing kits like the one below for soil or hydroponics cost between $10 and $20 and are a great investment.
3) Trick your kids into gardening!
If you have kids, the educational value of showing them true garden to table is amazing! So many rich teaching points that can last them a lifetime are available through gardening. However, some kids just aren’t interested. Last year, this was the case with my oldest.
I still planted a mixed garden of soil and hydroponics as I enjoy both forms. I noticed that my daughter would help build, plant, and tend the hydroponic garden but would completely ignore the rest.
When I asked her why she gave me two reasons: First, my little princess didn’t want to get ‘dirty’ in the traditional garden. Second, she said the hydroponic watering system was like a ‘cool science experiment’.
Whatever it takes, right?
While your kids might be different, it’s great to provide them different ways to get interested and hooked on gardening.
One more way to get into hydroponics!
Spring is always a time for renewal and new projects. So if you are interested in jumping into hydroponics, I just completed a spring hydroponic growing guide and would like to offer it to everyone at vomitingchicken.com for free (that’s you, my Gentle Readers!). It covers all the basics of hydroponics, what questions you should answer before you start, and even a couple easy-to-build systems that will support herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and other leafy greens.
If you’d like free access to this Spring Hydroponic Growing Guide, just click here.
Thanks again to Chris, er, that is Captain Hydroponics, for this guest post and for this Spring Planting Guide. I’m intrigued by hydroponics and I’m loving learning more about it!
Don’t forget to enter this awesome giveaway for the copy of the signed New Artisan Bread in 5 Cookbook that I’ve got going . . . remember that you can enter every day, to increase your chances of winning!
As is my wont, I’m popping in to Jill’s fun event over at The Prairie Homestead, and linking this post up with her barn hop. Come on over, ya’all!
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