Dreaming of having a vegetable garden and being able to grow fruit and vegetables independently is no longer a mirage and a privilege restricted to those who live outside the city and own some land, but today it is also accessible to those who live in a small apartment thanks to the use of hydroponic cultivation. This type of soilless cultivation, now back in the limelight, was actually known and normally used since ancient times by populations such as the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Maya and the Aztecs..
What is hydroponic cultivation
Hydroponics is a cultivation technique that does not require soil where plants, placed in an inert and aseptic substrate, grow as they are irrigated by a solution based on water and nutrients. The term inert substrate means a layer of matter (which can be both organic and inorganic) which does not contain nutrients and which, if properly cleaned and treated with specific enzymes, can also be reused several times..
This technique means that the growth of the plant is not accompanied by a proportional growth of the root system dedicated to the search for water and nutrients (which instead happens in nature), as they are already immersed in a solution containing the nutrients and mineral salts of they need. The energy of the plant, therefore, can be totally used in the development of the aerial part, increasing its speed and improving the quality and quantity of productions.
The stability of the plant in nature is guaranteed by the soil that performs an anchoring function, in hydroponic cultivation it is obtained thanks to a suspension system consisting of a wire network to which the aerial part of the plants is fixed. Furthermore, the presence of an aseptic substrate prevents the onset of diseases caused by contact with pests normally present in the soil, thus favoring the growth of a healthier plant and a more abundant production. The substrate is irrigated at regular intervals with the nutrient solution.
The advantages in using hydroponics are many, including:
- cultivation of plants also vertically both indoors and outdoors;
- cultivation of plants and flowers even in unfavorable environmental conditions;
- greater speed in production;
- more abundant and better quality productions;
- reduction of the volume of water used;
- reduction of diseases caused by bacteria, pathogens and parasites;
- less use of fertilizers.
Step by step DIY hydroponic garden
Hydroponics, although very simple to understand on a conceptual level, absolutely must not be taken superficially as for the entire life cycle of the plant it is necessary to constantly check both the chemical-physical parameters such as temperature, humidity and PH and the dosages of the rich solution of nutrients to irrigate. The main factors involved for a good success in hydroponic cultivation are: light, air, water and nutrients that will be administered in the right proportions. The maximum absorption of nutrients for almost all species is estimated to be for PH values between 6 and 7.
Let's see together how to build a hydroponic system for growing at home without soil.
What do you need
- For the basal part dedicated to the roots we need a fairly large plastic container, necessarily black in color to prevent light from penetrating (if necessary, pass a little black paint on the external surface);
- A polystyrene panel to be inserted in the container where you can house the pots with the plants;
- Pots suitable for hydroponic cultivation structured in such a way as to ensure that the humidity is constant at the roots of the plants. However, classic plastic pots can also be used as long as they have holes at the base;
- Inert breathable substrate such as expanded clay, perlite, rock wool, organic cubes, root riot etc ...;
- Nutritious solution to buy online or in garden stores;
- Porous stone for hydroponics that favors the distribution of nutrients in the tank thanks to the continuous movement of water, actually accelerating the growth of plants;
- Air pump (like that of aquariums) to be connected to the porous stone. The pump emitting air through the substrate leads to oxygenate the nutrient solution.
- Instrumentation suitable for measuring temperature, humidity, electrical conductivity and PH;
- Specific fertilizers for hydroponics.
- Place the porous stone inside the container and join the tube of the air pump;
- Make holes as wide as the plant pots in the polystyrene panel by making the pots protrude a little from the panel for good light exposure. Also make a hole in which to insert the tube of the air pump;
- Now pour the solution composed of water and nutrients into the container following the instructions on the package, then place the polystyrene panel inside;
- Insert the inert substrate into the pots and plant your seeds, then place them in the holes specially created in the polystyrene;
- Turn on the air pump.
Our hydroponic garden is ready!
Then expose your hydroponic system to natural light and replace the nutrient solution every 15 days. If you live in an apartment that is not too bright, then you can resort to specially created hydroponic grow lamps with light spectra concentrated in the frequencies that interact most with chlorophyll. The most common for domestic use are low consumption lamps (CFI lamps) and led ones.
As regards the fertilizer, it must be specified that the choice is linked to the type of substrate used. Mineral fertilizers are the most commonly used as they reduce changes in PH and electrical conductivity, but in general all fertilizers suitable for hydroponic cultivation have the characteristic of being extremely fluid so that they can easily dissolve in the nutrient solution. The ideal temperature for hydroponic cultivation varies between 15° C and 23° C; in summer, the higher temperatures cause not only a drop in oxygen creating damage to the roots but also favor the appearance of diseases. During this period, you must pay close attention to the oxygenation of the nutrient solution and it is advisable to use an additional oxygenator.
In case you are not a DIY lover, you can also opt for the purchase of ready-to-use kits to be placed at home also as design elements: