The word Hydroponics comes from two Greek roots “hydro” means “water,” and “ponos” means “to labor”. It is a method of growing plants using nutrient-rich solutions instead of soil. Household hydroponics systems can range from simple setups using containers and nutrient solutions to more advanced systems using grow lights and specialized equipment. I used the “nutrient film” technique. In this technique, a very shallow stream of water containing all the nutrients and oxygen is circulated continuously.
Some popular plants grown using household hydroponics include herbs, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes. As I was experimenting, I also tried a few other plants like capsicum, cabbage, brinjal, fenugreek, and amaranths. But it is a better practice to stick with leafy vegetables and cherry tomatoes as they give better results compared to others. The benefits of household hydroponics include being able to grow plants indoors, year-round, and with a smaller footprint than traditional gardening. It also uses 80-90% less water compared to traditional methods. Moreover, the plants grow twice as fast compared to that in soil and are healthier.
However, it also requires more attention and maintenance than traditional gardening, such as monitoring “potential of hydrogen” (pH) levels and nutrient solutions in the form of “total dissolved solids” (TDS). The pH levels should be slightly acidic and must be maintained between 5.5 to 6.5 for most plants. This is the pH range at which nutrients are more readily available to the plants. Coming to TDS every plant has a different requirement for it. For example, lettuce requires a TDS between 560 and 840. Ensure that the plants receive adequate light and oxygen. If sunlight is available it is well and good, but if not you can use specialized LED grow lights within a specific spectrum. For photosynthesis plants use light in the PAR (photosynthetic active radiation) region of wavelengths between 400nm and 700nm measured in nanometers (nm).
Additionally, it requires an initial investment for equipment, and if not set up properly, it can lead to plant failure. Although the environment is controlled still there are various pests and diseases which might damage your plants. Common pests observed are aphids, spider mites, and various bugs. Diseases like black spots, powdery mildew, and blight are common. You can use sticky traps and “neem oil” sprays which disrupt the pests’ growth and feeding patterns, keeping the nymphs from turning into adults that lay more eggs. Overall, it's a great way to grow fresh produce at home and for those who want to take a hands-on approach to do gardening and learn about plant growth and nutrition. So, if you are inspired by this article, why don’t you give it a try? Also, the best part is you don’t have to make your hands dirty with soil.