What Is Hydroponics? A Complete Guide

What Is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics involves technology to garden without soil. It utilizes a nutrient-rich solution along with oxygen and water to produce higher-quality plants more quickly. By supporting the roots with nutrient-rich water instead of soil, growers can produce plants from anywhere they want, during any time of the year. 

What Does “Hydroponic” Mean?

Hydroponic is Latin for “working water,” with “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning work or labor. Simply put, hydroponics refers to using something other than soil to support plant roots. 

The Plug 2-Rail - 12 Bucket

What Is a Hydroponics Grow System?

Hydroponics is the technology that allows someone to grow plants without soil. However, there are many different types of hydroponics systems and techniques that growers can use, including:

  • Deep water culture (DWC) systems: Deep water culture systems involve hanging plants over aerated water so that the roots are submerged in a nutrient-rich solution. A simple aquarium air pump is enough to keep the water oxygenated and avoid drowning the plants. 
  • Ebb and flow systems: Ebb and flow systems, also referred to as flood and drain systems, involve pumping nutrient-rich water from below into the grow bed to cause flooding without overflowing. After a certain amount of time, the nutrient solution then drains back into the reservoir, allowing the roots to dry out and oxygenate again before the cycle repeats. 
  • Wick systems: Wick systems involve a tray of plants that sit above a reservoir of nutrient-rich water. Wicks that are made of absorbent material such as rope, felt, or string are then used to bring the solution to the growing medium that the plants’ roots are in. 
  • Drip systems: In a drip system, a series of tubes are used to slowly drip a nutrient-rich water solution into the plants’ growing material. This ensures that the plants receive the right amount of nutrients and moisture at all times. Depending on the type of drip system, the excess water either goes back into the reservoir to be reused or drains off as excess waste. 
  • Nutrient film technique (NFT) systems: NFT systems involve hanging the plants above a moving stream of water and nutrients so that the roots always have access to the aerated solution. The water runs on a slope and relies on a pump for its continuous movement to and from the reservoir. 

How Does Hydroponics Work?

The goal of hydroponics is to give plants exactly what they need in a highly customizable environment. Hydroponic systems maximize the amount of oxygen and nutrients that plants receive while allowing more control over their environment and conditions. This allows for optimal plant growth and yields.  

How to Set Up a Hydroponics Grow System

The way a hydroponic grow system is set up will depend on the exact system being utilized. However, there are some key components to setting up any hydroponics system, including:

  • Growing media: A growing medium is the substitute for soil and will support the plant. Unlike soil, growing media will not provide the plant with nutrients. Instead, the porous material helps keep the plant moist and may help the nutrient-rich solution reach the plants’ roots.
  • Aeration support: Many hydroponics systems involve the plants’ root systems being submerged in water. To avoid drowning the roots, the right aeration support needs to be in place. This will require a pump to add oxygen into the water reservoir and, in some cases, air stones to evenly disperse the air bubbles. 
  • Net pots: Since hydroponic systems do not use soil, net pots are used to hold the plants in place. These mesh planters allow the plants’ roots to grow through their slots and provide optimal drainage. 

Growing Plants Without Soil

Growing plants without soil allows food to be produced any time of the year, from any place in the world. It also ensures faster growth, higher yields, and better health from the plants. A variety of plants can be successfully grown hydroponically without soil, including vegetables, fruits, and flowers. 

What Vegetables Are Best Grown Hydroponically?

Three tomatoes on a vine

There are many types of vegetables that can be grown hydroponically. Some of the best vegetables to grow with hydroponic systems include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Beans 
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach

How to Grow Hydroponic Weed

Hydroponic systems can be used to grow cannabis, and there are many benefits to choosing it over soil. When grown hydroponically, cannabis plants grow more quickly and can produce buds that are more potent.  

Can You Grow Weed Without Hydroponics?

Weed can be grown without hydroponics, using soil instead. However, relying on traditional growing methods with soil requires more time with watering and removing runoff. Once a hydroponic system is set up, very little maintenance is required, and growers can enjoy faster-growing, healthier cannabis plants. 

Advantages of Growing Plants Hydroponically

There are many benefits to growing plants hydroponically, including:

  • Faster growth: Plants that are grown with hydroponic systems grow more quickly because they require less energy to receive the nutrients they need. 
  • Fewer resources: Hydroponic systems use up to 10 times less water than traditional field-growing requires. 
  • Improved health: Hydroponic systems reduce the risk for diseases and pests, resulting in healthier plants. 
  • Controlled conditions: By being able to control the temperature, amount of light, and other conditions, plants can be grown hydroponically at any time of the year. 
  • Environmentally friendly: Hydroponic systems not only use less water but also reduce pollution and waste, making them better for the environment. 

How Hydroponics Compares to Other Growing Methods

Plants growing in soil

Hydroponics vs. Soil

Soil provides a natural growing medium for plants and may provide extra support. However, hydroponics provides more direct nutrients to the plant, resulting in faster growth. 

Aquaponics vs. Hydroponics

Aquaponics involves putting fish and plants in the same environment, with the fish providing more nutrients to the plants. Both aquaponics and hydroponics have their benefits, but a hydroponic system allows for more control over the plants’ conditions.

Aeroponics vs. Hydroponics

Aeroponic growing involves suspending the plants in the air so their root system can take in oxygen at a higher rate. The roots are then periodically misted to give them the water and nutrients they need. While both aeroponics and hydroponics produce strong, healthy plants, aeroponic systems require a more complex setup. 

Get Started with Hydroponics

The Green Room has everything you need to start growing with hydroponics. There are a range of products to choose from, including commercial and residential systems, depending on your needs. 

Contact The Green Room today to get started with hydroponics. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Hydroponics Better Than Soil?

Hydroponic systems are better at growing a variety of types of plants than soil. With hydroponics, the plants receive the nutrients they need directly and don’t need to use their energy searching through soil. 

What Can You Grow with Hydroponics?

Using a hydroponic system, you can grow a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens, and fruits such as strawberries, melons, and blueberries. You can also use hydroponics to grow marijuana and various types of flowers. 

Can You Grow Tea Hydroponically?

Yes, tea plants can be grown using a hydroponic system. This includes black tea, green tea, and oolong tea.

Can I Transplant Hydroponic Plants to Soil, or Vice-Versa?

Hydroponic plants can be transplanted to soil and vice-versa. However, when changing growing environments, there is a chance that the plants will go into shock and die. Extra care will need to be taken when transplanting. 

Can I Build My Own Hydroponic System?

A hydroponics system can be built at home with the right knowledge and equipment. Those who are just starting in hydroponics may have more success if they purchase a commercial or residential hydroponics system. This reduces the risk of errors in setup and gives you everything you need to start growing.