So you are interested in using hydroponics when it comes to your herb garden but as you are new to it then it stands to reason that there are going to be aspects that you are perhaps not that sure of. However, even though this is a way of growing herbs that has been around for some time, there are still a number of people that are unsure as to what it involves.
Furthermore, people will tend to be unsure as to how to get started or what their different options are going to be when it comes to hydroponics and that can often lead to people simply giving up and going back to the tried and tested method of growing in soil.
To be honest, this would be a crazy reaction to have simply because understanding hydroponics is a lot easier than you think and to just make life that little bit easier still we will now look at six key things that you should know before you go ahead and get started.
1. Why Use Hydroponics?
Here is the first point, why exactly should you use hydroponics? Well, to answer that we have to quickly explain what is involved in the process.
Hydroponics is actually a method of growing plants that involves using a nutrient rich water in the roots and oxygen also being supplied to the roots. Now, some people may believe that this is going to leave the roots waterlogged but that is not actually the case.
Instead, this is a method of growing that is faster than soil, it can be carefully controlled thanks to the nutrients in the water, and when you then use grow lights alongside it you are going to have strong plants that are capable of growing like never before.
In addition, research has indicated that growing plants using this method also results in them having a better flavor and as various herbs can be used for their oils then you should also know that the oils can be up to 40% more powerful.
In other words, you should use hydroponics as it does deliver strong plants mixed in with the fact that as you are using a nutrient water you will avoid numerous pests and diseases that only occur thanks to them only existing in the soil itself.
2. Hydroponics Systems – Which is the Best for You?
Another important point for you to consider is which hydroponic system is going to be best for you as there are a number of different versions out on the market that are certainly well worth thinking about. At this point, we are going to look at five different ideas.
Option 1: The Raft System.
The idea of the raft system in hydroponics is not new and as you may have guessed it involves the plants being suspended above the water. They are encased in their pots which are set into holes in the lid of the system with their roots dangling down below.
Option 2: The Drip System.
The drip system is completely different from the raft version but it is going to be just as effective. What you have with this is a reservoir of nutrient water and the plants above it. The water is drip fed through tubes with it being placed on a timer so it is similar to an automatic watering system.
Option 3: The Ebb and Flow System.
With this system, the water is pumped from the reservoir and then to the plants. However, after a set period of time, which is set into the system, the water is then drained from the roots with the process then being repeated. This is effectively the hydroponics version of the tide coming in and going back out but it is completely controlled and gives the plants a shot of nutrients at the correct times.
Option 4: The Nutrient Film System.
When it comes to the nutrient film system then the plants are in a feeder tray which is often on an angle. Below them is the reservoir of nutrient water which is then pumped up to the top of the feeder tray and it is then allowed to run down and back into the reservoir. The plants have their roots in the nutrients and everything is recycled.
Option 5: The Aeroponic and Fog System.
This particular system leads to the roots of the plants being constantly sprayed with a fine mist that consists of the nutrient water. They are also being hit with a lot of oxygen that is being pumped through the water so the plants are able to get everything that they need in order to thrive.
So, there are the five different options and which one you use is entirely up to you as they will all be able to achieve impressive results.
3. Suitable Herbs.
When it comes to the different herbs that you are able to successfully grow using this method then you are pretty much spoilt for choice. So many varieties are going to positively love any of the above hydroponic systems but it is still important to be aware of those that have a proven track record of successfully growing using hydroponics.
In this instance, we are going to focus on nine different options just to give you a real flavor of what is possible when it comes to growing plants via a hydroponics system. However, the actual success that you will have does depend on your ability to control the nutrients so do not think that it is a case of planting them and leaving them alone as that is not going to work.
With the herbs and plants, you are really looking at options that include the likes of basil, lemon balm, the mint family in general, sage, rosemary, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and tumeric.
There are of course so many others that can be grown using this method as the key is in making sure that they are able to get the correct nutrients throughout their growing period. However, there is one other important thing to take into consideration and that is the fact that certain systems will work better with certain herbs and increase production.
For example, it is generally accepted that the NFT approach is brilliant with basil, but it is also important to mention that we are not saying that the other forms of hydroponics systems are not going to work. However, you should spend time studying the herb and getting a better understanding of how it grows and its potential when using hydroponics in order to understand its own preference.
4. Growth Media.
The fourth important thing to understand about hydroponics before you become too involved in it is the growth media that should be used. Get this wrong and you will be making life harder for yourself when you clearly want to do the opposite.
However, when it comes to this important point there are two options available to you.
The first option is for the roots to be placed in a nutrient rich solution as they will then absorb this and you are going to see a substantial difference in the way in which your herbs will grow. However, this only works with some systems as others do not have the roots themselves sitting in the water and that is where the second option comes into play.
The second option is going to involve the plants being placed in specific containers with the nutrient solution being fed into the top of the plant. These containers are going to be made from either a mix of peat and vermiculite or cellulose fiber and if you are searching to find out what they are called then look for sterile root cubes and you will be purchasing the correct thing.
As you can see, the option that you must go for depends on the system you are planning on using so double check this before you go any further.
5. The Nutrient Solution.
We have mentioned the fact that this hydroponic approach involves using a nutrient filled water and we should tell you a bit more about this solution as it is often a source of confusion.
The nutrient solution is added to the water reservoir and this applies no matter the system that you are looking at using. The solution has to contain everything that the plant needs in order to grow, so you can expect the likes of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to be mixed in there as an absolute minimum along with various other minerals that are required for things to thrive.
The solution is something that you should buy that is ready-made rather than trying to create your own. It is important that you get the correct balance and you must also understand how much water your reservoir holds as you then need to work out how that correlates to the volume of solution that has to be added.
As you would expect, add too little nutrients and the plants are going to suffer. However, add too much and the plants are still going to suffer in a different way so being able to strike that balance is not only essential but it can also be rather difficult at various times.
There is one other point that has to be mentioned. Different herbs require different levels of nutrients so you are best to spend time getting to grips with one particular type of herb until you are more adept at changing the solution. You should also note that plants often need different levels of nutrients at different stages of the growing process so be aware of this when using hydroponics.
Finally, there are various other considerations for you to think about. For example, certain herbs such as sage and mint are going to be quite content with the same level of nutrients throughout their growing process. For some, this is easier to handle simply because you have the same solution and do not have to pay as much attention to which stage of the growing process they are at. This may be particularly useful for people that are new to this type of system although part of the fun is in learning about it and seeing the results that you are able to achieve.
So, there you are six very important things for you to know about hydroponics that should make the entire process of growing your herb garden via these means so much easier than you had perhaps previously believed. Just remember that there is no need for you to be an absolute specialist as there are various kits available that make life so much easier. However, we would strongly recommend purchasing quality grow lights to just help things along or else your plants could struggle and not develop as they should.