What exactly is hydroponic gardening? Though it may sound complicated, it’s
really not.  The word “hydroponic” comes from the Greek “hydro,” meaning
hydroponic gardenwater,
and “ponic,” meaning work. The basic concept is this: growing plants in a
nutrient rich water solution rather than in soil.

So, if you don’t use
soil, what do you put the plant in? Instead of soil, hydroponic growing
utilizes an inert growing media. Some examples are coconut fiber, rockwool
and different types of “grow rocks.”

Coconut fiber is also called “coir” and is similar to peat moss but is a
renewable resource.  It’s the fibrous husks of coconuts ground into a peat
moss-like consistency.

Rockwool is a moisture-retaining media made from basalt rock. It is
super-heated and melted down before being spun out like cotton candy. It’s
then shaped into cubes, blocks or slabs.

Sunleaves Rocks are irregular-shaped, porous stones made of shale rock.
They’re a byproduct of brick-making.

Hydrocorn is an expanded clay medium.  It is puffed lava rock with a clay
coating. 

Growstones are very light pumice-like stones that are made out of
recycled glass dug out of landfills.

All these inert medias are just used to give the roots something to
anchor onto in order to support the plant. All the nutrients required by the
plant to produce chlorophyll, which they use for food, must be provided by
you. That is why it is very important to use a fertilizer that is
specifically designed for hydroponics. Many soil fertilizers might not
contain all the necessary elements the plant needs for healthy, vigorous
growth.

You may think that hydroponics is a relatively new concept in gardening,
but this assessment couldn’t be farther from the truth. The ancient Aztecs
grew food crops on rafts in nutrient-rich lakes and streams, and it is also
believed that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have been one of the first
ventures into the wonder of hydroponics.

There are different types of hydroponic systems, most of which
recirculate the nutrient solution, conserving water in the process. The
simplest type of system is a deep water culture, or DWC.  All you need

to make a DWC system
is a reservoir (or bucket), a net basket, grow
media, an air pump and stone.  You simply place the plant in the net basket
with the grow stones (the rock-type media works best for this type), fill
the bucket with water and add hydroponic fertilizer. Oxygenate the water
with the air stone and submerge the net basket with the plant in the
solution. Voila!

There are, of course, other types of systems that have more components.
Ebb-and-flow (also called fill-and-drain) systems employ the use of a grow
tray and a reservoir. The grow tray sits on top of the reservoir and the
nutrient water is pumped up from the bottom reservoir to the grow tray to
feed the plants. It’s usually set on a timer, so when the flood cycle stops,
the water drains back down in to the reservoir. Many drip systems work this
way also. The timer kicks on the drip cycle and the excess water drains back
down.

With all types of hydro systems, there are a few general rules:

1 Always maintain you pH (acidity or alkalinity) between 5.5 and 6.5

2
Change out your reservoir with fresh water and nutrients every two weeks

3 Always use hydroponic fertilizer

4 Have fun growing

I’m attaching a simple hydroponic experiment that is fun for children
and adults to this blog to get you started down the hydro path. If you
have any questions about hydroponic gardening feel free to contact me at
the Worm’s Way Facebook page or website.   Happy hydro!