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Plant basics

June 2, 2011

Mobile Hydroponic Chamber by Growop

As I grew up in rural western Massachusetts, I watched my father prepare our family garden each year. His “normal” routine went something like this. First, he would shovel wheelbarrows full of manure, wrestle a roto-tiller for the afternoon, set up the sprinkler, make sure the fence was secure against vermin… then… he would start some seeds, transplant, weed every day (or two), all while fighting off snakes, mosquitoes and the heat. And that was weeks before we ever got our first radish! I knew there had to be a better way. The better way, is called… hydroponics.

Even my father has changed his methods of gardening over the past few years based on my experience with this seldom known, often misunderstood method of horticulture called hydroponics. I’ve heard newscasters for years mispronounce the word, everything from hydrophonics (underwater listening), to hydrafaunics (who knows?).

Point is, if more people understood it, the world could be such a better place. (Or at least your world could be.)

I believe my personal background is fairly unique. I’ve studied electrical technology, traveled the USA as a robotics technician and have been working with hydroponics since 1985. My well- rounded experience has helped me create a company that designs environmental controllers and allowed me to invent patented devices.  My goal is to help people out there who want to know once and for all what hydroponics is; and how it can benefit them in their life today. You may want to simply produce your own fresh spices and herbs that are ready to use, clean and fresh. You may have an interest in gardening, but don’t want to deal with the headaches and backaches associated with outdoor gardening. Not that there is anything wrong with outdoor gardening, without it, we wouldn’t have survived as a species. Hydroponics is simply the modern alternative to gardening with soil.

Hydroponics literally means, “Working water”. Hydroponics is far from a recent development in horticulture. Ancient people such as the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the southwest Native Americans all used hydroponics techniques to raise crops.

Before I can get to the details, let me review the subtle but important differences between soil and soil-less gardening.  Hydroponics is basically gardening without soil. Some people would disagree with you if you told them plants do not need soil to grow. They would be wrong. Plants do not need soil to grow. They do need four main things;

Nutrients: Consisting of elements such as Nitrogen, Potassium and Calcium. Provides “food” for the plant.

Light: Sunlight or artificial light from various types of electric lamps. Provides the “energy” for the plant.

Water: Critical for all life on the surface of our planet. Provides the “carrier” or life-blood of the plant.

Carbon dioxide: Plants absorb Carbon dioxide, (CO2) and produce Oxygen. Provides “air” for the plant to breathe.

Each of these components are necessary for plants to grow. But soil is not one of them. But plants grow in the soil so they must need it, right? Not really. The plants simply need a way to keep from falling over; the soil serves this purpose rather well. But what if I told you that the soil could be replaced by something better… cleaner.

Next time we will be discussing the various hydroponic growing methods…..

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