Hydroponic Gardening: What makes it Different from In-Ground Gardening?
What makes hydroponic gardening different from traditional in-ground gardening is a soilless growing medium. No dirt! All plants require support, to be held up. This basic requirement is dealt with by soilless growing mediums which are inert, mostly non-organic materials. Non-organic refers to the medium not being derived from living organisms, unlike soil, which is. There are a perplexing jumble of growing mediums available for hydroponic gardening. Generally speaking, these mediums are porous, light and coarse, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be easy accessible to the plants roots.
Some of the most common used in hydroponic gardening are:
Coconut Coir ~ This is produced from the husk that surrounds the coconut shell. Made up of millions of tiny micro-sponges, it can absorb and hold up to eight times its weight in water, perfect for hydroponic gardening. It lasting three times as long as peat moss so is fairly sturdy. It is also called palm peat, coco, or just coir. Some of the advantagesof this medium for hydroponic gardening are better water retention and aeration. The disadvantages of coconut coir are its breakdown after several uses and some drainage issues. It is often mixed with other media to improve drainage for hydroponic gardening.
L.E.C.A / Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate ~ This is clay which has been heated under high temperatures until it puffs up. It makes a very coarse medium as the clay balls are about 1/4? across. Superb drainage, holds moisture, stays put and is reusable after sterilization to continue with your hydroponic gardening. These are just some of the advantages of this medium. On the downside, it doesn’t hold moisture as well as mediums like coconut coir and can be more costly.
Perlite ~ Glass flakes (Silica) are heated until it expands producing what we know as perlite. These tiny nodules hold water well and provide drainage. A common medium for hydroponic gardening due to its low density and somewhat lower cost. Its advantage is its re-usability. That being said, it cannot be used alone for ebb & flow hydroponic gardening because it will float away or move during flooding cycles.
Rockwool ~ These cubes are made of fibers spun from melted Basaltic rock. The density of this growing medium for hydroponic gardening can be adjusted by changes in the amount of pressure during production. Large slabs are cut into smaller slabs and propagation blocks for easy handling in hydroponic gardening. Advantages of this medium are the ease of handling, convenience, better control over nutrition, being able to plant seeds in it and allow the plants to be very stable.
So you see, soil is not necessary for growing plants and you have plenty of other choices for your hydroponic gardening. There are many other ways to germinate a seed and support a plant. What is vital is water, food, light, warm and oxygen. As long as you provide these things, plus the support, your plants will grow and flourish.
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