Introduction to Hydroponics Part 1

Have you ever heard of hydroponics? If not, you are in the right place. In the article, we will introduce hydroponics in the home environment and show how indoor plants at home, which we have in a regular substrate in a flower pot, can be transferred to hydroponic cultivation.

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a modern way of growing plants, you will certainly appreciate that herbs or fruits and vegetables, and it is also a very clean way of growing. You do not need any soil "substrate" for hydroponic cultivation. Hydroponics has several types of use, we will focus on the home method, i.e. the simplest one, which you can create yourself at home. Of course, there are also hydroponic systems that you can see in shopping centers or office buildings, either in large containers or green walls that use electricity and special growing formats where water circulates and supplies the plants with everything they need.

How does hydroponics work?

There is nothing easier than hydroponic cultivation. For many people who do not manage to grow indoor plants and often break a stick over the plants in the apartment, hydroponics is an option to make growing a fun form and, moreover, practically worry-free.

In hydroponic cultivation, in contrast to classical cultivation, the key thing in the substrate, which is watering, is omitted. Resp. of course you have to water, but a little differently. In normal cultivation, you must always monitor the humidity of the substrate, it can often happen that you overwater the plant or, on the contrary, let it dry out. Every summer you decide what will happen to your plants when you are on vacation, etc. sorrows. Not to mention that hydroponics is significantly less attractive to plant pests.

Solution? Hydroponics. The whole magic lies in the fact that you only need water, a growing medium (e.g. expanded clay), a plant and, of course, suitable packaging and a growing container with a watermark. In hydroponics , the plant draws nutrients only from water and thanks to the permeable growing medium, which absorbs moisture and water. In a relatively short time, a clean root system will be formed, which will take the necessary nutrients from it for its growth. With hydroponics , it is important to maintain the correct water level in the flowerpot, too much water can cause rotting of the roots, for this alevel meter will come in handy, which will show you the low, optimal and maximum water level.

What do we need for hydroponics and why?

In the home environment for hydroponics, as opposed to classic cultivation, we need very few things:

1) The plant

If you decide to try growing a plant previously grown in a substrate in hydroponics, carefully consider which plant, because the transition to hydroponics is never 100% and the plant may die. Plants that root well in water are suitable for a more successful transition. On the contrary, less suitable are plants that generally do not root well or plants with very fine roots that are more prone to rot. It is also not at all advisable to transplant large and mature plants or bushes. The larger the plant, the more prone to damage is manipulation of the root system. If you want to try a plant in hydroponics for the first time, consider plants from the aroid group except Alocasia , which are more demanding to grow. Very suitable plants include, for example, Epipremnum or Scindapsus and Syngonia , which germinate very quickly and there is a high chance that you will not kill the plant if you want to adapt the plant and not start from already rooted cuttings from water.

2) Growing medium.

You can use the most affordable Keramzite . But you can also reach for the growing medium Seramis , Zeolite , Managreen or Perlite itself. All these media are highly porous and permeable, absorbing water and retaining moisture. In this way, it creates a suitable and very moist environment for the roots of the plant, which thrive in it.

3) Waterproof flower pot

Since part of the plant has to stand in water, you need a perfectly waterproof pot that does not leak and cannot seep water. When choosing a suitable flower pot, first check whether it is really waterproof.

4) Growing containers with holes and a watermark

If you really want to have the hydro method with the least resistance, you will also need a growing container in the flower pot , which has holes for this purpose through which water flows and a hole for a waterlevel gauge that fits directly to the container. If you don't use a growing container, maintenance will be much more complicated. The container not only keeps the plant together with the medium, but you can also change the decorative flower pot for another one at any time and you will not have to take out the entire plant and move it around. In addition, it is convenient for occasional maintenance of the plant, when you need a good flow through the container from top to bottom. The level gauge (water mark) is used in the container to ensure that you have the optimal amount of water in the flower pot. The wrong amount of water can cause mischief with your plant.

Does a plant live only from water?

No. Even for hydroponics, it is necessary to supply the plants with suitable nutrients. Unlike conventional cultivation, hydroponics uses special nutrient solutions designed specifically for hydroponic cultivation, but their purchase price is slightly higher than conventional fertilizers. If you want to use regular fertilizers, you will have to focus primarily on water-soluble mineral fertilizers and monitor their amount more, even fertilizers for plants without a substrate can burn the roots, which would start to rot. If you like to use lignohumate , which normally benefits the roots, use this ingredient very carefully in hydroponics, because a larger amount of lignohumate can also cause root rot very quickly. You can also use the loose granular fertilizer for hydroponics Blusana , which you mix with the growing medium and the roots will gradually absorb the nutrients.

What to watch out for with hydroponics?

Even hydroponic growing is not flawless, you need to be careful about a few things. But the most important thing is to follow these basic rules so that the plant does as well as possible.

1) Although the sun's rays can be good for some houseplants, if you grow them hydroponically, you have to take into account that the plant is no longer in the substrate, but in water. Therefore, direct sunlight can cause the formation of green algae if the medium is placed in a transparent container and will evaporate the water much faster. Green algae not only harms the roots of the plant and deprives them of oxygen, but also very quickly pollutes the growing medium and the plant stops thriving. So consider plant placement and grow container packaging.

2) The water should ideally be still. The water directly from the tap is too hard, contains minerals and chlorine, which is not suitable for growing plants. Let the water stand first so that unnecessary substances evaporate. Watering with too hard water causes a white to crystalline coating on the growing medium, it causes precipitation of substances on the surface, and too large a layer can harm the lower leaves and roots, which can even form scale.

3) Roots . It is advisable to rinse the plant with clean water approx. 1-2 times a month, so that waste substances and the remains of decaying roots flow out of the medium. This ensures a clean growing medium.

How to convert a plant to hydroponics

There are basically 2 ways. The first is the rooting of plant cuttings , where we wait until the new root is a few centimeters long. This is because we need the root to reach deeper into the medium and not be completely submerged in water. The second way is to convert the plant to hydroponics, and we will take a deeper look at this method in the article.

Photo: First rid the plant of excess substrate, scrape off and clean the remaining substrate under running water as much as possible. You can help with a soft toothbrush.

Step 1 - Preparation

Choose a suitable plant. We used Syngonium Dark Maria in the article. A soft toothbrush and/or crystalline hypermanganese, which you can buy at a pharmacy. Remove the plant from the flower pot and remove all the substrate from the roots . When you get the impression that it can't be done any more, gently massage the roots under running water with your fingers and try to rid them of all the remaining soil as much as possible. Do not worry that you will break the roots, many parts of the roots will fall off or break off, but nothing terrible will happen, make sure that each branch of the plant has its own root. If you can't do it with your fingers, you can use a very soft toothbrush and clean the roots lightly under water. When you're done, rinse the plant thoroughly and check for pests. Place the plant with almost clean roots in clean water (in a vase or other container) for about 7-14 days and give it time. What is hypermanganese for? Hypermanganese is a purple crystalline substance that acts on the roots as a natural disinfectant against any rot or infection that could cause mold on the roots in the water. Only a small amount is needed and the roots only need to be left in it for a few hours. Then you need to change the water to avoid burning the roots. In 99% of cases, however, you can do without hypermanganese.

Photo: Prepare everything you need below and you're good to go.

2nd step - It comes down to business

After about 14 days. Prepare the growing medium, in our case expanded clay. To begin with , we recommend using the smallest growing container of 12/13 cm with a watermark. You will need exactly 1L of expanded clay for this growing container . The plant that you keep in clean water in advance has probably already started growing new ones, i.e. 'water' roots that take hold much better and faster in a hydroponic environment. First, thoroughly rinse the expanded clay, or another medium, you can even pour boiling water over it from a kettle or pot to 'boil' the medium. You need it to wash off dust and dirt and at the same time to absorb water and not dry the medium. If you decide to use Blusana granular fertilizer, mix it with the wet medium in a bowl beforehand.

Photo: Pour cleaned expanded clay onto the bottom of the growing container up to the end of the holes in the container, place the plant and cover up to the edge.

3rd step - Planting the plant in the growing container

Pour the necessary amount of expanded clay into the growing container for hydroponics. Ideally up to the height where the bottom holes for water flow end. Then take the plant, spread the roots over the surface of the entire container and gradually cover the plant from all sides with expanded clay. Do not compress the expanded clay too much, so as not to break the roots. It is important that the plant holds well in the container and cannot twist. The roots should not be completely submerged in water or too high. When you have covered it to the brim, all you have to do is place the watermark in the hole in the container, rinse the entire plant with water and place it in a waterproof flower pot. The last step is to add water. The watermark line will show you how much water you need to add. The middle line is optimal. The bottom line means that you can now top up the water. Top up to the upper line only if you are going away for a long time. If you want to add more water than the upper line indicates, you will probably end up with rotting of the roots.

And that's all. Easy right?

In the 2nd part of the article, we will take a closer look at the care of plants in hydroponics and what possibilities hydroponics offers. Soon

Author: Martin Seidl

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