Hydroponic Gardening Pros and Cons Explained
When most people think of gardening, they consider the traditional garden, grown outdoors and comprised of plants and soil. While this method of growing flowers, greenery and produce is popular, it isn’t the right option for a person who lacks outdoor space or finds no pleasure while digging in the dirt. For those people, another option exists, and it is known as hydroponic gardening.
Hydroponic gardening is essentially gardening without soil. Instead of sitting in a bed of dirt, the plant is suspended in a growing medium such as rockwool, clay pellets, pumice or peat moss. Plants are then provided with direct access to the nutrients they need, so they do not have to expend energy growing long root systems to reach water, nutrients and all that they need to survive.
For the home gardener, there are many advantages to hydroponic gardening. For one, this practice requires much less space than traditional gardening, and plants can be grown anywhere. A hydroponic system can be set up on a patio, in a spare bedroom or even in a basement or closet. This means that anyone can enjoy gardening as a hobby, even those who live in parts of the country with extremely cold climates or apartment dwellers in large cities without access to any outdoor space at all.
Hydroponic gardens also typically require less standard maintenance than traditional gardens. Gone are the days when gardeners must spend hours outdoors, weeding their crops and adding fertilizer. Hydroponic gardens are virtually weed-free zones because there is no soil for weeds to thrive in. They also offer gardeners a great amount of control over the nutrients being directed toward plants, so only a small amount of fertilizer is needed, and there is never a need to set up the soil or test it.
Hydroponic gardens can be well contained and kept in a smaller space, and that often means that any fruits or vegetables are easy to harvest. Gardeners have simple access to their plants, and they do not have to struggle in large spaces to pick fruits and vegetables or maintain their crops.
Since they do not have to expend energy to grow large root systems, hydroponic plants often grow larger and faster than those planted in a traditional garden. Plants have the ability to focus more on growing leaves, blooms or produce, and this means that the most visually appealing or desired part of the plant is often superb in a properly maintained hydroponic garden.
With all the advantages of a hydroponic garden, there are also some disadvantages that may make this the wrong choice for certain gardeners.
First, hydroponic gardens can be expensive. With this type of gardening often comes the need for heat lamps, water pumps and more specialized growth mediums. Because this practice is yet to be considered completely mainstream, these items often must be purchased from specialty stores and can come with a significant price tag.
Second, a level of expertise is necessary to most effectively manage a hydroponic garden. Gardeners must carefully monitor the pH of their plants, nutrient levels being delivered to the roots and water and temperatures. Setting the system up takes a bit of trial and error, and maintaining it can initially take several hours a week until you develop a system that works for your garden.
Your hydroponic garden will be free from weeds and outdoor pests, but it is possible to introduce some unwelcome guests. Water-borne fungi, diseases and other pathogens can be problematic to your plants, and they are sometimes difficult to control for the novice grower. Preventing these things means keeping filters and pumps clean and always providing your plants with a fresh supply of clean water.
Finally, hydroponic gardens are highly dependent upon pumps to keep the plants properly hydrated and nourished. Since there is no soil to store moisture or nutrients in, if a pump fails, your plants will not have access to what they need. The negative effects of this can happen quite quickly, meaning your plants could all die within hours. If you happen to be away at work or out of the house for any other reason when this happens, you might not even know there is a problem until it is too late.
If you are interested in giving hydroponic gardening a try, there really is not a right or wrong plant to pick. Starting small is often easiest though, so many novice gardeners will choose tomatoes, Swiss chard, strawberries or hot peppers as their first plants. Since these plants are relatively simple to grow, starting with them gives you more time to focus on learning about your system and getting more comfortable with all that is involved in hydroponic gardening.