HYDROPONICS IS SIMPLY A method of growing plants without the use of soil. Instead, seeds (or seedlings) are planted in a growing medium, such as sand or cinders, that is periodically flooded or otherwise supplied with the nutrients necessary for plant growth. Hydroponic installations can be indoors or outdoors, in a greenhouse or on a patio. Light, air and water must be in sufficient supply, just as in the standard dirt garden.
Because of the way that they are fed, hydroponic vegetables grow bigger and faster than those in an ordinary garden. Water and fertilizer can be used over and over again. Problems of insects and disease can be kept to a minimum.
WHAT PLANTS WEED TO GROW In Chapter most important elements—nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium—all come from the soil (or growing medium). They are used by vegetables in relatively large amounts and have a critical effect on the growth of stems, leaves and fruit. Other necessary nutrients that come from the soil are magnesium, manganese and copper—the three secondary nutrients—and zinc, iron, sulfur, calcium, molybdenum and boron—the micro-nutrients. The last three elements—oxygen, carbon and hydrogen—come from air and water.
Each of the three secondary nutrients has a distinct role in plant growth: magnesium is an important component of chlorophyll, manganese is used by the plant enzyme system, and copper is utilized as an enzyme activator. The six microelements are essential for proper plant development, but each is required only in small quantities.
A good nutrient solution, of course, is the key to hydroponics, and regular, careful feeding produces optimum growth. It is important in using commercial mixes to follow the package directions carefully and not to burn the plants by overfertilizing.
Most solutions use one teaspoon of nutrient dissolved in one gallon of water. For starting seedlings dilute your solution to half strength, and gradually increase the dosage as the plants become bigger.
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