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Hydroponic Irrigation

Hydroponics by definition, means 'water-working." In practical use, it means growing plants in a water and nutrient solution, without soil. Hydroponics allows a gardener to grow plants in a more efficient and productive manner with less labor and time required.

In hydroponics you provide the exact nutrients your plants need, so they can develop and grow. The nutrients are fed directly at the root base, never stressing the plant due to lack of nutrients or water.

Virtually any plant will grow hydroponically, but some will do better than others. Hydroponic growing is ideal for fruit bearing crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, leafy crops, like lettuce and herbs and flowing plants. Most hobby hydroponic gardeners plant crops similar to what they would grow in a soil garden

Advantages of Hydroponic Growing

There are many advantages of hydroponic growing.
These include

Most hobby hydroponic gardens are less work than soil gardens because you do not have soil to till or weeds to pull.
A hydroponic garden uses a fraction of the water that a soil garden does because no water is wasted or consumed by weeds.
In hydroponics, plant spacing can be intensive, allowing you to grow more plants in a given space than soil grown produce.
A small hydroponic garden can be set up almost anywhere.
By providing the exact nutrients your plants need, they will grow more rapidly and produce bigger yields.
If you are growing indoors or in a greenhouse, you can grow your hydroponic plants on a year-round basis.

Primary Hydroponic Growing Methods

In a soil garden, plants are rooted in the soil and draw nutrients from it. In hydroponics, a nutrient rich solution is fed directly to the plant roots. In some hydroponic growing systems an inert growing medium, such as perlite, rockwool or expanded clay pebbles is used in place of soil. These growing mediums are porous and absorb the nutrient solution, allowing the plants to use it as needed.

Ebb and Flow

The Ebb and Flow (also know as flood and drain) method of hydroponic gardening simply allows all the plants in the garden to be fed the same amount of nutrient solution at the same time.
The plant grow bed, which contains plant pots filled with a growing medium, is
flooded with the nutrient solution for a set period of time and then allowed to drain
for a set period of time. This allows the growing medium and plant roots to stay
moist while bringing fresh oxygen to the root base each time the nutrient solution
drains away.

Most Ebb and Flow systems will flood the grow bed for 10 or 15 minutes of every hour or two In an Ebb and Flow system, the plant roots are most commonly grown in a medium of perlite, rockwool or expanded clay pebbles.

An Ebb and Flow system, popular with many home hydroponic gardeners, is ideal for growing a broad variety
of crops since both long and short term crops do well in this system.

Plant pots filled with growing medium

The nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir up into the garden for a given period of time, the growing medium absorbs the nutrient solution, and then the nutrient solution is allowed to drain away.



In a Drip system, the nutrient solution is delivered to the plants through drip emitters on a timed system. The timed cycle flushes the growing medium, providing the plants with fresh nutrients, water and oxygen as the emitter is dripping.
The emitters are usually scheduled to run for approximately 5-10 minutes of every
hour. In a drip system, the plant roots are most commonly grown in a medium of
perlite, grow rocks or rockwool. The drip system is often used in commercial
hydroponic facilities that grow long term crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and

The nutrient solution is dripped onto the growing medium on a timed basis providing the plants with fresh water, nutrients and oxygen.

Hydroponic Growing Mediums

In a traditional garden, plant roots are in the soil. They support the plant and search for food and water. In hydroponics, we often use a growing medium in place of soil. The roots of a hydroponic plant do not work as hard as those of a plant grown in soil because their needs are readily met by the nutrient solution we feed them.

Ideal mediums are chemically inert, porous, clean and able to drain freely.

Many materials have been used as hydroponic growing mediums. These include: vermiculite, saw dust, sand, peat moss and, more recently, rockwool, perlite and expanded clay pebbles. Today's popular growing mediums, perlite, rockwool and expanded clay pebbles are described below:


Perlite is derived from volcanic rock which has been heated to extremely high temperatures. It then explodes like popcorn, resulting in the porous, white medium we use in hydroponics. Perlite can be used loose, in pots or bagged in thin plastics sleeves, referred to as "grow bags"
because the plants are grown right in the bags. Plants in perlite grow bags are usually set up on a drip feed system. Perlite grow bags usually hold 3 or 4 long-term plants.
Perlite is also used in many commercial potting soil mixes.


Rockwool is derived from basalt rock. It too is heated to high temperatures but then is spun into
fibers resembling insulation. These fibers are spun into cubes and slabs for hydroponic production.
The cubes are commonly used for plant propagation and the slabs are used similarly to the perlite grow bags. A plant is set onto the rockwool slab and grown there. The plant roots grow down into the slab. Rockwool slabs usually hold 3or 4 long term plants.

Expanded Clay Pebbles. Growrocks

Many hobby hydroponic gardeners use expanded clay pebbles for their growing medium.
Expanded clay pebbles have a neutral pH and excellent capillary action. Often Ebb and Flow systems use expanded clay pebbles in the grow pots as the growing medium.

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