There are several types of hydroponic gardening, including hydroponics, deep water culture (DWC) and aeroponics. Today we will be looking at the differences between these and why, in my opinion, aeroponic grow systems are head and shoulders above the rest.
Why Grow without Soil?
Soil acts as an anchor for outdoor plants and a medium for them to find nutrients. Plants roots must “mine” for these nutrients, taking up much of the plants’ energy. In soil less gardening, all the nutrients are immediately available to the plants without them having to reach for them.
Oxygen is a prime concern. Roots need oxygen for healthy top growth. Ever tried gardening in compacted soil? Right, it doesn’t work well. By taking the soil out of the equation, nutrients and oxygen can be applied directly for a much healthier plant and much more bountiful harvests.
Hydroponics vs Aeroponics
In hydroponics plants’ roots are grown in nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Usually an air stone is added to provide extra oxygen such as in deep water culture systems where the roots are basically submerged in water or the watering system is put on a timer for ebb and flow or flood and drain systems. This gets the all important oxygen and nutrients to the roots.
It may seem counter intuitive to think of roots needing oxygen. We know that in photosynthesis plants take in carbon dioxide to convert light into sugars that they need in order to grow and give out oxygen. However, plants also require oxygen to utilize those same sugars for energy for growth. By maximizing the amount of oxygen and nutrients in the root zone of the plants you will see far more robust growth and bounteous harvests than in traditional soil applications.
In aeroponics, plants’ roots dangle in midair with only the stems held in place. The roots are then sprayed regularly with a mist of nutrient rich water. This maximizes the amount of oxygen that the plants’ roots receive and produces healthier plants with higher yields than regular hydroponics.
Either way, plants’ roots never have to search for nutrients as they do in soil and are never compacted and starved of oxygen.
Types of Aeroponics Grow Systems
In its simplest form, imagine a flat surface with holes spaced equidistantly around it. Into these holes go plugs made from a soil less medium (like rock wool) to anchor the plants. Seeds can be placed directly into the medium or cuttings/clones be inserted. This keeps the top growth of the plants above the flat surface and in the light and allows the roots to grow through the plugs and dangle into the root chamber below.
The root chamber holds the nutrient rich water solution and provides the darkness that roots require. Also in this chamber is a pump that circulates the solution up to the top through a small hose and delivers it to the plants through a series of nozzles that spray the roots with a fine mist. The solution then washes down the roots and dribbles back down into the chamber to be recirculated at timed intervals.
This can also be done in an A-frame system that supports large PVC pipes to act as the root chambers with holes in the tops for the plant plugs. This has the considerable advantage of taking up much less space to grow more plants.
The advantages of aeroponics include:
- Less energy and water than in soil-based mediums
- Less maintenance and general tending through automation
- The roots are exposed to more oxygen so that they can readily absorb it and the nutrients the water solution provides
- Disease free plants due to sterile growing conditions and sterile nutrients, encouraging quick, robust growth
- Environmentally friendly as aeroponic systems reduce water, space and human labour
- Plants grow faster and produce a much larger harvest than with conventional means
- Cleaning the system and replacing old plants with new is easy
- High density planting and ease of harvest give much higher yields
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For home/family use, I have used many of AeroGarden‘s systems and they have worked flawlessly every time. They come in different sizes, can be assembled in minutes and produce in abundance.
These are all-in-one kits that come complete with full spectrum LED lights that can be raised or lowered, a planting platform with easily insertable plugs and a growing chamber beneath to which you simply add your water and nutrients (also provided). Most come with seeds but I like the fact that you can buy just the plugs separately as well and grow whatever makes sense for your family. They come with timers both for spraying the roots at regular intervals and also for the lights. You can set the lights for multiple settings including 24 hours, 18/6, 12/12 and more depending on the type of crop you are growing and what cycle (vegetative or flowering) it is in.
What I especially like is that you can buy specialty platforms for the larger units that will allow you to start 50 plants at once – making these units excellent propagation or cloning units. Once the seeds or clones are thriving, they can then be transplanted into larger, commercial hydroponic/aeroponic units or even into your garden.
The units take up very little space and can be put anywhere there is an electrical plug in. As these systems utilize LED lights, they are very economical to run. In the winter, you can create your own little sun room using these units that makes a space that is good for the soul and helps prevent Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. I mean, who doesn’t like to see fresh produce growing inside when the snow is coming down outside? It’s almost as good as a fire!
Click HERE to find out more about this unit and other models.
Please note that this site is supported by affiliate marketing which means that a small portion will be paid to maintain this site from any purchases made through it. This in no way effects the price of the products on this page.
It Just Doesn’t Get Any Fresher!
We know that the distance from the producer to the table that our food has to take negatively impacts that food’s freshness, not to mention our environment with carbon emissions in the transportation process. Now its super-simple to grow your own organic, pesticide free vegetables within steps of where they will be consumed. Make it a family project to eat the freshest harvests all year around and have a ton of fun doing it!
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