Growing Hydroponics Refresher

Growing Hydroponics Refresher

Growing Hydroponics Refresher

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using nutrient-rich water rather than soil. This method can be used to grow a wide variety of plants, including vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit. Some plants may be more difficult to grow using hydroponics than others, but in general, most plants can be grown using this method.

It is important to consider the specific needs of each plant when setting up a hydroponics system, as different plants may have different requirements for light, temperature, and nutrients. It may also be necessary to provide additional support for some plants, such as trellising for vine plants or staking for tall plants.

Overall, hydroponics can be a very effective method for growing a wide range of plants, with the potential for higher yields and faster growth compared to traditional soil-based growing methods

Hydroponics systems can be used both indoors and outdoors. Indoor hydroponics systems are often used in controlled environments, such as greenhouses or grow rooms, where the temperature, light, and other growing conditions can be carefully regulated. Indoor hydroponics systems can be a good option for growing plants in areas where soil conditions are poor or where the weather is not suitable for outdoor growing.

Outdoor hydroponics systems can also be set up in a variety of locations

Of course, such as in a backyard, on a balcony, or in a community garden. Outdoor hydroponics systems may be more vulnerable to weather-related challenges, such as extreme temperatures or pests, but can still be a successful way to grow plants. It is important to carefully consider the location and setup of an outdoor hydroponics system to ensure that the plants receive the necessary light, nutrients, and other growing conditions.

Overall, hydroponics systems can be used both indoors and outdoors, depending on the specific needs and preferences of the grower.

To set up a hydroponics system, you will need some specialized equipment.

The specific equipment needed will depend on the type of hydroponics system you are using and the plants you are growing. Some common pieces of equipment that may be needed for a hydroponics system include:

  • A container or system for holding the plants and nutrient solution. This could be a simple tray with a lid, a more complex system such as a nutrient film technique (NFT) system or a deep water culture (DWC) system, or a multi-level system such as a vertical tower.
  • Grow lights, if the system is being set up indoors or in an area with insufficient natural light.
  • A water pump to circulate the nutrient solution through the system.
  • A timer to control the watering schedule.
  • A pH meter or test kit to ensure that the nutrient solution has the correct pH level for the plants being grown.
  • Nutrient solution specifically formulated for hydroponics systems.
  • Net cups, rockwool cubes, or other materials to hold the plants in place.
  • A growing medium, such as perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir, to help anchor the plants in place and provide some support.

While some of these items can be purchased specifically for use in a hydroponics system, it is also possible to repurpose or modify items that you already have on hand. It’s important to learn as much as you can about the needs of the plants you’re growing and to choose equipment that fits your system.

Hydroponic stores are legal

Hydroponics and the Environment

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Hydroponics and the Environment

Hydroponics and the Environment

So as my readers will know, I am relatively new to hydroponic gardening. I have since learned that hydroponics has advantages over growing in soil. Plants grown using the hydroponics method will probably grow around 50% faster than their soil-grown counterparts.

Of course, this will usually end up with better crop production. Including the extra supply of oxygen to the roots when using hydroponics as a growing medium.

Better root systems will encourage more oxygen to enter the plants. As a result, they absorb nutrients more quickly. Because the plants are growing in water, they don’t have to spend time in the soil looking for the nutrients they require to grow correctly.

Those nutrients are being delivered to the plant throughout the day. Finding and breaking down food requires very little energy for the hydroponic plant. The plant then uses this saved energy to grow faster and to produce more fruit.

Less bug infestations

Another advantage that plants have when grown using hydroponics is that they are less likely to have infestations of fungus and plant disease. Of course, this must be combined with cleanliness and general garden hygiene!

Soil gardening, believe it or not, uses much more water than hydroponics. thus offering many benefits to the environmentally friendly Gardner. Starting with top soil erosion, it does not exist in hydroponics.

Including the use of peat as a growing medium. Peat, as we all know, will be phased out in the near future with coco-husk taking over. Hydroponics uses a constant amount of nutrients, therefore using less water. Brown mosses, Sphagnums, sedges, and semi-aquatic plants’ skeletal remains are among the partially decomposed organic materials that make up peat moss.

Although peatlands can be found all over the world. They are more prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate, boreal, and subarctic regions. Here in West Yorkshire there is abundant peat ln wetlands like bogs, fens, mires, and especially on the moors, where peat builds up. Vegetation that is submerged beneath the water decomposes in anaerobic – or airless – conditions that cause the process to go slowly.

However, Like peat moss, coconut coir has many applications. It can store a lot of water with ease. Although certain plants could prefer soil that is a little bit more acidic or a little bit more alkaline, it has a pH level of 6.0, which is near to ideal for most garden plants.

The texture of peat moss is soft and spongy.

It has an amazing capacity to retain moisture and air . While enabling extra water to drain without restriction. It’s often devoid of diseases and pests. And the price is reasonable.

Peat moss has been utilised as a soil improver, in soilless mixtures, and as a seed starting medium since the 1940s. Peat is a common ingredient in triple mixes and commercial potting soil.
It creates the ideal climate for developing robust root systems, which is why gardeners adore it.

As much as we enjoy utilising peat moss in our gardens, doing so has a significant negative impact on the ecosystem. It belongs in the peatland, where it should remain for very good reasons.

Another advantage is that there are fewer pests, and therefore fewer pesticides are used (once again, this must be combined with cleanliness and general garden hygiene). Hydroponics on large scales will be the norm in the future. The future is already here, looking at the size of the giant glasshouses you can see dotting Europe and North America. Global warming is expected to become the major cause of soil erosion in parts of the world. turning fertile areas into deserts.

Glass houses the size of large towns will become the stuff of science fiction.

Growers now have complete control over the amount of water and nutrients used for growing huge crops. Even in warmer climates such as Spain, hydroponics plays some sort of role in controlling water usage.

The purpose of a growing medium is to aerate and support the root system of the plant and to channel the water and nutrients. It will be interesting to see how things pan out going forward. However, we have still made great strides in developing our growing methods for whatever crops we decide to grow. A Good Look at Hydroponics and the Environment by Eric Roberts

Plant Growing on your roofs

Plant Growing on your roofs

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Plant Growing on your roofs

Plant Growing on your roofs

I must confess right now that I have never been a city dweller. Because of this, I have picked up ideas from other people who know about this subject. However, I have seen many great gardening ideas in built-up areas and city centres in many countries on my travels.

Even in huge cities like New York then things can be seen growing from the roof tops of the lower buildings. My own capitol city of London has splendid roof gardens. Growing many things in the micro climate created by the heat and shelter coming from the many buildings.

City dwellers dont have the space

So, when walking through our city streets, it is easy to see that a conventional garden would be out of the question. Most people have paved over any space that they may have for parking their cars.

Whilst many UK houses have a pitched roof, so it would not be possible for a roof garden. However, small apartment blocks do have access to a flat roof. Inner cities are full of suitable apartment blocks on which a roof garden could be growing flowers and vegetables for them.

Canal boats can also be used to grow plants using lighter hydroponic methods. But I think that’s another story.

Soil, of course, could be a problem! Due to the weight and accessibility on to the roof top. So why not try the hydroponics method of growing without soil. A hydroponic rooftop garden would be an excellent choice for you if you want to have a hassle free gardening experience.

All sorts of plants can easily be grown and cared for from your balcony. We often see this in Mediterranean countries with many balconies growing wonder geranium plants and of course bougainvillea’s trailing down with their wonderful purple and red flower bracts shining in the sun.

Tomatoes and excellent choice.

Of course, tomatoes would be an excellent choice to grow using hydroponic methods. Along with peppers and herbs. Importantly though it is always a sensible idea to check for any weight restrictions or building regulations before going ahead with your growing plans.

Newer buildings have special roof areas to carry extra weight. So it would be well worth checking! So, to start rooftop hydroponic gardening. Then, you should decide on what plants or herbs you want to grow and how many of each.

In a rooftop garden, containers are where you can showcase your personal flair, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on them—although you certainly could. When selecting the size of your rooftop containers, weight and material should also be taken into consideration in addition to aesthetics.

Weight is paramount

Whatever plants you choose, you’ll need containers big enough for their roots! But if you’re concerned about how much weight your rooftop can sustain, the weight of the container becomes a problem. Keep in mind that when you water the plants, the pots get extra heavier. Clay, terra cotta, and cement are examples of conventional materials that can be fairly weighty.
For a novice gardener, the soil is frequently the least interesting component, but it is the most crucial one. Healthy plants grow on good soil, which means less work for you. You will benefit from being able to bring in soil if you are growing in raised beds and containers rather than having to use what is already on the ground. The amount of soil required will vary, so do your study before planting your options.

Remember when Plant Growing on your roofs, that weight is of the upmost importance. including calculating additional weight for when it snows or at least rains.

Once you decide the number of plants you want to grow, you need to get plastic containers or plastic tubes to grow your vegetables or herbs. Next, you need to cut holes in them to place your potted plants properly. You can either buy seedlings from a reputable garden centre or grow your own seedlings. Perhaps on your windowsill! Once you have your seedlings, take them out of their pots and rinse the roots to remove the dirt.

After washing them properly, you need to place your plants in some sort of growing medium, such as rockwool, vermiculite, or any other suitable growing substrate, and then feed them with a nutrient solution to make them grow.

Conventional or Hydroponic

Conventional or Hydroponic growing methods

Conventional or Hydroponic

Conventional or Hydroponic

So, because I am an old style gardener, then this dilemma has come to me at a late age. Excitingly, though then I have decided to “raise the gauntlet” and take on the challenge of growing hydroponically. Because of the terribly bad cold start to the gardening year then many of us have had to wait patently for the weather to warm up. Here at the end of may the temperature has broken the 20c temperature for the first time in 2021.

So our growing season is on the way! However I must confess to be a composting freque. Indeed keeping worm boxes to produce to feed the worms with our scrap vegetable waste to produce excellent compost. This I have started to use on my citrus and fig plants. Vermiculture, is the name given to this worm farming compost maker. However I digress!

Since starting this blog then I cant fail to be impressed by the number of young people taking up growing.

I say growing and not gardening. Mainly, because of the modern and diverse methods of growing all sorts of things indoors and outdoors. Also I am also impressed by the number of females that are taking up this wonderful hobby and pastime.

YouTube videos offer help and advice for anything and everything to do with growing things. Whatever system you use then the advice is there for all to see. This was the inspiration for starting up my worm farm. The energy given out by the presenters of these videos is sometimes overwhelming and inspirational. Therefore these new growing methods are giving growers and gardeners big decisions about which methods to try. Conventional or Hydroponic !

Although a newbie to hydroponics then I will try and give a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of using the hydroponics system.

Hydroponics is a water based system

Basically, a simple description is that hydroponics is plant growing by using water and water based nutrients. So the plants are not grown in soils but other mediums. Of course these other mediums can come in many different things ! Including coco products, rockwool, clay ball pellets, vermiculate and of course perlite. Plants are grown in these types of materials with the use of nutrient solutions to feed and improve growth rate and crop size.

For example I used to grow my tomatoes in grow bags. These grow bags were peat based with added nutrients for the first part of the plants life. After that then I had to manually feed the tomatoes to ensure a good crop. So, this would be both time consuming and also unpredictable due mainly to the weather conditions. Hot weather would mean more watering and more irregular feeding. However always came up with a decent crop by the end of the growing season.

So what now!-Conventional or Hydroponic

Well now that I am experimenting with hydroponics then I do this differently. Hence, my tomato plants are grown in a “Autopot System” as seen in the attached image. Although the initial cost can stretch your pocket the initial outlay can last you years. These systems are made from good quality materials and can be used for many seasons. The growbags are now replaced by a mixture of clay pellets and coco fibre. This medium “Hydrococo” can now be made ready mixed and ready for use.

Combining new and old then I still plant a French marigold with my tomato plants to ward of whitefly and other aphid types. This “companion planting” has worked for me for years now. Of course the Autopot system is fed by a large plastic reservoir. The tank is of course filled when required. Including the addition of nutrients. This growing season then I have been recommended to try out “CX Hydro-Base A and B” by my local Hydrostore shop in Leeds.

My belief is that the whole project is easier without the use of soils or garden composts.

Of course the big winner is that the plants only take up the water and food they require. Also a big bonus is that we can now go on holiday. Without having to ask a friend or neighbour to reluctantly look after your precious plants.

Other growers also use perlite as their preferred growing medium. especially for smaller project. At the moment I am experimenting with lettuce growing in water in plastic boxes<see attached images. of course their progress will be monitored for another blog when the lettuce is ready for eating.

, So to summarise, then researchers have found that your plants will grow 25% faster and produce 30% more growth than soil based growing methods. Importantly, this is because the plants root system has easy access to food and vitamins that ill boost the plants growth. Gardeners can easily control the correct amount of nutrients that your precious plants require. far better than the old individual pots and grow bag systems.

Novice gardeners -Conventional or Hydroponic

In my opinion then novice gardeners should start their new past time/hobby by trying the traditional soil growing methods. However this only applies to people who have a garden or are willing to take over an abandoned or disused allotment (this was by first option at the age of 14). Otherwise, a simple hydroponic system can be set up in the home? Hydroponics do use chemicals so soil gardening can satisfy the people would be the way forward for the more ECO friendly person growing organically.

Finally the choice is your! However as an elderly person then I am already looking forward to my newly found way of growing by using hydroponics supplied online by my local Hydrostore shop here in Yorkshire UK. Finally, like most things in this life , then you pay for what you get.

is may warming up

Is May Warming Up!

Is May Warming Up!

Is May Warming Up!

So, as I have mentioned many times 2021 has become one of the coldest on record. Importantly, gardeners and all growers of plants need the weather to be warming up as we get into the month of May. Consequently, I am writing this article half way through the month. On checking the 10 day weather forecast then I am over the moon to see that the threat of frost has now subsided.

Although I am still taking caution then I am going to through caution to the wind and get ready for the outdoor plants. Of course , it means in my case that the lemon and orange plants can now go outside for the summer. Therefore my greenhouse can be cleaned out and get ready for my new season tomato plants. I will grow twelve plants down the length of the greenhouse.

12 pot Autopot system

For the second time then this year I will be using the Autopot twelve pot system. My system was purchased online from the Leeds Hydrostore at the start of last years growing season. However last years weather was totally different to this miserable cold year. We were at the start of lockdown and the weather was scorching hot. Just the start that us growers require for a good start. Of course this year will be different. Especially outdoor growers where the soil is still very cold!

Fortunately, I have a greenhouse, providing early heat by using an electric greenhouse heater. So, as a growing medium then this year I will try “CANNA Coco Pebble Mix“. Last year I mixed my own so this year I will try the ready mixed, mainly because it should be a little easier and time saving.

As you can see in the image that my pots are all set out and connected to the water tank to check that the water flows into the system correctly. In the background the plants are all waiting to be planted. This year I was going to grow some American varieties such as “Kellogg’s breakfast” . However, because of the lower temperatures early on then I have decided to stick to varieties to grow in lower temperatures. This attached link “cold weather tomato varieties” gives a good list of some of these varieties.

I could go for the well known tomato varieties.

Of course I will keep my readers informed and which plants I eventually decided to grow. Mind mind is still swinging towards some of the more common and well tried varieties such as Money Maker, Alicante and Ailsa Craig. Also Beefsteak varieties are now popular and I will grow a few of these.

Finally one of the reasons that I decided to go with the “Autopot ” system. Of course, was that my plants will still be fed and watered, if I need to take a short break. In the past then I found it difficult to go away and find someone to look after plants correctly.

growing the Kratky system

The Kratky system

The Kratky system

The Kratky system

So here we are at the beginning of May 2021. This is important to me because it is my birthday on the 6th. Consequently, I can also remember the weather in that particular week. Traditionally the early may weather is hot and sunny. Unfortunately, according to the forecasters then this year will be much different. Frustratingly, we have just survived the coldest April since 1922 and as growers and gardeners then dont we know it !

Gardening, techniques include having to move things about to fit other things into. As I look out of my office window the weather is dreadful! Heavy rain and windy making it feel very cold. Unfortunately, my citrus plants are holding up my circle of planting. So, when my citrus goes outside then my hydroponics grown tomatoes can go in. Because of the cold then I am about three weeks behind this year.

With past experience then I realise that the weather can catch up over night! Lets hope so. So, as I have written in some of my earlier posts then I am really looking forward to growing by using one of the Kratky methods.

Who was Kratky ?

Kratky was a guy studying in the “University of Hawaii“. B.A.Kratky discovered a method of growing plants by using “Deep Water Culture“. Subsequently, his simple system would be used without the use of an electric pump. So making the growing system simple and easy to use. His growing method was simple and easy to use, developing into perhaps six split off systems. So, making growing plants possible in all situations. Including growing indoors with the aid of grow lights .

However the actual system of hydronic growing came from a succession of people experimenting in soilless growing conditions up to the emergence of Professor Gericke. Professor Gericke experimented at the University of California” in the 1920’s and 30’s. By growing tomatoes in commercial sized buildings. His experimentation lead to the growth of tomato vines growing to twenty five feet long. Of course by not using soil but water and a mineral nutrients solution. In 1937 prompted by a phycologist (W A Setchell) he introduced the name of the new growing system as water culture and hydroponics.

Of course the system moved forward at a rapid pace up to the huge amount of technical aid now used in hydroponics and its derivatives. Of course the Kratky system is perhaps the basic way of growing . Requiring no electrical aids. However, because the system doesn’t use any form of aeration then problems can occur with temperature spikes. Say if the weather gets very hot the solution can become stagnant with blooms of algae growing in the solution mix.

Air pump the solution for algae growth

The obvious solution to this is to add an air pump into the system. This added air will oxygenate the growing solution. Importantly, the plants roots will have a good access to oxygen. Accordingly, the pumped air will regulate the temperature of the growing solution cutting the levels of any algae growth due to heated stagnation. So, I will adding a small aquarium pump to oxygenate my hydrotropic tanks (As soon as the weather warms up ) .

So, at the moment I have collected my plastic boxes and mesh pots to start my salad growing hydroponics system to kick off and cant wait!

All equipment can be purchased in the York area from Hydrostore York.

rockwool germinating cubes

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

Starting my Seeds in Rockwool

As I write this post we are at the back end of March 2021. The winter here in the North of England has been on the cool side with the odd milder day. Much different to last year when we had only a couple of frosts in the whole of winter! Even my outside “Basjoo Banana” plant survived with some of its leaves in tact.

However as I have said this winter was to be much colder. As you probably know then I have been growing most things all my life. Including, my favourite fruit the tomato’s. Now in my later years then I am trying out more difficult plants to grow and perhaps survive the English winter. Including, pot grown figs, lemons and other types of citrus trees and pomegranates.

The secret is keeping them over wintered!

Introduction to Hydroponics

My son in law works for a local Hydroponics store and since then I am becoming fascinated by the hydroponics method of growing things such as salads and herbs. This also includes tomatoes, of which I have successfully grown a full crop in the last growing year. So, this year will be my very first venture growing some different lettuce types starting of with rockwool cubes to germinate my seeds.

Rockwool is the stuff that is used in loft insulation to insulate our homes from the cold and is made out of highly heated molten rocks. This sounds strange but the rocks are heated until they melt and the resulting molten rock is spun to make the wool type threads. I suppose that it must look like molten volcanic rock when flowing down a volcano!

In fact it was first discovered around 1850 on the “Mauna Loa Volcano” on the island of “Hawaii”. Importantly, the use of rockwool for insulating buildings was first used in 1935.Followed by other uses including a great product for growing seedlings.

Rockwool stores water and oxygen

So, the rockwool cubes that we buy to start off our seedlings are perfect because they store enough water while providing oxygen to the newly planted seeds. Of course here in the UK we have just put our clocks forward for British summer time and the growing season “begins in earnest”. This week will bring our first daily temperature of over 20c. I cant wait to get started with my first ever planting of lettuce seed in the rockwool cubes. The ones I purchased were the SBS Grodan Cubes. So these cubes are 1.5 by 1.5 blocks in a 77 plug tray. Perfect for my requirements.

The cubes look a perfect size to me but you can cut them up smaller if you want t save money. I bought mine from the local “Hydroponics store” in nearby Wakefield. Before the seeds are sewn I will soak the correct number of plugs in water for a few minutes, before draining them after the soaking for a further 15 minutes. This gets rid of any excess water there may be in the plugs (cubes).

Sowing the seeds is just the same as in any sort of growing medium! A little tricky depending on the size of the seed, especially tiny lettuce seeds. I would normally just scatter lettuce seeds onto a tray of compost and then prick out the newly grown seedlings. However by taking a little time once the seeds are placed in the centre of the plugs then there is no need for any pricking out the seedling and causing the plants to stress.

Using a cocktail stick

Tiny seeds such as lettuce can be spread out on a piece of tissue paper for better observation and easier handling. So, I am then going to use a tooth pick or cocktail stick (Same thing), to ease a seed into the hole in he centre of the rockwool plug. When the seeds are all positioned then I will spray with a little water to moisten the seeds. I will then place a little “vermiculite” on top of the plug hole to seal the seeds inside.

The next stage will be to place the seeds in a tray and in a propagator for germination and then onto the next stage which I will cover in the next blog. The propagators come in many shapes and sizes and are available online at your local Hydrostore here in Yorkshire UK.

How Deep Flow Technique (DFT) Hydroponic Systems Work |

How Deep Flow Technique (DFT)

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How Deep Flow Technique (DFT)

So, this excellent diagram shows exactly what a hydroponics system looks like. Of course this is the exact same method that I successfully grow my tomatoes and peppers in my Alton timber greenhouse. Importantly, we gardeners live busy lives! Also, many of us are all for high tech gadgets to help us through our busy working days. This in my opinion is where “hydroponics Stores” can help us.

Buying the equipment can be a bit expensive! However, there are many times when a family member asks you what you want for your birthday or perhaps a Christmas gift. So, I must confess that this is how I did it. My first purchase was for a “Water tank” and self watering system. Over the years I have always had problems with kind hearted relations promising to water your precious cucumber and tomato plants. Consequently, they are left right to the end of the week and then are drowned by your lazy or forgetful friend or relation.

As we all know this break in fluid flow can cause all sort of problems with your plants. However the purchase of the “plastic flexi water tank” and associated connections has solved this problem for me. So, before going off on holiday I just make sure my tanks is full with water and the correct amount of nutrients. My local Hydrastore gave mmw a great price with advice about the size of the plastic reservoir tank required.

The Deep Flow Technique (DFT) is similar to two other hydroponic systems, but it ultimately works in it’s own way. In this article, you’ll learn how DFT hydroponic systems grow crops.

Source: How Deep Flow Technique (DFT) Hydroponic Systems Work | AgriTechTomorrow


Growing Systems

Growing Systems

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Growing Systems

Growing Systems

Growing by using hydroponics is of course now becoming a very popular hobby. So, whether it be farming or the person that just wants to grow small plants at home using a simple hydroponics system and a small grow light. My interest is the later. Although I have a large garden then my main interest is in growing in my “Alton” timber glasshouse. Of course using hydroponics wherever possible.

I do admit that as an older person then hydroponics equipment is affordable. However once purchased the equipment can be used over and over again. Online hydroponics shops are now making equipment more affordable and within reach of many of our large towns and cities. Here in West Yorkshire “Hydrostore” keep an excellent range of hydroponic equipment an will shortly be extending their range to include normal garden tools and equipment! of course all included online.

Hydroponics are soil-less

Of course hydroponic systems are a water based growing system and is of course soil-less. Giving your plants water and nutrients that is controlled. So, my concern was always based on the fact that having a young family meant that I had to take them on holidays. Of course having to leave my garden and greenhouse with a reliable water source! Of course we all have friends and relations with good intentions! All willing to look after your beloved plants. However, most times have ended in disaster. Non gardeners dont understand your precious plants requirements. For instance many will just give the plants one good watering the day before your return from holiday. Thinking that they have done you a big favour. However we all know different. This problem was remedied by the addition to my greenhouse of an hydroponics water system. As long as you make sure that the reservoir is full to the brim then you can go on your holidays knowing that you plants will be watered when they require the water. So, for some strange reason then it is always hot and sunny when I go away on holiday!

Grow more plants

So the old method that I used to grow my tomatoes and peppers was in grow bags. I must confess that I still do like this method of growing. However it is the constant watering and feeding that can make it hard work. Miss a day on a hot day can cause the grower a huge problem. So, by using hydroponics then this problem will be eliminated! Accordingly all you must do is make sure that the reservoir tank is filled regularly.

Plants grown in hydroponic conditions do not need to spread their root systems to find and take in nutrients. Because of this we are able to fit the plants at closer spaces. So in my own particular case then I can fit in another four tomato or pepper plants.