We want to help you learn everything you need to know to get started and benefit from hydroponics.
Also, note we are also here to help you select the perfect tractor for your homestead when the time comes.
Let’s jump right in!
Hydroponics vs. Soil
You have options when it comes to growing plants.
Knowing the differences between using hydroponics vs. soil is important.
Each growth method has advantages. For example, growing plants with hydroponics uses less water than soil gardens. You can typically grow more in less space with a hydroponic garden vs. soil.
A hydroponic garden grows plants without soil.
Instead, roots grow in mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. The word “hydroponics” means “working water” in Latin.
There are various types of hydroponics systems. Two examples are the nutrient film technique and the ebb and flow system. Depending on the system you use, you need different aggregates also called growing mediums. These can include clay pellets, coconut coir, and more.
Plants grow in a hydroponic nutrient solution that feeds the plants. This is a liquid that feeds the roots with a mixture of vitamins and minerals --- including calcium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
Some of the best plants for hydroponics include cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce, spinach, and hydroponic tomatoes.
Growing in Water vs. Soil
Growing in water enables people to manipulate the environment to achieve faster growth and better yields.
In addition, with hydroponics, you won’t have to consider starting a garden where the soil is poor.
Another advantage of hydroponics is that you can grow in unpredictable weather or harsh climates. If you live in a moderate climate, you can grow hydroponically outdoors year-round.
If you live in a climate with four seasons, you can grow indoors, in your home, with grow lights, or you can set up a hydroponic greenhouse system.
Hydroponics gives you the opportunity to grow vertically in stacked rows. This is called vertical farming. In general, you can grow more in a smaller space than you can in soil.
Soil or Hydroponics?
There are many significant benefits to hydroponics.
Here are a few of the reasons why using hydroponics is an excellent choice for growing a garden.
You can grow more in less space with hydroponics. This is because the plant doesn’t require soil to get the nutrients it needs.
Instead, the solution created for the plant is given to it directly. This bypasses the need for long roots like in soil. Since the plants don’t need the soil to transport the nutrients to them, you don’t need as much room. You just need enough room for the mineral solution and the plant.
Hydroponics is often called vertical farming. This is because hydroponic systems are typically set up vertically in stacked layers. You can optimize space and plant growth with vertical farming because you can grow up (vertically) instead of horizontally.
Rows of containers will go up and down instead of taking up additional ground space.
How Much Space Will You Need?
Space depends on the plant. When growing multiple heads of lettuce hydroponically, you would need at least a few feet of unused soil. You will only need a few rows of piping to hold the nutrient solution. This will allow you to have multiple heads of lettuce in a single foot. So you can save a few feet of space for every plant you grow.
If you don’t have a rainwater collection system, growing hydroponically instead of in soil, may be a better choice.
Hydroponics is designed to grow more with less water. This will save water for the environment and keep your water bills lower.
Hydroponic gardens use up to 10 times less water than soil gardens.
This is due to the reservoir system that keeps the nutrients in the container. When the plant gets enough, the rest of the nutrients are stored there. The reservoir is not open to the sun, so no evaporation occurs.
With soil gardening, you need to be careful not to over-water or under-water.
Another benefit of hydroponics is that you will not have any weeds.
Weeds only grow in soil.
Insects and Critters
Insects and various types of animals will invade plants growing in a soil garden.
If you are growing hydroponic plants indoors, there will likely be zero chance of infestations.
Pathogenic and other destructive organisms can invade the roots in hydroponics. Harmful microbes and other pathogens can get into the nutrient system and create root rot, wilting, and other issues.
Using hydroponics also gets your plants to grow faster. This can provide you with more than a single harvest in the plant’s growing season.
Some plants, like lettuce, can grow and be harvested twice as fast with hydroponics compared to planting them in soil. This could save you money on groceries and let you enjoy healthy food conveniently.
“Look” of the Garden
People may prefer looking at a traditional soil garden.
Plants growing in soil can look lush and vibrant.
A hydroponic garden has a more utilitarian and commercial look.
How Much Faster Is Hydroponics Than Soil?
Hydroponics grow at a much faster rate.
Anywhere from 30%-50% faster.
This is a huge difference that you will notice quickly.
If all goes well, they harvest quicker also.
Changing the Nutrient Solution
You only need to change it every two weeks.
Though hydroponics has lots of benefits, there are some things you need to watch out for.
Your solution needs to be correct. If the weather heats up quickly, this could change the effectiveness of the solution. The pH level is another factor that can be changed to allow the plants to absorb more nutrients.
Changing out the solution and checking the temperature and pH levels will let you know if something is wrong. Adjust the solution if need be. If you are growing plants outside, you will need to ensure they are getting the proper sunlight.
Is Hydroponics Cheaper Than Soil?
The cost of hydroponics vs soil depends on a few different factors. Most of the time, hydroponics will be costlier.
Your garden size is one major factor. If you have a larger hydroponic garden, it will likely be more cost-effective. With a smaller hydroponic garden, it will be more expensive than using soil.
Initial Setup Costs
There are initial setup costs when setting up the hydroponics equipment and system.
Then, you can use it for years.
If you need LED grow lights, they will also be an additional cost.
You’ll need to factor in ongoing costs.
You will have the cost of the nutrient solution which feeds the plants.
Other expenses include electricity to power the vertical garden, as well as grow lights.
Additional soil gardening expenses include store-bought compost, organic fertilizer, worm castings, and mulch. All of these will add to the cost of soil gardens.
However, you can save money if you have your own compost pile and have mulch from your yard.
With soil, you’ll also need to account for other things you may need to buy or build such as shade coverings, stakes, a trellis, and more.
What Are You Growing?
When considering costs for hydroponics vs soil, you need to consider what you will be growing.
Some plants will need more care. These plants may be more cost-effective to grow in a hydroponic garden.
With a traditional garden, if you choose the easiest vegetables to grow, they won’t need as much time and effort. Because they grow fast in soil, it might be a cheaper option.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of hydroponics and if it is a better option for you.
If you need any further help or have any questions about hydroponics, tractors, or anything else, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944. Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.
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