You’ve heard about ‘paying school fees’ when learning the hard way about a new subject, hobby or activity with which you’re not familiar. Venturing into the field of hydroponics is no different – the penalties for getting it wrong take the form of money disappearing from your pocket! Here’s why it’s so important to learn about hydroponics before embarking on your own adventure…
What is Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a meld of chemical engineering and horticulture, and like any other subject needs some study if one is to be successful at it.
Firstly, one needs to know that hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. Nutrition is derived from water soluble nutrients supplied to the plants in precisely controlled amounts. It’s important to know what the minerals are, and in what proportions they should be supplied, and to what degree of strength.
Nutrients are best absorbed by plants at differing pH levels. So the next thing one needs to learn about is pH – what it is, how is it measured and how it affects the absorption of nutrients.
Questions about hydroponics
Then there is the question of the growing medium; what is its function and how does it affect the pH and the growth of the plants? Which growing medium suits which plants the best?
What about climate? Do you know which plants suit hot and humid conditions and which ones prefer cool and dry? Which ones suit the Highveld climate and which ones suit the coastal areas?
Do you know which way your green house should face so as to optimise growth and achieve an even rate of growth?
What about plastic and metal tunnels? Are they suited to growing in hot humid areas, and are they cost-effective? Why do seedling growers use gum poles and shade cloth?
Perhaps most importantly of all, how do you combat pests and diseases? If you don’t know the difference between a virus and a bacteria or fungus, how would you go about preventing such diseases taking hold, or eradicating them? What substances would you use to wipe out the relevant pests and diseases?
If your knowledge about any of these questions is incomplete, you run the risk of losing your hydroponic crop or at best witnessing a soul-destroying plague of insects or a fungal disease diminishing the yields substantially.