HYDROPONICS FOR THE HOME ENTHUSIAST
This is a good starting point for those who have little experience in horticulture or hydroponics; whose main interest is in growing at home. Unlike our other courses, this course is NOT intended for commercial growing in any way. You will learn the theory behind hydroponic culture, as well as receive first hand practical experience as you set up your own basic hydroponic system.
This unique home study course is 100 hrs and covers the essentials of home hydroponics in 12 lessons.
- Learn to grow plants in hydroponics
- Learn about the equipment and materials used
- Discover the nature and scope of this growing technique.
- Avoid wasting time and money -Hydroponic equipment and nutrients can be expensive; even for the amateur gardener. A course like this may cost in time and money, but for the serious amateur, you can easily gain more than you loose in the medium term
DURATION: 100 hours
Twelve lessons as follows:
- Basic Chemistry and Plant Nutrition - atoms, elements, nutrient deficiency symptoms
- Nutrient Solutions - calculating formulae, hydroponic nutrition, preparing nutrient solutions
- Types of Systems A - classification of hydroponic systems, ingredients of hydroponic systems, rockwool.
- Types of Systems B - what makes up a system, 16 hydroponic ideas, NFT, solution dispensation.
- Plant Problems in Hydroponics - pests and diseases, nutritional and environmental problems, water and plant relationships, pH.
- How a Plant Grows - growth, nutrient solutions, preparing a solution, mechanisms of nutrient uptake, photosynthesis.
- Plant Culture - controlling environmental features, post harvest storage.
- Hydroponic Vegetable Production - how to grow vegetables hydroponically.
- Hydroponic Cut Flower Production - growing flowers in hydroponics, carnations.
- Soil Media vs Nutrient Film - berries, indoor plants, types of media, NFT.
- Greenhouse Operation & Management - solar energy applications in horticulture, greenhouse management.
- Special Assignment - a report on how to improve your present hydroponic venture, or a report on planning a new hydroponic venture.
- Describe the nature and scope of hydroponic growing in a hobby situation.
- Explain basic plant nutrition chemistry in order to describe the composition and function of hydroponic nutrients.
- Differentiate between a variety of fertilisers and hydroponic nutrients, and suggest how these might be used appropriately in the growing of different types of plants in a hydroponic garden.
- Compare options for media and systems, in order to choose what is appropriate to a specific home situation.
- Design a hydroponic system suited to a particular home situation
- Diagnose common ailments in a hydroponic system, make a determine appropriate action.
- Describe the course of a general hydroponic crop in a home situation from initial planting to harvest, and treatment of the harvested crop.
- Differentiate between solid media and nutrient film hydroponic techniques, and the way in which plants may be treated differently in each.
- Plan the production of a sequence of vegetable and herb produce for household use from hydroponic production.
- Determine appropriate methods for hydroponic cut flower production in a home situation.
There are lots of options of how you can grow hydroponically.
Choosing the Category of System
The first choice is whether to use water culture, aggregate culture or rockwool. All three are viable and used successfully with a large variety of crops in many different parts of the world.
Your choice should take into consideration the following:
• What is the cost of each and how readily available are materials in your area?
• Is rockwool made/sold locally? If not, what freight charges are involved in having it delivered?
• Is there a local source of sand or gravel which can be used, or do you need to pay high cartage costs?
• What types of plants will you grow?
• Some plants require better aeration than others. Some systems provide better aeration than others, for example NFT systems.
Choosing Media to Grow in
There are three main groups of hydroponic media, based on their origins:
- Media derived from rock or stone
- Media derived from synthetics
- Organic media
Media is the term given to the solid material(s) used to replace soil in aggregate culture and rockwool culture.
Hydroponic media must fulfil the following criteria:
- They must be chemically inert.
- They must be chemically stable.
- They must be clean.
- They must drain sufficiently freely not to create waterlogging problems.
- They must have adequate water-holding capacity.
- They must have adequate air-holding capacity.
- Buffer capacity should be good – this is the ability of the media to resist changes in pH.
- It is preferable that cation exchange capacity is at least moderate to good.
Getting a Nutrient Solution
Nutrient solutions for small hydroponic systems can often be adequately prepared by adding some additional components to a standard, general fertiliser (e.g. 5 parts gypsum and 1 part Epsom salts added to 6 parts of any powdered soluble plant food such as Thrive, Aquasol or Phostrogen). Sometimes it might be necessary to add a minute amount of micronutrient.
Larger scale hydroponic growers need a more accurate control of the components in a nutrient solution to achieve commercial success. A large number of different nutrient formulas have been developed for use in hydroponics. Some give better results than others, however there is no single formula that outshines all the others. The success of each formula depends on the conditions in which it is used and on which plants are being grown.
To make a nutrient solution you need to know the relative amounts of the different nutrients in a plant requires. The requirement is different for different types of plants. You need to know what proportion of each chemical ingredient you are using is actually the nutrient (e.g. one chemical might contain 20% nitrogen and another chemical 45% nitrogen; you need less than half as much of the second chemical to supply the same amount of nitrogen).
You also need to know how soluble the chemicals you use are. Some chemicals need more water or more mixing than others. Be aware of potential interactions between the chemicals you use. Some chemicals cannot be mixed with others – they react together and become something new: something you might not want in the solution, or something inert that can’t be used by the plants you are growing. In most cases, an amateur grower is better to purchase pre made nutrients, rather than try to make their own. It is nevertheless still important to understand how nutrient mixes are constructed, in order to make informed decisions about what to use and how to use it.