Are Organic Hydroponics Healthy?
Organic Hydroponics Food is healthy, just like organically grown food, under the right circumstances. So, what about Organic Hydroponics using a growing medium other than soil? Most of the time, plants are grown in a chemically derived nutrient liquid. The difference between basic hydroponic gardening and organic hydroponics is how the plants are fed.
One of the origins of organic hydroponics comes from a Montreal gardening experiment. The city recruited two organic gardeners to sustain a viable vegetable cultivation on the rooftop of a city building. The farmers were used to working with traditional soil, and after the first summer, the cons of this method were quickly being discovered.
Aside from the logistics of getting soil onto the top of a building, there was also the concern of the extra weight adding stress to the roof. The plants had to be confined to containers, which left the roots no room to grow. There was the additional problem of enriching the soil with natural microorganisms, and while earthworms could survive container living, the nutrients they provided alone could not suffice the needs of the plant. A new method was needed. The two men decided upon using a hydroponic growing source for their plants, but wanted to maintain the organic quality.
In traditional hydroponics, organic fertilizer cannot be used because its base compounds inhibit the growth of the roots. In order for hydroponics to be considered organic, the organic fertilizer must be broken down by microorganisms and transferred into inorganic materials that won’t affect the crop’s root structure. It’s important that the organic hydroponic farming system maintain an environment that allows the microorganisms to live and create the required nutrients to be water soluble. The growth medium and the fertilizer must also sustain the microorganisms to fully operate within the created ecosystem.
Sounds technical and scientific, but home-based organic hydroponic gardening is easier than it seems. There are several brands of hydroponic solutions on the market, but finding one that is organic may prove a bit more difficult. It’s easy to mix a batch of organic plant food using seaweed, fish castings and bat guano. Because organic farming has hit a new high, the hydroponics market has made its presence known in the competition. Most items needed to create an organic hydroponic solution can be found at a hydroponic gardening specific supply store.
There are several different systems that can be used to create an organic hydroponic garden. One method, and probably the best for beginners because it’s the simplest, is to hand water. This method requires the use of a container, made from coconut coir, vermiculite, or sphagnum peat, because of their ability to retain water. This is an easy home method.
The reservoir method is another easy home hydroponic system. In this method, nutrient solution is placed in a container, and different containers holding the plants sit in the solutions. A basic air pump, the kind normally used in an aquarium, circulates the nutrient solution and keeps the roots from drowning. The plant containers usually have small holes in the bottom, allowing the roots to extend into the nutrient solution. It is important to keep the nutrient solution from being exposed to light, so as not to expose it to algae cultures or fungus.
The flood and drain method requires plants to sit in their own container separate from the nutrient reservoir. Occasionally, the nutrient solution will flood the upper container through pump mechanics. After the plants are soaked, the pumps turn off and the solution drains back into the reservoir. Depending on the media used for growth, the time between flooding and draining differs. This is another simple system with basic functioning parts that make it an ideal candidate for home hydroponics. If a high quality water pump is used, this method can also be sustained organically.
It’s important in an organic hydroponic system that there are no possibilities of clogging, which is why devices that use sprays or drips are not recommended.
The potential crop yield, especially in urban gardening situations, makes hydroponic gardening an obvious choice. Sure, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing gardening situation, and it takes the idea of digging in the dirt out of the equation, but it definitely has its benefits. Because the nutrients are being delivered to the root system directly, the plant often grows up to fifty percent faster and maintains an overall healthier appearance. Hydroponic gardeners have more control over the balance in their plants. The can ensure efficiency in PH levels and nutrient content, and reduce wasted water with more concentrated feedings. Hydroponic systems that are set up to recycle nutrients and water use as little as ten percent of what soil based systems require.
The socio-economic benefit of organic hydroponic gardening has been tested in several urban markets since the Montreal experiment. It allows for fresh produce to be readily available in markets where that may not otherwise be possible. These gardens can provide the same amount as soil agriculture, but in only a fifth of the space, and do not rely on growing seasons. Some hydroponic farming gardens have shown to produce year round crops when artificially lit.
Organically grown hydroponic crops are thought to be more nutritious to the consumer. Compared to their earthen counterparts, hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables have shown an increased amount of vitamins and minerals. It’s also been shown that while the flavor and appearance of hydroponic plants are superior, the fruits produced actually remain fresher for a longer period of time. Organic hydroponics offers the benefits of chemical free nutrient rich food at a cost that’s more environmentally friendly and more readily available in most markets.
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