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What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using only water with some added chemicals and without the use of any soil or sand. Hydroponics is one of the best and easiest ways to grow plants at home. Using Hydroponics to grow plants is not something new. The ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, from over 2000 years ago, was grown using hydroponics. Now we know the science behind plant growth and what are the exact nutrients needed for them to grow fast. NASA is doing research on Hydroponics to enable them to grow food in space and other planets. The picture below released by NASA demonstrates just how fast plants grow with Hydroponics.

Above is a picture released by NASA. The two plants shown above were planted at the same time by NASA to compare the growth rate of hydroponically grown plants to that grown normally with the best fertilisers. The result is shown in the picture above and to quote from NASA website "..... plants grown hydroponically are often larger and healthier than plants grown normally. Look at the two plants above; the one on the left was grown hydroponically, and the one on the right was grown normally."

What Kratky Hydroponics mean?

Kratky Hydroponics is an Hydroponic method of growing plants and is the simplest and easiest of the many hydroponic methods used for growing plants hydroponically. What the Kratky method of hydroponics means is that the roots of the plants are submerged in water with nutrient chemicals added and as the plants grow, the water level goes down exposing the top parts of the roots to air. This way the roots get oxygenated without the use of any aeration or circulating water pumps. Thus once your plant is planted using the Kratky hydroponics method, you do not have to do anything but just watch the plants grow. The Kratky method of Hydroponics requires no electricity at all since there are no aerators nor water pumps.

This hydroponic method of growing plants was invented by Dr. Bernard A Kratky, Researcher at the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii, USA in 2009. This is the, original article published by him: Kratky hydroponics growing method

How to start a Hydroponic garden at home using the Kratky method of Hydroponics

It is very easy to start a hydroponic garden near a window of you apartment or house. You can grow vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. or several decorative and flowering plants. There are several methods of using hydroponics to grow plants. Just do a search on YouTube and there are thousands of videos about Hydroponics that it is sure to confuse a beginer. I have been growing plants hydroponically for many years and now thinking of starting a small commercial hydroponic farm. My suggestion is to start with the simple Kratky method of hydroponics as shown in the following video. Then keep on reading and watching youtube videos about hydroponics to become an expert. There are several other methods of growing plants hydroponically at home, but this Kratky method by far is the simplest. Hydroponics is a fascinating and fulfilling hobby, especially if you are retired like me.

Video: Growing plants by Kratky hydroponics method

What you will need

Here are the things you should have to start a hydroponic home garden on your own. You can buy ready made kits from Amazon India, but if you are like me, then you may want to do everything on your own. I am giving links to all possibilities below:

For those who want the convenience of buying ready made hydroponic kits: A selection of cheap hydroponic starter kits available on Amazon India website

For the more adventurous DIY type, who like to make their own systems from scratch, the following necessary items are available on Amazon.

Drill: I would suggest more robust drill from reputed manufacturers like Black & Decker, Bosch, Mikita, etc. but here is the cheapest cordless drill available on Amazon India and should do the job. Cheston Plastic Cordless Drill Screw Driver 10mm Keyless Chuck 12V with One Battery - Cost ₹ 1,599-

Hole Saw: Garbnoire 11 in 1 Metal Alloys Wood Hole Saw Cutting Set (19-64 mm, Black) - Price: ₹ 299

Net Pots: Hydrilla Regular Net Pot for Hydroponics 2-Inch-Set 50 Pieces Price: ₹ 200-

Rockwool: WE Hydroponics Grow Cubes - One Sheet = 156 Cubes - ₹ 500-

Clay Balls: HnS Hydrotons, LECA (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate), Pebble Clay Ball for Hydroponics (2 Liters) - Price: ₹ 150.00

pH Meter: Selection of pH meters Buy one costing less than Rs.1000-. If you are on a budget you could use litmus paper Litmus paper - Price: ₹ 144-. They are not very accurate but may serve the purpose

Nutrient Solution Concentrate: City Greens® Hydroponics Nutrients NPK 300ml – Price: ₹ 549.00

Hydroponic Fertiliser or Nutrient Solution

The easy way to feed the hydroponic plants with the required fertiliser is to buy a ready made Concentrate in bottles and dilute required amounts as per instructions. It is better to measure the pH of the final solution, but following the concentrate mixing instructions exactly should give you an almost correct pH solution to use directly for your hydroponic plant.

The water, in which the plants grow, is a very dilute solution of simple inorganic nutrient salts like Potassium Nitrate, Calcium Nitrate, Potassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulphate, iron, trace elements, etc. It is important to understand that plants can only absorb from the soil simple inorganic salts which ionise in water. Plants cannot directly absorb organic matter like cow dung manure or organic fertilisers like Urea from the soil. Before the plants can use organic material, the organic matter must be converted to simple inorganic Nitrate and other salts by nitrifying and other bacteria in the soil. In normal soil cultivation of plants, the roots of plants have to go in search of water and the very little inorganic nitrate and other salts in the soil converted by soil bacteria. So plants in soil spend most of their energy in trying to find food through its roots. This leads to slow growth of plants.

In a hydroponic system, the plant roots are dipped in a nutrient solution with the exact nutrients required by the plants in the correct proportions and at the best concentration and pH required by the plant. So, the roots of hydroponically grown plants do not have to waste energy building elaborate root systems. Instead all their energy is utilised in growing their leaves, fruits, etc. This is what allows hydroponic plants to grow more than twice as fast compared to soil grown plants.

What are the advantages of growing plants using Hydroponics?

The main benefits of growing plants using hydroponics are they grow much faster, at almost double the rate than when grown in soil. If growth lights are used, then the plant growth rate can be even more. Other advantages are more plants can be grown in the same area, pests and diseases can be controlled, plant growth is not dependent on the weather since hydroponic plants are grown indoors, etc.

Is Hydroponics better than Organic Farming?

Yes, hydroponically grown vegetables and produce are better than organically grown products. In Hydroponics, the nutrient solutions are made using highly purified lab grade or food grade salts. Hence, hydroponically grown food, vegetables or salads, never come into contact with dangerous germs like E-Coli, Salmonella, etc. present in the manure used in Organic Farming. This means that Hydroponically grown vegetables are much safer than the best organic grown vegetables. The nutrient value of hydroponically grown vegetables are at least as good as, or better than the best organic grown vegetables.

To quote a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at The New York University: "Are vegetables grown hydroponically as nutritious as those grown in soil?"

"Much as I think that soil is just great for growing plants, hydroponics has come a long way," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "I’ve seen hydroponic producers who have tested their leafy greens for key nutrients, and the amounts fall well within normal limits for their crop and are sometimes even higher.
Traditionally, plants obtain nutrients from soil. With hydroponics, the plants get nutrients from a solution instead. ....... Plants make their own vitamins, so vitamin levels tend to be similar whether a vegetable is grown hydroponically or in soil...."

What can you grow using hydroponics at home

Some of the best vegetables to grow hydroponically inside your apartment or house are given below. Most of the Seeds for these plants are available on Amazon India website for online purchase

  • Chillies or Peppers as they are called in USA
  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce several varieties
  • Spinach
  • Bok Choy - Chinese Cabbage (Brassica chinensis)
  • Kale (Brassica oleracea) or leaf cabbage

Advantage of Online buying of Home Appliances

Whatever Home Appliance you plan to buy, it is best to first do an online research about all available types and models on the leading online retailers in India, namely Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. The advantage of first doing an online research about products you plan to buy is that you get to see all the available models of the product and you get to compare prices online. After this you can go around to the showrooms and do window shopping.

You should then decide to buy from the cheapest and most reliable source. When buying online, you can be sure that you will not get fake products and you are assured of after sales service. This is because the giant on-line retailers arrange for delivery to your house directly through the manufacturers of the product. Due to the high volume of business from the big online retailers, all manufacturers will make sure that any delivery on behalf of the big online retailers are of the best quality and that after sales service is provided on a priority basis.

If ever you have any problems, then you can go back to these online retailers and complain. All of these big online sellers have a reputation to keep and they always make sure that all complaints are promptly solved.

Advantage of buying AC, Fridge, Washing Machine, etc. online

Buying online fridges, washing machines, dishwashers and other major kitchen appliances is now the better option in India, just like it is in the USA and other advanced countries. There are several advantages of buying online. First of all, you get unbeatable bargain prices. Secondly, you get new and genuine products. Other benefits include no interest EMI payments, able to return the product for a full refund if not satisfied, etc.

Just to give you an example, below are some of the benefits Amazon India, the leading global online retailer, offered in India during their last sale. The same deals are not always available, but it is a good idea to check this link to the special offers page on Amazon.in India website.

Amazon-Logo
Link to Amazon.in deals


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