Hydroponic gardening provides a unique way to overcome the need for a basic component for plant growth: soil. Hydroponic gardening has been used in outer space and Antarctica, places where growing plants in the ground is out of the question. There are several types of hydroponic gardening, including deep water culture, aeroponics, ebb and flow system subirrigation, and passive subirrigation. All are different, and yet all offer advantages to the hydroponics enthusiast depending how you wish to grow your plants.
Hydroponic Gardening Takes Many Forms
Hydroponic gardening can occur either in nutrient solution or growing medium. Nutrient solution refers to the liquid nutrients that the plant roots feed upon. A growing medium is a particular type of substance in which the plants' roots grow, and includes sand, clay and rockwool. A structure is needed to contain the nutrient solution or growing medium, and opaque plastic is often used for this purpose, because it reduces algae growth in the nutrient solution.
Deep Water Culture
Deep water culture typically uses a plastic bucket with a net. The plant sits in the net, and the net is held in place over the nutrient solution surface by the lid of the bucket, so that only the roots of the plant are submerged. For this hydroponic system to work, you will also need to use an airstone in the nutrient solution, which oxygenates the nutrient solution, a benefit to plant roots. The advantage of this system is that the plant accesses much food and oxygen, so consequently plants grow quickly in all stages of the plant's life.
If you want to do indoor gardening without soil but have a limited amount of water available, then aeroponic gardening is your best option. With this type of indoor gardening, the plant roots are sprayed with nutrient solution, and are not placed in any type of growing medium. Aeroponics uses less water than other types of hydroponic gardening.
Ebb and Flow
One type of growing medium culture is ebb and flow system, or flood and drain subirrigation. Clay is often the growing medium used, and the plants are grown in the clay which rests in a tray. Another tray holds nutrient solution, and at timed intervals the clay tray is flooded with the nutrient solution, and then it is drained away. This movement also aids in aeration of the growing medium as well.
If you wish to grow plants that thrive in a humid environment, such as orchids, then passive subirrigation, another type of growing medium culture hydroponic gardening, would work well. A coarse growing medium is used to provide for ample air space for the roots. The plants are nestled in the medium in a container, and the container sits in another container holding a thin layer of liquid. This is an easy method of hydroponic gardening, because you only need to occasionally refill and replace the nutrient solution. It not only provides an excellent high humidity microclimate, but it also helps alleviate root rot in plants.
Information on Hydroponics