Hydroponics for Your Grow Operation
Today I want to talk about why you should be growing with hydroponics.
If you're starting a commercial grow operation, it's definitely something you should consider. If you've never grown before and have been spending hours researching how to get started or if you've grown with soil before and keep hearing about growers getting amazing results with hydroponics, then this article is for you. You'll get a quick overview of hydroponics, when to use it and when not to, and what you can do next.
Let's get started!
What is Hydroponics
Check out this blog post.
In short -- Hydroponics is growing plants without soil. Compared to growing with soil, you can grow more densely and produce larger plants in a shorter amount of time. It uses less water than soil based methods and lets you avoid common pests and many soil based diseases.
There are many different methods of hydroponics: Deep Water Culture (DWC), Ebb N' Flow (also known as flood and drain), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), but they all have this in common: nutrients are dissolved in water and then delivered directly to the plant's roots. You have exact control of the nutrients that your plants get so you'll get consistent and reproducible results from grow to grow.
If you're doing commercial growing then you can see why this is appealing. You might be limited by space, or number of plants that you're allowed to grow at time. If you can grow larger plants more quickly, all while saving money by using less water and getting extremely consistent results then why wouldn't you?
These hydroponic methods have been around for decades (some for much much longer), with tons and tons of literature to back up their effectiveness. It is not risky unproved technology. Hopefully all of this all sounds as exciting to you as it did to me when I first got into hydroponics.
Should I Grow With Hydroponics?
If you're growing indoors, there are many reasons that hydroponics just makes sense.
We're indoor gardeners.
What's our big advantage over outdoor gardeners? We get complete control over our environment.
What's their big advantage? Space. They have tons of it. They also get free water when it rains.
Hydroponics lets us play to our strengths by optimizing nutrient delivery. You get far more control than growing in soil pots. This means our plants will be big and grow fast. We can also grow more plants per square foot, which is great when space is limited.
The big monthly expenses for commercial growers tend to be rent, water, electricity, and nutrients. Hydroponics helps us with two of those: water and nutrients. Depending on your hydroponic setup, you can expect to use up to 90% less water than soil growers. For a big grow operation this could be a huge savings! You'll also be using far less nutrients, and if you've grown before you know how expensive those can be.
When Not to Use Hydroponics
Despite all of its benefits, there are some good reasons to not go with hydroponics.
If you have to grow organic. To get organic certification for your crop you probably can’t grow hydroponically. You need soil for that.
If you want to be super hands off. Hydroponics doesn't require too much maintenance but you'll still have to check on your plants and pH levels regularly. Growing with soil is still the most forgiving method.
If all your friends use soil. It's hard to overstate how helpful a good mentor is. When you're starting out it can be invaluable to have someone that is experienced to help you avoid all of the easy to make beginner mistakes. If all of you're potential mentors use soil then you should probably do that too. It would be silly to not leverage all of their experience to get great results right away. After you've gotten more confidence and a few grows under your belt, think about switching to hydroponics.
If you're on a super tight budget. In the long run, you're going to save money growing with hydroponics because of the higher yields and lower water and nutrient requirements. But sometimes when you're just getting started cash can be tight! Pots and soil are going to be cheaper than a hydroponic setup and will get the job done.
You're a super connoisseur. I thought this was worth mentioning, some people think that soil grown plants taste better and are more enjoyable. In the end, that's a matter of preference and many award winning crops are grown hydroponically.
Will I like it?
Ok, this part is super important! You're growing because you enjoy it, right? Well, hydroponics should be something that you actually enjoy doing. If getting out of bed and sticking your hand into a batch of fresh soil is what gets you going then why bother with hydroponics? Do what makes you happy.
First thing's first - You CAN do it. I know some people see these hydroponic systems and think "nope nope nope I'll stick to soil thank you very much". I completely understand. But, hydroponics doesn’t have to be scary!
If you can grow with soil, you can grow with hydroponics.
If you've never grown before, hydroponics is beginner friendly and you WILL be successful.
That being said, it definitely is more fun for a certain kind of person:
- Do you like to tinker and tune with things to optimize performance?
- Do you like toys and gadgets?
- Are you looking for reproducible and consistent results with every grow?
- Are you in it for the long term and ok with a larger initial investment for long term savings?
If you said "yes" to most or all of these questions then hydroponics is a good fit.
I hope you're excited and ready to try out growing with hydroponics.
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