Conventionally grown plants the extract water nutrients and oxygen from soil but because of the physical characteristics of soil it is likely that one or all of these essential nutrients is in limited availability to the plant roots.
When plants are grown in water ie.hydroponically, provided the system is set-up correctly the plants have access to an unlimited supply of water, containing exactly the right amount of nutrients along with a perfectly balanced pH enabling a grower to keep there plants growing at a much more vigorous rate throughout the crop and achieve maximum yield.
- Flood & Drain- Otherwise known as Ebb & Flood, at its simplest form, there is a tray above a reservoir of nutrient solution. The tray is filled with growing medium (clay pebbles being the most common) and planted directly, or pots of medium stand in the tray. At regular intervals, a segmen timer causes a pump to fill the upper tray with nutrient solution, after which the solution drains back down into the reservoir. This keeps the medium regularly flushed with nutrients and air.
- NFT - In NFT, the plants grow through light-proof plastic films placed over shallow, gently sloping channels. A steady flow of nutrient solution is maintained along the channel, and the roots grow into dense mats, with a thin film of nutrient passing over them (hence the name of the technique).
- Aeroponics - In Aeroponics a fog or mist of the nutrient solution is sprayed over the root system. This has the advantage of minimizing water usage as well as giving the roots ample access to oxygen. Aeroponics is mainly used for cuttings and seeds because the system needs to be quite large for older plants.
Contrary to some expectations, the roots of the plants grown hydroponically are not usually totally submerged in water. As having the root totaly submerged in water would be counter-productuive, the reason for this is oxygen is a key factor to all hydroponic systems.
The idea of hydroponics might still intimidate some people, most gardeners prefer and enjoy the simple, quick and easy process of Hydroponics. It is no more complicated than traditional gardening methods, and the same growing principles apply to the both. Although slighty more technology is used in Hydroponics you should not be daunted by this.
There is often great debate about the best method of growing the truth is it depends on the grower, it is certainly true that advanced methods like aeroponics and hydroponics display rapid growth rates which astonish growers who have previously worked with soil this is due to the water having the perfect amount of oxygenated nutrients contained within it.
What the grower must understand where they previously had soil acting as a buffer as well as providing nutrient, in hydro & aeroponics it is down to the grower to ensure the pH and nutrient remain stable and accurate.
Many soil growers enjoy the low cost & low maintenance of working with soil despite the traditionally slower growth rates by adding air pumps porous air rings many growers report up to 50% increase in yield along with growth rates than can only been compared to aeroponics.
In conclusion it really depends on an individuals circumstances many growers use a combination, keeping stock or mother plants in soil, Using Aeroponics for rooting cuttings enabling rapid root and vegetative growth at very early stages and flowering in N.F.T or flood and drain.