Before we get into the how of hydroponics, it’s important to understand how plants grow. Hydroponics is essentially a manipulation of how plants grow in nature. A successful hydroponic grower understands plant growth and the interactions and processes taking place in a natural environment. Photosynthesis is the most important plant process. During photosynthesis plants convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates/sugars and oxygen. This can only happen when the plant is exposed to light energy from the sun or a high-intensity grow light. The carbohydrates that are produced are then broken down during the process of respiration, resulting in energy needed for other plant processes. With this energy and some specific essential elements, plants can grow and complete their life cycles. Favorable environmental conditions also are necessary for optimal plant growth.
From this basic overview we can identify key factors needed for plant growth:
All of these factors can be found in nature and must be provided in some way by the hydroponic or indoor grower. Although hydroponics is specifically a method for growing plants with a dissolved mineral nutrient solution, all factors must be considered for a successful crop. Because of the nature of hydroponics, water and the nutrients dissolved in it are a good starting point to dive further into the knowledge needed to become a successful grower.
Next time we will look closer at water and water quality, before moving on to a thorough look at the essential elements required for plant growth.