For the past year we have continually examined hydroponics and its many benefits. Hydroponics, the practice of growing plants without soil as a growth medium, has been an innovative method of agriculture which is gaining popularity with farmers in the Caribbean.
Since the ‘Green Thumb’ column started in February 2018, I am very pleased to say I received many emails from both backyard gardeners and farmers on how they can build their own hydroponics system.
In Trinidad, most of our leafy vegetables and herbs are now produced hydroponically. There are many social media groups that can be joined where enthusiasts discuss all aspects of hydroponics.
To recap, there are six main types: Deep Water Culture, Nutrient Flow Technique, Ebb and Flow, Wicking System, Drip (recirculating and non-recirculating) and Aeroponics.
Aeroponics initially was not as popular as the other five methods due to its slightly higher cost and complexity of set up. However, it is now becoming popular with the increase of information and training courses that are now available.
In an Aeroponic System, the plant is suspended in a growth tray (usually Styrofoam) or netted cup with coco coir. There are mist nozzles attached to a timer and pump in the nutrient reservoir which periodically mists the plant’s roots with nutrient solution.
Aeroponic systems have been proven to grow plants quicker than Deep Water Culture systems. These systems are extremely water efficient since they use 95 per cent less irrigation than plants grown in soil and are still very productive.
Aeroponics allow for the commercial production of food in a small space. In countries such as China, crop production is done hydroponically by Aeroponics indoors in vertical farms. In aeroponics, systems need to be maintained and cleaned regularly which decrease the risk of pests and diseases due to the sterile conditions. Aeroponics high pressure nozzles can be expensive but the investment is definitely worthwhile.
You can grow leafy vegetables, herbs, strawberries and some vegetables in an aeroponic system. The same principles apply with pH and electronic conductivity of the nutrient solution according to the type of crop being grown.
The high pressured nozzles can be purchased online if not available at your agro-shop. I hope you give this method of Hydroponics a try.