Hydroponic gardening makes it possible for those with little to no gardening space grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables without the use of soil. All you need is a container for growing, a liquid nutrient tank, and a grow light. While plants do grow differently in hydroponic gardens compared to outdoor gardens, the results are often better than a conventionally grown plant – making both the gardener and the chef happy.
Passive Hydroponic Systems
This type of hydroponic system feeds nutrients to the plants through a wick system. The nutrients are soaked through a wick and then passed to plant roots through contact. The self-watering plants allow for good growth. However, the plants being in pots promotes them becoming root bound. They are still considered hydroponic because plant nutrition comes from water, rather than soil. Passive hydroponic systems typically do not allow for the reuse of the nutrient solution, so you will have to adjust that accordingly to ensure the plants receive the adequate nutrition required to foster growth.
Active hydroponic systems use mechanics to move the water and nutrients. These systems provide plants with a nutrient rich water solution. Plants are contained with a soilless medium and anchored over the nutrient tank. The nutrient tank recycles the nutrient solution, so you can use and reuse it over and over. However, you will need to check and adjust the pH on a regular basis to ensure it remains within the safe range for the crops you are growing. For most plants, the ideal pH ranges from 5.5 to 6.5.
How the Hydroponic System Affects Root Growth and Length
Hydroponically grown plants have smaller roots than their conventional soil grown counterparts. This is because the nutrition the plant needs is so readily available. Roots grow to provide plant support, but because they are no longer the sole support for growth, they do not have to be as large.
Roots do not have to search for an adequate water supply in a hydroponic environment. As such, you’ll see the same healthy growth as other plant parts, but you will not see the long root growth you would find in a plant that was grown in conventional soil. Plants will have the ability to survive longer with adequate water and poor food than with adequate food and a lack of water. Shorter roots are an indication of the efficient delivery of water and nutrients to the plants. When compared to conventionally grown crops, the hydroponic root systems will always be shorter.
Growing Root Crops with Hydroponic Systems
If you want to grow a root crop, such as beets, carrots, potatoes, or turnips, a passive hydroponic system is best. These plants all do well when they receive adequate water. However, it is important to note that soil may play a role in the texture of the resulting root crop. Experiments with hydroponically grown root crops show that some of the vegetables are oddly shaped.