Gardening has always been popular. Many people take great pride in their gardens, whether they cultivate flowers purely for aesthetic reasons, or grow fruit and vegetables to supplement their diet and save money.
Nowadays, time is at a premium because people lead busy domestic and working lives. For some, space is at a premium, too, and a lot can be done to optimise the growing potential of even the smallest area.
One aspect of gardening that is slowly but surely gaining popularity is hydroponic gardening. The word `hydroponic' derives from the Greek for water, `hydro', and labor, `ponos'. Taken literally, hydroponics is the practice of cultivating plants in water but, since its gain in popularity, the accepted definition is the soil-less cultivation of plants'.
Hydroponics is used all over the world nowadays, and is particularly useful in countries which suffer a lack of water due to droughts. The domestic gardener is showing a keen interest in the technique because plants can be grown throughout the year, whatever the weather, and in smaller spaces, even balconies and roof-gardens. Soilless gardening eliminates weeds so saving time that would otherwise have to be spent eradicating them. The nutrients the plants need are immediately available to them in the medium in which they grow, so they do not have to spread their roots to search for them. This results in vigorous healthy plants that mature faster which, in turn, provides an earlier harvest. For those time-poor gardeners, hydroponic gardening can be fully automated, to such an extent that the gardener can spend long periods away knowing that his plants will be watered whenever necessary.
It is fairly simple to get started with hydroponic gardening. Many garden centers and nurseries have specialised kits, which do not have to be very expensive. In fact, it is a good idea to start off with basic supplies.
Hydroponic gardening is no more difficult than ordinary gardening. It needs sufficient light, humidity, correct temperatures and water. Soil is substituted by water, to which the nutrients necessary for the plants to grow are added. The roots need oxygen, so a good circulation of air around the leaves is essential. The nutrients are taken up via the roots; if they die, the plant will die. An indoor hydroponic system will incorporate a fan to keep the surrounding air moving.
Artificial light is necessary when growing indoors, and this can be provided by various means including specialized growing lights, fluorescent and incandescent lights, and sodium vapour lamps.