Hydroponics is a method of planting that uses a nutrient-rich water solution as a base for the plants to grow. In contrast to the traditional soil-based planting, hydroponics is the best choice for plant-growers because it allows them to regulate different variables according to the plant’s needs to yield better growth. Thus, using safe plastics for hydroponics is one of the most important variables that must be considered in a hydroponic system.
Advantages of Using Hydroponics
Increased Growth Rate
One of the most rewarding advantages of hydroponic system is that it yields an increased growth rate and production of plants. Your plants will reach their full development 25 % faster than those from traditional soil-based planting. Plus, it produces 30% faster than the other method. Plants that grow in this type of method yields better and faster result because the nutrients found in the water-based solution is enough for plants to grow up rather than expanding root growth below which is the case in soil-based planting.
Can be Used Everywhere
There are some areas wherein their soil is not receptive to plant growth. The hydroponic method is the solution to this problem as it allows people from this area to produce their crops. Plus, it also uses less water than traditional planting.
Less Pesticide Use
The hydroponic method, as aforementioned, uses a nutrient-rich water solution which eradicates the need for pesticide use. Consequently, this method is environment-friendly and makes the crops safer to eat for consumers.
Disadvantages of Using Hydroponics
The hydroponics system will definitely cost more than the soil-based planting. This is because it needs a handful of materials e.g. a growing medium, a nutrient-rich water solution, and pumps that add oxygen for the roots and pumps nutrients to the grow tray.
If you plan to have a large-scale system, usually it takes a lot of time just for the set-up alone. In addition, if you are not well-versed in the field, then for sure managing the system will consume your time. The PH levels of the water solution must also be monitored on a day to day basis, for it measures the level of acidity or alkalinity which is essential for plant growth.
The Hydroponics system poses a risk of killing your plants if a simple pump failure will not be remedied immediately. This is because the growing medium relies solely on the pumps for their nutrients. There really are advantages and disadvantages involved.
Parts of a Hydroponic System
- Nutrient Solution – one of the most important parts of the system, this solution is easily available in garden shops online and offline. This solution is usually composed of nitrogen, calcium, potassium, magnesium and other minerals depending on the plants you plan to grow, the type of system you want to use, and your growing medium.
- Growing Medium– may or may not be present in a hydroponic system. You can choose rock wool, sand, clay, white gravel, vermiculite, and perlite. Gravel, clay, and sand are cheap and easily available, but they are heavy and don’t yield good water circulation as the expensive perlite and vermiculite. Rock wool is the most preferred choice because it’s the most affordable yet drains easily.
- Pumps– there are two pumps usually found in the system. One is for pumping nutrients to the growing medium and the other is for pumping oxygen to the roots. This is also a very critical component because the failure of any of the two would mean that the plants are not getting the nutrients they need for their growth.
- Light– in gardening areas where light is not easily accessible, two types of lights are used for gardening. One of which is the Metal Halides (MH) which uses the blue-end spectrum for green, leafy vegetables and young plants. The second one is the High-Pressure Sodium or HPS which uses the opposite end of the spectrum for flowers and fruits.
Using Plastic in Hydroponics
Plastics are widely used all over the hydroponics system. This increases our risk of exposure to carcinogenic substances which are detrimental to our health. Almost all plastic packages leach or migrates trace amounts of chemicals subject to certain conditions such as heat or foods that are acidic or contain high amounts of fat or salt.
What are the Safest Plastics to Use in the Hydroponic System?
Using safe plastics for hydroponic affects not just the plant growth but most especially the end-consumers. There may be harmful chemicals in plastics that will not make it suitable for hydroponics. For hydroponics, here are the type of plastics that can be used:
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or commonly referred to as the number 2 plastics. This is very safe to use for Hydroponics as they don’t spread high amounts of chemicals to the solution inside. This type of plastic is also environment-friendly as it can be recycled which makes it a more preferred choice.
Polypropylene (PP) or plastic number 5 is also considered to be a safe plastic for your Hydroponic System. This plastic is known to cause harm during production but is safe for use for the very reason that it only leaks trace amounts of chemicals. But sadly, this type of plastics is not commonly recycled compared to the HDPE.
Hydroponics is the modern take of planting with the use of nutrient-rich water solution as a base. It may cost more money and time and poses greater risks, but hydroponics is usually preferred because, with appropriate and proper maintenance, it can produce more outcome at the soonest possible time. Generally, hydroponics is made of safe-to-use plastics which poses a lesser threat to our health.
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Is PVC safe for hydroponics?
Not all types of PVC are safe for hydroponics. Regular PVC is not safe and you should avoid using them. Regular PVC can leach harmful substances into the water in your hydroponic system making it non-food safe.
The toxic substances released are phthalates, lead, cadmium, and organotins. These toxic substances are can result in serious health hazards.
The major cause of leaching chemicals in your hydroponic water system is too much exposure to sunlight or heat. Also, PVC made from plastic types 1, 3, 6, and 7 are unsafe for the hydroponic system.
The best solution is for you to keep this PVC away from heat, cover the pipes, or you opt for the safest types for your hydroponics. In order to avoid introducing toxin to your hydroponic food supply: use the safest PVC pipes for your hydroponics which includes plastic-type 2, 3, and 5.
Is Rockwool safe for hydroponics?
Rockwool is safe as a growing medium for your hydroponic system and it does not contain any harmful chemicals. It is a pathogen-free growing medium for your hydroponic system but it needs to be treated before used with plants.
However, it is not so friendly to the environment. Exposure of Rockwool to humans can cause some health problems. It can cause skin irritations, as well as lungs, mouth, and eyes irritation because of its physical properties.
Therefore, if you are using Rockwool for your hydroponic growing medium, you should use a mask, gloves, and goggles for your protection.
What materials do you need for hydroponics?
The materials you will need for hydroponics include:
- Water (preferably reverse osmosis water because of its purity)
- PVC pipe or growing tube
- Plant clips
- Plastic tubing
- Growing medium (for plant support and to convey nutrient and water)
- Pump (for air circulation)
- Nutrient gallon tank (for holding or storing nutrient solution)
- Hydroponic system nutrients (dissolved nutrients including macro and micronutrients for plant growth)
- Planting cups
- Grow tray
- Trellis (for the support of large climbing plant as they grow)
- Sunlight or grow light (for photosynthesis)
- Air hose
Are hydroponic nutrients safe?
Just as traditional soil nutrients, hydroponic nutrients are safe for both plants and the environment. In as much as you use the correct nutrient measurement and you always dispose of them properly. Therefore, it is safe for human production and consumption.
Hydroponic nutrients are so easy and clean solution to use. They are the eco-friendly garden solution. There is no worrying about any external contaminant or pollution overrunning your hydroponic food supply or your environment. It hardly harbors pests or soil-borne diseases, unlike traditional soil.
You should also note that when you purchase hydroponic nutrients, ensure they are only meant for hydroponic. Never use nutrients meant for soil. Traditional soil nutrients requirements vary from hydroponic system requirements.
Always read labels when purchasing your hydroponic nutrients so you have an idea of the safety of your plant.