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5 Ways to Use Grow Trays in Hydroponic Gardening

In any hydroponic system, plant roots need a support system of some kind due to the absence of soil. A common support system to house plant roots is the grow tray.

Grow trays can be used in several different hydroponic methods. Grow trays make it easy for the DIY gardener who opts to build an indoor garden from scratch.

Here are 5 ways a grow tray can be used in hydroponic systems:

  1. Wick System: trays are used to hold plants in this passive grow system to deliver the nutrient solution from the reservoir with a wick.
  2. Drip System: grow trays are used to hold plants. The submersed pump is used to drip a nutrient solution onto the base of each plant by a small drip line.
  3. Ebb and Flow: the ebb and flow system temporarily floods the grow tray with the nutrient solution and then the solution drains back into the reservoir.
  4. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray that’s usually a tube and flows over the roots of the plants. This system also has the solution draining back into the reservoir.
  5. Deep Water Culture: doesn’t use grow trays, but rather a platform that holds the plants. The platform is usually made of Styrofoam and floats, with the roots submerged in the nutrient enriched solution.

Read more about Grow Trays and Flood Tables.

5 Ways Hydroponics Improves Food Supply Chain

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A growing concern over food security is the environmental damage that major food production companies cause through their supply chain. Hydroponic technology has the potential to alleviate the serious devastation being caused by our current methods of producing and distributing food. Some of the ways in which hydroponics improves agricultural production and food supply chain include:

  1. Growing food in a controlled environment
  2. Providing energy and water efficiency
  3. Eliminating the need for pesticides or chemicals
  4. Harvesting and distributing produce within the same urban area shortening the supply chain
  5. Selling to grocery stores or direct to growers eliminating transportation and/or packaging needs

Read more.

5 Hydroponic Growing Methods

If you’ve decided to take the hydroponic plunge there are certainly ore than a few things to know. The following is a list of the different types of hydroponic growing methods. This will be helpful if you’re thinking of building your own hydroponic garden but don’t know where to start. Some of these hydroponic growing methods are more complex than others.

5 Hydroponic Growing Methods

  1. Drip Irrigation – System in which water and nutrients are delivered via gravity dripping your H2O supply at a constant rate.
  2. Ebb and Flow – An inert medium that the plants grow through is flooded periodically.
  3. Nutrient Film Technique – A shallow stream of water is recirculated through the plants roots.
  4. (Deep) Water Culture – A plant suspended in water that is constantly being aerated.
  5. Wick System – Utilizing capillary action to deliver water to the plants

Read more.

NOTE: If you’re at the beginner stage then I recommend starting with a simple drip irrigation. It’s the most basic of the hydroponic growing methods and can be constructed at minimal cost.

Feature Image: Live sustainably using a hydroponic gardening system. Image via The Life Experimenter.

5 Food Trends for 2015

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Each year the United States moves towards a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable food supply. For example, we’ve seen how the state of our schools’ lunch programs have changed the types of foods that our children are eating. We’re also seeing more food labeling on the shelves telling us how our food is produced as well as where it was produced. Instead of importing all of our foods from industrial suppliers more of our food is coming from local farms, especially seasonal produce. Not only are we seeing more of this healthier food coming into the market, we’re also seeing that fresh locally grown organic foods are being offered at a more affordable rate meaning we’re able to feed more individuals than in previous years.

The US is moving towards a better future in 2015. States are clamping down on food packaging that contains harmful chemicals. For example, in 2015 the City of New York is banning the use of styrofoam food containers in the city, following many other cities such as Portland, San Diego, and Seattle.

As we transition from 2014 to 2015 these are the top five food trends we are going to see in food systems during the upcoming year:

1. Sustainable Food Available For Everyone

People across the US are going to find local sustainable foods more accessible in 2015. More people will have access to fresh healthy foods than in recent years. This trend will focus on seasonal produce where individuals will have access to fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. that has been grown on local farms. This will cut down on the amount of industrialized foods that individuals have relied on in past years. We’ve already seen such movements occurring across the country with people asking for healthier foods, demanding cost efficient foods, and hoping for a better environment for practicing sustainable agriculture.

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2.  More Attention Will Be Paid To Food Waste

Growing up in my household, especially when visiting my grandparents, we were drilled with the idea of NOT wasting food. You sat and ate what was on your plate even if you didn’t like it. As Americans, we produce a large amount of food that in actuality, never gets eaten. According to the NRDC, around forty percent of the food that is produced in the United States goes to waste. The idea that is trending with this issue is to raise public awareness of food waste and what it means for our environment. Author Dana Gunders, an expert for the NRDC, is publishing a book called The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, which will share tips on how to reduce food waste in your home, such as using leftovers in other recipes, freezing and storage. The idea is to use the food in your fridge and cupboards before they spoil and need to be thrown away.

3. Get Rid of the Chemicals

We all know this trend. We see it more and more where the government is failing to protect families from dangerous chemicals that are being used in our food production systems. It is the hope of the NRDC and FDA to battle chemical industries to stop them from using chemicals in our foods, especially those that disrupt the hormone system in both humans and animals. Looking at the opening paragraphs of this article you can see that it was mentioned that NYC is banning the use of plastic food containers – this is because of the harmful chemicals found in those containers which damage not only the environment but also the health of individuals due to the use of various chemicals in the packaging. Another example is the use of plastics that contain BPA. We all know that in previous years they were used in baby bottles, but they are a known reproductive hazard. It’s the hope that these will be banned nationwide so that they are no longer used, when currently they are STILL being used in food packaging.

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4. Climatology and Soil Science

One thing that farmers are paying better attention to in recent years is how climate change is altering the soil composition for the growth of crops. Where we used to focus on getting as much yield as possible from the soil, there has been a shift in farming practices, aiming towards healthy soils rather than applying chemical after chemical to them to get crops to grow faster and larger. The largest factor in this shift is that if we can keep the soils healthier they can store more carbon, which means that less carbon will be released into the atmosphere causing climate change issues. By relying on methods such as crop rotations or green manure uses, we can work to make the soils healthier and therefore create a better environment for world populations.

5. Antibiotic Free Meats

Demand is high for meats that are free of antibiotics. We see many instances where animals are given antibiotics when they are being raised for meats. The idea behind this trend is that people don’t want to eat meats that are laden with chemicals and antibiotics. In the past so much of our meat supply contained antibiotics that the instance of antibiotic resistant bacteria was on the rise which led to many illnesses and even deaths and infections which could not be treated by antibiotics that would have otherwise treated the infection. So now people are lobbying for change. They want the animals to be healthy and free of stressful and unsanitary conditions so that they can be taken to slaughter in a way that will be healthy not only for the animals but for the individuals purchasing the end product. This would help contain the health crisis that is currently happening in the US as more and more individuals are falling ill and being unable to be treated by conventional antibiotics due to a resistance that the bacteria is building up through the ingestion of meats that are full of the same antibiotics.

After looking at the above five trends we can surmise that 2015 is going to usher in a new era for the sustainable food movement. People want produce and meats that are not only affordable but also antibiotic free and sustainable. They want a food system that is not only health for people but also for animals and the environment. Each year we make huge strides towards a healthier food system, and it seems that 2015 will be no different.

5 Environmental Benefits of Commercial Hydroponics

environmental-benefits-of-commercial-hydroponics

The benefits of commercial hydroponics as a food production method are leading this business model to grow all over the world. Though the costs of producing food in a commercial hydroponic setting are still quite high, the environmental benefits of commercial hydroponics are important to consider when looking at this method as a viable, sustainable option.

Here are some of the environmental benefits of commercial hydroponics:

Eliminates Pesticide Use
Being a soilless production it doesn’t need herbicides or chemical pesticides and so it positively affects human health and the environment.

Results in Faster Growth
Allows on average four times the amount of crops in the same space as traditional soil-based farming, and it can guarantee a faster growth for many kinds of crops.

Increases Water Conservation
Reduces water consumption by up to 90% compared to traditional agriculture which accounts for 70% of the world’s water consumption.

Improves Use of Natural Resources
Acts as a valid alternative to produce food in areas that are not rich in natural resources, such as deserts or even urban buildings.

Reduces Fossil Fuel Consumption
Provides less reliance on fossil fuels because foo dis being produced in urban areas which eliminates transportation impact as well as the use of machinery.

Read more about the Economic of Commercial Hydroponics in the original article by Adriano Pilloni.Feature Image:

5 Benefits of Urban Farming

soilless farming in the sky

Urban farming, also known as urban agriculture is a way for urban dwellers to grow their own food, or at least have access to local food. The practice of urban agriculture is growing in popularity in urban areas across North America. With the many benefits of urban farming and all that local-food production has to offer, it’s important that we continue to spread awareness about how individuals and communities can establish a foundation of improved health, social interaction, and economic prosperity.

Here are five benefits of urban farming:

Increases Food Security
Food security is having access to and being able to afford nutritious, safe food—and enough of it. This is a major concern for many families all over the world. Fortunately, urban farming contributes to greater food security.
Creates a Sense of Belonging
Urban farming is one way to bring urban dwellers together—to establish a sense of community among people otherwise independent and, in some cases, isolated.
Produces Healthy Food You Can Respect
You get fresher, healthier food—herbs, vegetables and fruits—and are more likely to eat what’s in season, when you eat what’s produced on an urban farm.
Provides a Learning Opportunity
Urban farms give city dwellers a chance to produce their own food, and learn in the process. They learn about various gardening techniques, the best nutrient solutions, required sunlight, and controlling temperature, among other things.
Makes Efficient Use of Land
We can efficiently use the land we do have to feed the people. Consider rooftop or vertical gardens: they take up minimal space but produce tons of fresh, healthy food. Many hydroponics systems are set up vertically, to ft anywhere even indoors!

To learn more about the benefits of urban farming, check out the guest post by 3Dponics.

4 Vertical Farms From Around The World

There are many conceptual and futuristic vertical farm designs that have been creatively designed by some visionary architects. While many of these agricultural high-rises presently exist only in renderings, there are in fact some commercial hydroponic agricultural facilities that could be considered the closest thing to vertical farms today.

Many proponents of urban agriculture believe that vertical farming will be the most sustainable food production solution moving forward if we want to be able to feed the 9 billion people that will reside on this planet by 2050. Opponents suggest that this idea is not economically viable. Whichever side you argue it’s safe to say we can definitely learn from the existing facilities and how they operate so that we may constantly improve on our agricultural technology.

Here are four present-day vertical farms:

  1. Sky Greens Farm in Singapore
  2. FarmedHere in Chicago IL
  3. Green Spirit Farms in Scranton PA
  4. Nuvege Vertical Farms in Japan

Read more.

Feature Image: Sky Greens Farm in Singapore increases the city-state’s food security. Image via PRI’s The World

4 Tips for Maintaining Hydroponic Wick Systems

Hydroponic-Wick-System-for-beginners

For soilless gardening beginners, hydroponic wick systems are a good method to start with. DIY hydroponic wick systems are easy to create using limited components. If you decide to proceed with a basic hydroponic wick system for your indoor garden, there are a few pointers to follow.

Tips for Maintaining Hydroponic Wick Systems

Because hydroponic wick systems are very basic in their design and function, it’s important to maintain them manually. Here are some tips to follow to reduce the chance of damaging plant growth:

  1. Set up multiple wicks to provide plants with a greater amount of water and nutrients
  2. Keep the water level high in the reservoir so it doesn’t need to travel as far
  3. Rinse your growing media regularly to avoid nutrient build up which can be toxic to plants
  4. If needed, try adding an air stone to aerate water to provide more oxygen to your plants

For more information of hydroponics wick systems and how to construct your own, check out our original article here.

4 Things to Know About Co2 Levels in Hydroponic Gardening

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In hydroponic gardening, your plants don;t naturally receive as much C02 as they would with traditional gardening. That’s why it’s important to supplement Co2 levels in hydroponic gardening when necessary. But there are some critical things to know before you add Co2 as well as after C02 is added.

Here are four things to be aware of regarding Co2 in hydroponic gardening,

Growing Conditions
Growing conditions should be in tip-top shape including, proper lighting, ventilation and airflow, spacing between crops, and the current nutrient levels all working together in your system.
Measure Co2 Levels
Measuring the current C02 levels before deciding to increase. To measure the levels of Co2 in hydroponics you may use a Co2 monitoring system.

Increase Co2 Levels
If Co2 levels are low, boost carbon dioxide with Co2 enrichment methods.

Maintain Co2 Levels
Co2 monitoring systems can be put on a timer so that they only dispense C02 during the day/lighting cycle as this is the time when photosynthesis occurs.

Read more about the proper application of Co2 in hydroponic gardening.

4 Things To Consider Before You Build a Hydroponic Garden

The first hydroponic garden I ever built was a DIY (do-it-yourself) drip irrigation system with copper tubing that fed water down into a double layer of framed burlap that had pockets cut into it to support the root systems of what would eventually become a living wall.

I faced all kinds of problems that I hadn’t anticipated. I thought, how hard can it be? Well it turns out when you’ve made it a goal to build your system entirely out of recycled or repurposed materials instead of making it a goal to create something sustainable well, you’ve already lost.

Here we share with you some things to consider before you build a hydroponic garden. Not all of these happened in my particular circumstance, but they are important to review nonetheless. This will help you avoid potential damage to your plants and to your home.

Algae Build-up In Your Reservoir

If you’re building a hydroponic garden with a reservoir to hold the water for irrigation then you should make sure it’s not a see-through container. Your reservoir should be a solid dark color and exclude light to prevent algae from building up in your nutrient solution.

Use A Sterile Medium

Just like if you were growing with soil, you’d want to use soil that was organic and sterile so that it didn’t already contain fungus and other bacteria. Well in hydroponic growing you should also utilize grow mediums that are sterile such as rockwool or perlite.

Prevent Mold

It’s way easier to prevent mold accumulation before-hand than to deal with it after. Believe me. The best way to prevent pests, mold, and other nasty things is to keep your garden and surrounding environment clean. Like bio-lab clean. Th problem with mold is that it can spread through your house quickly by being transferred from surface to surface.

  • Wash your hands before you touch your plants.
  • Remove dead and fallen leaves and dead plants entirely from the garden, ASAP. Then wash your hands again.
  • Don’t over water and let your grow medium get soggy. This breeds mold.
  • Keep humidity at a low level and properly ventilate the room i.e. place near a window and open it regularly.
  • Disinfect and sterilize all components of your garden before hand.

Watch for Leaks

Whether your garden is being constantly irrigated or it’s on a timer you need to make sure that your reservoir is sealed, and that whatever tubes or drainage components you’re using don’t leak or spray water outside the confines of the garden area. This might seem like a no-brainer but I still believe it’s worth mentioning. You can cause damage to your flooring and/or walls without proper sealant and/or waterproof backing.

After I’d made some rookie mistakes I definitely learned from them. I needed to experience the failure in order to become better at hydroponic gardening. Hopefully these errors help you learn the easy way: From someone else’s mistakes.

Feature Image: Create a sterile plant environment by washing your wands. Image via Fotolia.