The Science & Secrets of Hydroponics

Hydroponic gardens provide the perfect growing conditions for your plants to not only survive, but thrive. There are several reasons behind this and the first being access to perfectly balanced nutrition at all times.

In a soil garden, it is almost impossible to know what nutrient elements are present at any one time. Some may have been flushed deep into the soil and out of reach of roots to uptake, while some may be building up in pockets of clay soil to the point of being toxic to your plants.

In hydroponics, you apply known quantities of all the natural elements in the form of a soluble nutrient to the reservoir and add water. The nutrient solution is a known quantity and not a guess, whereas when we add fertilizer to soil we have no idea if there is too much of one element or not enough of another. What was in the soil before? We simply don’t know!

As certain plants uptake certain amounts of hydroponic nutrient there may become a deficiency, but at the same the reservoir contents will drop due to the plants uptaking water. This will require us to add more water and nutrients periodically, which then increases the levels of the deficient elements and allows the plants to access what they need.

On the other hand, certain elements may not be used up by the varieties you are growing, as different varieties uptake different elements at different levels. In soil, this is a problem because - like I explained above - you may end up with levels so high that it has a detrimental effect on the plants ability to survive. In hydroponics, you simply let the reservoir drain down, pour out the excess and then add fresh water and nutrients.

Do this every 6 weeks and once again you will have perfectly-balanced nutrition available for your plants. It is essentially like completely changing your garden soil and replacing it with a brand new potting mix every few weeks.

Positioning Your Salad Table

Your Salad Table is best placed where it receives a fair amount of sun. This will vary by location. For example, if you live in the northern tropics it is best to protect from the summer sun, but if you live in cooler southern areas you should aim to put your garden in full sun for as long as possible.

If you only receive morning or afternoon sun, this will still give you excellent quality herbs and vegetables all year round. The Salad Table is very light and simple to move around your balcony or yard. As a large number of plant varieties are sensitive to frost, it is best to protect them in the cooler months if frost is common in your area. You can cover the Salad Table with netting or move it to a protected position to eliminate frost damage.

Dealing with Pests & Weeds

Pests love plants as much as we do, and unless you are growing indoors you will certainly come across them at some stage. I use a number of home-made organic sprays but only as required, mainly in summer. It is also very easy to access your plants and remove bugs by hand as they appear.

Weeds are a place where insects breed and accumulate so eliminating them is the perfect solution. There are no weeds when growing in any Salad Table. In fact, after many years of hydro farming, I have only ever come across 1 weed - and it came in on a commercially grown seedling. Keeping weeds down around any garden will most definitely help reduce insect activity.

Another benefit of growing hydroponically is that your plants grow faster and are more healthy, leaving them less vulnerable to pests in the first place. If you do come across pests you can check out some organic insect spray recipes on my website, or there are many sprays available commercially if it’s more convenient for you.

Avoiding Disease

Plant disease can also be a problem in any garden and hydroponics is not immune. In the event of disease, it is very easy to remove affected plants or clean the entire hydro system and start fresh. Cleaning your system with a mix of organic peroxide and water will completely eliminate all types of disease so you can start again immediately.

Unfortunately with soil gardens, disease can remain locked in the ground for many years which can lead to constant reinfection. One disease to watch out for is Sclerotinia and has been known to lay dormant in the soil for more than 5 years. It has the ability to infect more than 400 hosts including all types of lettuce. If you’ve ever noticed your plant thriving one day only to completely collapse into a brown dust and sludge the next day, it is probably Sclerotinia.

Varieties Suited to Hydroponics

Here is a list of just some of the varieties that I have grown in my Salad Tables over the years:

• Green Oak Lettuce

• Red Oak Lettuce

• Coriander

• Parsley

• Watercress

• Strawberries

• Thyme

• Dill

• Kale

• Coral Lettuce

• Cos Lettuce

• Butterhead Lettuce

• Choy / Asian Greens

• Celery

• Mint

• Mustard Greens

• Silverbeet

• Endive

• Swiss Chard

• Chives

• Mizuna

• Rocket

• Okra

• Shallots

• Spring Onion

• Tomatoes

• Cherry Tomatoes

• Cucumbers

• And Even Edible Flowers

This list is not exhaustive. I have Salad Table owners sending in photos of all types of produce that I had never thought possible - for example, watermelon and floor-reaching pumpkin vines grown by a Newcastle resident. The amount of produce all over the ground was amazing and after I witnessed this I just had to give it a go myself (and found great success).

Our range of Salad Tables, Walls and Towers are designed on the same principles as our farm – and we have a model to suit every space!