There are alternative options for growing plants beyond the traditional pot of dirt. Hydroponics and aeroponics both have advantages that make them suitable for sustaining plants. Even though growing plants in soil is a tried and true, it’s not the only way to get the job done.
The difference between hydroponics and aeroponics growth systems will be easily explained here, along with their advantages and disadvantages over traditional soil growing.
Hydroponics is the growing of plants in a medium without soil. Nutrients are delivered to the plants via water, and the delivery method is determined by the type of hydroponic system that is used. A nutrient film system has the roots of the plants sitting in a growing tray while the nutrient rich water is pumped into the tray.
A drip hydroponic system uses elevated jets to deliver water to plants, while collecting the excess in a tank beneath the growth medium and recycling it back upward to the plants.
Wick hydroponic systems are systems that passively provide water and nutrients to plants by using wicks that are attached to a tank beneath the growth area. The water is drawn up the wicks and into the growth area where it can be absorbed by the plants.
A water culture hydroponic system features immersed roots in a water and nutrient mixture while a pump feeds air into the water tank to help the plant roots get enough oxygen. Finally, the ebb and flow hydroponic system features a pump and drain set up that feeds water into a grow tray via a pipe and then drains it way via a different pipe, while being directed on a timer.
On the other side of the soil-less growing option is the aeroponic growth system. While aeroponic systems have similarities to hydroponic systems such as the nutrient film growth system, there is a key difference. In aeroponics, the roots of the plants are never submerged at all. Instead, the roots are left hanging in air while the plants are suspended on a growth platform.
The roots will grow downward like a normal plant, but they are never allowed to reach a tank of nutrients and water, and they are kept in the dark to prevent damage from excessive exposure to light. The water and nutrients are delivered to the plant roots via misting.
In the aeroponic system set up, the water and nutrient mix is sent by pumps to sprayers that are placed near the plant roots. Upon being activated by a timer, the sprayers give the roots a light mist. Because the roots are constantly being exposed to the air, they must be sprayed in regular intervals to prevent them from being dried out.
Compared to traditional methods of growing plants in soil, hydroponic growth systems provide the advantage of more control. Gardeners have a better ability to give the plants exactly the right amount of nutrients for them to grow.
Traditional soil growth leaves a lot of room for energy waste because of how the process works. Nutrients and water are fed into the soil, and some of it is absorbed by the plants, but the rest can leave the soil and become lost or evaporated.
In hydroponic systems, the water can easily be recycled and nutrients that are missed once have a chance of being redistributed. Only around 10 percent of the water that is used in traditional soil growing is actually needed for hydroponics.
In addition, there are no pesticides or herbicides that need to be used with hydroponics. Traditional methods will often draw insects that attack the roots and leaves of plants, and also unwanted plants that will compete with the desired plants for water and nutrients.
In a controlled hydroponics environment, these threats are not present. Less space is needed to grow with these systems, and growing seasons don’t particularly have to be followed, which is a bonus when growing plants that are expected to create produce. In hydroponic systems, artificial light can even be used in place of regular sunlight.
There are drawbacks to using hydroponic systems over other systems. The nutrient rich water is a beneficial part of the system, but it can also be a breeding ground for diseases that thrive in water. Once these diseases have started to grow, they can easily travel throughout the system via the pumps and tanks that are in place.
Some plant diseases are easier to catch and stop than others, and getting the wrong one can mean doom for any plant. Another draw back is the power that keeps the system going. Many hydroponic systems use electricity to pump water and nutrients to the plant roots. When the power goes out, these systems are left at a stand still, with no ability to keep the flow of water and nutrients going.
There are battery and generator back ups that can be purchased to counteract this, but that just adds a complication to the system that wouldn’t be present with regular soil growing.
The price of a hydroponic system can also be a major hindrance for those who wish to start one. In a traditional soil system, the items that are usually purchased are soil, fertilizer, and maybe some kind of pesticide or herbicide.
In hydroponic systems, growing mediums, growth tables, tanks, pumps, wicks, and even batteries must be purchased, and all of these items can be more costly up front. In the long run, a hydroponic system can be cheaper than a traditional one, but it can take a while to get to that point.
Aeroponic systems have their own set of advantages that make them superior to the regular growth method of using soil. The best thing about these systems is the way the nutrients are absorbed by the plants.
Traditional systems waste lots of nutrients and water without much of a way to bring them back to the plants. In aeroponics, since the water and nutrients are sprayed directly on the plant roots, they are easily absorbed by the plants and nothing is gone to waste. This ensures that the plants are getting everything they need with each misting.
Another advantage for the aeroponic system is that it is easily to assemble at any location. The sprayer and timer can be easily put together and the plants are easy to set into the growth platforms. The timer essentially does all of the work in getting the plants what they need, so gardeners won’t have to work as hard to keep the plants in a healthy state.
Aeroponic systems, like hydroponic systems, also don’t use pesticides and herbicides because of the lack of insects and competing plants in their environments.
Aeroponic systems aren’t perfect, as their drawbacks can provide some difficulties to those who want to use them over traditional systems. The tray-less nature of the aeroponic system makes the whole thing more sensitive than a regular soil system or even a hydroponic one. The pH level of the system can fluctuate and they must be monitored and changed regularly based on the requirements of the plants.
The nutrient density must also be monitored to make sure that the plants are getting the right ratio with each misting. This system isn’t particularly friendly for beginners, as they may have a difficult time adjusting to pH balancing and nutrient ratios.
The problem of an electrical outage is also present with aeroponic systems, and it affects plants in a worse way. Since the plants rely on the mist from a pump, spray, and timer system, once the power is shut off, no water or nutrients can be delivered to the plant roots.
In a traditional soil or a hydroponic system, the plants roots can at least sit in nutrient rich water most of the time. After an outage of only a few hours, the plants can easily die because there is no way for the roots to get what they need.
The difference between hydroponics and aeroponics all comes down to the roots. The root are probably the most important part of the plants, because without them, the plants wouldn’t be able to absorb water and nutrients, which would prevent them from growing and even kill them.
Whether being exposed via direct contact to the water and nutrients, or being fed through a mist, the roots will need to be thoroughly fed, and each of these systems make it possible to do that efficiently, even more so than with regular soil.
While they have some shared similarities, the difference between hydroponics and aeroponics gives each one their own unique way of gardening. They both make it possible to grow plants in an area that is completely controlled by the grower, allowing them to fine tune it to suit the plants.
These systems provide growers with some of the cleanest methods for growing without relying on harsh chemicals, which are not only toxic for the environment but for you.