WHAT Is Hydroponics
We are nearing the end of summer. But for hydroponics growers, the seasons have no significance.
As far as growing with hydroponics, we don't care if it is Summer or Winter. We can start growing any time or season that we want to start and harvest time is not determined by the weather or season, but by when we started growing. As I pondered this in my mind, that I am a hydroponics grower, I realized how little I really know about hydroponics. Although I consider myself a successful and knowledgeable hydroponics grower, I did not really know what the word meant or how it got started. So I did some research.
Where did hydroponics come from, exactly?
Hydroponics basically means water working (in Greek, "hydro" means "water" and "ponos" means "labor"). Hydroponics actually began around 600 B.C. with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited with building the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife. By learning how to control the flow of the river, Nebuchadnezzar's engineers were able to build an elaborate irrigation system that lead to the creation of the first of the SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD!
Many different civilizations have since utilized hydroponics growing techniques throughout history. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Floating Gardens of the Aztec Indians of Mexico, the tubers grown in fast flowing creeks from the Inca Indians are all examples of hydroponics growing. Egyptian hieroglyphic records dating back several hundred years B.C. describe the growing of plants hydroponically. Hydroponics is hardly a new method of growing plants. The biggest obstacle to overcome was "root rot" and how to keep the water flowing indoors. It was first thought that to grow in water, the water had to be moving. Then they learned it only had to be oxyegen enriched.
The earliest food production in indoor greenhouses in water was possibly the growing of off-season cucumbers in nutrient enriched water, under "transparent stone" for the Roman Emperor Tiberius, born in 42 BC and died in 37 AD. Because soil was so readily available and easy to use for growing food and plants, hydroponics did not really evolve until around the year 1700.
The revolution of glass
Just as plastic has revolutionized hydroponics in the past few decades, glass was the most influential new discovery in indoor growing in the 1700s. Greenhouses in France and England were heated by manure and covered with glass panes. The first glass greenhouse built in the 1700's, used glass on one side only as a sloping roof. Later in the century, glass was used on both sides.
Glass was not cheap during this period. The glasshouse was used for fruit crops such as melons, grapes, peaches and strawberries and only rarely for vegetable production. The developers of this new technology kept market profitability in mind: they produced crops which appealed to the wealthy and privileged, the only people who could afford the luxury of fresh fruit produced out of season in greenhouses.
Then there was plastic
Indoor food production was not fully established until the introduction of polyethylene. In the U.S.A., the first use of polyethylene as a greenhouse cover was in 1948, when Professor Emery Myers Emmert at the University of Kentucky, used the less expensive plastic material in place of more expensive glass.
Professor Emmert is considered the father of plastics in the U.S. because he developed many principles of plastic technology for agricultural purposes through his research on greenhouses, plastic mulches and row covers. For the next two or three decades, indoor growing primarily used soil for growing.
The mystery of soil
The problem, however, was that the soil had to be constantly replaced, or expensive fertilizers had to constantly be added. This led to experiments of growing in wet sand and water covered gravel. But again, the cost of keeping the water moving, along with the cost of the sand, gravel and fertilizers defeated the purpose of trying to lower the cost of indoor growing.
In the late 1690s, English scientist, John Woodward, experimented with plant nutrients. He wanted to know whether plants got their nutrients from the soil or the water. He began with plants in water and slowly added soil to the water each day. He discovered that the plants improved in size and health. He concluded that it was the soil, and the water which provided the nutrients for the plants.
However, his findings contradicted those of the farmers. Farmers believed that the soil only provided stability for the plants to root on to. This belief was based on their experiences with droughts. Without water, the crops died, no matter how rich in nutrients the soil was.
With the advent of plant nutrition, modern hydroponics is born
This was the beginning of many more experiments on plant nutrition. Discoveries led to what we now acknowledge as the science of hydroponics. Today, many of the different methods of hydroponics gardening comes from the ideas of Dr. Gerike, a plant professor at the University of California. Dr. Gerike became famous with producing tomato plants 25 feet tall through his method of soil-less gardening. In fact, Dr. Gerike was the person who named the science of soil-less gardening "hydroponics."
Today, the system of hydroponics growing has evolved from only planting in flowing water, to new DWC systems, Drip systems and Bubbleponic systems. Thanks to plastic, inexpensive air pumps and water pumps, we can all harvest fresh home grown tomatoes in December! And we can grow pot in our closets without soil, hot lights and being detected.
And now you know the rest of the story!
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History of Hydroponics
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