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This picture is of a hydroponic gardening system that is growing lettuce

How To Make A Hydroponic Gardening System

 

How Hydroponic Gardening Works

When most people plan for a long-term survival situation one of their main concerns is a food source. No matter how much food you have stashed away, eventually it’s going to run out and you’ll be scavaging for what you need to survive. You can only get so much from hunting, fishing and gathering, and it’s much more effective to raise and grow your own food. Most people focus on traditional gardening as a means to long-term survival, without realizing that hydroponic gardening is likely the more effective survival solution.

Before you can decide whether or not hydroponic gardening is right for you, it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. When a plant is grown hydroponically it’s grown over top of a container filled with water. The fertilizer and minerals are added right to the water itself and the plant relies on its roots to pull these nutrients out of the water.

A thin growing medium separates the water and the plant on top. This could be dirt, a sponge or any other material that the roots can grow through. The medium is to supply stability to the plant, not nutrients. In order to keep plants growing healthily, fertilizer must be added to the water source on a regular basis to replace what is used by the plant.

The Benefits

There are many benefits to growing hydroponically versus growing a standard garden. Taking the time to learn just a few might be all it takes for you to decide it’s the right thing for you.

Grow Crops Faster

Because of the way that hydroponic gardening works, it’s more efficient than traditional growing. That means that your plants will reach maturity faster and produce bigger yields as well. You’ll get more food in less time. You can expect growth rates enhanced  between 30 and 50 percent when using a hydroponic setup. This is especially important when growing over a short season in a northern climate when you’re growing for survival. If you don’t get enough food in that short window you’ll end up without what you need to survive the winter.

Survive with Less Space

While you probably aren’t concerned about maximizing your growing space if you live on a 50 acre farm, survivalists on small plots of land need to make the most of every bit of space they have to work with. Believe it or not it’s possible to grow all the food needed to survive, even in urban environments, and growing hydroponically can help with that goal.  Since plants don’t have to develop large and complex root systems when feeding from hydroponic pools, they can focus their energy into developing larger stems, bigger vines and more fruit overall. You can expect better yields when growing this way, and that means a lot when working with limited space.

Use Less Water and Fertilizer

In areas where drought is common hydroponic gardening is especially useful. Since the system is a closed loop that water cycles through, very little is lost as plants grow. You’ll use significantly less water, and fertilizer to grow your plants because none is wasted.

Get Started

Now that you know why you should consider hydroponic gardening for survival purposes, it’s time to focus on what you need to do to get started. You’ll have to gather together all the necessary supplies. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need.

  • Grow containers
  • Growing medium
  • Nutrient tank
  • Fertilizer
  • Test kit

Sit down and consider how much you’ll have to grow throughout the season to supply your family with the necessary food. Make a list of plants that you want to grow and figure out how many will be growing at any one time. Come up with enough growing containers to accommodate that many plants plus at least 20% more. So if you need to grow 50 plants at a time, get containers to hold at least 60 plants. This will serve as your buffer in case plants fail, or you want to add additional plants from one season to the next.

Deciding on a Growing Medium

Once you know what you’ll be using for growing containers you have to decide what your growing medium is going to be. There are many different materials that can be used to grow on top of, but the five listed below are the most common.

  • Sand
  • Perlite
  • Rockwool
  • Vermiculite
  • Gravel

Perlite and vermiculite are the two most effective materials, but also more expensive than others. Perlite holds oxygen very efficiently while vermiculite holds water well. It’s common for a mix of the two to be used together as a medium. Rockwool works well but it affects the PH of your water and you’ll have to make more regular adjustments when using it. Sand is messy to work with, but fruits tend to grow very well in it. Gravel is a sturdy grow medium to use, but water must be pumped through it otherwise you’ll create a blockage in your system, this could be an issue in a survival system without an adequate solar setup to run pumps.

Why You Need a Nutrient Tank?

While it’s possible to add nutrients to every one of your hydroponic growing containers, that’s not very efficient at all. It’s much more efficient to have one single tank that holds most of your necessary water, and to add fertilizers to that tank as needed. The tank should connect to all the other growing containers, which will help keep the whole system balanced. To circulate water from the tank to the growing containers you’ll have to pump the system manually, or set up a system to circulate the water on its own. If you want a self-circulating system solar panels and an electric pump offers an ideal driving source for a survival situation, just be sure you have a manual pump for backup in case the sun isn’t out for a while.

Fertilizer and a Test Kit

Obtain liquid hydroponic nutrients for your system to keep the water balanced with all the necessary nutrients. Make sure that you get enough of the solution to keep your system running throughout the season. Also pick up a good PH test kit so that you can keep an eye on PH levels throughout the growing season.

Once you have all your supplies put together you can assemble your own hydroponic garden out in your backyard, in a greenhouse, or wherever it is that you plan to grow your food. Get yourself a good solid book on hydroponics and study how to produce healthy plants and you’ll be growing all the food that you need for survival in no time. Sure it’s a bit more time-consuming to set up than a standard garden, but all the additional control, and the higher yields more than make up for the added effort.

Watch this video to discover how to make a hydroponic garden at a minimum investment.