Hydroculture is a form of passive hydroponics and a way of growing plants without soil. Passive hydroponics systems often use an inert growing medium such as clay pebbles instead of soil. If you haven't experimented with hydroponics before, then passive hydroponics and hydroculture is a great way to get started.
A hydroculture system is often made up of five simple parts – clay pebbles (or a similar inert growing medium), culture pots, water level indicator, pot liners, and fertiliser.
Clay pebbles are the primary growing medium used in hydroculture systems. These expanded clay pellets take the place of soil. They are highly porous which means they are great for growing plants. Clay pebbles are effective at retaining moisture and nutrients, are fully inert, free from soil-borne pests and diseases, provide plenty of oxygenation at the root zone, and give your plants a sturdy support structure to grow and thrive.
It is worth noting that although clay pebbles are the most common growing media used in hydroculture; other inert mediums such as perlite can also be used.
Culture pots are almost identical to any other plant pot out there on the market, but they have one key difference. A culture pot includes a recess for a water level indicator which will show you exactly how much water your plants are sitting in and giving you a clear indication of when your plants need watering with a nutrient solution.
Water level indicator
Water level indicators are a simple way to measure exactly how much water your plants are sitting in. They are tailored for use with specific culture pots and usually come with indicators showing the ‘minimum’, ‘maximum’, and ‘optimum’ water levels. Water level indicators take the guess work out of knowing when to feed your plants.
Pot liners are often used in hydroculture and other forms of gardening to make easy work of moving plants between containers. They also make porous pots used for display purposes in container gardening waterproof and enourage the development of a smaller, more manageable root zone in plants placed in large outer containers.
Unlike growing plants in soil, the growing medium used in hydroculture is inert and lacking any plant nutrition. Therefore, plant fertilisation products have been developed specifically for hydroculture and hydroponic applications. There are various fertilisers developed for use during different stages of the growth cycle and they all contain the essential and beneficial elements and nutrients plants need for healthy, vigorous growth.
There are several benefits to growing plants using the hydroculture method instead of in soil. These include:
Using hydroculture to cultivate plants is a fool-proof way to grow. The water level indicators ensure it's virtually impossible to over or under-water your plants and the elimination of soil-borne pests and disease means hydroculture often requires much less maintenance.
Overall, growing using the hydroculture method can be both a refreshing change from soil gardening and a rewarding experience when you start growing bigger, better plants. If you are interested in hydroponic or soil-free gardening then hydroculture can be a great stepping stone for gaining experience with soilless cultivation, as the method comes free of the complexities associated with other hydroponic growing methods.