In understanding organics versus hydroponics fertilizers basics, I keep coming back to the voice of Dr Cal Herman who very eloquently stated on the subject back around 2000 in a conversation:
And as time has gone on, and in learning and experiencing much in both cultivating hydroponics and organics crops, whether in greenhouses, outdoors or indoors with grow lights in a climate controlled environment that statement resonates very bit as strongly today as when it was first heard.
It’s not a huge secret amongst those “in the agricultural know” that hydroponics crops, with all other factors remaining equal, often out yield and out grow conventionally grown crops.
A. Plants can take up vital nutrients in readily available forms, they aren’t subject to fluctuating availability due to soil conditions as much as they would be in organics. Study the nitrogen cycle, and you will quickly see how vulnerable organic nutrients can be!
B. Oxygen (O2) is a critical element in dictating how healthy and how fast plants will grow. In hydroponics, there is substantially more potential to deliver higher and sustained levels of oxygen versus soil grown conditions
C. Hydroponics fertilizers are simply man-made or even mined versions of readily available elements that your plant need. One of the key benefits is that growers can manipulate the plant’s diet as growing conditions or season dictates and see the changes in hours or day instead of many weeks with things like composts and other traditional organic sources of fertilizers.
D. Hydroponics fertilizers are chemically speaking, more stable. Organic nutrients rely heavily on different types of soil life and pH conditions to be in forms that are available for plants to take up. Hydroponics fertilizer contain “Chelates” which help ensure harder to absorb micro elements that are vital, for example like Iron (Fe) remain available for plants to stay green and healthy.
Nope. Not all of the time
Organic ingredients have other things besides basic elements that plants can use. For example, carbohydrates, enzymes, vitamins, hormones, anti-biotics and more are often naturally occuring in healthy organic soils. When growing conditions are less than perfect, crops have the building blocks at hand, so to speak, so that they can take what they need to resist a problem or stress.
Indoors, it’s better to stick with more refined ingredients, even if you choose organics. Soilless mediums like peat or coco mixes are great for allowing growers to use both organics and hydroponics fertilizers, supplements and microbials together, in harmony for awesome production and crop quality-all the benefits rolled into one!
However, that said if you REALLY want to see crazy growth rates, you will want pure hydroponics, no growing medium, and lots of oxygen around the roots. The Under Current is the quintessential example of such a system.
In your outdoor gardens, you have the forces of nature often working in your favour. However, when they don’t (and they will not always) you may find plenty of healthy and ecologically friendly solutions on your hydroponics shelf.
So while outdoor organics gardens are great, there’s much to be said from using a full spectrum of healthy gardening products for the best yields, harvests and quality in what you choose to grow.
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Erik Biksa has been writing about and discussing hydroponics growing, related technologies and cropping methods since 1999 in a variety of professional publications and platforms globally Erik has travelled the world learning and teaching modern growing techniques and technologies and is appreciated by many growers for his informative yet hands on approaches. Presently, he is the Editor at Grozine Hydroponics Mag.