We’ve all heard about it before and also seen people make a business out of it as well. But how viable is hydroponics cultivation at home?Is it too expensive? Does it require a lot of time and effort?
We decided to answer all of your questions by speaking with Laasya Samhita, a biologist and a research fellow at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru who has been cultivating her own plants in her balcony using hydroponics.
A Tiny Balcony For My Leafy Greens
“One of the major reasons that I switched to hydroponics was the fact that I wanted to save up on the water that I was using. Earlier, I would use 15 litres of water in a week; but my hydroponic set up just needs around 5 litres,” Laasya explains.
Laasya started hydroponics farming in November 2019, primarily to grow leafy greens like lettuce, coriander and spinach.
“I really wanted to include a lot more greens in my diet, but the ones I bought from outside had tons of pesticides and fertilizers in them and since I had a very small balcony, I opted for hydroponics, since it didn’t require much space,” she says.
With a balcony space of 6 x 4 ft. and an initial investment of Rs.10,000, Laasya set up her hydroponic farm with the help of a team from Hyper Farms.
“Besides the initial set up cost, I believe that hydroponics is perfect for growing chemical-free vegetables and leaves, especially for urban gardens who have space constraints. I currently have a 30 slot set up for my space where I only grow red and green lettuce, coriander and spinach,” she explains.
Hydroponics On a Day-To-Day Basis
Laasya goes on to explain that maintaining a small hydroponics set up like hers is far easier than a regular kitchen garden.
“After you’ve set up the hydroponics garden, you must add 1% of the nutrient solution to water and add it to these slots. This nutrient solution is filled with ions and salts that promote plant growth. If you’re not growing seeds directly, you will have to place them in dehydrated soil plugs before placing them in water. All the accessories including the soil plugs and the mineral solution are usually available along with the set-up. If they are not provided, then these are available online and will only cost you around Rs 150-200,” Laasya explains.
When it comes to the maintenance side of this Laasya explains that water and an ample amount of sunlight is crucial for these plants.
“My balcony had enough sunlight so I didn’t have to add additional lights. However, in case you need to, most of these setups have the option of adding customised lighting facilities as well. And in the case of water, unlike the regular watering we have to do for soil gardening, you will only have to add the solution once in 2-3 days. This will, of course, vary depending on the size of your farm and the amount of sunlight you receive,” she explains.
Things to Keep In Mind
“The pH level of the water you use for hydroponics farming is very important. The water that you use needs to be slightly acidic (around pH 6.5). Since the water in my area is slightly alkaline in nature, I add a little bit of tamarind water to the water to level it out. So before going ahead with this method, it’s important to clarify details like these,” Laasya explains.
She goes on to explain that although there is a certain restriction to the kinds of plants you could grow in a hydroponics set up (in the case of plants that absolutely need rooting), the quality of the harvest is amazing.
“Just like any other kind of gardening, hydroponics is something that needs a certain amount of practice and can be perfected over the course of time and I would especially recommend it to urban gardeners who have limited resources,” she concludes.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)