Hydroponics Systems vs Pot-Culture

DSCN0098DSCN0102 Choosing whether to go down the route of hydroponics or go with pot-culture is an important decision to make and is one that needs to be made before any spending takes place.

Pot culture involves growing plants in normal plant-pots and involves manual hand-watering. This type of growing lends itself better to water-retentive mediums such as soil, coco or a soilless medium.

For larger setups, hydroponics provides the convenience of low maintenance and fast plant growth. Hand-watering tens or perhaps hundreds of plants is a time-consuming activity, even if it is only once every two or 3 days. A hydroponics set up takes care of the watering on a day-to-day basis. All that the grower needs to do is top up the reservoir once every few days, adjust the pH (acidity) of the nutrient solution in the reservoir, and change out the (mineral-based) nutrient solution completely once a week.

Financial Outlay

The financial side of your decision needs to be made taking into account your future intentions. If you’re looking to keep costs down to absolute minimum then pot-culture is certainly the way to go. Of course, this means you’re severely limiting the quantity of produce you’re going to be able to grow.

If you’re intention however is to grow a large number of plants, and you intend to eat, sleep and spend some of your life not holding a watering can, hydroponics is the only realistic option.

Technical Knowledge/Requirement

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The technical side of hydroponics is incredibly interesting, thought provoking and is seen by many as part of the growing experience rather than a chore. Whilst pot-culture is perhaps simpler, there’s less flexibility to fine tune the plant.

Learning how to use the array of hydroponics products opens up a whole range of possibilities and options that pot-culture simply doesn’t require.

Virtually all aspects of garden tending are the same for both types of growing. Plants will need to be checked regularly for problems such as under or over-feeding, and also checked for diseases and pests.

Plant Quality

Although hydroponics is the option suitable for reaching high yields, there’s no reason why a plant grown hydroponically could not reach the quality as a pot-grown plant which means the issue of quality need not be part of the decision making process when choosing between hydroponics or pot-culture style of growing.

Gardening & Attention

A key problem with pot-culture is the need for constant attention in that plants cannot be left for a few days without needing water. A hydroponic set up simply doesn’t need to be tended to so frequently and can quite comfortably be left unattended for short periods if necessary.

Benefits of Pot Culture:

  • Lower initial financial outlay – a few pots, saucers and soil cost comparatively very little
  • Simpler growing technique suits small gardens
  • Provides a “back-to-nature” way of growing which appeals to many gardeners
  • Allows the use of Organic, biological and natural feeds
  • Allows the production of a higher quality, organically or naturally fed product

Drawbacks of Pot Culture:

  • Making up fresh feed and then hand-watering many plants regularly is time-consuming
  • Plants cannot be left for days without watering which can be inconvenient
  • Plant growth is slower
  • Pot culture usually produces lower yields

Benefits of Hydroponics:

  • Allows users to finely optimise plant feed strength and watering frequency
  • Optimised plant-feeding leads to unmatchable speed of plant growth and yields
  • Comparatively low maintenance, particularly for large gardens
  • Systems can occasionally be left unattended for a few days when necessary
  • May appeal to the technically-minded due to the high level of automation
  • Allows a greater choice of growing mediums, including clay pebbles

Drawbacks of Hydroponics:

  • Higher initial set-up costs compared to Pot Culture
  • Only chemical or mineral based nutrients can be used
  • Systems need some expertise and must be carefully set up and maintained in order to run correctly and reliably

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When all is said and done, gardeners will naturally tend to gravitate towards one way of growing or the other, depending on their priorities. Those growing larger gardens for commercial profit and do not mind the initial set up cost will usually tend towards hydroponics, whereas those with smaller gardens who would prefer quality over quantity (say for growing their own high quality produce their own consumption) and prefer lower start-up costs, will naturally tend towards pot-culture.

Although the style of growing will fall under one of the two main categories of hydroponic or pot culture, within those two main categories there are several types of growing and system type within each. In following articles we will be discussing the different types of hydroponics gardening and the different styles of pot-culture growing.

In future articles, we will be discussing the different types of hydroponics setup but don’t miss the next article where we will investigate the ins and out of growing in pots and the different ways of doing it.