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In order for gardeners to be successful in producing a crop, they need to use the correct supplies. Traditional gardening requires plenty of nutrient-rich soil, ample sunlight, and a reliable water source, all of which often have to be modified through fertilizers, proper garden placement, and frequent hand watering in order to reach the optimum conditions. When gardening in an indoor hydroponic system, similar supplies are needed. The essential hydroponic gardening supplies include growing media and nutrient solutions, artificial lighting systems, and pumps.
The biggest difference between hydroponic gardening supplies and traditional supplies is the fact that there is no soil. Nutrients and water are pumped directly to plant roots, so plants merely need a supporting medium in which to grow. Popular hydroponic growing media include rock wool, clay balls, gravel, sand, and vermiculite. Nutrient solutions consist of differing formulations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, depending on the specific pH requirements of each plant. It is important to find a solution that delivers exactly the right pH balance, which means that different plants may not be able to share the same solution.
Due to the indoor location of most hydroponic systems, artificial lighting systems are also crucial hydroponic gardening supplies. The scale of lighting can vary greatly and is usually either incandescent, high-intensity discharge, or fluorescent. Incandescent lamps use the same kind of bulbs as a typical house lamp, which may not produce enough light for maximum plant growth. High-intensity discharge bulbs can be found in different light spectra, such as blue-green or orange-red, but care must be taken that they are not hung too close to plants because they can produce a large amount of heat. Fluorescent bulbs, especially compact fluorescents, are the most popular choice for lights as they produce consistent, neutral light and are energy efficient.
Pumps are probably the most distinguishing of the hydroponic gardening supplies, and they vary based on the kind of setup being used. Air pumps are required to pump oxygen into wick systems, which involve plants drawing nutrients directly through the roots, like the wick of an oil lamp. Water culturing also requires an air pump to oxygenate plants growing on Styrofoam™ “floats” directly in a nutrient solution. Water pumps are used in drip irrigation systems and usually perform on automated timers in order to deliver the required amount of water to plants.
Hydroponic gardening supplies can be purchased separately in home garden stores or from Internet retailers. There also are several kits and ready-to-assemble systems on the market. Kits typically include everything necessary to set up a successful garden.