Hydroponics or hydroponic gardening refers to specialized equipment used to grow plants without soil under plant grow lights. Hydroponics in Greek translates to Hydro = Water and Ponos = Work. Hydroponics literally means "Water Works". Here is what you need to know to not only get started but also maximize your results:
There really isn’t one growing medium that is better than others, for the most part. It is all about finding the medium that best suits your garden. Let’s explore some of the more popular growth mediums. Generally, all growing mediums and mixes can be categorized into either soil, soilless or hydroponic mediums. Soil is almost always peat moss based and general has a mineral and biological component to the media. Soilless mediums, for the most part, are usually coco based and are considered "inert". Inert means there is no minerals or biological for the plants in the media. Hydroponic growth mediums are inert, and usually do not hold any water or retain very little. There are some exceptions to these rules.
Some of the most popular soil mixes available are Ocean Forest, Happy Frog, Roots Organics original (camouflage bag), and the Fox Farm Planting Mix. Happy Frog is meant mainly for younger plants and mother plants. It may also be used throughout the entire grow cycle as well. It is formulated with beneficial fungi and humic acids for nutrient uptake, with minimal nutritional additives. This makes it perfect for younger plants that are not feeding heavy, but are working on developing roots. Also, it is great for mothers, because the humic acids and small amount of fertilizer in the soil allow you to feed them heavier, which they like. The beneficial fungi help the mothers and young plants grow big and strong. Ocean Forest is almost the opposite. It is packed with organic nutrients, and works great for when transplanting into the flowering stage, where plants are going to soon need to be fed heavier. Works well with mother plants as well, if you plan on feeding them lightly and letting the nutrients in the soil go to work. Ocean Forest can be used throughout your grow and bloom cycle, but be wary, some younger plants can be burned by the nutrients in the soil if they are not ready for it yet. Roots Organics original blend (the one with the camouflage bag) is also a great all around soil mix. Like the Ocean Forest, it is chock full of nutrients. The Roots Organics soil has coco blended into it, whereas the Ocean Forest does not.
Soilless A "soilless" mix is a media that can be considered “inert”. This means that the plants cannot be grown using the soilless mixture alone. You need to supplement your plants with a regular fertilizer, since there is no plant food in an inert mix. A soilless mixture is basically a growth medium that holds your plant in place, giving you total control of what your plant is consuming, instead of working in tandem with the nutrients in your soil. An example of soilless mixtures would be Roots Organics Soilless blend and Promix. The Roots Organics Soilless does have some nutrients in it, but only a very small amount, meant to only feed the microbes, not your plants. The Promix is all peat moss, but since there are zero nutrients in it, it is considered "inert" (and therefore, a soilless mix). Also, coco coir is considered to be an inert growth medium, making it a soilless growth mix as well. The topic of using coco coir as a growth medium can be made into a whole other web article. Coco Rocks!
Hydroponic Media Hydroponic growth mediums typically do not hold very much (if any) water at all. They are meant to be fed frequently. It's all about oxygen retention when it comes to hydroponic media. Some examples of hydroponic mediums are hydroton clay pebbles, Rocks, Grow stones, Perlite and Grodan (or any other type of rockwool). Grodan is the exception; it holds the optimal water/air ratio for plant growth. Yet, it is still considered a hydroponic growth medium.