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Growing without soil; Clive Edwards explains how to grow plants hydroponically at home.

Byline: Clive Edwards

HYDROPONICALLY grown house plants are simple to look after.

Most are grown in special double containers, sometimes known as hydropots. The plant itself grows in the inner container, which is filled with aggregate - particles of any inert, sterile material.

The plants' roots develop among the aggregate, which keeps the plant upright. Specially made clay granules, rather like lightweight gravel, are most widely used as aggregate, but perlite, vermiculite and clean gravel can also be used.

In commercial growing, rock wool is used as the inert material, this is continuously bathed in nutrient solution and is often used for growing tomatoes.

The base of the outer container forms a reservoir for the nutrient solution. This seeps through holes into the inner container where it is absorbed by the plant's roots.

To look after the plant, all you have to do is make sure it has enough nutrient solution. The level of solution in the container is usually indicated by a water gauge.

Keep the level between the maximum and minimum level marked on the gauge - adding clean, fresh, lukewarm water when necessary.

There is usually a special inlet for adding the water. Don't keep the level permanently topped up to maximum. It is better to allow it to fall almost to the minimum mark before adding more.

This lets more air come into contact with the roots and so encourages them to develop healthily. Occasionally, it can be as little as once a year, you will have to add more fertiliser.

It is best to use one of the specially formulated hydroculture fertilisers which provide essential trace elements that ordinary fertilisers normally don't. The instructions with your pot plant should recommend which brand to use, different brands are applied in different ways.

In all other respects the plant should be treated just as if it was grown in compost.

Question time Q My wife yearns for a lawn with elegant stripes, the kind you see at Wimbledon. Is it difficult to achieve? A Not really. The striping is caused by the grass being pushed in opposite directions by the roller at the back of the mower as you mow up and down the lawn.

The best effects are produced by cylinder mowers, which always have rollers. After the mower, the most important factor is a good eye. A striped lawn is smart, but not if the lines are wiggly.

Wheeled rotary mowers will also produce stripes, if more faintly.

Q Q Is farmyard manure better than garden compost? A A There is nothing between them. Obviously the quality of both materials is going to vary, sometimes greatly. However, comparing a good sample of each, there is virtually no difference at all, either in the value as soil conditioner or in the amount of nutrients they contain.

This may appear odd, for many gardeners hold to the belief that manure is the answer to all soil problems.

In fact, both manure and compost are made from the same raw vegetation and they have both been decomposed by micro organisms. The only real difference is that one has been transformed in a compost heap and the other inside an animal.

Did you know? The daisy got its name because early Anglo Saxons thought that the yellow centre resembles the sun. They knew it as daeges eage and by the late Middle Ages, it was commonly known as the day's eye until it was transmuted into the word we recognised today.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 30, 2012
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