WINTER GARDEN — Construction of a hydroponic garden has been underway for about a month at Lakeview Middle School in Winder Garden.
A hydroponic garden relies on water cycles between a fish tank and the piping that holds plants, irrigating the plants with mineral nutrient solutions, which can then enable the plants to grow without any soil.
Science teacher David Guzman has led the after-school project and benefited from the assistance of a team of workers, which includes West Orange High School volunteers, fellow science teachers, his sons and seventh-grader Sebastian Leon.
“The (tank) does not have any fish yet, and the pump is not running,” Guzman said of the garden, which also does not yet have its vegetables in place. “It is 95% completed, and we all think it looks great.”
Leon said he was the only student assisting in the project so far, but Guzman said the project ultimately will involve many students as a collaborative effort of the science department.
“We work on it once a week,” Leon said. “I like helping with the building of the structure and working with my hands.”
The idea behind the mechanism is to pour water into the top of the piping apparatus, which passes through the roots of the plants and into the fish tank, Leon said. The dirty water in the tank is supposed to rise at that point and soak the roots of the plants, he said.
Scheryll Murray, learning resource specialist and PIE coordinator for Lakeview Middle, said she was hoping for carrots among the vegetables that will grow in the garden.
“We are excited to get our hydroponic garden started,” Murray said. “We welcome any hydroponic gardeners from our community to also join in and share your knowledge. We can’t wait for the fresh vegetables to arrive.”
Proponents of hydroponic gardening, such as the experts at SimplyHydro.com, believe it works well because a plant receives its precise needs at the precise times and in the precise amounts that it should, making each plant as healthy as it can be.
The nutrient solution used to fortify the plants is mixed at a particular pH, a measure of solution acidity. Because the solution is prepared with enhanced solubility, the plants can absorb the nutrients via their roots without much work, unlike plants in soil, which must seek nutrients in the surrounding soil and extract them, even in the richest, most organic and nutritious topsoil. That conserved plant energy translates into plant growth and production of flowers and fruits.
Thus, the yield of hydroponic gardens should be greater, healthier and faster, which could help to serve global food markets and combat world hunger.
Although Guzman and the crew at Lakeview Middle opted for PVC pipe to hold the plants in place, other growing mediums can include perlite, vermiculite, sand, gravel and coconut fiber. With the plants set in place, the feeding and watering cycles for them can be controlled via a timer, which can ensure the plants receive exactly what they need when they need it.
The nutrient solution includes hydroponic fertilizer, which differs from others in that the amounts of micronutrients are already set to a perfect balance. Hydroponic fertilizers are more refined, with less impure content to enhance absorption. This way, the trace elements of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc get to the plant regularly, so that the plant avoids stresses such as disease, as well as susceptibility to pests, fungi and bacteria.
With nutrient-deficient plants come nutrient-deficient people and animals, so the solution not only supplies more nutrients to the plants but also to the people who will eat them.
Hydroponic gardening can be done on the smallest of scales, too. In fact, most hydroponic gardens are personal, in-home gardens consisting of a few plants.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].