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5 things a plant needs to thrive

5 things a plant needs to thrive : all elementsIn this article I show you 5 things a plant needs to thrive, from the light above it, the water and nutrient to feed it, the substrate to support it to the air to help it breathe.

Let’s have a look at these in more detail.

Starting with the light.


A plant growing outside in soil has a lot of advantages, it is designed plants need lightto do this. When you start to control the environment then you start to need to know what a plant really needs to thrive.

One of these things is light. Natural sunlight is a very powerful source of light and few plants can withstand the force of it unless they are bred for it.

But growing plants inside you find that the building materials will reduce te sunlight a tremendous amount. More that we realise.

The sunlight covers more than just the visible light we see and plants do need some of this unseen light to thrive.

So starting plants indoors and seeing them grow thin and spindly due to the lack of light, we need to supplement the light source. But not just any light, we need to give the plant what it needs.

For vegetative growth you need to give it more of the blue spectrum, for flowering you need to give it more of the red spectrum. With modern leds you can tune the lighting for the growth stage of the plant.

The next thing a plant needs to thrive is water.


All plants need water to grow and survive. They use this liquid for plants need watertransportation of food up to where it is needed.

It is also used as a cooling mechanism, as we do plants sweat. In hot weather the leaves open special pores on the bottom an allow the plant to transpire water cooling it.

Water is also used as a structural mechanism, water within the cells support the plant. You know what it is like when you forget to water a plant, or come home after a hot day and find your favourite plant all wilted, you then water it and within half an hour the plant looks like nothing has happened. But leave it too long and the plant will never recover.


Not all plants need the same amount of food. So as with what you plants need foodhave in your soil not all plants are able to grow together, even in a hydroponics unit.

But to be able to feed your plants the optimum diet for optimum growth is a dream come true for some. To be able to produce a plant to the best of its capability, to see the maximum yield or the largest flower.

All through adding the right combination of mineral salts and trace elements. The plant does the rest.

Add enough of each of the minerals and the plant will take what it needs, rather than the plant trying to find the right chemical within the ground, you are placing at the very point where it will do most good, all the nutrients the plant needs. All the plant has to do is eat and grow.

All you have to do is to monitor the nutrient strength and level and keep it topped up and replenish it occasionally.


While a seed, a plant needs no support, if fact it maybe a benefit of most plants need supportbeing distributed.

But once it starts to grow a seedling will need to be supported for top growth and root growth.

The roots need to force themselves between the the particles of soil, looking for pockets of air and nutrients.while the top growth is exposed to winds, rain and sun.

so if your plants will grow tall they will need a lot of support than the lower growing ones.

If you are growing your plants hydroponically then the substrate can, and ideally would be, inert, not interfering with the carefully balanced nutrients you add to the water.

The root system must be able to force its way through the small crevices to reach the nutrient.

Some of the substrate mediums are reusable after cleaning.

The last thing plants need to thrive is air.


This vital need is converted from carbon dioxide to the sugars and starches for food.

The process of photosynthesis, where sunlight breaks down air is vital for plantscompounds into the individual atoms allows the plant to take in carbon dioxide and combine it with water to create glucose and oxygen.

The oxygen is released and the glucose is used as food.

Oxygen is required at the root level to allow the plant to breathe. If this does not happen, as in highly compacted soil then the plant will suffocate.

If the substrate is freely draining then when the plant is watered the water will, after draining through, draw fresh air down into the root area.

If the plant is overwatered then it may drown as insufficient oxygen may be able to reach the roots.

With most hydroponic systems you either supply air to the nutrients of have the roots partly exposed to the air, thus allowing the roots to be able to breathe all of the time.

How will you grow yours?

How you grow them and where you grow them is up to you.

Will you grow your plants in soil and gamble whether they will survive? – or will you try hydroponics where you have more of a chance of the plant thriving.

You have control over most of the plants needs with hydroponics.

Under cover outside you control the amount of water it has, the type of nutrient and nature takes care of everything else.

Indoors under a cover, you can control the amount of light, air, humidity, water, type of nutrient, temperature, almost everything the plant needs to grow.

The system can be as simple as you want it to be or as complex as it has to be to keep the specimen alive.

So now you have a good idea of what 5 things a plant needs to thrive.

What will you pick?

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Hydroponics vs soil growing : Which do you prefer?

In a straight shootout of hydroponics vs soil growing which would be better, let’s find out.


The bad

You go out into the garden and you prepare the soil by digging, plant the seeds, water if necessary and watch.

If you have done your research right and chosen plants compatable with your type of soil, they grow.

If, like many of us, you see something you like and buy it, only to find out when you get home it won’t grow in your garden, then you have a problem.

Every year you grow things in your garden you remove nutrients, hopefully these are replaced by yourself or nature or your soil gets more and more sterile until nothing grows.

You add fertilizer, blood and bonemeal, top up with well rotted manure and you start again the next year.

Unless you create raised borders then soil is always at foot level, no getting away from it you will have to ‘get down there’ if you want to do any work with your hands.

And what you grow isn’t always what you expect. Where did that valerian come from, I didn’t sow that.

This ground elder is spreading like wildfire and I can’t stop it.

Shame that this is not doing well, I really like it.

The good

On the up side you will get a lot fitter, bending down, digging, good soilweeding, tending.

Most of us have access to it, it is free.

The growing system can be free, dependant on what you grow and replenish your soil with.

You have a massive free light source, a bit variable, but reliable.

There is a air movement system which copes with a lot of the bugs, can damage your plants when it goes to extremes.

Most of the time you have a free watering system. Occasionally it appears someone has left the tap on, but generally reliable.

So it’s not bad, but let’s see what the alternative is like.


The good

You know you wanted to grow that plant which is not compatable with your soil type – no problem, just put it into a pot with support, feed it the right nutrient, keep it at the right temperature, with hydroponics vs soil growing :good hydroponicsenough lighting and….

That is the main thing about hydroponics, you have as much control over the environment as you want.

I do outdoor hydroponic tomatoes, they are grown in a deep water culture system, located in a mini greenhouse with an open door.

I control what watering it gets, the type of nutrient, a little of the wind and the rest nature supplies.

I do get hit every year after planting them out with slugs and for a couple of years got the tomato catapiller, so lost a lot of crop. Last year I lost a lot to blossom end rot. Could I have prevented some of these problem, yes by controlling the environment a little more.

So a proper greenhouse, with me controlling the conditions better and keeping a closer eye on what came close to the plants then it would have been a different year.

So what advantages are there with hydroponics?

No soil, no diseases from the soil.

You have as much control over the environment as you want, or can afford.

You can grow plants anywhere, even up the living room wall.

You use less water, the water you do supply goes right to the plants roots.

You can grow large amounts in a very compact area, you need to supply the right nutrients for the number of plants.

There are a lot less weeds, if outside not completely eliminated, but a lot less.

You can grow the plants ‘up here’, tabletop systems mean no bending hydroponic walldown, digging, or too much hassle.

Your plants will grow quicker, and larger as they are not fighting for the right nutrients or the quantity of nutrients.

You can force the plant to do, within reason, what you want where you want.

Sounds almost ideal, growing plants where you want, when you want.

The bad

So what’s the downside?

Well, you have to understand what the requirements for the plant, how much light, wind, water, nutrients, etc.

You are the nature keeping it alive, so it is more time consuming and more technical, although there are systems which you can put together, feed and forget.

The system needs setting up, you need to create the environment to house the plants requirements, very exotic species may require a complete environmental system to grow where you are.

You will need to experiment, to a certain degree to get the conditions right, but you will do that in soil as well.

If you have a linked system and one plant gets a disease then they are all exposed to the same nutrient, so may all be infected.

With the mass of crop in one place you may get hit with an outbreak of insects, bit like a supermarket, almost irresistable.

You will need a source of electricity in most cases, there are few systems which don’t rely on pumps or airation,but most systems will require electricity.

What to do with the used nutrient, don’t throw it down the drain, it can cause a bloom at the processing plant. Your houseplants would love an extra boost every now and then.

With both of these systems there are major advantages and disadvantages, it is up to you whether you want the hard work in the garden doing soil based gardening or you want a slightly easier life, albeit more technical, with the hydroponics.

You could always mix the two.

Grow what naturally grows in your area, with small enclosed areas of hydroponics to grow something unusual and masses of it.

Which is better? hydroponics vs soil growing

Well for me the hydroponic route is still a little easier, we do grow in the soil. But I still prefer the cleanliness of the hydroponics and the challenges of you being in control of that plants life.

The chilli plants, coming up for 11 years old in 2018 are testament to the fact that you can keep plants going a lot longer. As did the 7 year old parsley and 8 year old basil plant. But these are grown indoors in an Aerogarden unit.aerogarden

So if you want to be eating lettuce on christmas day you have grown then once you have sorted out your system, you can plant them up about the middle of october and have them ready end of december, with an optimal system you could wait till mid of november and have a 30 day cycle.

The flavour of the hydroponic crop can be a little intense compared to soil grown crops, but that is due to the right nutrients being available all the time rather than the plant fighting for it. The plant will take the right nutrients in the right quantity when it needs it. But don’t overdo it or you can get nutrient lockout.

I prefer the fewer bugs which you vcan get with really healthy plants, although you do get different bugs and problems.

You are able to diagnose and correct nutrient deficiencies quickly and the plant will respond quicker.

So would I say hydroponics is better than soil based gardening?

No – it is different.

I prefer it, as it is more of a challenge.

I orefer it due to the fact I can plant something and give it the right environment to grow quickly and efficiently.

Others like the uncertainess of planting seeds or plants to see whether they will take.

The choice is yours

On this site there are simple hydroponic systems to try out, the deep water culture, and more complex stystems to get balanced, aeroponics.

There are commercial plug and play systems, Aerogarden, along with make it your self, deep water culture tomatoes.

So I hope you enjoy reading about the different systems and decide to try one or two and see what you think of hydroponics, getting past the old stigma of ‘well you must be growing weed’ and seeing that you can grow anything anywhere.

Where do you stand on the hydroponics vs soil growing debate?

good luck with your horticultural journey

Which do you prefer ?

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Dramatic increases of out of season food prices

What started it?food price hike

Due to unseasonal weather in the regions we rely upon in the winter to grow our out of season vegetable crops, like cucumbers, lettuce and kale. We can expect price hikes within the UK during 2017. This will continue until the next regions crops are ready. Continue reading Dramatic increases of out of season food prices

Hydroponic Systems: What Types are there?

hydroponic systems openerWhat are Hydroponic systems?

Hydroponic systems are a method of growing plants without soil. Or more strictly with ‘working water’, but it mainly means any system which does not use soil.

There are several different hydroponic systems. These include deep water culture (DWC), nutrient film technique(NFT), aeroponics, flood and drain or ebb and flow, wick and the drip system.

All of these systems can be used indoors and outside. Although using some of these outside will entail covering the system to prevent dilution of the nutrient system.

Deep Water Culture

Deep water culture or DWC is one of the simplest hydroponic systems. The nutrient itself is not flowing but you do aerate it. Air stones are placed in the nutrient and air passed through the stones. This causes a circulation of the nutrient along with a large surface area of bubbles oxygenating the nutrient. The roots submerged within this solution will get the benefits of circulated nutrient and added oxygen to enable a fast growth rate.

Nutrient Film Techniques

Nutrient film techniques or NFT is a system where the nutrient is hydroponic systems nftcontinuously flowing over the root mass. The plants have very little support medium, if any. They are normally made up of channels with tops. The tops have holes for the plants to be inserted. The returned nutrient is passed back to a central reservoir to be circulated again. The other type of system is run to waste, where the nutrient left after passing over the root system is discarded. The root mass has access to masses of oxygen along with the correct strength nutrient for optimum growth.


Aeroponics is where the plant is suspended with its roots in air. The root mass, and sometimes the leaves, are misted with nutrient. The effect of this is to have the whole root mass take up oxygen along with te nutrients required for very rapid growth. The misting must be continuous otherwise the plant can suffer rapidly with root death. I would not advise this type of system for a beginner

Flood And Drain

Flood and drain or ebb and flow is a system where the plants are grown in a substrate which enables airflow. The substrate is flooded with nutrient for a time period and then the nutrient is allowed to drain away. This draining away sucks air down onto the roots mass to oxygenate it. The cycle is repeated a few times a day, dependant on where the plant is in it’s growth period. The drained nutrient is caught in a reservoir and recycled.


The wick system is one a lot of people use when the go away on holiday. A mat is immersed into water and placed in or under the plant. Due to capillary action the water is drawn up the ‘wick’ and the plant has moisture available. With the hydroponic solution the end of the ‘wick’ is placed in the nutrient and the other end under the root mass of the plant. This allows the plant to take up the nutrient level it requires. Plants use this effect to take the nutrient from the roots to the tips of the leaves.


The drip system of hydroponics can easily be used outside or inside. A continuous drip of nutrient is fed into the substrate holding the plant. This has the effect of keeping te medium moist and allowing the free flowing of air around the root mass. There are two methods of carrying out this method, one is to use excess nutrient and returning the overflow to a reservoir or to just have enough nutrient with little or no excess and have a non returning system. The latter will require testing the plants conditions continuously for the correct environment for optimal growth.

Why go to the bother of growing hydroponically?

From my point of view it is mainly for the almost guarantee of hydroponic systems starterconsistency. With hydroponics you will get a good crop if you almost get it right. To get the optimum crop you will need to become part scientist, but this is not necessary for a better and easier crop than soil based crops.

I find it fascinating to mix the nutrient then immerse the roots of a plant in them, see it produce a bumper crop, all without the hassle of making sure your soil is the right type for the plant you are growing. It takes away restrictions on the types of plants which can be grown in which location.

You can grow herbs on the window sill along with tomatoes in the living room.

Would I do it?

I do, almost every year I grow tomatoes, lettuce along with a scattering of other crops. The one year I didn’t grow tomatoes, I felthydroponic systems: growing toms cheated. I really missed them. So each and every year now I get the plants started end of January and plant out with the heated nutrient in Feb. this allows an extended cropping period with non-determinate plants ( plants which keep on growing). I mainly use simple flood and drain and DWC systems, I haven’t found an easy way – yet- of producing an aeroponics system.

Do you reckon you might give it a go? Leave a comment in the box below about what system you would use and why, or if you have any questions about hydroponic systems leave them in the box below.

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