Hydroponic Garlic Farming, Planting, Growing Procedure
Introduction to Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Garlic can be grown in a hydroponic system as long as the plants have suitable substrate, strong artificial lighting, and the gardener understands how to force them out of their natural life cycle. Garlic needs additional nutrients to withstand its growth enough to produce.
A Step by Step Guide to Hydroponic Garlic Farming, Growing Process
Hydroculture or Hydroponics offers a way to grow plants without soil. The garlic cloves are placed in a rack or suspended in inert mediums like gravel or perlite. The medium or racks is a nutrient solution into which the plant roots grow. Hydroponic systems can be set up with the proper kind of lighting in any indoor room or a greenhouse.
Guide to Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Advantages of Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Here are some benefits you can enjoy growing garlic in a hydroponic system;
- Nearly 90% more efficient use of water.
- Production increases 3 to 10 times compared to traditional food production in the same amount of space.
- Garlic is great with other plants. Planting garlic together in a hydroponic system with delicate greens like lettuce and spinach can help protect those plants from being attacked by insect pests. It is especially effective against spider mites that can attack hydroponic tomatoes.
- Several crops can be produced twice as fast in a well-managed hydroponic system.
- Reducing the time between harvest and consumption improves the nutritional value of the end product.
- Indoor farming means farms can exist in places where soil and weather conditions are not favorable for traditional food production.
- Garlic has few natural pests. Due to the aforementioned pest-repelling properties, there aren’t many creepy-crawlies that will mess with your garlic harvest. The only issue you might have to worry about with garlic is fungal problems such as white rot, which can be prevented by using a sterilized hydroponic substrate like perlite.
- No chemical pest or weed control products are needed when operating a hydroponic system.
- In Hydroponics, you have a 100% control of the nutrients that plants need. Before planting, growers can check what plants need and the specific amounts of nutrients needed at particular stages and mix them with water accordingly. Nutrients are conserved in the tank, so there are no losses or changes of nutrients like they are in the soil.
- Garlic stores well. When properly cured and kept in a shaded place, garlic can last up to a year in good condition. This makes it a fantastic pantry staple and well worth the effort to grow it in your hydroponic setup.
- It can be used in food or alternative medicine. Garlic is one of the most famous culinary herbs on the planet, and like its cousin the onion, it is used in culinary traditions around the world. Not only that, but garlic also has many proven health benefits when consumed such as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, making it as much medicine as it is food.
Lighting System for Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Let there be light, and plenty of it, a bare minimum of 6 to 8 hours daily, but up to 10 or 12 hours is best. Do not leave the light on 24/7 like all plants, garlic also needs the darkness. The artificial lighting system for hydroponic garlic is important since it is the amount of light that the garlic bulb gets that stimulates the clove of garlic to develop into a bulb. Without a sufficient amount of light, the clove won’t increase in size. Garlic grown hydroponically must be exposed to between 14 and 16 hours of strong artificial lighting a day. This amount of strong light will lead to the bulb developing into a larger bulb of garlic rather than going dormant. While it is important for garlic to have sufficient artificial lighting, it is just as important that the garlic rest under full darkness for part of each day. This effect of darkness and light on the growing rate of a plant is known as photoperiodism.
Many types of artificial lights are generally used in a hydroponic setup, such as the following;
- HID (high intensity discharge) lighting
- LED (light-emitting diode) lighting
- Metal halide (MH) lighting
- Fluorescent lighting
- High-pressure sodium lighting
The type of lighting you are going to choose to grow your hydroponic garlic will depend on personal preference based on your grow room. Some types of lighting are also more costly than others. LED lighting is increasing in popularity since it remains very cool in comparison to other lights, making it a good choice for enclosed spaces or rooms where the lighting is located close to the plants.
Nutrients Requirements for Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Garlic does well with a pH value of at least 6.0, up to 6.5. As always, you must follow the guidelines of the nutrient line that you are using to ensure that your plants are receiving the proper quantities of macro and micronutrients.
Water-soluble fertilizer solutions are an essential part of the hydroponic system when you are incorporating garlic or any other type of vegetable. No matter which plant you decide to grow, if you are growing it in water with a neutral substrate, it’s got to have a nutrient source from somewhere to provide the minerals necessary for the plant to survive. Opposing to popular belief, plants cannot live on water and sunlight alone. Without real soil to nourish itself on, a plant in a hydroponic system must be given outside access to nutrients in the water reservoir its root system is drawing from, or it won’t have enough energy to sustain itself.
In practice, there’s not much difference between that and providing only water to an animal without giving it any food. If you don’t provide fertilizer for your hydroponic plants, you can’t expect a great outcome or a high yield. Because garlic needs so much energy to develop into a bulb, if it doesn’t get outside help in the form of fertilizer, it usually won’t develop a bulb at all. Hydroponic fertilizers are nutrients that can be added directly to the water reservoir of your hydroponic system in a concentrated form. Once it is diluted into the water, the plants have access to the nutrients in the fertilizer. When hydroponic fertilizer is applied this way, it replaces moist soil with the same minerals in a soil-less system.
Several commercial hydroponic systems are available and there are also instructions to build your own. You can also create your nutrient solutions with the following organic materials;
- Blood, hoof, horn or fish meal
- Ashes from bones
- Powdered kelp, seaweed and minerals
- Animal and poultry manures
Mediums Used in Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Some of the mediums that can be used to grow garlic in a hydroponic system;
Along with nutrients, a soil-less substrate is the other feature of a hydroponic setup that garlic needs to develop successfully. A garlic bulb can’t develop properly unless it has some sort of material to sustain its bulk. The substrate also helps to maintain the garlic plant’s root system from drying out while also maintaining enough aeration to keep the roots from rotting. There are a variety of hydroponic mediums used in soil-less setups that are a good choice for growing garlic. Below are some of the mediums that generally used to grow garlic in a hydroponic system;
Coconut fiber – Coconut fiber is a best hydroponic substrate for water retention, but it is best used in conjunction with another airier substrate, such as perlite. Unlike some hydroponic substrates, which are nutrient-neutral, coconut fiber is high in nutrients for growing plants to sustain themselves.
Perlite – Perlite is formed from a volcanic mineral that is superheated until it expands to over 20 times its original size, resulting in a lightweight “popcorn” material that makes heavy soils more friable. Used by itself, it is also an effective hydroponic substrate in most hydroponic systems other than aquaponics which involve fish and other water-breathing animals.
Rockwool – Rockwool is formed by superheating rocks and chalk together, then drawing them out into collections of tiny fibers that create a porous, lightweight material to grow plants in. While Rockwool has been a popular form of hydroponic substrate for several years, it is not very environmentally friendly and can be very irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
Vermiculite – Like perlite, vermiculite is a natural mineral that is superheated until it expands, and it has many of the same properties as perlite. The largest difference between vermiculite and perlite is that vermiculite is better at water retention than perlite, which tends to dry out.
Hydroton – Hydroton is another type of superheated material that is created from clay that is rolled around in a rotary kiln at extremely high temperatures until it forms round water-absorbent pellets. These clay pellets, while not a good choice for cold weather hydroponic setups are easy to use and one of the most popular hydroponic substrates used today.
Any of these substrates can be used to grow hydroponic garlic. The main thing to remember is that you need at least some kind of substrate to sustain garlic to get it to reliably develop a bulb in a hydroponic setup.
Rockwool is one of the most popular substrates used to grow hydroponic garlic, mainly due to its ability to hold water without keeping the garlic soggy. Garlic prefers pretty dry growing conditions, so choosing the right balance between water retention and aeration is key.
Rooting cubes are also a popular option for starting hydroponic garlic, as they can give the garlic a good foundation for strong growth patterns later in the season. These types of cubes can also be found under the name Oasis Cubes or Riot Cubes.
Hydroponic Farming Systems for Garlic
Garlic can be grown in pretty much any kind of hydroponic system, including the following;
- Wick irrigation systems
- Drip irrigation systems
- Floating deep-water cultures such as this raft system
When choosing a hydroponic system for garlic, it’s important to make sure that the garlic has sufficient water to keep its root system moist but isn’t exposed to so much water that the bulb itself is constantly soaked. Garlic prefers a dry growing environment.
Procedure and Farming Practices for Growing Garlic in Hydroponic System
Step 1) Choose the best garlic cloves. You may opt to buy from the local farmers market or visit a garlic nursery. Either way ensures that you have the best.
Step 2) Garlic is a pretty tall plant, so you will have to take into consideration this small aspect. You will need to grow lights that can be moved for the different stages of growth. Also, due to its dimensions, it is best to make use of reflective material like aluminium. This will help in better propagating the light and ensuring the plant will grow happy.
Step 3) You can plant seeds or you can opt for cloves. Experts say that for indoors and hydroponic systems the cloves are the perfect point to start from. For the growing media, you can opt for a mixture of perlite or perlite and vermiculture.
Step 4) Coco coir can do the job too, but this is prone to floating away, which can have a lack of stability for the future plant. Also, it is said that by placing the seed closer to the surface it will be able to better germinate. Cloves too need to be placed closer to the surface. Keep in mind that when the roots finally appear, you will have to adjust the water. Additional water can cause instantly rooting due to the sensitivity of this crop.
Step 5) Plant the large cloves, leaving the paper-like wrapping around them. Garlic needs more than 10 hours of light a day. This is why you should opt for reflective surfaces as said above. You can paint the walls of your greenhouse in white, which will make your job easier. Do not fool yourself into thinking that if you let the lights on for the entire day the plant will be happier.
Step 6) Excess lighting can kill garlic. When it comes to temperature, you will have no headaches. Garlic enjoys lower temperature levels, which can eliminate the need for a heating source. This is the reason why light sources should be placed at a safe distance to avoid extra heating.
Step 7) The appropriate pH levels for garlic around 6.0 and 6.5. It needs a variety of nutrients, which means you will have to carefully set up the nutrient mixture. Keep in mind that the excess of nutrients can kill the plant. Aim for creating a balance in the system.
Step 8) Plant your garlic in a perlite vermiculite mix or even coco coir. Leave the tip facing upwards. As for the roots, they will germinate from the other end. Place them just beneath the earth’s surface and make sure that you do not leave the tip exposed. Water them gently and lightly. Plant your crop of garlic in ideal temperate conditions ranging from 40 to 60°C. It should take about 45 to 60 days for these plants to germinate.
Pests and Diseases of Hydroponic Garlic Farming
Garlic doesn’t have many pest problems in the garden; it’s a natural pest repellent. Diseases that plague garlic is usually limited to fungal, such as white Rot. Some pests that bother onions will also attack garlic but not as regularly, and the vampires will also be repelled.
How to Harvest Hydroponic Garlic
In a conventional garden, garlic is harvested when more than half the leaves have turned yellow-brown, in a hydroponics garden the maturation is accelerated and you can see the cloves without digging them up and so judging when to harvest is simplified.
Hang the bulbs up to cure for up to 6 weeks in a shaded, dry, and well-ventilated area. If you’re going to plant more garlic you may want to save the biggest and best-formed bulbs to replant.
Disadvantages of Hydroponic Garlic
There are lots of reasons to grow garlic in a hydroponic system, but there are also some drawbacks that you need to think about before you commit to growing it. Here are some of the things you should take into consideration;
The smell – The smell of a bunch of garlic plants under artificial lighting in an enclosed space is pretty pungent, and some gardeners find the smell of garlic particularly offensive. This smell is due to an enzyme in garlic called alliinase. This smell isn’t as oppressive in the plants when they’re growing unless they are disturbed or their cells are crushed in some way. Harvesting garlic and cutting it down to cure it can be a decidedly stinky experience.
Strict lighting requirements – Garlic requires lots of strong bright artificial light, a lot more light compared to some other indoor plants. This means that you can forget about trying to grow a decent harvest of garlic in a hydroponic windowsill build chances are that the amount of light indoors is not going to cut it. Without enough light, garlic won’t produce a bulb harvest.