Hydroponics: Gardening without Soil

Hydroponics: Gardening without Soil

Hydroponics is derived from the Greek words Hydro meaning water and Ponics meaning work. It  literally means “working water” and is a method of growing plants without soil by submersing their roots in water based nutrient solutions.  Hydroponics goes back 1000s of years to the early civilizations of the Egyptians, Aztecs and Babylonians.  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, is thought to be an early example of hydroponics

Today hydroponics is increasingly used to address hunger by providing a stable food supply for locations with limited or no access to arable land.  It is also used by urban gardeners who want to grow fresh fruit and vegetable indoors or on their roof tops. It is even being experimented with by NASA to provide a sustainable food supply for deep space travel or future colonies on the Moon or Mars.
Photosynthesis in plants requires access to minerals, especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

These nutrients are found naturally in the soil but the soil itself is not required for plant growth. So in the simplest sense hydroponics is about alternative methods of delivering those minerals to the roots of plants directly without soil.

There are several different approaches to delivery but the common element is a water based solution with a proper mixture of the necessary nutrients. By directly applying this solution to the roots , hydroponics is an efficient growing process that can produce crops on about 20% of the land while using only 10% of the water as traditional soil based agriculture.

Crops are able to be planted in close proximity to each other and also vertically on elevated trays saving space while water is conserved since it is recycled.  By eliminating soil you also eliminate all soil born diseases and significantly reduce the need for pesticides.

 So in all the various forms of hydroponics, the plants roots are emersed in a carefully measured water based nutrient solution. The dissolved minerals are delivered to the roots through several techniques which include continuous water flow, various flood and drain concepts, and the use of misters and sprayers in an derivative method called Aeroponics.

Virtually any plant can be grown utilizing hydroponics, but some plants are more suitable than others. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and most herbs are some of the best choices for hydroponic gardeners. With hydroponics these plants can be grown indoors and harvests can take place year round.  For urban gardeners or anybody living in a location with limited or no access to arable land, hydroponics is an effective alternative for producing a stable supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Related Gardening Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.