This revolutionary technology is already changing how we grow, distribute, and consume food around the planet. But will it work for your home garden?
Food Isn't Only Grown In The Ground Anymore . . .
If you've ever seen a head of lettuce with its roots still attached, or purchased a tomato in the middle of winter at the grocery store, chances are both were grown without soil.
The method of growing plants in water is known as hydroponics or hydroculture. It uses nutrients dissolved in water instead of soil.
Every year, more and more food is grown using a soil-free, water based growing method called hydroponics.
From massive commercial production facilities to indoor gardeners, growing plants soil-free is becoming increasingly popular around the world.
Top 10 Hydroponic Benefits
There's a lot to like about growing plants without soil.
1. No Guesswork
One of the fastest ways to kill a plant is by giving it too much or too little water or nutrients. Hydroponic growing allows precise control over both of these factors.
It's very clear when your garden needs watering... when the water level is low!
2. Faster Growth
In soil, a plant's roots need to spend energy to seek out nutrients. However, in a water-based hydroponic system, the nutrients are delivered directly to the roots. This allows the plant to spend more energy to grow it's leaves, stems, and flowers.
Additionally, the growing environment can be more easily controlled. This leads to more favorable conditions for the plant, enabling faster growth.
3. No Weeds
With hydroponics, there's no soil for weeds to grow in. That means there's no need to spend back-breaking time pulling them out. It also means no more spraying dangerous herbicides to kill them.
4. Less Bugs & Disease
Because plants aren't grown in the ground, many bugs simply don't have the space to reproduce (insects lay their eggs in soil). And many pests can't even reach your garden in the first place. Plus, any soil-related diseases are completely a non-issue in hydroponic gardening... there's no soil!
5. No Pesticides
Because there are overall less pests and diseases (see above), there is much less need to apply pesticides - if they even need to be applied at all!
And because you're the one in control, you can use whichever pest reduction methods you feel comfortable with.
6. Less Water
In traditional growing, water is poured all over the ground. Much of it is wasted when it seeps into the soil or evaporates. A small fraction is actually used by the plant. Hydroponics eliminates this waste by using over 90% less water than traditional soil-based gardening.
7. Less Space
Plants grown using soil-free methods have smaller root systems. This is because they don't need to grow as far to get their nutrients - the water delivers all they need right to them. Because of this, the plants can be grown much closer together.
8. Clean & Easy Upkeep
Without soil, there's no foul odors or mess. In most hydroponic systems, watering is automated. This means you don't have to worry about your plants while on vacation.
9. Grow Year Round
While not specific to hydroponics, growing plants indoors is much easier to do without soil. It also prevents losses due to unpredictable weather and changing climate conditions.
10. Grow Anywhere - Even In Space!
Soil-free growing has been continuously developed by NASA for decades. In fact, astronauts aboard the International Space Station grow their own hydroponic food.
How cool is that!
Hydroponic Gardening Is Great, But It's Not Perfect
While the technique of growing plants in water has been around for thousands of years, it has only been in the last few decades that it has become so cost-effective and popular.
However, there are still a few drawbacks...
Different Skill Set And Knowledge
Most people have learned (at least in theory) how to grow a plant in soil using conventional methods.
The issue with growing hydroponically without soil is that many people have no idea how to even begin growing this way - it has to be taught.
On the other hand, there is plenty of knowledge for soil based growing that's not needed in hydroponic gardening (e.g. soil texture, soil borne diseases and pests, tilling, crop rotation, etc.).
Chance Of Fungi And Mildew
Because of the water, humidity levels can be higher when growing soil-free. If it's not controlled, this can increase favorable conditions for fungi and mildew, which can kill plants and cause allergies.
This depends on other environmental factors too, and can be managed, but is something to be aware of. A clean growing environment reduces this risk.
Chance Of Water-Borne Microorganisms
Due to the water only nature of hydroponic gardening, plants grown this way are at a higher risk of potentially harmful water-borne microorganisms spreading rapidly throughout the system.
However, keeping the water reservoir temperatures cool (under 80°F) and oxygen levels in the water high greatly reduces this risk.
Because hydroponic gardening is based on a growing system, it requires some up front investment.
You can't just go buy some seeds and plant them in the ground like you can with traditional soil based gardening. Though it can be a bit more of an investment initially, it can pay for itself in the long run with reduced maintenance and higher, more frequent yields.
The Future Is Hydroponic
While soil-free hydroponic gardening isn't perfect, the downsides can be minimized with proper care, preparation, and further technological development.
With an ever changing climate and poorer soil conditions, much more of our food will need to be grown hydroponically.
Experience the future today. Grow your own in-home hydroponic garden.
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