With our society’s increasing desire
to live more sustainably, many people are interested in growing
produce with minimal impact on the environment. Plants require soil,
water, and sunshine to thrive. But what if a farmer could save
valuable resources and skip the soil? That is exactly what hydroponic
From the Latin roots “hydro”
meaning water, and “ponos” meaning labor, hydroponics
essentially translates to “laboring with water”. That
is exactly what happens with hydroponic growing. Water is
directly fed to the plant with a nutrient source added to the water.
No soil is necessary, and the amount of water used can be as much or
as little as needed, making this a very environmentally-friendly
option for growing produce.
The environmental benefits of
hydroponic versus field and soil growing are numerous. Field
crops use 10% more water than hydroponically grown ones do.
Hydroponic plants also require less pesticides or herbicides
because the soil that carries weeds and pests is not present. The
space needed to grow plants is vastly reduced, saving valuable green
There are several different ways to
grow plants hydroponically. The easiest
way is known as the reservoir method, also known as the lettuce
raft method or “deepwater culture” (DWC). This method
involves a large tub at least 1-foot deep that is filled with water.
The “raft” (usually a Styrofoam layer) sits atop the water and
has holes in it which contain Net-Pots
that house the nutrient solution for the plants. An aerator
is needed to make sure the nutrient filled water is sufficiently
oxygenated and the roots are healthy.
Another popular method of hydroponic
growing is the wick
method. It is similar to the reservoir method because the plants
rest atop a large reservoir, but the roots do not touch the water
like they do in the reservoir method. Nutrients are carried to the
plant through a wick system, such as a rope.
A third way to grow hydroponically is
called the “ebb
and flow” or “flood and drain” method, in which the tray of
plants sits atop a reservoir that is connected to a nutrient-filled
water reservoir below and connected by pumps that periodically
“flood” the reservoir above with water. The reservoir above will
then drain back into the reservoir below, letting the plant roots
rest for a little before the cycle starts again. This method can
cause algae to grow, so it needs to be carefully monitored.
This YouTube video shows a hydroponic
greenhouse in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kUm_I7bLYw
factor of hydroponics cannot be denied – it appears futuristic and
it is taking the world by storm. From appearances at local farmers
markets, to becoming a part of the food
delivery service industry, hydroponic growing is becoming more
and more popular. For all you know, your salad you are eating
tonight might have been grown by hydroponics!