What is hydroponics? Just saying the word hydroponics gets me excited. Why? ‘Cause I’m just passionate about it…
So exactly what is hydroponics? According to Webster: “The cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil”. That’s it! You got it!
What Is Hydroponics? Our Simple Explanation
First, you need to understand how plants really grow. Did you know that they don’t actually need soil at all? They need the nutrients hiding in it.
In a hydroponic garden, crops are supported in a neutral medium (like gravel or clay balls). Then you mix up a batch of the solution, which has all the essential nutrients the plant needs. This liquid food is then circulated around the roots of the plants by either wick action (passive system) or a pump (active). Voila! The ultimate growing machine!
The active systems, in which the juice is pumped to the plants, are really quite efficient. It is fantastic for a fully automated grow room or greenhouse.
The setup doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. Just a small pump on a timer and you are off on your cruise while your hydroponic garden keeps chugging along without you.
The lazy tomato bush – what is hydroponics?
In a traditional soil-based garden, a plant wastes most of its energy developing a huge root system. Why? Because it has to search far and wide in the soil for its food and water. In hydroponics, it is all delivered directly to its roots. You bypass the soil, which is much slower and unpredictable at providing food.
Since it no longer has to search for its food, a plant’s growth and energy is redirected to the production of foliage, flowers, fruit, or vegetables. The root systems of hydroponic plants are much smaller than those planted in the soil… so you can plant closer together… and harvest much more yield from less space!
Those crops produce up to three times more, larger, tastier, and more nutritious produce! Ornamentals and herbs grow like weeds.
Skeptical? So was I ’til I tasted my first hydroponic tomato!
Books about hydroponic gardening
Is hydroponics unnatural or artificial?
We’ll let you decide…
In hydroponics, all you are doing is providing nutrients directly to a plant’s roots. Roots can only take in pure elements. They don’t suck up the soil. The plant doesn’t care where it gets its necessary chemicals, whether it’s from the soil or from a hydroponics solution.
In hydroponic gardening, you provide your plant with everything it needs, in all the right proportions, at just the right time, in the most efficient way. It is an attempt to grow the “perfect plant”, allowing it to reach its full genetic potential. And with the proper equipment, supplies, and a little diligence, you can come pretty darn close.
Some people believe that hydroponically grown plants are given “steroids” or other dangerous hormones in order to make them grow so well and look so fantastic. But no, we do not add harmful chemicals to hydroponic nutrient solutions. We provide our plants with exactly the same 17 nutrients and elements the plant searches for in soil. Nothing more. And each plant uses only the exact elements it needs, whether from soil or solution. No steroids in my gym!
Although hydroponics might seem futuristic to you, it is not “artificial”. It does not manipulate nature, it works with it and “helps it along”. What a fresh, lean, clean (and green) approach to gardening!
Want to take a quick peek at some “cutting edge hydroponics”? Look what the folks at Disney’s Epcot Center are doing in “Living With the Land”.
So that’s it in a nutshell.. our simple answer to the question “What is Hydroponics?”
What’s next? Time to take an honest look at the pros and cons of hydroponic gardening… visit our Why Bother? page next to decide if hydroponics is right for you… before you drop your first dime.
Stella and Simon, a couple of back-to-the-land, baby boomer enthusiasts, have embraced the world of homemade hydroponics on their three-acre plot of Florida piney woods. Their journey began after drawing inspiration from Epcot Center’s hydroponics exhibit, and they've delved into various hydroponic methods, experimenting with different systems, configurations, and crops both indoors and outdoors. Their expertise culminated in the creation of an innovative homemade hydroponics greenhouse, documented in their book, Simon’s Super Simple On-the-Grid, Off-the-Grid Hydroponic/Aquaponic Survival Greenhouse.