Hydroponic & Aeroponic Gardening- growing food without soil
What is Hydroponic Gardening? Basically hydroponic gardening is growing food without soil, adding refined minerals to water that circulates around the roots of the plants that are grown in some type of container.
If I told my grandparents (God rest their souls) about this, my grandmother would immediately start crossing herself with the Trinity and think I was talking blasphemy- no joke! When I was introduced to growing food using methods other than good ol’ fashion in the dirt and in rows (the way my grandparents gardened), the first thought that came to mind was episodes of Lost in Space and The Jetsons.
Why on Earth would anyone want to grow food without soil??
To be honest, I actually have a Aeroponics system but I will talk more about that in a minute, I want to discuss Hydroponics first.
There are many benefits to growing food with hydroponics
- Saves 90% of Water that conventional gardening uses. This is great news for those living in drought prone areas; even if you don’t live in a drought area, it is good to conserve water
- No soil erosion. No soil = no erosion
- No need for pesticides
- Rapid Growth. Growing food with hydroponics speeds up the production= more food in less time
- Convenience. You can grow food in any location, no land required.
- Nutrients get where they are needed. In conventional gardening, you apply fertilizer and compost on the soil where it then has to travel to reach the roots with much of the applied nutrients never getting to their destination. With hydroponics, the nutrients are applied right to the roots for absorption.
As mentioned above, my system is aeroponics, and while I am very familiar with hydroponics I have decided not to reinvent the wheel. There is a extremely informative article from Outdoor Hydro explaining all the specifics on hydroponic gardening and why it is a superior gardening method.
Hydroponics is not “Organic”, It’s Better
To be certified as organic, you can’t use any refined mineral salts or refined substances in your fertilizer solutions, even food grade ones that are known to be superior to unrefined mineral salts (and equally as healthy). This is the biggest beef I have with organics, because this isn’t actually a good thing like many would assume.
Basically, unrefined minerals don’t dissolve well and often times contain harmful impurities, as they are not refined (Refined: the process of removing impurities). The philosophy behind the “organic” designation is that natural is better, even when the natural components are toxic or harmful to human/plant health. It is natural so it is “okay”. I respectfully disagree. While my personal philosophy is that the closer to the earth the stuff we eat is, the better it is for you, there are some advances in modern science that we would do well to embrace, as we can enjoy the same natural benefits without the often times toxic impurities that sneak into “natural” things.
Here are just a few examples of some of the impurities I am referring to for those interested: Read More Here
I have explained (albeit briefly) what Hydroponics is now I would like to introduce you to Aeroponics. I first saw Aeroponics when I visited Disney Worlds Epcot Theme Park on the Living With the Land ride (watch the ride here and see the amazing future garden). I was in awe with their ability to grow food, indoors and without soil. But not having Walt Disney’s resources and a team of scientist on my payroll, I summed the entire experience up as a Lost in Space or Jetsons episode. However, just a few short years later, technology made this futuristic growing method available and affordable to the public.
Tim Blank was Greenhouse Manager for Epcot’s cutting-edge agricultural display until 2005. He left and founded Future Growing with the dream that someday everybody on the planet would have access to healthy food in their own home and local community.
At Future Growing, Tim developed this state-of-the-art vertical garden system.
Tim Blank developed the Aeroponics system I use-the Tower Garden.
Aeroponics: the modern, clean, efficient way to better gardening
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. It uses both water and air to produce more colorful, better tasting, better smelling, and incredibly nutritious fruits and vegetables.
How does aeroponics compare to hydroponics
Aeroponics is a technological leap forward from traditional hydroponics. Aeroponics is sometimes considered a type of hydroponics, as it does use water to transmit nutrients to plants and thus requires no soil. Technically, however, true hydroponics uses water as the growing medium; aeroponics has no growing medium.
Turns out I wasn’t too far off in my thinking when I first heard of hydroponics and aeroponics, NASA has been taking plants into space since the 1960’s and have been testing alternative gardening methods since the 1990’s.
Aeroponic growing systems provide clean, efficient, and rapid food production. Crops can be planted and harvested in the system year round without interruption, and without contamination from soil, pesticides, and residue. Since the growing environment is clean and sterile, it greatly reduces the chances of spreading plant disease and infection commonly found in soil and other growing media
Aeroponics systems can reduce water usage by 98 percent, fertilizer usage by 60 percent, and pesticide usage by 100 percent, all while maximizing crop yields. Plants grown in the aeroponic systems have also been shown to uptake more minerals and vitamins, making the plants healthier and potentially more nutritious.
We live on a small lot with very little growing space so I use every gardening method I can squeeze on our lot produce as much of our food as I possible can. I grow food in: Our Aeroponic garden, traditional row garden, pallet garden, container gardening, landscape gardening, vertical garden, and pretty much anywhere else I can fit a plant. No space is safe from my gardening hands, don’t tell hubby but he will be installing a roof garden when we install a new roof on our shop- shhhhhh!
Is there a particular method I prefer over the other? Not really. I can tell you this, the benefits I enjoy and appreciate with our Aeroponic garden over the others are:
- No watering- I add water to the base about once a week during prime growing season and the pump works on an automatic timer so the maintenance is very low
- Very little pest control
- I can put my garden anywhere
- Year round gardening. You can place the Tower Garden indoors during colder months with a grow light and grow all year
- Out of Season Crops- it is too hot where I live to grow lettuce in the summer (the time of the year you want a salad) but I have found I can grow lettuce in the summer, along with other colder crops, in the Aeroponic garden.
- Doesn’t take up a lot of space. If you have a 4ft square space you can grow a lot of food.
- I can take a vacation. One year I had a beautiful garden with everything growing lush and green. We decided to take a last minute vacation and asked a neighbor to water our garden while we were gone. Guess what we came home to? Tumbleweeds and dust, I was crushed (and mad). My Aeroponic garden is on a timer and everything is automatic so we can go on a vacation and I don’t need to worry about asking someone to care for it. If you don’t know what a vacation is (joke intended) read my latest article Free Vacations; Find out How here.
What can you grow with Aeroponics ?
I have had a lot of success growing food in my Aeroponic garden and I am very happy with the about of produce i harvest from it. During the summer my favorite vegetable to grow are greens (I really love my summer salads and we can’t grow them in the ground due to the heat), and my water loving gourds/luffas. In the winter I grow many herbs, more greens, winter squash and edible flowers.
Here is an example of what you can grow with Aeroponics; this list includes things you can grow in Hydroponics as well.
Fruits & Vegetables
- Beans: Lima, bush, pole, shell, fava, green
- Broccoli Raab
- Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage and Chinese cabbage
- Chard, all types
- Dandelion, Italian
- Eggplant, European and Asian
- Garbanzo beans
- Gourds, edible and ornamental
- Kinh gioi
- Lettuce, all types
- Mesclun Varieties
- Melons, all types
- Mustard Greens
- Ngo Gai
- Pak Choy
- Peas, all types
- Peppers, all types
- Squash, all types
- Tomatoes, all types
There are many different types of Hydroponic and Aeroponic gardening systems you can buy or DIY, but if you would like to learn more about the Tower Garden that we have you can read more here.