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Growing Food Without Soil

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Growing Food Without Soil

by Jordan Laio, Networx

From the looks of it, hydroponic growing is on the rise and is here to stay. The numbers of hydroponics supplies shops are increasing right along with the numbers of farmers markets and CSAs. One such supply company is Gardening Unlimited, which owns a number of hydroponics and organic gardening stores in the Pacific Northwest. They started out with one small store in Santa Cruz, CA in 2003. Since then, public interest has encouraged them to open six more stores in the Bay Area alone, and they also distribute supplies through their website eHydroponics.com. Other such stores have sprung up across California and the United States. So what’s the appeal of hydroponic gardening?

What is it?

Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants without soil. Instead, plant roots are suspended in an aggregate material (like sand or rockwool) and are fed by a liquid nutrient solution. Hydroponic growing can be done outdoors, in greenhouses, or indoors (even in a closet) with the use of grow lights.

The Attraction

I asked Vando Bertaccini, the General Manager of Gardening Unlimited, why people are attracted to this type of growing. “Hydroponic gardening is for anybody who has a desire to garden but may be lacking outside space or light.” And these days, that’s more and more people. As urban populations swell and suburban developments continue to sprawl, less and less land is available for traditional farming. This dearth of open soil is bad news for city-dwellers who want to try their hand at vegetable growing. Sure, there are community gardens, but it’s not unusual to have two-year waits or longer just to get a plot.

Hydroponics offers an option for growing food without soil, without sunlight, and with less water input than traditional farming. As long as you’ve got a source of electricity and a little water, you can grow. If you set it up right, there’s no worrying about weeding, pests, or inclement weather.

And, plants grow faster hydroponically compared to traditional growing. Is it difficult to learn hydroponic farming? “There most certainly is a small learning curve, but once one understands the basics, it’s not difficult. Some might even say the process itself is rather easy,” suggests Mr. Bertaccini.

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88 comments

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11:48PM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

I invite you take a look at my Aquaponic garden page where I use PVC pipe, soda bottles, and fish to grow plants. The instructions are right here for free. http://do-it-yourself-hydroponics.moderngrower.com. I think this is the easiest and for sure the cheapest way to grow lots of plants almost hands free. It can be done with or without fish! Enjoy!

7:58AM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

Thanks for the info and i might try this

1:38PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Will read carefully to see if I can use this technique.

11:13AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

7:45AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

Do the plants absorb any of the plastic that off-gases into the water? Just askin', as we dont like to drink water from PVC pipes or from plastic bottles.

5:16PM PDT on Apr 9, 2012

Good to know. Thanks for this great article.

5:40PM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Ernie Yribe, you are so very correct. Aquaponics is the answer.
Might I add a few plus's, No E-coli, No Salmonella, less problems with plant diseases'

Over the years, I have worked with issues of black and grey water, bioremediation, raised fish and produced fruits, veggies and herbs in hydroponics. On day, it occurred to me that all of this training had prepared me to take a step beyond, into aquaponics.

We use 4 fish tanks, Tilapia in various stages of growth, fish pee & poop, yes in Aquaponics we say poop.

The plants reside in rafts which float in concrete canals (6). The fish "wastes" are high in ammonia, the liquid is sent to filter tanks and orchard net flocculates the waste, now we have a nitrite, still too toxic. As it continues in the tanks, we introduce aeration, now we realize a nitrate, a usable form, which is combined with iron chelate, we have a perfect nutrient solution and off to the veggie canals.

The veggies are contained in round mesh baskets, they uptake the nutrients, cleansing the water, which is returned to the fish tanks.

This is a brief description, but Aquaponics is in fact the best means to an end. While we utilize 112,000 liters of water, we replace only 4% per year, due to evap. and spillage.

If any of you are desiring more info, contact us at: synergyaquaponics@gmail.com, we will be happy to help you get started in aquaponics and a perhaps a new career.

11:17PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

I was told that hydroponic food had more toxins than conventional soil grown, best to just trust natural organic methods and be careful if you think Hydroponic means healthy, it may not depending on what they use to feed the plants.

1:53AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Started in Japan.

4:42PM PDT on May 26, 2011

Thanks Chaya.

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