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.
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.