What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is part of hydroculture, the practice of growing plants only using water with a growing medium and nutrients. There is no soil involved.
With the hydroponics technology available today, we can grow our favorite plants. In fact, you can grow any plant for that matter, at any time of the year. With the latest hydroponic systems along with specialized horticultural lighting, hydroponics at home becomes easy and effective.
If plants receive the water and nutrients they need at their roots, they can grow exceedingly well without soil. When these plants are food, they can feed the world by producing more and better quality plants than soil-based farming can produce.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of hydroponics, you can read our introductory hydroponics article. You may want to start with a compact low-cost indoor hydroponic garden before investing in larger-scale hydroponics activities. If so, see our reviews of affordable indoor hydroponic grow systems.
Hydroponic Guide Sections
To learn more about other aspects of hydroponic gardening, see the following sections of our guide.
- Grow Systems
- Growing Mediums
- Nutrient Solutions
- Grow Lights
- Air Pumps
- Grow Tents and Grow Boxes
- Garden Kits
- Growing Fruits and Vegetables
What are the benefits of hydroponics?
Saves Your Back
Hydroponically grown plants do not involve raking, hoeing, tilling or other back-breaking work. Because the plants do not grow in the soil there is no weeding. There are also no cutworms or moles that can damage your plants and fewer poisonous pesticides.
If you buy a hydroponic pump system with a timer that keeps the plants watered with a nutrient-rich solution. You can even go on vacation for a few weeks and not worry about feeding them regularly.
Hydroponics Works Indoors and Out
If you live in an apartment or own a small garden, you may have limited space for gardening. A hydroponic unit can produce bountiful quantities of anything from tomatoes to tulips in limited space. You can buy a hydroponic unit that you can put outside on a porch or balcony.
Combining natural sunlight with a nutrient-rich water solution will ensure that yields are higher than conventional planting. This approach also significantly reduces the risk of damage caused by disease and pests.
You can buy hydroponic nutrients ready-mixed, which can be expensive. There is also the option of making your own homemade nutrient solution using fertilizer salts and household ingredients. We teach you how to do that in our hydroponics nutrient guide.
In winter your plants will continue to flourish in artificial light and can even be grown in a basement. Other indoor hydroponic garden options are kitchen or countertop growing systems.
Hydroponics Produces Higher Yields Faster
Hydroponics can produce many times the yield of soil-grown plants over the same period of time. Their roots do not have to push through the soil to compete for nutrients.
Instead, a hydroponic system distributes nutrients evenly to each plant. There is always enough water for the plant. There is also greater control over what nutrients the plant receives at varying stages of its development. This ensures optimum growth.
Unlike soil, the nutrient-rich solution combined with the porous growing aggregate lets air circulate freely. This ensures that everything grows faster, ripens more quickly, and produces much higher yields.
Produces Nutritionally Rich and Flavorful Food
Big corporations grow and harvest fruits and vegetables in mass numbers. The products they sell in supermarkets have tough skins to facilitate machine harvesting, sorting, and shipping. They choose seeds for their fast growth and high yields – flavor and nutritional content are secondary concerns.
Also, the large-scale growers harvest their plants before they are ripe to ensure a longer shelf life. They sacrifice quality for quantity.
Hydroponic fruits and vegetables have higher nutritional value and superior flavor. You can buy hydroponic vegetables in the gourmet sections of supermarkets at higher prices, but you can instead grow your own for significantly less.
Reduces Risk of Food Price Increases
As the price of oil continues to increase so do transportation costs.
Depending on where you live, it is likely that the supermarket transports most of your fruit and vegetables long distances. This increases the cost significantly.
Urban towns and cities are replacing agricultural land around the world, further increasing grower’s costs. This trend will further add to the price of food.
With supermarkets more concerned about their profit margins, food prices will skyrocket in the future. It is not surprising that growing plants hydroponically has become increasingly popular among gardeners.
Home hydroponics systems are ideal for those who have limited space. That’s why they can even be found inside nuclear submarines, space stations, and offshore drilling rigs.
Hydroponics will not lead to high water costs as the water stays in the system and can be reused. This is another clear advantage of hydroponics over soil-based gardening.