What comes to mind when you picture a farmer? Animals, tractors, and fields full of dirt (and later crops). Farmers are synonymously linked with the land. However, a growing method in urban agriculture is hydroponics, a method that doesn’t use soil to cultivate plants.
What exactly is hydroponic growing? It means growing without using soil. This method uses water and nutrient solutions to fertilize plants. Plants grown hydroponically are able to get more oxygen directly into their roots (since they aren’t buried underground), which means the roots are able to take up nourishment from the growth solution easier.
Hydroponic growing is great for hobby gardeners, but is also picking up popularity among the Urban Ag movement. People are picking up on this trend because it is something that can be done year round in any climate. Growing can occur in a controlled environment, where weather is never a factor. Plants can be situated closer to one another, saving space, because the roots don’t need to spread out. They are not searching for water or nutrients, everything is provided within reach. Depending on the technique used, hydroponics can be stacked on top of one another. A wall can be turned into a vertical garden with relatively little space taken up in a room.
There are some negatives to hydroponics as well. There are a variety of ways to water plants, either through a timed system or using pumps. Most advanced growing methods use mechanics of some sort, which means maintenance and the potential for a timer or pump to have an issue and fail. Since plants are so close together, it is important to thoroughly clean the channels or containers they are in regularly to prevent pest or disease issues.
With hydroponics, there are two main types of growing techniques. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) has the roots of the plant directly in water with no medium for support. The other technique is to cultivate the plants in a medium. Some mediums commonly used are rock wool, peat moss, and oasis cubes. However, anything a plant could technically grow in is called a growing medium, so some people use rocks, coconut fibers, and sand. These mediums help to steady the plant, but offer no fertilization or nutrients themselves. As long as soil is not used, growing with these mediums is still classified as hydroponic.
Kuack, David. “Getting Serious About Hydroponic Vegetable Production.” Urban Ag News
“Hydroponic Gardens.” Homegrown Hydroponics
“What is Hydroponic Growing?” Growth Technology