Plants growing in rock wool. ATTRIBUTION: Flickr – J Wynia

If you want to try your hand at gardening without getting your hands dirty, then hydroponic gardening might be for you! Hydroponic gardening involves growing plants and produce in a soil-free environment. Common forms of media used in hydroponic gardens include gravel, rock wool, coco coir, and water. In fact, the term “hydroponics” stems from the Greek words, “hydro” meaning water and “ponics” meaning labor. Here’s a look at the benefits of hydroponic gardening, how it works, and other useful information to help you get started with your soilless garden.

Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening

One of the biggest benefits of hydroponic gardening is the ability to grow plants anywhere, indoors or outdoors. If you live in a high-rise apartment, condo, or have little to no yard space, herbs and fresh vegetables can be grown in any room of your home. Hydroponics also allows for year-round gardening, since you control the environment.

Hydroponic gardening uses fewer resources, which is great for the environment. These soil-free plants take up to 50 percent less land to produce the same amount of crops, and less than 10 percent of the amount of water that is usually required for growing plants in soil. Although fewer resources are used, most hydroponic gardeners see better results than soil gardeners, including better tasting, more nutritious produce.

If weeds are the bane of your existence like they are for many gardeners, then you’ll be happy to know that there are no weeds at all in hydroponic gardening. No weeds means no need for chemical weed killers and no labor needed for pulling weeds. As hydroponic gardening is usually done indoors or in a controlled greenhouse, you’ll also avoid other gardening setbacks, such as the presence of soil-borne fungi and diseases.

Who Should Try It

Anyone who loves to garden, wants to grow produce or herbs in their home, or is simply looking for a rewarding pastime should look into hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic gardening is also an excellent option for individuals in wheelchairs. Planting beds can be setup at any height for easy access.

Hydroponic Gardening Locations/Zones

Hydroponic growing can be done either indoors or outdoors. While plants can certainly be grown outside under the sun, most hydroponic gardeners choose to garden indoors under grow lights, which allows them to control the seasons. With a controlled indoor environment, gardeners have the ability to grow produce all twelve months of the year.

Starting a Garden

Hydroponic gardening is a fairly simple concept that is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take a lot of time to maintain. Home growing kits can be purchased from commercial suppliers, making growing easy. If you prefer to build your own system, there are numerous hydroponic system designs that can be followed. Before you can begin growing, you will need a large tank or container to act as a water reservoir.

Plants that are not water-resistant must be suspended just above the reservoir using some type of suspension system. As no soil is used in hydroponic growing, another media must be chosen. Gardeners must be sure to create a nutrient solution that is not too strong and not too weak to prevent injuring the plants. You can finish your hydroponic garden by adding an air stone connected to a pump to oxygenate the reservoir.

Best Items to Grow in Your Garden

You can grow nearly anything in a hydroponic garden, including basic house plants, flowering plants, and various types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Some examples of popular veggies grown in hydroponic conditions include onions, carrots, leeks, artichokes, squash, celery, tomatoes, peas, and yams. High-water-content fruits, such as watermelon, grapes, blueberries, and cantaloupe, can also be successfully grown.