Can You Make Your Garden Grow Without Soil? Yes!

By David Strut

Gardeners and horticulturalists are used to getting grimy. They root around in the soil, applying fertilizers and pesticides. They plant, divide and re-plant. They do all this for the rewards of producing beautiful and nutritious plants to view and eat. But what if you could gain those values without coming into contact with any soil at all?

Hydroponics is the science of growing healthy plants without the use of soil. The most common medium used for this is water. There are definitely definitions that are more technically accurate, but for the occasional teacher, home gardener, or hobbyist, this definition is fitting.

But how is such a thing even possible? Don't plants need soil for nutrition, heat, support, water and all the other things they need to grow and reproduce? Not necessarily.

Plants definitely do need water. But they needn't get it from the soil, even though that's one of the most common methods. Even in nature, some plants grow in sand, gravel or even on the surface or underneath a body of water.

Plants need a certain amount of energy, in the form of sunlight and/or heat from their surroundings. But soil warmed by sunlight isn't the only way to get that. Direct sunlight still works on leaves, the same way it does for plants in soil. Leaving the upper part of a plant exposed to sunlight supported by a string atop a container will allow vital photosynthesis to occur. As with nearly anything in botany, there are exceptions. Some plants survive and reproduce with no light, though they still need some energy to drive biochemical reactions.

However, there artificial ways to support these plants that work very well. Some of these methods include using string or ice cream sticks that have been glued to the top of the container.

One of the most important factors to growing a healthy plant is undoubtedly nutrients. Potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and a number of trace elements like iron, copper, and zinc are essential to plant growth. The usual way of obtaining these nutrients is by absorption from the surrounding soil. However, there are a variety of ways that the plants can receive the necessary nutrients.

One very effective method would be to immerse the plants roots in water that contains liquid nutrients. There are other methods as well. People that are involved in hydroponic gardening house their plants in an enclosure that will retain moisture. The roots are sprayed frequently with a mister that contains a nutrients solution. This method does cross into an area that is known as aeroponics.

Hydroponic gardening methods can be used to grow a number of plants like lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, and other plants that are not fruits or vegetables, like orchids. Hydroponics can be used to grow a long list of plants. There are thousands of plant species that thrive without the use of soil as long as they are properly cared for. The effort can be fun as well as instructive. Hydroponics can be use to grow nutritious and beautiful plants, without the drawbacks of using soil. - 29857

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