What is Hydroponics?
Let’s start by defining hydroponics. Literally, the name means working water. Simply put, it is the art of gardening without soil. There are six basic kinds of hydroponic systems with hundreds of possible variations. For more information on the different methods of hydroponic gardening see (“Basic Hydroponic Systems and How they Work”).
Myth: Hydroponics is a new technology
The Pharaohs of Egypt enjoyed fruits and vegetables grown hydroponically. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was believed to be a hydroponic garden. In India, plants are grown directly in coconut husk; hydro at the most grassroots level. If hydroponics is a “new” technology, it is a new technology in general use for thousands of years. Hydroponics is not new — just different.
Myth: Hydroponics is artificial or unnatural
Plant growth is a real and natural happening. Plants require basic, natural things for normal growth. Hydroponics supplies the plant with what it needs, when it needs it. There is no genetic mutation that takes place inside the equipment nor are there any mysterious wonder chemicals introduced to the plants roots that trick them into thinking they’re on steroids. With the production of more refined nutrients, it is now possible to grow completely organic produce with hydroponics. You can’t get more natural than that
Myth: Hydroponics is bad for the environment
This is totally false. Growing plants hydroponically is far more earth friendly than conventional gardening on numerous levels. As we are coming to realize that water is our most precious resource the first point worth noting is that hydroponics uses 70 to 90 percent LESS water than conventional gardening. The second greatest ecological benefit is that no fertilizer runoff escapes into our lakes, rivers and aquifers. These two items alone, water conservation and the non-pollution of lakes and streams, are major plus values.
Myth: Hydroponics is a space-science far too sophisticated and high-tech for the average person to understand or master
As we’ve stated, hydroponics is growing without soil and no bells or whistles are required to accomplish this. An inexpensive bucket or nursery pot, filled with a hydroponic growing medium and hand watered with a hydroponic nutrient is hydroponics. A sheet of Styrofoam filled with net cups and floating on an aerated tank is hydroponics and as a point of fact, this system is very popular for elementary school science projects. The technological potential for automation and total environmental control is virtually limitless but in no way required to have a beautiful and abundant hydroponic garden. Basic hydroponics can be taught to the very young, the very elderly and anyone open to learning a few new tricks.
Myth: Hydroponics is far too expensive
Not at all. As with any hobby, there’s always a new toy to buy or things you may want to upgrade as you expand your knowledge. Gardeners are dedicated to their passion and whether that is bonsai, orchids, organics, kitchen gardening, etc., there are always things to spend money on. However, it is also just as easy to achieve amazing results while staying within any size budget.
Myth: the use of Hydroponics is not widespread
Wrong again. Hydroponics is used extensively the world over. It is used in countries where the climate prohibits or limits growth and where the soil is too poor to support large-scale crop production. It is also used in countries, including the USA, where once fertile soil has been so abused and over farmed that it is now depleted or toxic. In British Columbia, 90% of all the greenhouse industry is now hydroponic.
Myth: Hydroponics must be used indoors
Hydroponics is as easy to use outdoors under the sun as it is indoors. One advantage to gardening indoors under grow lights is that you, not Mother Nature, control the seasons, making the growing season twelve months long. However, that is still true whether you grow in soil or hydroponically. Soil gardening can be done indoors and hydro can be done outdoors.
Myth: Hydroponics requires no pesticides
This is one myth that we wish were true. The need should be greatly reduced because a strong healthy plant is much less susceptible to attack than a weaker plant. Also, soil-born pest will be totally eliminated but even in an indoor environment, intruders still find their way in, catching a ride on your person or sneaking through tiny crevices. Monitor any garden carefully so you can catch problem insects when they first appear and your need for toxic products will be minimal.
Myth: Hydroponics produces huge super-plants
This myth has some foundation in truth but there is an important aspect to consider. Every seed, like all living things, already has a genetic code that will determine its general size, yield potential and flavor. Hydroponics can’t turn a cherry tomato into a beefsteak tomato but it can turn it into the best cherry tomato it can be. Therefore, start with the best genetics possible.
Getting a plant to grow to its highest potential in common soil is difficult because of the hundreds of variables in the soil’s make-up which influence the plant and its growth. It is the ability to control these variables that makes hydroponics superior to conventional gardening. In addition, factor that a plant in soil expends a great portion of energy working for its food in a way that hydro plants do not. The diva existence of a hydroponic plant allows it to send that extra energy into faster growth, dense vegetation, larger yields and more flavorful produce.
Dr. Howard M. Resh, in his book HYDROPONIC FOOD PRODUCTION, cites vegetable yield increases that are dramatic; identical cucumber plants produced 7,000 pounds per acre in soil but 28,000 pounds per acre when grown hydroponically and tomato yields that ranged from 5 to 10 tons per acre in soil but 60 to 300 tons per hydroponic acre. The reported results are typical for practically any plant. Said another way, to produce the total number of tomatoes consumed annually in Canada (400 million pounds) requires 25,000 acres of soil. Hydroponically, it would require only 1,300 acres.
Myth: Hydroponics is used primarily for illegal purposes
Henry Ford once received a letter from a depression-era bank robber responsible for the deaths of several law enforcement officers, killed in their attempt to stop him as he fled the crime scene. In his letter, he thanked Mr. Ford for making his Model A Ford such a good getaway car.
The use of hydroponics for illegal purposes is stressed by the law enforcement community whenever an efficient and successful growing operation is uncovered. This paints a false and slanderous picture of an industry and method which may well hold the key to solving world hunger. The percentage of hydroponic systems being used for illegal purposes parallels the percentage of Ford Motor cars used in bank robbery getaways. Somehow, the multitude of hydroponics systems used in normal, legitimate growing operations just doesn’t make it on the evening news.
Yes, hydroponics is popular with illegal growers. This popularity is founded on the same principles that make it popular with legal growers — a bigger, better, higher quality crop.