In a straight shootout of hydroponics vs soil growing which would be better, let’s find out.
You go out into the garden and you prepare the soil by digging, plant the seeds, water if necessary and watch.
If you have done your research right and chosen plants compatable with your type of soil, they grow.
If, like many of us, you see something you like and buy it, only to find out when you get home it won’t grow in your garden, then you have a problem.
Every year you grow things in your garden you remove nutrients, hopefully these are replaced by yourself or nature or your soil gets more and more sterile until nothing grows.
You add fertilizer, blood and bonemeal, top up with well rotted manure and you start again the next year.
Unless you create raised borders then soil is always at foot level, no getting away from it you will have to ‘get down there’ if you want to do any work with your hands.
And what you grow isn’t always what you expect. Where did that valerian come from, I didn’t sow that.
This ground elder is spreading like wildfire and I can’t stop it.
Shame that this is not doing well, I really like it.
On the up side you will get a lot fitter, bending down, digging, weeding, tending.
Most of us have access to it, it is free.
The growing system can be free, dependant on what you grow and replenish your soil with.
You have a massive free light source, a bit variable, but reliable.
There is a air movement system which copes with a lot of the bugs, can damage your plants when it goes to extremes.
Most of the time you have a free watering system. Occasionally it appears someone has left the tap on, but generally reliable.
So it’s not bad, but let’s see what the alternative is like.
You know you wanted to grow that plant which is not compatable with your soil type – no problem, just put it into a pot with support, feed it the right nutrient, keep it at the right temperature, with enough lighting and….
That is the main thing about hydroponics, you have as much control over the environment as you want.
I do outdoor hydroponic tomatoes, they are grown in a deep water culture system, located in a mini greenhouse with an open door.
I control what watering it gets, the type of nutrient, a little of the wind and the rest nature supplies.
I do get hit every year after planting them out with slugs and for a couple of years got the tomato catapiller, so lost a lot of crop. Last year I lost a lot to blossom end rot. Could I have prevented some of these problem, yes by controlling the environment a little more.
So a proper greenhouse, with me controlling the conditions better and keeping a closer eye on what came close to the plants then it would have been a different year.
So what advantages are there with hydroponics?
No soil, no diseases from the soil.
You have as much control over the environment as you want, or can afford.
You can grow plants anywhere, even up the living room wall.
You use less water, the water you do supply goes right to the plants roots.
You can grow large amounts in a very compact area, you need to supply the right nutrients for the number of plants.
There are a lot less weeds, if outside not completely eliminated, but a lot less.
You can grow the plants ‘up here’, tabletop systems mean no bending down, digging, or too much hassle.
Your plants will grow quicker, and larger as they are not fighting for the right nutrients or the quantity of nutrients.
You can force the plant to do, within reason, what you want where you want.
Sounds almost ideal, growing plants where you want, when you want.
So what’s the downside?
Well, you have to understand what the requirements for the plant, how much light, wind, water, nutrients, etc.
You are the nature keeping it alive, so it is more time consuming and more technical, although there are systems which you can put together, feed and forget.
The system needs setting up, you need to create the environment to house the plants requirements, very exotic species may require a complete environmental system to grow where you are.
You will need to experiment, to a certain degree to get the conditions right, but you will do that in soil as well.
If you have a linked system and one plant gets a disease then they are all exposed to the same nutrient, so may all be infected.
With the mass of crop in one place you may get hit with an outbreak of insects, bit like a supermarket, almost irresistable.
You will need a source of electricity in most cases, there are few systems which don’t rely on pumps or airation,but most systems will require electricity.
What to do with the used nutrient, don’t throw it down the drain, it can cause a bloom at the processing plant. Your houseplants would love an extra boost every now and then.
With both of these systems there are major advantages and disadvantages, it is up to you whether you want the hard work in the garden doing soil based gardening or you want a slightly easier life, albeit more technical, with the hydroponics.
You could always mix the two.
Grow what naturally grows in your area, with small enclosed areas of hydroponics to grow something unusual and masses of it.
Which is better? hydroponics vs soil growing
Well for me the hydroponic route is still a little easier, we do grow in the soil. But I still prefer the cleanliness of the hydroponics and the challenges of you being in control of that plants life.
The chilli plants, coming up for 11 years old in 2018 are testament to the fact that you can keep plants going a lot longer. As did the 7 year old parsley and 8 year old basil plant. But these are grown indoors in an Aerogarden unit.
So if you want to be eating lettuce on christmas day you have grown then once you have sorted out your system, you can plant them up about the middle of october and have them ready end of december, with an optimal system you could wait till mid of november and have a 30 day cycle.
The flavour of the hydroponic crop can be a little intense compared to soil grown crops, but that is due to the right nutrients being available all the time rather than the plant fighting for it. The plant will take the right nutrients in the right quantity when it needs it. But don’t overdo it or you can get nutrient lockout.
I prefer the fewer bugs which you vcan get with really healthy plants, although you do get different bugs and problems.
You are able to diagnose and correct nutrient deficiencies quickly and the plant will respond quicker.
So would I say hydroponics is better than soil based gardening?
No – it is different.
I prefer it, as it is more of a challenge.
I orefer it due to the fact I can plant something and give it the right environment to grow quickly and efficiently.
Others like the uncertainess of planting seeds or plants to see whether they will take.
The choice is yours
On this site there are simple hydroponic systems to try out, the deep water culture, and more complex stystems to get balanced, aeroponics.
There are commercial plug and play systems, Aerogarden, along with make it your self, deep water culture tomatoes.
So I hope you enjoy reading about the different systems and decide to try one or two and see what you think of hydroponics, getting past the old stigma of ‘well you must be growing weed’ and seeing that you can grow anything anywhere.
Where do you stand on the hydroponics vs soil growing debate?
good luck with your horticultural journey