Hydroponics vs Soil: Which Method is Better?
If you are just starting out a garden, the chances are that you will spend most of the time looking for the best seeds/seedlings and the best soil to plant them. While it is true soil is essential for the growth of plants as it provides nutrients and support, it is not always necessary.
Provided the plants get the support and all the nutrients that they require you do not have to spend a lot of time and resources looking for soil. This method of growing plants without soil is what agriculturalists refer to as hydroponics.
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What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a Greek word that translates to "working water." It is a method of farming or growing plants that will not entail the use of any soil. Instead, the plants get the nutrients that they need from water and support from rocks, PVC pipes or foam. Although this method of growing plants looks like a relatively new concept, it has been in use since the early 20th century.
There are different kinds of hydroponics systems with the most popular ones being the Water Culture, Wicks System and N.F.T (Nutrient Film Technique). The water culture hydroponics is the simplest, and it entails immersing the roots into the nutrient rich solution completely.
With hydroponics, the quality or type of the soil in your garden will never restrict the plants that you can grow. Also, you do not have to go with the seasons, and you can grow almost anything even in the cold winter months. However, hydroponics can be a little more challenging than the traditional farming methods as there is some technical know-how that you will need for successful farming.
6 Reasons Why You Should Choose Hydroponics
If you are still trying to choose between planting with soil or hydroponics here are some reasons why the latter is the best option.
#1. It Saves A Lot of Space
Hydroponics systems save a lot of space, and in some instances, you can use up to 20% less space than you would with the traditional soil gardening. When you use soil, the plants will need a lot of space to spread out in their search for nutrients. But, with hydroponics, the roots get everything that they need from the water and so they will require less space.
Because you do not need to use any soil, it is also possible to not only pack your plants close but also stack them in several levels within the same space.
#2. Hydroponics Uses Less Water
When doing soil gardening, you will need to pour a generous amount of water after every few days so that the plants can soak up enough. However, what you might not know is that most of the water that you pour ends up as waste either by dripping out through the bottom of the pot or container or the soil absorbing it too deep and beyond the reach of the roots.
With hydroponics, you can save up to 90% of the water that you would use in the traditional gardening methods. Most systems come with a recirculating nutrient reservoir that ensures that the plants only take up what they need and leave the rest in the tank. With these systems, there is almost no water wastage at all since they also have covers to minimize evaporation.
#3. You Get Larger Plants
Since you have full control over the plant's environment, you can be confident of always getting bigger and healthier plants than you would get with soil gardening. With hydroponics plants do not have any nutrient deficiencies because they get all they want when they need it and in the right portions from the water.
Most hydroponics plants will grow up to 50% larger than the soil ones since they do not have to expand their roots in search of nutrients meaning they can focus more on growth.
#4. Hydroponics Allow you to Grow Plants Anywhere
An hydroponics system allows you to grow almost any plant anywhere you want and it is is one of the few farming methods that can convert any terrain into an arable farming land. These systems put you in full control of the garden, and you will not have to worry about common soil gardening problems like climate, pest and soil diseases.
#5. Time Saving
Hydroponics saves you a lot of time and makes gardening simple and more convenient for you since you do not have to do things like weeding, pest control, and watering. And so it is the perfect farming method for gardeners that are always busy but still want to grow some plants.
Also the fact that hydroponics grow the plants faster (more than 50% faster than soil gardening) you can get more harvests every growing season. For example, a plant like lettuce would take about 2 months to mature from seedling when using soil, but in hydroponics, it only takes a month.
#6. No Pesticides and Excessive Use of Fertilizers
Provided you create a sterile environment for the plants you will not have any pest infestations, and so you do not have to use any pesticides. Also, eliminating soil means that there are no soil-borne diseases that might necessitate the use of chemicals.
With soil farming, you have to use a lot of fertilizer to ensure that the plants get all the nutrients that they need. The negative thing about this is that the fertilizers destroy the quality of the soil and pollute the environment. But, with hydroponics, this will never be an issue.
In Which Cases Should You Still Use Soil?
Hydroponics is a better method of farming than the traditional ones, but there are some cases that soil might still be the better option for you.
#1. Where you Do not have Stable Power Supply
Most hydroponics systems will be affected by power outages, and so if you do not live in an area with a steady supply, they might not work well for you. Prolonged and frequent power outages can ruin all your crops, but with soil gardening, this is not an issue. Also with soil, you do not have to worry about system malfunctions and mistakes.
#2. When you Want Completely Organic Plants
It is still possible to grow organic crops with hydroponics, but most people will not consider them "entirely" natural due to the absence of soil. Also, there are more than 75,000 different species of microbes in and healthy soil, and so it is almost impossible to get any hydroponic solution that includes all of them. And this means that it is not possible to make hydroponic plants completely organic.
#3. Where Cost is an Issue
With soil gardening, you only need to prepare the ground and plant the seeds hence making the initial investment quite small. For hydroponics, the original investment is quite high as you need to buy the system and set it up and so it might not work for you if you do not have the cash for this. Also, the system will require constant supervision which is both cash and time-consuming.
If you are looking for an alternative gardening method that will improve your yields and reduce the time it takes to grow plants hydroponics is an excellent choice. And you do not have to start big as you can start with a few crops or as a supplement for your soil gardening and make the transition gradually if it works well for you or of you like the experience.