Hydroponic gardens may sound Greek to you. Yes, it may confound you like no other. Take heed, however, if you’re wanting to make the most of your life on planet Earth, there is no wiser decision than getting into hydroponic gardening today. Especially true for New Yorkers and Californians, and for people who have to make do with limited living space - not to mention skyrocketing rents. With more and more Americans tipping the scales and increasingly putting the nation on the top podium globally in terms of obesity, this may just be what the doctor ordered. To a large degree.
Cities have become a far cry from long ago when they were a beacon of hope - becoming synonymous with cultural decay and pollution instead. And the results say it all. Much as we have advanced technologically, there are still over 600,000 people succumbing to heart disease yearly. You may not have heard of hydroponic gardens. True. But for a healthier and happier you, it’s high time you should. Read on.
History of Hydroponic Gardens
Strictly speaking, hydroponics is a form of hydroculture — a broader method of growing plants without using soil. Water is the key difference. In hydroponics, you only use water and the nutrient solutions nurture the plants. In other forms of hydroculture, we use an inert. Specifically, these are solid growing mediums other than soil. Such soil alternatives are inorganic.
There are tremendous advantages to growing an indoor hydroponic garden. However, it was not until 1627 that the idea was officially hatched. Then, Francis Bacon, a most influential English statesman and scientist, published his work on growing plants without the use of soil. Truly it was a revolutionary idea — albeit printed posthumously in a book entitled ‘A Natural History’ (i.e., Sylva Sylvarum).
As novel as it is, Bacon’s idea quickly took ground and spread. Shortly thereafter, in 1699, John Woodward, a notable English naturalist, gave solid proof to Bacon’s theories. Woodward was happy to let the world know how his spearmints thrived in ‘less-pure’ water than in clearer and purer distilled water. Duly published in a book, these water culture experiments became the stepping stone for other scientists to build upon.
Centuries later in 1842, two German botanists named Wilhelm Knopp and Julius von Sachs picked the cudgels up. They laid the groundwork for the science behind soilless plants to prosper. Specifically, they listed nine elements for growing terrestrial plants without the benefit of solid soil. Aptly, these Germans referred to the whole process as ‘solution culture’. And their research quickly became the standard text on the subject.
All this gathered steam in 1929. Then, an American ‘showman’ scientist named William Frederick Gericke (1882 - 1970) gained credit as the author of the word hydroponics. Gericke was a Nebraska-born notable plant physiologist and crop expert at the University of California. He stunned the world by growing tomatoes as high as 25 feet or 7.6 meters using nutrient-rich solutions right in his own yard.
Soilless Plants Conquers America
Moreover, Gericke first used the word hydroponics, a term suggested to him in 1937 by W. A. Setchell. Though Setchell was a noted phycologist, he was also an expert in the classics.
Derived from the Greek language, hydroponics is a neologism of the Greek word for water (ύδωρ) and cultivate (πονέω). In a sense, it’s two words turned into one.
As stunning and brilliant as Gericke is, however, he met substantial opposition. Fearing perhaps the prospects of soil-less farming, the university itself forbid him to use its greenhouses. The scientist had to do his research at home. Eventually, the university allowed Gericke to use its greenhouses but with reservations. It assigned two fellow scientists, Arnon and Hoagland, to reformulate Gericke’s formula to show that soil-less agriculture is inferior to traditional soil variety.
And yet, Gericke came through. He published his works via a book called Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening - but not before leaving the walls of the university.
Not to be outdone, however, Daniel I. Arnon and Dennis R. Hoagland wrote an agricultural bulletin in 1838. Entitled “The Water Culture Method for Growing Plants Without Soil” the bulletin claimed that Gericke’s hydroponic plant yields were not superior to plants cultivated in good old traditional soil.
Arnon’s and Hoagland’s research, however, was biased right from the onset. It failed to mention the essential advantages of hydroponics. For instance, their study never cited the fact that plants had greater access to vital oxygen.
Its Commercial and Technological Use Today
Today, hydroponic gardens are spreading by leaps and bounds. NASA in its quest for space conquest, for one, is doing extensive research on the topic. Currently, the government body is looking into growing plants using an LED-lighted set-up to mimic the environment on planet Mars.
True to Gericke’s vision, businesses are increasingly pitching in. In 2007, Eurofresh Farms, a company in Arizona, sold over 200 million pounds of fresh hydroponically-cultured tomatoes — all pesticide-free. So great are their results that the company has dedicated over 318 acres under glass for this purpose alone.
The science itself is inspiring other ideas, giving way to aeroponic farming for instance. And save the “future of food” on an increasingly water-stressed planet that’s projected to carry an unprecedented 11 billion people by 2100. Such an ever-growing population will pose a huge challenge to humanity. Already, global water resources are becoming scarce — adversely affected by climate change.
Then, there’s the case for water pollution. As recent water consumption statistics show, about 2 million tons of sewage are being released into the planet’s waters daily. That translates to millions of people worldwide having to contend with “unhealthy” water sources daily.
- 1.2 billion need to access safe water source over 30 minutes away
- 368 million drink “unclean water” from springs and wells
- 282 million with limited access to a healthy water source over 30 minutes away
- 122 million use water from “unsafe sources” (e.g., lakes, rivers)
That simple lack of healthy, potable water is killing humanity. Yearly, experts estimate this safe water shortage leads to 485,000 deaths from a wide range of diseases. Top of the list is polio, cholera, and typhoid, collectively about 80% of all the world’s known diseases on the planet. The sad part’s that these diseases are easily preventable with better access to clean water.
Benefits of an Indoor Hydroponic Garden for You
With more and more people converging, population density is highest in the cities. Added to that, there is an uptick in people traveling - riding their caravans to the ends of the Earth for instance. Such trends provide an ideal scenario for you for hydroponic gardening. And along with these reasons are:
1. Unparalleled Space Maximization
Indeed, with hydroponics, you can start small. The setup would be spot on if you live in a space-challenged rental unit in a major city or the uber-pricey penthouse of the tallest skyscraper in New York. Small wonder hydroponics is called “The Future of Farming”.
2. Tremendous Water Saver
Don’t get us wrong. Hydroponic gardens use water as a solution. So you may ask, how can you save water more with this method? Take note that in a hydroponic set-up, you may recycle water and the nutrients used. This way, it is able to save as much as 95% percent of water compared to traditional methods, government studies reveal.
In a world that’s increasing its population by leaps and bounds, hydroponic’s water-saving ability is nothing short of timely. Today, the increasing global water consumption is predicted to come to a head: an unavoidable problem of water shortage. Needless to say, pertinent data on water consumption is getting scarier by the day:
- America, though waning at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, is among the top five countries with the highest water consumption (2842 m3 per capita)
- the U.S bottled water consumption ($86,40 billion in 2022) is the biggest amongst other countries polluting the oceans with plastic in the process
- Less water supply means more dangerous wildfires in the U.S. (56 wildfires burning 1.4 million acres so far in 2022)
Indeed, hydroponic gardening has come of age. Its ability to use as much as 10 times less water compared to traditional farming provides the perfect solution to such an impending water crisis. What’s more, not only will it need less water, hydroponics produces a greater yield of fruits and vegetables compared to soil-dependent agriculture.
3. Superior Quality Yields
Gericke was right all along. Credit it to greater access to nutrients, plants grown hydroponically are superior in nutritional content. That may sound surprising. But truly, this could be your greatest reason to start growing fruits and vegetables this way.
Studies show vegetables grown in a hydroponic setup had 50 percent more vitamins when compared to products from traditional means. We’re talking about vitamins A and B complexes. Add vitamins C and E to that list and you know these are top-of-the-line produce.
4. Greater Control
Think about it. Unlike soil, you can easily manipulate the water used to nourish your indoor hydroponic garden. That only means you can easily add nutrients when found wanting, something you can hardly check in the soil. Indeed, this is a better-controlled environment.
5. Fewer Chemicals
You certainly are doing the planet a favor with hydroponics. First up, you’re doing away with soil erosion. To date, field agriculture practices have consistently eroded Earth’s soil for the last 150 years. That problem goes away with soilless farming.
Even better, you lower the need for pesticides. Though you still have to deal with it, pest issues are a lot less compared to traditional agriculture. So, your need for harmful pesticides and herbicides is largely sidelined. Further, weeds have a far slimmer chance of taking over with hydroponics so there’s a slim chance you’ll need herbicides.
6. Lighter Labor
The best part for you? You won’t have to work your butt off just to get the products you need. And that’s precisely because you won’t have to tend to a seemingly endless list of soil problems. Right? You need not pull weeds for instance. You need not shovel. Or for that matter, push a wheelbarrow. Imagine all the tedious labor you’re doing away with. It’s a no-brainer.
Hydroponic Gardening: Helping You Live Life to the Fullest
By allowing yourself access to better yield via hydroponic gardening, you promote better health. But that’s not all.
Now you won’t have the convenient excuse of a cramped space for not gardening. And by such bliss, you put your health a notch higher.
By giving you the chance to garden, hydroponic gardening is giving you greater access to healthy produce. In addition, two distinct studies reveal people in their prime age (i.e., the 60s to 70s) who garden regularly had a 36 percent to 47 percent lesser chance of getting dementia compared to people who don’t, CNN health reports.
Add stress relief and exercise into that equation and you know getting hydroponic gardens in your abode is like breathing fresh morning air in a polluted city.