Friday, September 4, 2015


     What do plants need to live? Water. Sunlight. Nutrients. Most of us would add "dirt" to that list as well but, surprisingly, dirt is not a requirement for all plants. Hydroponics is a great way to prove that dirt or soil aren't requirements. It is possible to grow many veggies and some fruits in water that has liquid fertilizer in it. This is called hydroponics.

     Often times, hydroponics uses something like rocks, Styrofoam or plastic pipe to hold the plant's roots. These are called media (medium if singular). As long as the media allows air to get to the roots and the water isn't constantly flooding the roots, the plant will produce fruit. Another good part of hydroponics is that it is difficult for weeds to grow. The weeds aren't able to find their way into the medium and take root as easily as plants that are placed there on purpose.

     This is a great system if you want to control the system. You could set up a system that only have one mechanical part and natural processes would take care of the rest. Putting a pump into a system that auto-magically pulled in fertilizer as it pumped would take care of the constant water source. Letting gravity to the rest would close the cycle.

     One of the drawbacks of hydroponics is that it requires an regular input. The sun is free. The water can be free if harvested from rain events. The liquid fertilizer is an input that must be added over time. This resource creates a continual demand which makes it less sustainable than other systems like aquaculture or aquaponics.

     Below are some examples of a hydroponics system that grows strawberries. Our students are thinning out the strawberries that multiplied asexually over the previous year. They were able to take a strawberry plug home and start some strawberries of their own. The hydroponics system in these pictures is a system called Verti-Gro. It saves on space and water by stacking the grow media vertically (hence the name).

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