Grow Plants Hydroponically

Say goodbye to soil and hello to water-based gardening.

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Hydroponically Grown Purple Bell Pepper

This gorgeous purple bell pepper grew successfully without soil.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Grow Up! Hydrogarden

Image courtesy of Grow Up! Hydrogarden

This gorgeous purple bell pepper grew successfully without soil.

Pop quiz: You have a plant, a pot and some water. What are you missing? 

Answer: Nothing. 

Plants grow in soil; it's gardening 101. But plants can also grow without soil thanks to a method called hydroponics. "Hydroponics … uses nutrient-rich water to feed and nourish the root systems of plants, promoting faster growth and higher yield," says Barrie Freeman, inventor of the Grow Up! Hydrogarden

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Grow Up Hydropgarden

Vertical garden systems like the Grow Up! Hydrogarden save space and thrive on their own.

Vertical garden systems like the Grow Up! Hydrogarden save space and thrive on their own.

For those who've been sticking seeds in soil for decades, it might seem odd that plants can survive in other mediums like aggregate, sand, pumice or perlite, but Freeman says it's the future of farming. "Large scale hydroponic farming is practiced worldwide as a healthy, space-saving, highly successful method of growing food," she says. "It's also great way to garden for those with a balcony or small space." 

And it isn't exactly a newfangled concept: Sir Francis Bacon published a book called Sylva Sylvarum in 1627 about growing plants with water instead of soil. 

Like soil gardening, hydroponics takes many different forms, but Freeman's Hydrogarden includes pots, a lid, PVC plumbing, perlite, a pH tester, nutrients and a 20-gallon reservoir in which water and nutrients are pumped to the top of the planter and circulated throughout. "All the essential nutrients that plants require to grow are constantly available to the roots and it uses 90 percent less water than soil gardening," she says.  

Here are a few other of Freeman's dirty truths about soil-less gardening: 

  • You can grow plants in any climate and zone as long as you're mindful of the growing season of each plant. 
  • With proper lighting and ventilation, hydroponics can happen indoors and out.
  • Many pests are eliminated but no garden is completely free of bugs. 
  • Annuals and smaller root ball plants work best. Freeman grows everything from arugula and beets to beans, cauliflower, eggplant, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, melons, tomatoes and squash hydroponically.

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