This page is about hydroponic gardening and the method of growing plants in nutrient solutions, without soil. Under normal conditions, soil captures and stores nitrogen, potassium, and other mineral nutrients, which plant roots absorb gradually. Hydroponics, in contrast, immerses roots directly in liquid nutrient solutions. Plants are either suspended above water with their roots submerged, or they are placed in sand or in sterile growing mediums and regularly flooded with liquid nutrients. Proponents say this minimizes nutrient loss and allows more precise control over the nutrients the plants receive.
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, which is the growing of plants in a soil less medium, or an aquatic based environment. Hydroponic growing uses mineral nutrient solutions to feed the plants in water, without soil.
For those of us who love growing plants these are exciting times indeed. We are no longer limited by climate or by season in the pursuit of our harmless pleasures. We can now grow virtually any plant at virtually any time of the year – the only limitation is our imagination. The simple, effective hydroponic systems now available, coupled with modern horticultural lighting, have transformed our hobby and freed us to grow our favourite plants where and when we choose. More about hydroponic gardening and it's history below.
The principles of hydroponic gardening have been used since ancient times. They were brought to popular attention in the United States in 1937 by Dr. W. F. Gericke, who introduced the word "hydroponic" (from the Greek words for "water" and "work") and publicly displayed immense tomato plants cultivated by this method. Hydroponics became a brief fad. Although popular interest subsided, hydroponic methods continued to be developed and studied. In World War II, soldiers on Pacific islands grew their vegetables hydroponically, and in the 1960s large commercial hydroponic greenhouses and multiacre hydroponic farms were established in many locations around the United States.
In the early 2000s hydroponic systems ranged from small home setups to large enterprises. Advocates saw hydroponics as a way to increase the world's food supply and as a form of cultivation suitable for the confines of spacecraft. However, most people viewed hydroponics as a supplement to traditional growing methods rather than as a replacement. It is not suitable for all plants, must be done carefully, and can require large amounts of water.