Hydroponics vs Soil: 7 Reasons Hydroponics Wins
If you’re like me, you probably started out in your gardening hobby by growing in soil. I started out with some pepper, rhubarb chard and herb seedlings from the local garden store, threw them in some pots and watered them every few days.
Watching them grow over the months was an amazing introduction to the magic of growing my own veggies and herbs.
Listen to this post on the Epic Gardening Podcast:
However, I was hungry for more.
I stumbled upon hydroponics through a friend and became fascinated by growing plants without using soil. I was the kid in elementary school who spent his summers at science camps and got microscopes and crystal growing kits for his birthday, so it’s no surprise that as soon as I heard about hydroponics I wanted to give it a try.
After some experimentation, I was hooked. It became clear to me that growing hydroponically was vastly superior to using soil both for commercial growers and hobbyists like myself.
I put together this list for those of you who are thinking about jumping in to hydroponics from soil gardening. There’s a lot to learn!
1. Space Savings
Hydroponics saves an incredible amount of space compared to traditional soil gardening. Usually, a plant’s roots need space to spread out through the soil. Not anymore! Instead, they are submerged in a bath of oxygenated nutrient solution.
Imagine if you had everything you needed to eat in a little pill.
You didn’t need to hunt around for food or eat three meals a day – you simply popped the pill and your body was dosed with a perfect supply of nutrients.
This is what hydroponics provides your plants. Instead of using soil as a carrier for the nutrients your plants need, hydroponics uses a customized nutrient solution to surround your plants with perfectly calibrated nutrition all of the time.
Because of this, you get to pack your plants closer together, resulting in a huge space savings!
2. Hydroponics Saves Water
Let’s think about how the average soil gardener waters their plants. Usually every few days they dump a good amount of water into their soil, ensuring good penetration into the soil so the roots can suck it up.
Sounds great, right?
Well, it’s only part of the picture.
Some of that water drips out of the bottom of their container or seeps further into the ground. Some of it evaporates out of the soil.
Only a small percentage of the water is used by the plant. Hydroponics solves this problem by using what is called a recirculating nutrient reservoir in most types of systems (Deep Water Culture being one of the most popular).
This means that a plant’s roots will only take up the amount of water they need at any one time and leave the rest in the reservoir for later. The reservoir is covered to prevent evaporation and no water can seep out of the bottom.
This allows the same amount of water that was used to water a plant in soil for a day to water a plant in a hydroponics setup for days or weeks at a time. You can save around 90% of the water used in soil gardening simply by switching to a hydroponic setup.
3. No Weeding Necessary
One of the most common excuses I hear when someone tells me why they don’t want to garden is:
I don’t want to spend all of my time on my hands and knees weeding!
Easy solution. Switch to hydroponics. No soil, no weeds. Simple as that.
4. Less Pests and Diseases
Following that same logic, pests and diseases are drastically reduced in hydroponics. Soil is taken out of the picture and replaced with one of the common hydroponic growing media. Eliminating soil also eliminates a lot of the different soil borne diseases and pests that plague traditional gardening.
5. Double-Headed Time Savings
This is my favorite reason of all. Not only does growing hydroponically save you the time of weeding, pest control and watering, it also speeds up the growth of the plant.
If you’re growing outdoors, that means you get to squeeze in more harvest cycles before your growing season ends.
You also get to observe the growth of plants at a quicker pace and learn about all of the different things you could do to improve the growth much quicker.
For example, you can take a head of lettuce from seedling to harvest in around a month in hydroponics compared to two months in soil. Imagine how much faster you could become a gardening expert with a time savings like that!
6. Gives You EXTREME Control
All of the reasons above combine to form one uber-powerful mega reason why hydroponics (and all soilless growing, for that matter) absolutely dominates soil gardening: control.
You become the master of your plant’s environment. It’s up to you to create the perfect nutrient mixture, temperature, humidity and growing schedule.
It’s kind of like that movie “The Truman Show.” You’re the showrunner, and your plants are Truman. You turn the sun on and off. You control when your plants get fed and what they eat. You’re fully responsible for their well-being. It’s a wonderful thing!
7. You Get To Become a Guerilla Scientist
All of the additional control you have over your growing environment makes for a great way to learn how to grow plants. You can tweak the variables and see how your plants react. You get to customize the “environmental recipe” to whatever plant you’re growing.
Believe me when I say that each plant is unique. Figuring out what adjustments you should make to your environment when you’re growing lettuce vs. basil is like solving a puzzle: you need to make the pieces fit together to produce a great final product.
That’s part of the fun of it! Hydroponics provides a miniature lab for you to conduct any experiment you can dream up.
What Are You Waiting For?
I’ve given you seven reasons why you should at the very least supplement your soil garden with a hydroponic system. You don’t have to start big. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out my hydroponic herb guide. It’ll walk you through a basic system that produces fresh herbs year round! You can also check out the best books for beginners to hydroponics.
Also, if you have any other reasons why hydroponics wins out over soil gardening, feel free to let me know in the comments!
Photo Credits (in order): Kanu Hawaii, photochem_pa, phil and pam