Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hydroponics vs. Organic Gardening

I have had a number of people ask me why I don't practice or experiment with hydroponics. Considering my love of plants, gardening, and new ways of doing things, it seems a logical extension. Several years ago I went to Disney World with my family and my wife surprised me with a behind-the-scenes tour of EPCOT's greenhouses, including their hydroponics lab. I really learned a lot about hydroponics there. Most importantly, I learned how much I am NOT interested in trying it out.

Hydroponics is a soil-less method of growing plants. Plants are grown in a series of tubes or in a soil-less medium with a constantly-flowing water/nutrient broth solution washing over their bare roots. The result is plants that grow faster, reach maturity quicker, and have fewer problems with pests and diseases than traditionally grown plants. The disadvantage is that it has to be done in a greenhouse under specific and constantly-monitored conditions. The water also has to be moving and aerated, which requires a pump, which requires electricity. Material costs are also high to get started since you can't just dig a hole in the ground and go.

Hydroponics and organic gardening seek solutions to the same problems posed by traditional agriculture, but seek to solve them with diametrically opposed methods. Where organic gardening seeks to improve the health and biological activity of the soil, hydroponics removes the soil altogether. One seeks to understand nature and use it to its advantage, while the other seeks to remove nature from the equation completely.

The thing that I like about bioneering in general and organic gardening specifically is that nature is a self-regulating and self-correcting system. I'm lazy and often too busy to do optional tasks in a timely manner. By having the right organisms in place and giving them the materials they need to thrive, the natural processes can guide the life in the system and help everything help itself, with minimal effort from me. That's not to say that there is no work involved. I still need to collect organic material (really no harder than recycling), compost it (the worms really do all the work there), mulch, plant, weed, water and harvest (but that part's not really work, now is it?). But organic gardening gives me elbow room on when I have to do all that. That is what draws me to bioneering and organic gardening. It is all about the flexibility in the system and letting nature do the work for me.

All that is missing from hydroponics. Nature is removed from the system. The beneficial organisms are removed with the harmful ones. The only beneficial organism left in the system is the human, and that leaves a lot of slack to be picked up. I'm too lazy for that.


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  4. Wow,
    If you are lazy as you put it , meaning you obviously grow on a very small scale and obviously do not have lack of food and I am guessing you get groceries, then growing in the soil is well a side hobby ,, However when you factor in:
    1.Growing for 10-1000+ people.
    2.Hydroponics uses 98% less water then 3.traditional
    4.grows food faster
    5.uses 98% less nutrients as it only is given the nutrients it needs w/ no waste
    6.does not have pest and weed issues and therefore does not need natural pesticides.
    7. Has a controlled environment so one can grow all year round.
    8. The maintenance is minimal- check water for PH and nutrient levels once a week --ad a nutrient solution-watch plants grow and flourish -eat food all year round for whole community.
    9. Uses way less space than traditional as root systems do not compete for nutrition.
    10.Way , way less labor involved.
    11.You control nutrients so you know exactly what your eating
    12. The food produced tastes really fresh and good.
    13.Can also be grown indoors on a small scale . We supplemented are meals with, lettuce , tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, broccoli, basil, kale, and more for a whole year with a small kits we made ourselves.

    However of your lazy or do not really need or want to grow food as its readily available then ...ya .... this may not apply ...however if I got you interested go to for FREE info with case studies.