Hydroponics, also known as soil-less gardening or indoor horticulture, sounds like a new, high-tech process, but it is, in fact, an ancient way of growing things that has been updated. Recent advances in this method are such that anyone can now have hydroponic systems at home, as long as you have a little space in a conservatory, greenhouse or spare room.
The ancient Romans used soil-less growing techniques. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is perhaps the most well-known hydroponic system ever to exist.
In 1699 John Woodward studied spearmint grown in rainwater and river water. His results prompted others to look at this method of producing vegetables and herbs.
The current-day systems came out of research conducted by Berkeley College in 1938 as a way to create sustainable agriculture. Nowadays, 90% of the cut flowers purchased in the UK are grown indoors, and Disney supplies most of its food outlets with produce grown in The Land hydroponic area at its EPCOT theme park .
Why is it becoming so popular?
Mainly because crops grown this way take up less space and the yield, appearance, reliability and taste can all be maximised. When grown in soil, the root system of a plant needs to continuously expanded to seek out water and nutrients. Remove the soil and the roots get all they need in a precise and measured way through the mineral-rich solution that they are placed in. Light is measured via timed grow lights as well, allowing maximisation of growth time. The hydroponic systems can be stacked one on top of the other, or in spirals, so the floor space is minimized, meaning more produce per square metre can be achieved.
For the gardener who wants to try something new, hydroponic systems can be set up at home with the right equipment. There is an initial outlay, but once you’re up and running, the higher and more predictable yield makes it worth the investment.