If you’re someone who loves the idea of gardening but doesn’t love the idea of soil all over your house, you’re not alone. Just this past weekend, I was planting tiny garlic sprouts in the kitchen and lamenting at the soil that kept escaping onto the counter, into the sink, and all over the floor. But there is a way to grow plants indoors, and it doesn’t require getting your hands dirty.
Hydroponic gardening is growing in popularity, particularly for people in urban areas who don’t have much space or patience for dirt inside their homes. Called “hydro” for short, this method of gardening enriches the water rather than the soil. We’ve previously written about the AeroGarden, which is a high-tech hydroponic gardening system.
We often put compost and other nutrients into soil, releasing them when we water our plants. Hydro gardening just takes the soil out of the mix, putting those nutrients in the water instead. Plants grow because of the basic water + nutrients concept, so hydro works just as well—and in some cases, maybe even better.
Did you ever follow our suggestion for putting green onions in a glass of water to help them stay fresh and continue growing? If you did, you may have noticed the roots getting larger. That’s called passive hydroponic cloning.
Because it takes out the middleman, hydro gardening can make growing cycles faster, yields higher, and water usage lower. Oxygen is an essential element to healthy roots that grow quickly, but because soil holds onto moisture for so long, growth rate is typically slowed.
One of the simplest hydro methods is called “Flood and Drain.” At certain times throughout the day, the reservoir is flooded briefly and then drained. This allows roots to both get the nutrients they need and have access to oxygen, which encourages growth as they seek a new water source. It requires much more frequent watering, but plants tend to grow 2-8 times faster.
Hydro does require more tending than traditional soil gardening, but if you’re working with a small space and want to see high fruit and veggie yields fairly quickly, it is something to consider.