A hydroponic garden is a method of growing plants in nutrient rich water instead of soil.
In most gardens, the roots of the plant would be potted into a pot or planted into the ground where the soil that surrounds them are filled with nutrients and it gets watered every day. In a hydroponic garden, the plants sit in a pot filled with a material such as perlite which doesn’t have any nutrients in it at all and then the pot sits in tubes of flowing water which has been enriched with liquid fertiliser that feeds the plant.
Leafy vegetables such as lettuces, English spinach and some herbs are often grown hydroponically for the supermarkets. You may have seen them since their roots will probably still be in a very small plastic pot. Growers of these plants prefer hydroponics because it is a cleaner way to grow. The plants are off the ground, there are not weeds and less pests and diseases, and the amount of fertiliser the plants get can be controlled so that they grow quicker and are ready for the market earlier.
Hydroponic gardens are actually very waterwise even though the plant always sits in water. There is no water wasted from reticulation that sprays onto paths and areas of the garden where it’s not needed and the plant can never get too much water. In fact, the water that is in the hydroponic system just keeps circulating and the only amount that is lost is what the plant takes up and a very small amount through evaporation.
Small hydroponic kits are available from hardware stores and garden centres which is a great way to try this technique at home or at school. They need to be plugged into electricity or a solar panel so that the pump runs and circulates the water around continuously, but once they are set up, they are very easy to maintain. After all, the plants don’t need to be watered every day or even weeded.
Hydroponic lettuce is grown in small pots which sit in tubes through which nutrient enriched water flows.