Hydroponic Gardening’s Reputation is Growing

Hydroponic gardening isn’t just for potheads anymore.

Growing produce without soil and in limited space is increasingly popular among both backyard gardeners and commercial farmers. Unpredictable weather — such as this year’s four Florida hurricanes, which sent tomato prices soaring — and soil contamination and erosion have turned growers’ attention to a technology that dates to pre-Christian Rome. Well established in the Netherlands and Canada, where cloudy skies and long winters abbreviate the growing season, hydroponic farming involves dissolving such nutrients as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium in water, and delivering it directly to a plant’s roots.

The roots grow in aerated water, humid air or a moist medium such as rock wool or vermiculite pebbles. High-powered lights and heat are also needed, and plants often grow larger and faster than they do with traditional farming. It’s especially successful with such tender crops as tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries.

Tooling Up for Hydroponics

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