Vegetables (or fruit) can easily be grown in hydroponics but is it really worth the trouble?
Hydroponics are back in fashion, mainly due to cannabis growers: bigger harvest, it’s something different, fun to experiment with…
But it remains, in my opinion, especially interesting for houseplants, orchids etc… less interesting for fruit and vegetables.
Hydroponics has many advantages:
- less water needed and wasted
- no insects hiding in the substrate
- no molds such as those that develop in soil
- can be practiced either outdoors or indoors
- no problems with too much or too little watering: the plant absorbs the amount of water that it needs
- no weeds
But also a few disadvantages :
- vegetables have less flavor than those grown in soil
- the pot in which the nutrient solution is kept should not become too hot, certainly not placed in full sun
- the pot in which the roots of the plant are must also receive no direct sunlight
- DIY installations with pump have a fairly high risk of leakage
- depending on how much vegetables you plan on growing, you need a lot of pots or large containers
There is no nutritional difference between vegetables grown on hydroponics or soil.
I see studies on the internet claiming that, in a comparative taste test, people found no difference in taste between vegetables grown in hydroponics and those grown in soil.
Well, anyone who has a vegetable garden or tasted veggies from Grandpa’s garden will tell you: lettuce from the supermarket, which is grown on hydroponics, is less savory than the ones from the garden.
Even cannabis growers say this: the cannabis cultivated in hydroponics is less savory than the one grown in soil.
So yes, the harvest is bigger, the chances of pests and diseases are much smaller. But it is at the expense of flavor.
Do you have a garden with space for a vegetable plot ?
Then growing vegetables in hydroponics does not really make much sense. Yes, you need less water and there is less chance of infestation or mold.
But you need to find a place for those hideous plastic (and usually brightly colored) pots.
If you have a system with pump, it will weigh on your electricity bill. Unless you install a solar panel course, but then there is the purchase cost.
Do you live in apartment, with or without balcony?
Then hydroponics might be easier: a bag of expanded clay granules or vermiculite doesn’t weigh as much as a bag of soil, especially if there is no elevator.
But then prefer passive hydroponics: in active hydroponics (with a pump), the risk of leakage is quite big.
Is hydroponics ecological?
Organic, yes. It seems hydroponics meets the criteria for organic farming.
Ecological? Not so sure…
- you need (hopefully recycled) plastic containers, in the garden you do not need those
- you have to buy (industrially manufactured) substrate, in the garden you plant in the ground
- you need to check the level of the nutrient solution regularly, in the garden you water only when it has not rained for a while
- you have to buy specialized fertilizer, in the garden you can use your compost as fertilizer
- if you use a pump, you use electricity, not in the garden
The advantages of hydroponics mainly play a role in industrial farming: 90 % less water , no soil depletion, fewer pests and thus less pesticides, higher yield, climate independent, soil independent…
But on a small scale those benefits weigh less heavily. The question remains whether you really want less tasty salads.
Hydroponics is fun to experiment with but many people stop because of the taste, the risk of leakage and the hassle of building more complex systems yourself.