For a few dozen centuries now, dirt has done humanity just fine. Apart from being a pretty solid standing spot beneath our feet, soil has long been the ideal medium for growing crops - from wild cereals bred to be, well, bread; to today’s wide variety of delicious fruits, veggies, and greens that line the supermarket shelves. But one major improvement designed to save time, boost profits, and improve harvests has the entire industry is turning on its head - and it’s all thanks to hydroponic growing.
When it comes to pitting hydroponics vs. soil, hydroponics offer a whole lot more than a dirt-free way of bringing up your usual crops. Hydro grows help increase yields while saving growers time, money, and effort, all while helping you kiss soil (and the problems it brings with it) goodbye, for good.
1. First, The Downsides of Dirt
When growing in soil, plants need a lot of room to spread out - driven, it turns out, by the roots themselves, which reach out as far as possible into the soil to capture as much water as possible.
The problem with growing in soil is that soil is notoriously terrible at holding on to water or nutrients for more than a few minutes - most of that goodness simply filters down the water table, or gets soaked up by other plants buried nearby. That makes it nearly impossible to control exactly how much water each of your plants receive, or which nutrients they benefit from in the process.
2. Want To Conserve Water in Your Greenhouse? Lose The Soil.
For farmers looking to improve their harvest while decreasing overall cost, few savings do more for your bottom line - and for the environment - than water conservation. But when it comes to finding ways to save water, the best solution may actually be right under your feet.
We’re talking about dirt - or, more specifically, the practice of raising crops in it. According to researchers at the University of Arizona, soil-grown crops use around 10 times as much water as crops grown hydroponically - that is, with roots allowed to grow in nutrient-rich water as opposed to tilled and watered soil. By transitioning your crops from dirt to hydroponics, you can seriously boost your efficiency while drastically using the water needed to bring your plants to harvest.
Those who've switched to hydroponics have found that soil-grown crops can be wasteful, hydroponics can save water by the gallon, and implementation of a hydroponic grow on your farm is not that difficult. With hydroponics, you can get growing with a more efficient system than ever before.
3. Reduce Disease and Boost Your Pest Control
Want to provide diseases, bugs, and otherwise harmful invaders with the perfect place to lie in wait for your crops? Often times, dirt is just the place, with a host of plant illnesses and pests hiding just below the surface. In many cases, diseases or infestations that affect one year’s crop - like root rot, powdery mildew, grubs, or other maladies - can even transfer from one year’s grow to the next, making it difficult for small-scale farmers to recover from pests once they take hold.
By growing in a controlled, soil-free hydroponic environment, growers can effectively stop most diseases or pests in their tracks before they spread to the entire harvest, and can also reduce the likelihood of passing on diseases or infestations to next year’s crop. While no system is completely free of disease or pests, working with hydroponic growing medium in a controlled, clean sustainable environment can drastically reduce your chances of running into as many issues as you would with soil.
4. What Weeds? Hydroponics Removes Your Need to Pull Weeds
Ask any traditional, conventional farmer who’s been in the business a while how their herbicide budget has grown over the years and they’ll likely show you a figure that’s higher than they’d ever hoped for. That’s because today’s farmers really have two options for growing outdoors: continue spending more on herbicides to fight ever-stronger, herbicide-resistant weeds, or dedicate hours and hours to weeding each bed by hand. On top of that, weeds suck up vital water, light, and nutrients that your plants need, and so in many cases allowing them to simply stick around is out of the question.
Rather than fighting an uphill battle against a determined weed army, why not cut them out entirely right from the get-go? By growing in a sustainable hydroponic environment, you provide space and resources for only the plants you choose to raise, with weeds having little to no chance to set up shop where they don’t belong. That’s a long-term savings of time, money, and effort that traditional soil farming practices simply can’t match - and who wants to risk trampling delicate sprouts to rip out weeds anyway?
5. Bring Bigger Harvests To Market, Faster
Hydroponic growing doesn’t just make your growing cycle easier, it also makes it longer and more efficient. That’s because hydroponic operations are generally confined indoors, where environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and available light can all be closely controlled. This allows growers to create ideal environments sustainable for specific plants, helping produce larger harvests with more consistent quality.
Because oxygen and nutrients are delivered directly and intensively to the roots of your plants, many crops actually reach their harvesting stage faster than they would in the ground. Plus, since growing indoors allows farmers to keep harvests coming even through the winter season, most hydroponic growers continue growth and production all year round, offering better profits and larger harvests even when the competition is buried under feet of snow.
Why Mess Around in the Mud When You Can Get Growing With Hydroponics?
No matter how you look at it, hydroponic growing looks more and more like the way of the future - not only environmentally-friendly, but more economical than traditional methods for better and more consistent results. And best of all, new and affordable hydroponic systems make hydroponic growing open to any and all willing to give it a go, and many of those who make the switch find the benefits and long term profitability far outweigh the cost to get started.
Whether you’re in search of a way to lose the least efficient parts of your grow cycle or you need a way to boost harvests without increasing your growing space, hydroponic growing may just be exactly what you’re looking for. Say goodbye to dirt, and hello to hydroponics - and get ready to take your grow to the next level.