Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil that has been used for many years. It may seem strange to grow plants without any soil, but hydroponics works so much better than the traditional method of growing plants in soil. For plants to flourish they require two things: mineral nutrients and water. If the nutrients are provided within the water and delivered to the roots, there is no requirement to have soil present in the growing system. In a hydroponic growing system, a nutrient-charged, water-based solution covers the root zone to provide the plants with the resources needed for optimal growth.
There are many benefits to using hydroponic grow systems: fewer resources are consumed, arable land isn’t required, and the harvestable plants are of higher quality than when grown using traditional methods. In the last sixty or seventy years, these benefits have increased the popularity of hydroponics, and have expanded the limited possibilities of indoor and urban gardening.
Most hydroponics setups are housed indoors, protected from the climate and pests, and have supplemental full spectrum (red, white and blue) lights for growing. Because of this, it’s possible to grow plants for much longer than the season permits outside, allowing growers to provide healthy produce all year-round.
Kent is home to the UK’s largest hydroponic greenhouse complex at Thanet Earth and the 220 acres provide us with 8 – 12% of our tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers purchased in this country. It is also home to the only UK based kitchen countertop hydroponic kit manufacturer.
Countertop hydroponics is new and arrived around 5 years ago. It combines the water tank, circulation pump, timers and LED lights all into a single unit with simple buttons for ease of use. The price has fallen from around £350 to just over £70 and demand has soared, driven by a desire to enjoy fresh herbs in the kitchen rather than rely on supermarket varieties that last only for a few days.
Growing herbs and flowers indoors has never been so easy and enjoyable as it is today. Coming into one’s kitchen, admiring the glow from the LED lights and seeing fresh herbs cultivated from seeds or cuttings that are growing around 2cm each day. Even those who have no green fingers can get seeds to germinate and cuttings from the garden will start growing almost immediately. In fact one can grow anything at anytime of the year in a countertop unit and if required, then plant outside in the garden when ready.
For clean, fresh herbs that taste as good as they look, one simply cannot beat hydroponics. Once started, you will be hooked and for some, either a second or third machine will add space for cuttings or flowers or others who will graduate to larger kits, making their greenhouses obsolete. Why not try it and see what you can grow?