Which is better: hydroponics or soil?
We are often asked whether hydroponic systems are better than traditional soil gardening. The reality is, that neither is necessarily better. Both environments are able to grow plants successfully but there are a range of external factors as well as advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Working out which option might be best for your circumstance can be easier for experienced growers, however, we will outline some of the things to consider before growing plants with a hydroponic setup.
Firstly, it's important to understand what hydroponic growing actually is. A hydroponic system is a growing system where you can grow plants without soil.
Instead, plants are growing in a controlled environment using an inert medium and fertigated using a nutrient solution. Whilst not soil, the plants receive the same water and nutrients they need to grow from the nutrient solutions. Different hydroponic systems such as vertical or tower gardens are a great space-saving option. Plants also grow faster in hydroponic systems.
It should be noted that buying a hydroponic system does have a higher initial cost than soil growing but it can be more effective in the long run.
Factors to consider before purchasing a hydroponic system
The first thing worth considering before growing plants using hydroponic methods is the requirements of the crop you're choosing to grow. If you are choosing a plant that is high maintenance, requires specific lighting requirements or a tailor-made nutrient solution to achieve optimal growth, then an environment where you have complete control would be worthwhile.
Location & Environment of Your Garden
The environment is extremely important, ensuring that it is correct for your crop is crucial to achieving optimal growth. Growing in an unfavorable environment will result in a weak, slow growing plants that are more susceptible to pests and diseases. Being able to control the environment is essential to achieving the best results consistently.
When gardening, it is important to know what you want to achieve from the garden. If you are hoping to create some healthy food and thus the quality and yield of the plant are important to you, then we'd suggest choosing hydroponics. There are typically higher yields when the nutrients and environment are closely controlled.
One of the never-ending tasks of a soil garden is consistently amending the soil. Certain crops will require the soil to rest between cycles. It can take a significant amount of time for soil growers to build up the quality of their soil. Whilst for some, this is a part of the joy of gardening. For others time or labor may be a contributing factor.
If water conservation is a concern for your garden then you should definitely grow hydroponically. Soil grown plants use much more water than your typical hydroponic system.
Soil Grown Plants vs Hydroponic Grown Plants
There are plenty of advantages of using hydroponics compared to plants grown using soil.
Firstly, a controlled environment. The lighting, temperature, humidity and nutrients are tailored to the crop thus achieving optimal growth and consistent results. Controlling the environment is also essential to avoiding problems with diseases such as Botrytis or Powdery Mildew which can destroy an entire crop very quickly.
That being said, there are disadvantages to growing hydroponically. When it comes to food, although there is most likely a higher yield and faster growth rate in the crop, the flavour has been known to be lacking in certain fruits and vegetables. Whilst a relatively easy method to grow plants, recirculating systems need to be kept clean. Certain diseases like Phytophthora (Root Rot) or Fusarium will spread through the entire system and destroy a crop extremely quickly.
The lack of control in traditional soil gardens can contribute to more work for our gardeners. Plants that have a nutrient deficiency or are sick are much more susceptible to attack from pests or diseases.
Most soil and potting mixes tend to be laden with pests and diseases and can ruin your plant before it is given a chance to reach its vegetative stage.
Why we prefer Hydroponics over Soil
In summary, whilst organic material and natural soil can be the preference for some gardeners, in the battle of hydroponics vs soil, we would always recommend hydroponics. The experience of growing with hydroponics can be so enjoyable and tends to typically produce a much higher quality plant with much less maintenance and water usage.
Talk to one of our hydroponic specialists in-store or give us a call to talk through your garden's needs for our recommendations for you and your setup.