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How You Can Grow Your Own Food At Home Without Using Soil Just Water

Updated on October 29, 2015

Traditional Growing Methods

Gardens Can Be Anywhere

Many of you may have heard about hydroponics, the growing of plants in water without the use of soil, through commercials and retail advertisements. Typically, the commercials or advertisements are also selling a growing apparatus that may include seedpods, grow lights and nutrients.

Some individuals based on the advertisements, may believe that hydroponic growing methods are new, due to the relatively unique growing apparatuses. This is not the case however.

In 1627, Francis Bacon published a book called Sylva Sylvarum, outlining hydroponic growing methods, in other words how to grow plants without using soil, as the growing medium (Bacon, 1627).

There is evidence of hydroponics growing methods that date back to Roman times, as well. Horticulturists discovered that terrestrial plants, or plants that grow on land actually grow as well, if not better in some cases, by having their roots submerged in water rich in mineral nutrients. However, experts are quick to point out there is a different between aquatic plants that grow in water and plants that grow with their roots submerged in water.

People today, due to economics and/or food safety concerns, have turned to backyard gardens. Everyone is aware of the food borne illnesses associated with produce and fruits such as cantaloupes, green onions and packaged lettuce products.

To protect themselves and their families some have decided to grow their own food. However, some families that do want to grow their own food, do not have the space for various reasons, or simply believe the soil may be contaminated.

For centuries, people have been able to grow their own food without soil in a very limited space. You can, as well. You do not necessarily need commercially manufactured growing equipment to grow your own food. You can use many things that you may find around the house.

One popular item that can be converted for hydroponics growing, is a fish tank or aquarium that no longer houses fish. The tank will need however, its pumping system. The sides of the tank must also be covered or painted black to deprive the water of light. Light will encourage algae and bacteria growth.

To grow plants with their roots submerged in water you will need a method to circulate the water. For best results, water should be well aerated to provide dissolved oxygen to the plant roots. A bubbler stone is ideal to provide fresh oxygen to the water.

Additional items needed regardless of the container, include liquid nutrients and a growing medium such as perlite and vermiculite. Many experts recommend combining the two materials at equal ratios. Fifty percent each is the ideal ratio. You will also need a Styrofoam sheet sized to fit over the tank. You then cut holes in the cover that will allow small foam cups to fit in without falling through. Put holes in the cups at various points and in the bottom to allow water in once they are suspended.

You will need to cut the foam cover so you have access to place nutrients in the water, as well as, room for the pump line. Many have discovered that simply floating the foam on the water with the cups suspended works well. This keeps the cups and lid from being affected by the movement of the water. The tank will need adequate sunlight, grow lights or a combination of both.

Coconut fiber is also a popular growing medium. The fibers retain and hold moisture as well as perlite and vermiculite do. The medium is placed in the cups and you can transplant seedlings into the cups or sow seeds directly in the medium. The roots will search out the water and grow through the holes in the cups. The cup once filled with the growing medium will rest in the water. Fish aquariums are popular because they are water tight, and have the necessary pumps and hoses to circulate the water.

However, any container can be used. You can also fit lightweight wire over the top of any container and cut holes in the wire to suspend cups made of the same wire. Another method uses two layers of wire with coconut fiber sandwiched between the layers and suspended partially in water. Typically, the seeds are sown directly onto the fiber. When using wire baskets, coconut fiber is recommended for the growing medium. Perlite, clay pellets and vermiculite may fall through the wire.

The nutrients can be purchased in most home and garden stores and in some cases; the nutrients specify they are ideal for hydroponics growing. The nutrient can come in liquid, or tablet form that dissolves in the water. The amount needed is dependent upon the water volume so it is important to know how much water is in the tank. The tank water should be changed at least once every two weeks.

You can use other growing mediums including sand, gravel and clay pellets, as well. You should also have a test kit to check your water's pH level. You can use strips or a digital meter. You can also purchase a meter to check your water for total dissolved solids. This test indicates the level of nutrients, in the water based on the plant's requirements. Therefore, it is important that you understand your plants needs. It is recommended that you grow similar if not the same plants in the same tank or container. Keep in mind using your new hydroponics growing method you can grow all year around, so start with your favorites and explore all the possibilities using hydroponics as your growing method.

Bacon, F. (1627). Classical Works . Retrieved May 29, 2012, from http://www.library.usyd.edu.au/libraries/rare/medicine/baconsylva.html







Water Only Growing Method

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    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for the comment wrenfrost56. There are several growing mediums you can use, some use clay pellets and even gravel and sand in some cases. A lot depends on the plant. Thanks again!

    • wrenfrost56 profile image

      wrenfrost56 

      6 years ago from U.K.

      Great hub, lots of detail and well written. Hydroponics is so fascinating and I did not know you could use coconut fibre for plants. :)

    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Hi lori, from what I understand you can grow mushrooms using hydroponics. One way is to buy a block of growing medium with the spores already sown. Soak the block in cold water, or use your hydroponic system. Most systems supply a constant stream of water to the medium, water must be cool. This must be done in the dark of course. You can grow your own cultures by encouraging cut up stems to grow roots. Place the cut up pieces in a small dish in the dark and watch for small roots to form, once you see the roots tranfer to a sutable medium.I plan on trying this method to see if it works. From what I understand the fungi is fussy about temps and bacteria so the area has to be somewhat controlled. Hope this helps you Lori, and thanks

    • Lori P. profile image

      Lori Phillips 

      6 years ago from Southern California USA

      Since mushrooms grow on decomposing material, does that mean there is no way to grow mushrooms hydroponically?

    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Hi Lori, I tried once, the spores never took hold. I have been told a wooden shed works best. Build a shelf that can contain the compost manure mix, and sow the spores. They grow pretty quickly. Give it a shot and let me know how it works!

    • Lori P. profile image

      Lori Phillips 

      6 years ago from Southern California USA

      Yes, most people grow mushrooms in cellars or under their sink. Or in a dark shed or garage. But there are different types of mushrooms with different growing requirements. Not all grow in the dark. I want to grow mushrooms, too! :)

    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Hi Wilbart, yes beans grow well in the backyard. Mushrooms require a dark area and plenty of compost for food. They do need to be kept in the dark. The grow in the compost. Using the fishtank you can grow inside, eith using soil or hydroponics. Thanks Wilbart

    • profile image

      Wilbart26 

      6 years ago

      Hey there, this hub is very helpful, especially this present time where global warming is the number one concern of people. Having those significant plants near you at your disposal is great. By the way, is it possible to plant beans in the backyard? And, how bout mushrooms? I know they are fungi however, is there a way to have a mushroom farm? I have an empty fish tank here, sorry, am not much familiar with growing plants in the backyard.

    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Hello again Lori, yes the make up of minerals, is for the most part, the same. My soil composition is such it needs constant treatment, because soil is really a poor medium to retain the fertilizers, it drains away pretty quick and I have to treat more often than I care for. I do not like to put chemicals in the ground because of run off. I have a small pond and a lake is nearby. It seems with hydroponics the plant processes the minerals where of course there is not a problem with runoff. Plants are amazing filtration systems.I have a hydroponics system in the works for outside, I hope I can make it happen I need to get a video or pictures going so I can share it with everyone. Thanks Lori Great Response!

      R. Michaels

    • Lori P. profile image

      Lori Phillips 

      6 years ago from Southern California USA

      But aren't those "fertilizers" similar to the nutrients you are administering via the water solution? Just curious. Your hub is making me want to revisit hydroponics. Where I live, there is an abundance of natural sunshine but my yard soil is clay in one area and sandy in another!

    • rex michaels profile imageAUTHOR

      rex michaels 

      6 years ago

      Hi lori and thanks for the comment. I am playing around with different systems. The soil here is less than perfect, and I hate to use the fertilizers needed to maintain the soil. I find that pests are not a problem either with hydroponics. I have one system outside and a small one inside.

      Thanks Lori

      R. Michaels

    • Lori P. profile image

      Lori Phillips 

      6 years ago from Southern California USA

      When I was in high school, I experimented with hydroponics. It was amazing how quickly and how lushly my plants grew. I used perlite and my root veggies grew straight and full without having to push against heavier soils. Mine was a small, super simple tray with a manual watering system, and the roots were not submerged in water all the time. I would love to build a larger system to try to grow wetland taro.

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