With the exception of a cursory knowledge of how hydroponicscame about, most readers couldn't care less about the long list of people who have experimented with hydroponics, or when. Nor domost readers care that some nutrients can be "locked in" under certainconditions and are therefore unavailable to the plant. These things canbe found in the books listed in the bibliography. Here we will be dealingwith only some of the hundreds of formulae where all the nutrients areavailable to the plant. In other words, I will not be giving you a lot of superfluous scientific information. If anyone feels that I haven't givenenough background or scientific information, then they'll have toconsult other books, because
Hydroponics for the Home Gardener
iswritten expressly to give you the facts you need.
Hydroponics is at least as ancient as the Pyramids. The HangingGardens of Babylon, which are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, used a crude form of hydroponics. The world's rice cropshave been grown in this way from time immemorial. In 1934, however,a University of California professor adapted this time-tested techniqueto other crops. The results were twenty-five foot tomato vines that hadto be harvested with ladders. Modern hydroponics was born and it hasbeen advancing ever since.During the Second World War, Allied soldiers ate hydroponicvegetables grown on their air and naval bases in the South Pacific.Today, hydroponic installations help feed millions of people; they maybe found flourishing in the deserts of Israel, Lebanon and Kuwait, onthe islands of Ceylon, the Philippines and the Canaries, on the rooftopsof Calcutta and in the parched villages of West Bengal.Half of Vancouver Island's tomato crop and one-fifth of Moscow'sare hydroponically produced. There are full-fledged hydroponic systemsin American nuclear submarines, Russian space stations and on offshore drillings rigs. Large zoos keep their animals healthy with hydroponic green food, and race horses stay sleek and powerful on grassgrown hydroponically year round. There are large and small systemsused by companies and individuals as far north as Baffin Island andEskimo Point in Canada's Arctic. Commercial growers are using thismarvellous technique to produce food on a large scale
toIndia, and from Armenia to the Sahara.
Is It Worthwhile?
Gardeners love hydroponics, because almost anything can be grownand there is no back-breaking work: no tilling, raking or hoeing. Thereare no weeds to pull, no poisonous pesticides to spray. No moles orcutworms eat your roots, and most insects leave your clean and healthyplants alone.Hydroponics is ideal for the hobbyist home-owner or apartment-dweller who doesn't have the time or space for full-time soil gardening.In late spring and summer, your portable hydroponic unit can be putoutside on a porch or balcony where natural sunlight helps producetremendous yields of anything from lettuce, to cucumbers, to zinnias. Inwinter, the unit can be moved anywhere inside the home, even into thebasement, where your plants will flourish and continue to produceunder artificial light.Plants love to grow in hydroponics, because their roots don't haveto push through heavy, chunky soil to compete for nutrients. Instead, ahydroponic system distributes nutrients evenly to each plant. What'smore, plants need air to breathe, and, unlike soil, a porous growingaggregate lets air circulate freely around them. Consequently, everything grows quickly and beautifully.Hydroponic plants grow faster, ripen earlier and give up to tentimes the yield of soil-grown plants. These clean and pampered plantsproduce fruits and vegetables of great nutritive value and superiorflavour. Many of them, especially hydroponic tomatoes and cucumbers,
sold in the gourmet sections of supermarkets at considerably higherprices than ordinary vegetables. The point here is that you can grow thesame vegetables for considerably
money than it costs to buy thepulpy supermarket variety.
Why Hydroponics For You?
Have you noticed lately that there's something missing in supermarketvegetables? It's flavour. As in many modern foods, flavour has beentraded for the convenience of the producers. Large-scale farming andmarketing do, of course, provide vast quantities of food for the world'sburgeoning population, but it is important to remember that wheneverquantity is stressed, quality suffers. Consequently, the flavour andnutritional value of your meals are reduced.