A Vegetable Garden without Soil

An isometric illustration of a hydroponic greenhouse.
Science and technology don’t stand in place: scientists around the world work to ensure that the production of fresh and healthy foods is simple, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. So, in place of classic garden beds and greenhouses comes hydroponics: growing plants in nutrient solutions without soil.

The History of Hydroponics

 The idea of growing plants without soil is not new. Back in 1699, the English naturalist John Woodward described his experiments growing peppermint in a soilless environment. The plant died in desalinated, distilled water, but it continued to grow in untreated water. Probably, Woodward reasoned, the mint extracts something from the water that is necessary for growth.

 Now we know that the plant needs many mineral substances for normal growth and development, including calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), and sulfur (S). Plants take them from the soil (some predators, like Venus flytraps, get them from the bodies of their victims), but for this, there must be water in the soil to dissolve the mineral substances, making them accessible to the roots. Plants don’t need the soil itself, they just require mineral substances from it. Woodward’s experiments gave rise to much reflection, but, until the beginning of the 20th century, the cultivation of plants without soil remained an area of exclusively scientific interest.

Garden without soil
The idea of hydroponics is that soil is not an obligatory companion of plants, but is rather just support for it. Therefore, the substrate can have many different compositions — coconut fiber, sawdust, mineral wool, crushed stone, expanded clay, etc. It is only important that it conducts moisture well, allows air to circulate, and does not chemically react with the nutrient solution. By the way, moist air can also serve as a substrate (this is called aeroponics)
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