Hydroponics is a way of growing plants without the need for soil. In hydroponics, water does all the work, and plants take in nutrients from the water that they would otherwise take from soil. The term comes from Greek, with the root ‘hydro’ meaning water, and ‘ponos’ meaning work, or labor.
Hydroponics may also be referred to as ‘soilless culture’ or water culture. These terms still come down to the basic principle: hydroponics is growing plants with water.
Hydroponics can be divided into different systems (including DWC, NFT, flood and drain, wick, and drip systems) or even different subsets of hydroponic techniques, such as aeroponics, fogponics, or aquaponics. While some systems make use of growing medium to stabilize plants, as well as nutrient and moisture levels, the nutrient enriched water is the driving force behind plant growth.
Hydroponics has been practiced in various forms throughout human history, although the hydroponic systems we see today are more advanced. Pumps are necessary in most setups to move water throughout the system, either consistently or at timed intervals, ensuring that plants receive proper nutrients, and the water is sufficiently aerated. Artificial lighting, temperature, and humidity control provides the support plants would otherwise rely on for growing outside in soil.
Even NASA has turned to researching hydroponic (and aeroponic) agriculture as a means of growing plants in space. However, hydroponics can be traced back to as early as 500 BCE, where Greek historians described the legendary hanging gardens of Babylon, and their incredible irrigation system, which today can only be seen as an advanced, massive hydroponic structure.
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