Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants with nutrients and water but without soil. The plant’s roots can either be in water or in an artificial medium (i.e. sand, gravel, perlite, peat moss, sawdust, coir, rockwool, etc.). Hydroponic systems are often used when the supply of water and farmland are scarce or among home gardeners with limited space or an interest in year-round gardening. These systems are either open, meaning once the plant roots receive the nutrient solution the water is not recycled, or closed, meaning the solution is captured, replenished and recycled within that system. For a more detailed introduction to hydroponics and information on the different hydroponic systems, follow the links below:
- Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Home Hydroponics
- The University of Alabama’s What is Hydroponics?
- Oklahoma State University’s Hydroponics
Home gardeners can create small-scale hydroponic systems and successfully grow a variety of vegetables. The systems allow gardeners to grow food year-round and are versatile in size and location meaning the systems can be inside or outside. The article below highlights the pros and cons of gardening with hydroponics explaining that while many benefits of this technology exist, many negatives exists, such as the demand of time and energy.
The University of Alabama’s Hydroponics for Home Gardeners
Lettuce is a commonly grown vegetable in hydroponic systems. The University of Kentucky offers a four-page publication on growing hydroponic lettuce. In addition, the publication offers insight on using hydroponics in general, “Hydroponics is a highly exacting and demanding system that requires a greater amount of production knowledge, experience, technical skill, and financial investment than many other greenhouse systems,” (University of Kentucky, Online). The publication below offers marketing information, a market outlook, and production and economic considerations specifically for hydroponic lettuce.
The University of Kentucky’s Hydroponic Lettuce
Texas A&M University Extension’s Hydroponic Vegetable Production
Cornell University offers two grower handbooks:
- A Handbook for the Production of CEA-grown Hydroponic Lettuce
- A Handbook for the Production of CEA-grown Hydroponic Spinach
Hydroponic System Basics: The guide for 2020: Most people look at gardening and farming in a traditional sense: sunlight, water, and soil. However, there’s one system you may not be as familiar with called hydroponics. Hydroponic systems have revolutionized the farming and food industry, and the basics can even be applied to a small DIY setup at home.
Using fertilizers is often considered when growing hydroponic lettuce. Kansas State University experimented with two different nutrient management strategies, growing hydroponic lettuce with soluble organic fertilizer and growing potted herbs in recirculating culture using organomineral fertilizer. The publication offers information on producing lettuce with organic and conventional inorganic nutrient sources. In addition, the publication experiments with growing potted herbs in a recirculating culture with different fertilizers.
Kansas State University’s Using Organic Fertilizers in Hydroponics and Recirculating Culture
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has a publication that is free to download and $3 to print on organic greenhouse vegetable production. This publication offers information on organic methods of greenhouse vegetable production, including soil versus soilless culture, developments in the greenhouse industry in the last decade and, different resources and suppliers.