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Gardening without soil

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
13 November 2021   |   3:02 am
As surprising as it might sound, at some point in time, you and I have indulged and probably still do indulge in the practice of a soil-less culture of plants without even realizing it

Tomato production in hydroponics (soilless) cultivation<br />

As surprising as it might sound, at some point in time, you and I have indulged and probably still do indulge in the practice of a soil-less culture of plants without even realizing it. Sometimes we keep plants in water in vases or containers to decorate our homes and offices.

As roots appear, we leave them to keep growing and growing. Most are Aquaponics ornamental plants, some flowering. But little did we ever think we were practicing Aquaponics in rudimentary form.

Aquaponics
As a child at home, there always were such vases or containers, usually, glass or perplex or shallow ceramic, filled with water sometimes containing pebbles or gravel at the bottom which you cannot see when planted in soil.

I have seen on tables, on bookshelves, in offices, coffee mugs becoming carriers of ‘’marble queen” (Epipremareum) or silver vine (Cepiprenum pictum) in water. These scrambling climbers seem most popular because of the ease with which they grow and how quickly they spread their heart-shaped leaves with silver marking or streaked and marbled with cream. Rhapis excelsa (bamboo palm, slender lady palm) are by themselves highly decorative.

But they also make a good backdrop or in combination for stunning displays with cut flowers, which you get from time to time. When the cut flowers die and are removed, these plants still remain very much alive and make a permanent display. Invariably, almost any plant can be (the exceptions being cacti and succulents) grown this way.

For indoors, try easy plants such as crotons (codiaeum varigatum) with their varied shapes and rainbow-coloured leaves: small palms like golden feather palms, caladium, dieffenbachia (false cane), phormium tenax: bamboos such as dwarf white striped bamboo (pleoblastus variegates). Try also tradescantia pallida (purple heart or wandering Jew) and trileaf wonder.

These permanently growing plants sometimes become backdrops for displays of cut flowers such as allamanda, frangipani, the flame of the forest, rose periwinkle, gingers, anthurium and more.

One can make an assemblage of these various plants in plastic placed in more attractive brass or ceramic planters interspersed with rocks of different shapes and sizes. Place an aquarium in the center, it becomes a focal point for added interest. A 25 gallon Perspex container on a stand half-filled with water in which a single water hyacinth (erichornia crassipes) is growing, floating with its spike of blueish-lilac flowers. In this situation, it is not invasive, but making a regal statement. Quite remarkable for such simplicity is sometimes all that is required. One could replace this with a water lily or other floating water lettuce other aquatic plants.

Take also the fact that some epiphytes or air plants, orchids and bromeliads, grow naturally without soil, absorbing moisture and nutrients directly from the air aeroponics.

As a gardener, it probably never occurred to you that you were practicing some ancient art that has developed into standard scientific techniques in agricultural research and application.

Hydroponics
For instance, the term hydroponics (from the Greek word hydro for water and ponos labor) by analogy to the Greek term for agriculture, and geoponics, the science of cultivating the earth.

Hydroponics Is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrients without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only in an inert medium such as perlite, gravel, or mineral wool. Plant physiology researchers discovered in the 19th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir, but the soil is not essential to plant growth.

Aeroponics
Hydroponics, however, is only one technique or sub-sector of soil-less culture, which is the broader term. Aeroponics is another technique of soil-less culture. It is a system where roots are continuously or discontinuously in an environment saturated with fine drops (mist or aerosol) of nutrient solution. This method requires no substrate and entails growing plants with their roots suspended in deep air or growth chamber and periodically wetted with a fine mist of atomized nutrients. Excellent aeration is the main advantage of aeroponics. Aeroponics techniques have proved very successful for propagation but have yet to prove themselves on a commercial scale. It is widely used in laboratory studies of plant physiology. Aeroponics has been given special attention by NASA (The American space agency) since a mist is easier to handle than liquid in a zero-gravity environment. Soil-less culture or cultivation has many techniques and media, which are worth having knowledge of for adaption to one’s needs.

Imagine you can actually practice soil-less cultivation not just for a little decorative value but for profit too.

Hydroponics
Hydroponic is looked upon as a major makeshift in the indoor gardening type of agriculture. It is the up and coming science of growing plants, especially fruits and vegetables. With great advantages such as the need for much lesser space, no need for soil, freedom from soil diseases, no dirt, no smells. More advantages are the need for less space, no need for soil, higher growth rate and commercial viability.

People living in crowded cities without space where ordinary soil is not available can grow fresh vegetables and fruits in balconies house rooftops and any such available space can be utilized to yield a regular and abundant supply of fresh health-giving green stuff.

Barren or stony areas can be made productive at a relatively low cost. It also includes a faster growth rate, combined with very consistent crops of excellent quality, weed is practically non-existent, while standard methods and automatic operations mean no hard manual labor. Some plants can be raised out of season.

Hydroponic fruits and vegetables are sweeter, better tasting more luscious than those grown in ordinary soil. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of hydroponics and other soil-less techniques for giving a new lease of life and opportunities to landless workers.

Though still in its research stage, hydroponics growers in many countries have proved its benefits as thoroughly practical and commercially to be a profitable venture. They have successfully grown many vegetable and fruit-bearing plants.

Hydroponic plants are the best choice because they grow well in water media, like watermelons and musk melon grow well in hydroponics conditions.

That is because both are water-loving plants and they virtually thrive in watery culture medium. Another commercial success in hydroponic farming is tomatoes. It is found that hydroponically grown tomatoes have better color, taste and are juicier than their counterpart grown in soil media.

Many types of berries are also plants suited for hydroponics growing. Varieties of grapes like table grapes have also been proven to grow extremely well indoors with hydroponics technique. Although larger trees are not yet successfully grown hydroponically, dwarf trees like bananas and lemon do show positive growth indoors.

Given the extensive research that is going on in the field of general hydroponics, scientists will surely find ways to cultivate more and more plants hydroponically. In the meantime, gardeners can grow the above-mentioned plant for house and commercial purposes as they are best suited for soil-less gardening.

Cucumber growing in small hydroponics in terrace garden

Full Grown Okra Plant in Hydroponic Tower Garden<br />

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