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Is the Hydroponic Herb Garden for You?
If you like to garden but have little sunlight and limited space you might want to consider creating a hydroponic herb garden. What’s a hydroponic herb garden? A hydroponic herb garden is a garden that focuses on using water as the growing medium rather than soil. Many growers and environmental thinkers tout it as the solution to the problems having to do with topsoil degradation and breakdown.
Hydroponic gardening has gotten a little bit of a bad rep because of its association with marijuana growers. In an attempt to avoid police detection, some growers in the US experimented with using hydroponics to hide their marijuana gardens.
Hydroponic gardens, however, have some real positive aspects:
The Benefits of Hydroponic Herb Gardens
One of the great things about hydroponics is that, despite the name, it uses less water than a regular soil based herb garden. Because you can get a system that recycles the water and nutrients used, you do not lose the majority of your water in the soil.
Because you are in control of the amount of sunlight your hydroponic herb garden gets, you are not at the mercy of the elements. This means that you can grow your herbs out of season and that the plants themselves grow quicker.
Because you are growing your plants indoors this also means that hydroponic gardens are accessible to people in urban environments where they might not otherwise be able to garden. You don’t need a backyard or a flowerbed to create a hydroponic garden, so even if you live on the middle floors of a high rise, you can have your own personal herb garden.
Another often-overlooked aspect of hydroponics is that it is easier to keep pests out of hydroponic gardens. This is partly because the gardens are often indoors and partly because the gardens are water and not soil based. What this means is that hydroponic gardeners will tend to use less insecticide than regular soil based growers.
Drawbacks of Hydroponic Herb Gardens
There are three main criticisms of hydroponic gardens. The first is that many plants are simply not conducive to growth in hydroponic gardens, so their use is limited. Hydroponic proponents strenuously deny this is the case, claiming that most anything you can grow in a regular garden, you can grow in a hydroponic garden.
The second criticism comes from gourmands who claim that hydroponic herbs lack the flavor of their soil-grown counterparts. Proponents dispute this claim and, because we are dealing with subjective notions of taste, we await a blind study to see if there is any noticeable difference.
Finally and perhaps most seriously, environmental critics point out that the extra energy involved in hydroponic gardening makes both the cost prohibitive and its positive environmental impact suspect.
Can I Build a Hydroponic Herb Garden?
If you can put together a fish aquarium you can create your own hydroponic herb garden. In fact, maintaining a fish aquarium is much more like hydroponic gardening than traditional herb gardening is.
The principles are very simple. You simply take a large plastic container—to avoid algae problems you should make sure that sunlight cannot penetrate the container. You place your herbs in rows on the lid of the container hanging from nets filled with Rockwool and then attach a pump to the container that keeps cycling the nutrient-filled water supply to the plants in a tie-in, tide-out fashion.
As in maintaining an aquarium, the hardest part is keeping the pH levels within ideal limits. You do this by carefully monitoring the pH and then adjusting the levels by adding pH increasing or decreasing chemicals. You can buy an expensive pH monitoring system for this purpose or simply check the pH with cheaper disposal tests.
There are also several ready-made systems you can discover online. Just google “hydroponics” and you will find a stockpile of information just waiting for you.