Some organic gardeners consider hydroponic gardening non-organic since it doesn’t use soil. They believe that true organic gardening is impossible without rich, loamy soil. After all, organic gardening is based on good soil. However, organic hydroponic gardening does exist, and even has some advantages over conventional organic gardening.
Using Less Soil
Organic hydroponic gardening is based on the same principles as usual organic gardening, but it doesn’t use the soil. Organic hydroponic gardening relies on water to provide the nutrients needed for plant growth. Organic hydroponic gardening still requires a growing medium, something solid to put the plants’ roots into. The growing medium is not the source of nutrients, however; it is as sterile as a chemically fertilized monoculture wheat field. The growing medium is simply a structure to root the plants into and to hold the nutrient-filled water.
In organic hydroponic gardening the growing medium can be of any organic material. Vermiculite and perilte are often used. (Be careful when handling vermiculite, as it is a source of asbestos). Straw, cotton, plant fiber or any other organic material are all good choices, too.
Water is Essential
Organic hydroponic gardening relies on dissolving substances in water to provide nutrients for the plants. So, anything that goes into the water must be organic in order to comply with organic gardening rules. So-called compost tea is frequently used in organic hydroponic gardening. It is made by soaking compost in water and straining out the solid material. The water gets enriched with nutrients and then is used to feed the plants.
Manure tea is also used in hydroponic gardening. Manure tea can be a source of bacterial contamination of the produce, including contamination with lethal varieties of E. coli. Therefore, manure should be well-composted or sterilized before making manure tea. You make it the same way you make compost tea, i.e. by dissolving the manure in water and straining out the solid material.
Further organic choices include seaweed and fish emulsion. There are no special fertilizers because you continually circulate and refresh the nutrient mixture.
Organic hydroponic gardening has a special niche in the organic gardening landscape. Its biggest advantage is that it fits anywhere, and requires no soil to support the plants’ growth.
Organic hydroponic gardening is an excellent alternative allowing to grow crops in parts of the world where the soil has been over-farmed and is too depleted to grow food. Organic hydroponic gardening is used in outer space living and will almost certainly be part of any attempt to colonize the moon or another planet. Organic hydroponic gardening is being used for urban gardens on rooftops, allowing urbanites to grow healthy food in wasted space. This is because not every rooftop can support the weight of soil for traditional organic gardening.
As you see, hydroponic gardening can also be organic. Of course, it is different from traditional gardening, but it has a number of its own advantages. And last but not least, organic hydroponic gardening does let you grow healthy, sustainable, organic food.