Hydroponics: A Different Way of Gardening
Author: Katherine McCune, RD, MA | SHC Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist
Hydroponics refers to the method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution. This root system does not use soil but is supported using an inert medium such as perlite, rock wool, gravel, clay pellets, peat moss, vermiculite, or other substrates. Hydroponic gardening allows plant roots to come in direct contact with the nutrient-rich solution while also receiving oxygen – both of which are essential for proper plant growth.
I love all types of gardens: English gardens, formal gardens – like the ones you would stroll through at the Huntington Museum or the Getty Villa in Malibu, – and "haphazard gardens." Our Malibu campus has beautifully landscaped gardens with flowers and trees, and it has an amazing organic vegetable garden. Years ago, my son and I planted an extensive vegetable garden in "raised bed" planter boxes behind our family home. Tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers, herbs, corn, and green beans graced the landscape. My favorite crops were those of melons and assorted pumpkins. Their enormous vines tumbled over the hillside.
In early March, right at the beginning of the "lockdown," my daughter Lily and her boyfriend Loren ordered a hydroponic garden kit, assembled it, and planted the seeds. Within several days, seedlings popped out of the nutrient-rich solution. Soon afterward, they had the makings of a salad with herbs and a variety of leaf lettuces.
Once the gloomy March weather ended and the sun warmed things up, they moved the plants to a small outdoor window box with soil. However, it was not necessary to move the plants outside and place them in soil. The plants would have continued to grow indoors in the nutrient-rich solution.
Lily tells me they love having something to take care of daily and enjoy watching the plants grow. "It is rewarding, plus it makes us more inclined to eat fresh fruits and veggies or add herbs to dishes," said Lily.
Lily and Loren's hydroponic garden
Lily and Loren's outdoor soil box
Prices for a hydroponic garden range from $40-$300. I have included do it yourself (DIY) resources below that explain how to build an inexpensive hydroponic garden.
If you have started a hydroponic garden or a garden with soil, please let me know more about your experiences and any advice you can offer by sending me a direct message on our Student Health Center Instagram account.
I hope I have sparked an interest in perhaps planting a garden of your own, even if it is as simple as a pot of basil or another herb next to your kitchen sink near a sunny window. Enjoy!