Hydroponics vs Soil Gardening—It's a debate that has existed for decades, and frankly, there is no wrong answer. Both hydroponics and traditional gardening have their benefits and drawbacks. But which is right for you inside your home?
Before we dive into which method is optimal for indoor gardening, it's important to understand the basics of gardening with each growing technique from a very high level.
Soil gardening is rather simple. Soil is placed in a pot, sack or container. The plant's roots grow and spread through the soil, absorbing water and essential nutrients that are crucial to the plant's development. The soil also serves to stabilize the plant, allowing it to thrive and grow with proper support.
On the other hand, hydroponics is a dirt-free method of growing. Nutrients are delivered to the plant via water, while a growing media (often placed in a net pot) serves to transfer nutrients from the water to your plants. This allows the roots to stay oxygenated, while also providing structural support.
Check out our post for more > What Is Hydroponics?
But which is the better technique when trying to grow indoors? Let's dive into the advantages and disadvantages of each technique to best inform you.
The Case for Soil
We've all dealt with soil-based systems at some point in our lives. While some characteristics of this technique are obvious, others are less so. Here are a handful of reasons why soil gardening is advantageous:
Simplicity. Soil gardening is the less intimidating technique for beginners. Almost everyone has some experience or exposure to soil gardening, whether it be with raised beds or potted plants.
Inexpensive to start. Soil gardening can require less equipment and materials up front, making it an attractive option when on a budget or seeking to reduce costs.
Organic, fertile and nutrient-rich soils can be purchased and used immediately without significant supplements. While these could need replenishing, especially indoors, ready-made soils are easy to locate and buy.
On the other hand, gardening in soil does not come without a few drawbacks:
- While properly mixed soils can be nutrient rich, additional supplements are often still required. It is also difficult to precisely know the nutrient levels present in soil without proper testing.
- Soil gardens tend to consume more space than hydroponic systems, as the plant roots grow and spread in all directions.
- Soil is dirty, quite literally, which adds an unwanted element indoors if gardening near carpet (or around kids).
- Soils welcome unwanted weeds and soil-borne diseases, which put your plants at risk. While this is minimized indoors, it is still a potential factor.
The Case for Hydroponics
Hydroponics, which is a less popular but emerging technique, provides some great benefits:
- Growth Rates: Hydroponic plants grow up to 20-30% faster than those grow in soil. Nutrients are delivered directly to the plant's roots, allowing the plant to focus more on upward growth and less on developing an extensive root system.
Higher Density: Hydroponic plants consume less space and can be planted more densely, whether planted in horizontal rows or in vertical systems.
Greater Control: With hydroponics, one can have complete control over the quality and quantity of nutrients delivered to plants.
Efficient Water Use: Water is used more efficiently in hydroponic systems, as you are able to precisely deliver water to each plant according to its needs. Irrigation water can also be recycled.
But just like soil gardening, hydroponics isn't perfect:
- Somewhat complicated and intimidating for beginners who have no experience with hydroponics and the process.
- Higher upfront costs, as it is often necessary to purchase supplies, pumps, new containers, a grow medium, etc.
- A higher degree of care and maintenance maybe be required, as the water pH, temperature, and nutrient levels must be measured and dialed in.
- With great power, comes great responsibility. Hydroponics requires the grower to deliver the proper nutrients to the plant.
- Root disease can enter the grow system and infect a large number of plants.
Both soil and hydroponics systems can be effective inside your home or apartment when researched and executed well. For those that fear the unknown and have no desire to learn new tricks, soil gardening tends to be the simpler and easier approach.
If you're looking to maximize yields and efficiency with your indoor garden, hydroponics is your best bet. Though more complex and unknown, the ceiling is higher when growing indoors. The increased control that hydroponics offers unlocks greater potential to create the largest yield with the fastest results. Just be prepared to learn and experiment along the way.
Forget the Learning Curve: Pick a SMART Garden!
Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section below!