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Hydroponic Gardening with Organic Fertilizers

A look at the growth patterns of hydroponically grown plants given organic fertilizers.

| May/June 1976

  • 039-032-01-aquaculture-hydr
    The author's attempt to combine aquaculture with hydroponics was not 100% successful. Effluent-grownbeans, which at first rose inches above beans raised in either manure tea or commercial nutrient solution, later became stunted and pale.
  • 039-032-01-Underground-hydr
    Shown here are details of author's underground ecosystem, in which earthworms are raised to feed to fish and fish tank water is used to grow hydroponic vegetables. The only material that's brought in from outside is compost for the worms.
  • 039-032-01-organic-hydropon
    Proof that organic hydroponics works. Beans on left were raised in a water extract of rabbit manure,chicken manure, earthworm castings (manure), and wood ashes . . . while plants on right received Hyponex commercial nutrient solution.

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  • 039-032-01-Underground-hydr
  • 039-032-01-organic-hydropon

In earlier issues of MOTHER, I described in detail a few of the many advantages hydroponic greenhouse gardening has over more conventional methods of raising fruits and vegetables . . . and in response, a reader wrote to MOTHER expressing the following concern:

James DeKorne's information on hydroponics is quite interesting, but one aspect of the method sticks in my craw: The process seems so dead. It'd be fascinating to discover if plants grown hydroponically differ in manifest energy --on some level apart from "nutrients" alone—as compared to those grown in soil . . . .  

I've found that this is a common reaction to hydroponic gardening, even though anyone who has had any experience with the concept will tell you immediately that there's nothing at all "dead" about it. On the contrary: The plants I grow in my hydroponic greenhouse seem more alive than their peers out in the garden mostly because of their more rapid growth and prolific production of fruit.

Laboratory tests have shown that there are no nutritional differences between normal vegetables grown hydroponically and those grown in gardens (organic or otherwise). Neither are there any differences in flavor: Last summer my wife took two tomatoes --one from our garden and one from a hydroponic tank in the greenhouse --and arranged them in slices on two separate plates. Only she knew which was which. After every member of the family tasted pieces from each plate, it turned out that no one could detect any differences in flavor . . . none of us could tell which tomato was "organic" and which "hydroponic".

Even so, it is true that the hydroponically grown tomatoes you buy in the supermarket often taste bland and pulpy. One explanation for this --aside from the fact that supermarket produce is of dubious freshness --is that tomatoes produced in commercial hydroponic greenhouses are special hybrids which have been bred for color, uniformity of size, and ability to ripen all at the same time. And these, of course, are qualities which have nothing to do with flavor, but everything to do with the convenience and profit of the agribusinessman who raises the fruit.

No special hybrids for me, though . . . the tomatoes we raise in our tanks are the same varieties we grow in the garden (Burpee Big Boy being our particular favorite).

Widodo Sukardi
12/26/2013 9:56:07 PM

Hii....nice meet this site.i hope ,i can learn more & more

1/27/2010 10:19:32 AM

110% disagree with this author's hypothesis, "namely, that vegetables do not thrive in aquaculture effluent because the liquid contains growth inhibitors." First of all, I have a hydroponic and aquaponic garden. I have grown many vegetables without any problem in aquponic. I am also raising variety of aquarium fish with live aquatic plants. I haven't observed any significant retardation of aquatic or terresterial plant growth or inhibition. By the way, being a chemistry major, I am also using organic and in-organic (chemicals) fertilizers in my hydroponic.

1/31/2009 11:25:39 AM

I may have committed a taboo with my last post, I did not intend to advertise a commercial product. My apologies if I did wrong, my intentions were only to provide an answer to a problem.I find these articles and comments to be as valuable as anything on the net and would not like to do anything to break the rules of using them.

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