Can you grow a plant without soil?
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
During quarantine, I wanted to try growing an avocado plant in water. It was doing pretty good, so I wasn't too worried about moving it into soil. But, now that it is a little older, maybe the time to plant it in the ground has come. In this article, you will be reading about the pros and cons of plants growing in both water and soil, as well as some more background information about growing crops.
For plants to be considered USDA (United States Department of Agriculture; if you are out of the US, there might be different standards) certified organic, 95 percent or more should be free of synthetic additives or preservatives. Many farmers add nutrients to the soil/water for the plant to "eat", and this is what increases the percentages of synthetic additives, because the crop should be able to naturally find nutrients in whatever living environment.
There are some major questions about hydroponics, as it is a fairly new approach to farming. I am going to answer some of them here, so you can understand exactly what is hydroponics and why people started using it.
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics technically means "working water", but it is basically substituting soil with water to grow plants. This is especially helpful in areas with little to no soil. Also, since most pests live in soil, this helps the plant to grow without bugs and parasites.
How is it possible for plants to grow without soil?
Plants grow through a process called photosynthesis, where the convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and water into glucose. When you write that out chemically, you get:
6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2
In this equation, there is no mention of soil being need for plants to survive. They just need water, nutrients, and air, which you can easily get from using a hydroponic system.
Are there any health disadvantages to using hydroponics instead of soil?
There aren't any disadvantages that affects the consumer of the plant, but there are general disadvantages of using hydroponics that I will get into later on.
Does growing plants in water give you cancer or other disease?
No. Growing plants in water is just an alternative solution to growing plants in soil. You have no need to worry about cancer at all.
Hydroponic plant growth does have its disadvantages. One major problem is that waterborne diseases can easily kill your plant, because it both diseases and plants rely on the same water to live. The disease will survive, killing all your plants. Because of this, your plant will need constant monitoring (daily checks) and quick maintenance. The water also has to be changed weekly, and that's really important.
You might be asking "So? Which is better?" Well, it depends on whether you have soil and the time to grow crops the traditional way. Otherwise, water growth might be better for you. It depends on the person and where you live. Before you decide though, make sure to check the diagram below.
Comparing soil growth to water growth: