Should Gardening be grounded or allowed to flow?

A section of the hydroponics system in Portsmouth, England. (2020).

Urban gardens in cities need plenty of room, soil, light, and water. Without some of those, plants cannot grow to their full capacity or bear any produce. Plants can indeed live without what we know as “soil.” Plants can live in running water as long as they have sunlight and oxygen to respirate with; this is called “hydroponics.”  Hydroponics is a wonderful way to grow plants without the traditional soil being what hold downs and keeps the plant rooted. There are perks to having a hydroponics system such as:

  1. No chemical sprays for pests or weeds
  2. No weeds
  3. Crops can be produced quicker
  4. Saves lots of water (up to 80%) (Rumble 2020).

The Perks of “Ponics “

A study conducted in Portsmouth, England, had an urban garden monitored and how they use their hydroponics system. While maintaining their garden, they also observed how sustainable their garden is and compared it to when they were not using hydroponics. Constantly using the soil that has been around for decades or soil that may be contaminated form other issues nearby, can create soil that will not produce any good food or be completely oversaturated with the incorrect elements. “At a point in time in which soil fertility is greatly depleted by industrial agriculture, these systems have already demonstrated that they can lower demand for agricultural land in rural areas” (Despommier, 2010). The soil that has been continuously used over the course of hundreds of years gathers an abundant source of debris and sometimes has too much of a certain element. Finding soil that contains the perfect balance of nitrogen, iron, and carbon, can be difficult in urban gardens due to the industrial influences. Using a hydroponics system to grow crops and provide for those who are food-insecure locally, can help tremendously in single occurrences or multiple. Having a place to go and get food that was grown on the roof top of ones’ apartment building cuts down on transportation cost, hefty mortgage/ rent payments for land, and ensures that food is going to be available steps from ones’ residence.

The Importance of Space in Small Areas     

Space/ land, is a hot commodity that when citizens try to get land for their agriculture use, it is covered with “red tape,” leases, and legal jargon that can be taxing to those who just want to provide food for the underserved. In Portsmouth, the study had concluded that it is much easier to use the space available and implement hydroponics because of all the perks it comes with. “…the possibility of increasing the number of urban gardens without necessarily expanding the surface area of green areas dedicated to gardening” (Caputo, Rumble, Schaefer, 2020). The way hydroponics works is that it does not take up acres upon acres. Hydroponic systems are capable of being stacked several layers to create the most produce per square foot. This helps reduce the amount of space used for just a few crops and creates more space for other crops to be grown in. Keeping crops in places where they are needed the most to utilize the space they are in, allows for people who live in small residences to partake in farming for themselves or neighbors.

Caputo, S., Rumble, H., & Schaefer, M. (2020). “I like to get my hands stuck in the soil”: A pilot study in the acceptance of soil-less methods of cultivation in community gardens. Journal of Cleaner Production, 258 doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.library.cpp.edu/10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120585

D. Despommier. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st CenturyMacmillan, London, UK (2010)

2 thoughts on “Should Gardening be grounded or allowed to flow?

  1. The use of hydroponics in crop production provides numerous benefits such as- different layout options, alternatives to soil, etc. It supports some of the major issues that urban producers experience. Producers can have difficulty finding adequate “clean” soils for production as soils become depleted of essential nutrients, compacted, contaminated with chemicals and pollutants, and accumulate heavy metals through the years. Many individuals seeking to produce crops have issues finding space in urban or rural areas; there is a reduced amount of available land for production without contaminated soils. This method reduces the need for expansion across land but, can expand in height or be stacked/tiered. It also would reduce the contact of pests and weeds as the commodities are grown directly in water.

    It would be interesting to see if there are any issues with water contamination poses as an issue to hydroponics. Many cities or regions have mineral accumulation or heavy metals that are hazardous for human consumption. I would wonder how frequent water sampling and testing would need to take place; as water is a major component to the spread of fungus, bacteria, diseases, pathogens, etc. Or if additives such as water conditioner would be necessary. Also, what would be used as a fertilizer? As aquaponics uses the feces from fish species as fertilizer what would hydroponics utilize? What type of water would be used? If it would be direct municipal water, treated city water, or reclaimed water?

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  2. What’s incredibly interesting about the future of hydroponics is how it may be taken up and used on a large scale in urban communities to provide more people with local produce. Opening just next year in 2021, the San Francisco based company Plenty (https://www.plenty.ag/) will be opening a 95,000-square-foot hydroponics farm in Compton, Los Angeles. Compton has historically rich agricultural roots within the county. The goal of the farm is to use the perks of hydroponics to produce high quality fruits and vegetables that can be supplied to local restaurants, grocery stores, and eventually working into school systems. They’re also excited to be able to explore future possibilities such as bringing orchard production indoors via hydroponics as well. The LA Times released an article on the project last October (2019) https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2019-10-25/plenty-vertical-farm-compton

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