The term ‘hydroponic’ is sweeping through the gardening world, opening up new opportunities for the future of food amongst big agriculture and home gardeners alike. This soil-less, uber-organic, highly sustainable means of growing produce is turning the way we think about gardening upside down (or should we say vertical?).
Hydroponic Towers, also known as vertical gardens, are an extremely space effective, energy efficient, and sustainable way for horticulturists to produce high yields of produce for little resources by doing exactly what it sounds like: growing food vertically.
In this article, we will go over the basics of what a Hydroponic Tower is and what you need to know before adding one into your own home. We’ll also introduce the advantages of utilizing Hydroponic Towers within commercial agriculture and what the future of food production has the potential to look like. Let’s get into it!
What Is A Hydroponic Tower?
A Hydroponic Tower is a method of growing plants vertically without the traditional use of soil. It sounds simple, and that it is!
Imagine a tall structure that allows for multiple levels of plants to be grown upwards, rather than spread across strictly at a surface land level. This optimizes the use of space and resources while cultivating large yields of food.
By growing upwards, we don’t need to allocate as much land cover strictly for agricultural purposes. The stacked levels set up allows for optimized use of resources, especially water. Through this method, we are able to create a cycle of water that is reused and packed full of nutrients for the healthiest, most nutritious harvests.
There is just a snowball effect of incredible advantages that are possible within a future where Hydroponic Towers are utilized on a large scale basis. If the use of Hydroponic Towers is to be adopted by big agriculture, some of the most noteworthy and game changing benefits consist of:
- Extremely efficient use of space
- Climate controlled environments = growing what we want, where we want
- Year-round production of crops
- Using up to 90% less water than traditional agriculture
- Cultivating more nutrient dense produce, greens, and herbs
- Achieving greater energy efficiency
- More organic food without the worry of pests and weeds
That’s just skimming the surface of the perks. It’s important to remember that there are many components behind the incentive to grow food vertically and hydroponically.
One of the biggest driving factors is to optimize the use of space within the agriculture industry. It’s difficult to grasp just how much land traditional agriculture requires, but this statistic seems to put it into perspective:
According to the USDA, as of 2017, 40% of all United States land is being used by farms alone. This statistic accounts for a staggering 900.2 million acres of land strictly for agricultural use.
Concerns about the availability of land lead to the creation of the Hydroponic Tower, which takes advantage of vertical space by stacking plants upwards rather than spreading them across hundreds of millions of acres.
Hydroponic Towers are incredibly beneficial on a smaller scale as well. Adding one to your outdoor garden or in a well lit place within your home can bring much reward and quite the learning experience. Their well-organized and aesthetically pleasing structures are great additions to homes because they are compact and easy to care for.
Continue reading for the basics on how a Hydroponic Tower works, what you can grow within one, how the water cycle functions, and how to assemble a tower of your own.
How Does A Hydroponic Tower Work?
One of the most noteworthy aspects of a hydroponic tower is that it does not require soil to grow strong and bountiful plants. Although soil seems like a nonnegotiable when it comes to gardening, soil is simply a way for plants to access the nutrients that they need in order to grow and flourish.
Hydroponic Towers skip the use of soil by directly resorting to a water soluble nutrient solution. The nutrient solution gets added to the water cycle for the plants to absorb and flourish from. The plants also receive their vital nutrients from the air. (You can learn a little more about aeroponics here).
It’s gravity that makes the efficient hydroponic water cycle possible. A Hydroponic Tower works by allowing gravity to move the nutrient-dense water through numerous vertically stacked levels of plants.
The water starts at the highest level and with gravity, is able to flow from top to bottom, reaching every plant in the process. Eventually, the water settles at the lowest level to be pumped back to the topmost plant, repeating the process.
One of the many reasons why Hydroponic Towers are so sustainable is because they continuously reuse the water that flows through each water cycle. Up to 90% of water can be saved by using a Hydroponic Tower or other similar method of hydroponics rather than traditional gardening where water simply absorbs into the soil.
What Can You Grow In A Hydroponic Tower?
Many farms have already begun or fully adopted the hydroponic approach to growing food. Grocery stores have started stocking their shelves with hydroponically grown lettuces and herbs as well.
Not to mention how easy it is to add a Hydroponic Tower into your own home! The future of food is being rerouted into a sustainable, health-driven direction thanks to the Hydroponic Tower and other similar hydroponic systems.
Hydroponic towers are appealing to homeowners because they are great for small sunny locations like balconies and porches. They also allow for year-round harvest production since they are traditionally set up inside.
The most common crops grown in hydroponics are lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach and kale because they are low maintenance and grow incredibly fast. They produce seemingly overnight! Tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, hot peppers, and various herbs are also known for doing well in hydroponic systems.
But, you can pretty much grow anything with patience and care. It’s fun to get creative and experiment with your favorite plants within a hydroponic system. If you plan on using your hydroponic harvest for strictly at-home kitchen cooking, be prepared for much larger and more frequent harvests than traditional gardening.
Hydroponic Tower Watering Schedule
As gardeners know all too well, plants are very sensitive to over watering and under watering and each type of plant has their own specific set of needs in order to thrive. If you’re new to the at-home Hydroponic Tower, it’s important to do research on how to properly care for your plants of choice within the hydroponic environment.
But, you can’t go wrong with watering 2-3 times a day and increasing or decreasing according to your plants response to the water. If your plants are wilting before you water and then perk up immediately after watering, it is a good idea to water a bit more often.
On the other hand, if your plants wilt just after watering, then it is likely that you are watering too much and should increase the time you wait in between watering. It’s crucial to choose plants that have similar needs before putting them within the same hydroponic system in order to ensure that each variety is able to reach its full potential.
How Do You Make A Hydroponic Tower?
There are six key things needed to have a successful at-home Hydroponic Tower: light, air, water, nutrients, heat and space. Hydroponic Towers can be placed either indoors or outdoors.
Many homeowners are drawn towards an indoor set-up if they live in a place with four seasons due to the fact that indoor growing allows for year-long production within a climate controlled environment. Yet, whether you choose indoors or outdoors, plants will need five to six hours of light per day in addition to electrical access and an area that is protected from too much wind.
Once you’ve checked off all the basic necessities above, it’s time to begin assembling your Hydroponic Tower. There are many ways in which you can construct your own; most people opt to use a variation of PVC pipes. It’s quite simple to secure a PVC pipe upright, cut holes in it for the plants, and put an irrigation line in place.
Thankfully, there are countless tutorials online that go into the step by step details if you’re hoping to take a DIY approach.
One informative and simple tutorial that we particularly love is by Chris Loh on YouTube, which you can watch by clicking here.
Oklahoma State University has also created a step-by-step tutorial to build your own Hydroponic Tower which is accessible here.
If you are looking for a more readily available route, gardening stores sell hydroponic set-ups that come with everything you need to put it together and get growing. Set-ups come in all shapes and sizes and can be very compact to compliment smaller spaces.
A Hydroponic Tower can be an incredibly rewarding addition to an outdoor garden or within a home. When done correctly, you’ll be amazed at the large harvest in which even the most basic models are able to produce. If you find yourself missing your harvests during the off-seasons or wanting to embark on a new gardening journey, give a Hydroponic Tower a try!
If you are looking for something smaller, there is a foolproof, soil-free microgreens growing kit: try out The Good Box (you can learn more here!)
You can get some ideas for vertical gardening here.
You can learn about how to grow delicious hydroponic microgreens here.
Learn more about hydroponic gardening (and the answers to some common questions) here.
You can learn about the NFT method (a specific type of hydroponic growing setup) here.
You can learn about the Kratky technique (another hydroponic system) here.
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About the author:
Sofi is a passionate writer who studied communications and environmental studies at Eckerd College. You can get in touch with Sofi at https://slenzi4.wixsite.com/website.