The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

January 25, 2014

Gardening without soil?

HUNTSVILLE — The concept of “soil less” gardening, or hydroponics, has actually been around for centuries. The word hydroponics comes from two Greek words, “hydro” meaning water and “ponics” meaning labor. The Hanging gardens of Babylon and the Floating gardens of China are two of the earliest examples where hydroponic gardening may have been employed.

Dr. Merle Jensen of the University of Arizona describes hydroponic gardening as growing plants in nutrient-rich water without soil. In hydroponic systems water is delivered directly to the roots of the plant. The roots may hang directly into the water or be misted by it. The plants could also be enclosed in a container or trough filled with a substrate or “soil replacement.” The substrate may consist of materials such as perlite, peat moss, vermiculite, rock wool, gravel or sand. Substrates must provide good water retention yet be porous enough for gas exchange. Between watering intervals substrates serve as the storage location for water and nutrients for the plants root system.

There are many techniques or systems for delivering water to a plants root zone. Let me briefly describe few of the basic hydroponic systems and how they work.

Wick system — By far the simplest hydro system and a “passive” system because it has no moving parts. Water and nutrients are drawn into the substrate with wicks to the individual plants. A small air pump and air stone keep the reservoir aerated.

Water culture system — This system is the simplest of all active hydro systems. A platform, usually Styrofoam with holes cut out to support the plants, floats directly on the nutrient solution with the root totally submerged. An air pump with air stone supplies oxygen to the plants.

Ebb and flow system — This systems works by temporarily flooding a grow tray with nutrient solution then draining it back into reservoir. This function is normally performed with a submerged pump connected to a timer. When the timer turns the pump on the nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray.  When the timer shuts the pump off the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. The timer is set to come on several times a day depending on the size and type of plant, temperature, humidity and the type of medium being used.

Recovery/non-recovery — These are drip systems. A timer controls a submersed pump which pumps the nutrient solution through a drip line directly onto the base of each plant. A “recovery system” collects any runoff of the nutrient solution and returns it to the reservoir. A “non-recovery” system does not collect the runoff.

Nutrient film technique — N.F.T. systems have a constant flow of nutrient solution which eliminates the need for a timer on the pump. The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray and flows over the roots of the plants then drains back into the reservoir. No growing medium is needed (substrate) and the plant is supported in a small plastic basket with the roots dangling into the nutrient solution.

Aeroponic — Like the N.F.T. system no growing medium is needed. The roots hang in the air and are misted by the nutrient solution. The misting cycle is only for a few seconds every few minutes so this type of system must be carefully monitored to insure the misting cycle is not interrupted.

Some advantages of hydroponics are it is ideally suited to areas with poor soil unsuitable for plant growth and provides a twelve month growing season. In addition, hydroponically grown plants tend to grow faster and produce larger yields.   

The disadvantages are these systems can be complicated and use a lot of electricity for the pumps, timers, lights and lamps they often require.

The biggest consideration for you to make as a gardening hobbyist is which hydroponics system is best for you and this will require a little research on your part. There is a wealth of information available to you over the Internet and thousands of vendors to answer your questions and provide you everything you need to get started. If you think hydroponics is something you would like to try, visit the following website, It’s good information to help you get started.

Don’t forget, the 2014 Walker County Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale is 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 8 at the Walker County AgriLife Extension Office. (102 Tam Rd., off Highway 75 North)

FYI: The Walker County Extension Office is now on Facebook! WalkerCoTxAgrilife has been established to provide updates and information to Walker County residents and landowners on a timely basis. For more information on the Walker County Master Gardeners, please call (936) 435-2426 or go to The WCMG website is a bounty of useful gardening information and citizens are encouraged to peruse it often.

If you have any questions about the information in this article or any of the Extension programs, please contact the Walker County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at (936) 435-2426, or Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-23-the-hive-Behind-The-Hive.jpg THE HIVE: Behind the scenes at The Hive

    The Hive is about more than just journalism. It’s about expanding horizons.
    Being a part of a broadcast journalism team is a huge step for many students.
    Some students come equipped with a level of charisma that makes it easy to be on camera, others really have to push themselves.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-hive-GGs-Spring-Show-Dress-Rehearsal.jpg THE HIVE: May we have this dance?

    Recently, the Huntsville High School Grenadier Guards traveled to Galveston to compete in the Showtime International National dance competition. The dance team took home a national first-place award for team modern, and national second-place awards for team pom, contemporary and open.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-CTE-Goes-CSI.jpg THE HIVE: CTE goes CSI

    Some students in the CTE Department’s (Career and Technology Education) forensics class at Huntsville High School got a chance last week to get “hands on” at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station.
    With simulated crime scenes, demonstrations of arson investigation techniques, students got up close and personal with authentic crime scene situations.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-the-hive-MTB-article-picture.jpg THE HIVE: Hornet mountain bikers make strong showing

    It’s 10 o’clock on Sunday morning.
    With cloudy skies and heavy air, members of the Huntsville High School mountain bike team line up at the starting line. With adrenaline pumping and legs eager to start pedaling, the bell sounds.
    They’re off.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-23-Davison,-Brent.jpg Infant stable, but still critical

    A 2-month-old baby who was found unresponsive at a Huntsville residence last week is in stable but critical condition at a Houston hospital.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Historian: Let’s talk about civil rights in Huntsville

    In 1965, the civil rights movement made its way to the city of Huntsville, beginning with a sit-in at the Cafe Raven, a popular restaurant at the time.
    To celebrate next year’s 50th anniversary of the move toward racial integration, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum will be hosting an oral history event for citizens and senior citizens to get together and share their accounts of the civil rights movement in Huntsville on Thursday night at 7.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Hair.jpg ‘Hair’ still growing on young actors, audiences more than 40 years after debut

    War, peace, racism, sexism, mistrust of the government, radical change, social and sexual revolution, freedom of expression, scandal, civil liberties, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, turning on, tuning in, dropping out, but never fading away.
    Is this the dawning of a new Age of Aquarius?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-22-Sunshine-Boys.jpg Huntsville Community Theatre presents 'The Sunshine Boys'

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-21-Reunion.jpg PHOTOS: Haynes family gathers for annual Easter reunion

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • 4-21 Cop Story.jpg Sheriff’s officers adopt local woman into their family

    When Walker County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a suspected burglary two years ago at the home of 83-year-old Madelene Patton, they left with much more than they expected.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo


House Ads
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide