Herbal hydroponics consists of producing herbs with a soil-free growing process, using only water. Hydro means "water" and ponics means "labor." In addition to water, farmers sometimes add growth enhancers like minerals and other fertilizers. Consequently, they can control exactly how much nutrition a plant receives based on what is optimal for that plant species. Herbs produced in this environment yield the greatest and freshest results. Hydroponics is a relatively new way of growing plants.
There are several different methods of using hydroponics for herbs. The primary methods consist of the roots simply floating in the water in a nutrient mix (deep water culture) or suspending plants in the growing medium and pumping water through the baskets holding the plants (expandable drip system). Gravel may also be used to anchor the roots. Other techniques include nutrient film, ebb and flow, and propagation systems.
Herbal hydroponics is typically performed in a greenhouse with balanced lighting and the temperatures ranging anywhere from 70 to 80 degrees F. Humidity is generally kept between 40 and 50 percent.
Most often, using hydroponics on herbs makes them organic; but in certain circumstances herbs grown under hydroponic conditions are not organic. For instance, farmers sometimes use a light pesticide depending on what they are growing, where they are growing it, and what insect or pests they are battling against. Herbs grown under these conditions are not considered organic. When shopping for organic herbs at a local grocery store, look for a label showing that it is organic. If shopping at a farmers market, or buying from a local grower, ask an employee if the herb is grown organically or not.
There are major advantages when growing and eating hydroponically-grown herbs. The process uses a lot less water than any other growing method available, thus conserving water. In addition, the water the herbs are grown in can be reused for other herbs. Another advantage of hydroponic herbs is that there is no soil pollution or corrosion resulting from the process. Hydroponically-grown herbs flourish, producing up to four times the amount they might in the usual outside environment, according to Hydroponics.com. Finally, there are little or no harmful pesticides on the food to be consumed.
Using hydroponic methods to grow herbs has the potential for reduced cost, due to the efficient and abundant growth of the product. Since organic produce has a reputation of being more expensive, hydroponics could help these herbs to be more competitive. Growing herbs with hydroponics on a small scale at home for personal, year-round use is also very feasible. Hydroponic herbs are typically more fresh because they are grown and consumed locally. Buying locally also supports the local economy.