You Don't Need Dirt!

Like you, plants need good things like food, water, and minerals in order to grow. Usually they get these important nutrients from the rich soil in which they're planted. But there's another way to grow plants that doesn't use soil. It's called hydroponic gardening.

“Hydroponic” means “working with water.” In a hydroponic garden, plants grow with their roots in water, not in dirt. The water is filled with special food for the plants that gardeners have carefully measured and prepared.

Hydroponic plants grow quickly. In ordinary gardens, plants need time and energy to grow long roots that search the soil for food and water. In a hydroponic garden, plants can use their energy to grow tall instead. And because there is no soil, there are no weeds and few insect pests. Gardeners don't need to spray plants with dangerous chemicals. Both the plants and the environment stay healthy.

Scientists hope that, one day, hydroponic gardens may be able to help hungry people all over the world grow enough food—even in countries that have bad soil, or weather that is too hot, too cold, or too dry. And astronauts hope to take hydroponic gardens with them on the spaceships they fly to Mars, so that they will always have fresh vegetables—and the fun of growing a garden without dirt.

Vocabulary

nutrient:
A material in soil that helps a plant live and grow. Roots take in water and nutrients from the soil.

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Activity

  1. How is growing hydroponic plants different from growing plants in a garden?
    [anno: Hydroponic plants do not use soil to grow. All the nutrients for hydroponic plants come from special food in the water used to grow the plants. Plants in a garden get their nutrients from soil and water.]
  2. What are some benefits of hydroponic gardening? Write a few sentences for your answer.
    [anno: Hydroponic gardening does not need pesticides. Temperature and weather conditions outside do not matter because all the gardening is done indoors. The plants grow faster because they get more energy directly from the water in which they are grown. Plants can be grown all year round.]