Updated: Feb 20
Hello again, Friends and Fans of ESH! It's great to see you this beautiful day! Today, Lettuce Chat about hydroponics. What makes hydroponic food production special? Why choose hydroponic food production?
On our "Hydroponics: What does it mean?" page, we have touched a bit on the basics of hydroponic food production, why purchase hydroponic lettuce, and a basic history of hydroponics. There's no need to regurgitate that whole page for you here. However, I will remind you that hydroponics is a term coined by W.F. Gericke from the Greek word "hydro" (water) and "ponos" (working). Literally translated into water working. At ESH, we put water to work in a large way.
In the event that you have seen our fancy poster, but haven't had time to digest it, or if you haven't seen our fancy poster, here it is below! I am going to hit all of the bullet points and expound on them a tad. Thanks for indulging me... this is a long one, dear fans, settle in.
Conserves water: Hydroponic systems are fantastic at conserving water by preventing evaporation and runoff. Our system is a re-circulating system that uses about 10% of the water required in conventional farming. We do not need to irrigate or use flooding techniques, where the water may or may not reach each plant's roots. Our system ensures that a stream of water flows across the roots of every single plant. This delivers to each plant exactly what it needs to survive and thrive. What the plant does not use, flows down to the next plant, and so on, until it flows back into the recirculation system. And the circle continues.
No fertilizer run-off: Hydroponic food production has the advantage that we are not spraying or otherwise topically applying fertilizers onto the plants. Our plants receive their nutrition through the water supply, flowing directly across the roots. The plants take in only what they need, and we aren't wasting nutrients or potentially contaminating water sources with unnecessary additives. This is also a way to conserve the nutrition elements that we have, and they are also recirculated, until they are used up. All in all, we do no harm to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We think that's pretty great.
Local food production year-round: Hydroponic production has the ability to allow food to be grown year-round, depending on the environment. At ESH, we do grow all 12 months of the year, thanks to our nifty greenhouses and technology. As long as the environment allows, and the water supply is amenable, you can effectively grow hydroponic crops year-round. Even if it snows, or is as hot as it gets here, we have a protected environment. Also, we do not have to rest plots as you would soil grown crops. As soon as a gutter is harvested and cleaned, it will be refilled to grow more plants, so the down time is less than a day. Regularly scheduled turn over, consistent and ongoing crop production = year-round food production.
No harmful pesticides: Because we do not want to contaminate our recirculating water or our growing environment with harmful chemicals, we do not use harmful pesticides. We do however, follow the same standards used by organic growers. And this ties back in with the no fertilizer run off. Same thing! No harmful pesticide exposure, contamination, or runoff.
Better tasting, more nutritious food: When you grow hydroponic food, each and every plant has the same access to the same nutrition, optimal nutrition. Essentially, every head of lettuce gets the exact same diet, all the way down to micro nutrients, which is why the lettuce tastes so darn good. And this diet is one that we have perfected down to a tee, over the years. That, and our water comes from the Blue Ridge Aquifer. Perfection!
Grows more food in much less space: Hydroponic food growing is unique in that you can grow a much larger volume of food in a small space. As noted above, each plant does not have to vie for nutrients, as the water flow eliminates competition for those nutrients. Once the plant has completed its growing process, it is harvested, and another plant can replace that space as soon as the equipment is sanitized. Turnover time is minimal and there is no need to rest the area, and there is less space required for each plant. Here again, we have regularly scheduled turn over and consistent, ongoing crop production. This adds up quickly, in terms of volume.
Can grow anywhere, rooftops, Mars: Any space can be used for any scale of hydroponic farming. If you can think it up, and design it, you can use it. You can find vertical growing spaces, hanging spaces, table spaces, rooftops, plant stands, you name it. Any place that a water source can be harnessed, made to flow, and maintained, you can grow plants. Even in areas where soil growing is inhospitable, you can grow healthy, nutritious crops.
Hydroponic; cleaner, safer foods: (ESH crops and greenhouse protected crops specifically.) This goes back to the fact that we aren't spraying a bunch of harmful yuck all over a crop, because any nutrition the plant needs comes through the water. We carefully control all nutrient input that these plants receive, which makes for healthy plants. Also, there are no animals walking over the top of the food, introducing animal stuff onto the food. (You still want to wash your lettuce before eating it, but not because of bunny poop.)
Any crop can be grown hydroponically: We know that lettuce, microgreens, and other greens can be grown hydroponically, but what about other foods? Foods such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and other fruits are the first that come to mind of foods that can be grown hydroponically. But there are a variety of other types of hydroponic systems in which you can grow other foods such as root veggies like carrots and radishes, and even potatoes. Believe it or not, you can actually grow dwarf-sized fruit trees like lemons and bananas (no joke!). These trees require specialized systems however. You just need to consider your space, water supply, nutrition, and your hydroponic system specifically.
That about covers it in water, Friends and Fans. We really love how our hydroponic system turns out the best lettuce this side of the universe. Maybe one day, we will be growing lettuce on the other side of the universe. Given the right equipment and ability to get the equipment there, we could do anything! We hope you learned something today, even just a little bit. Thanks for joining us for this little hydroponic "lesson", we appreciate you spending time with us. Lettuce chat soon Fans! Until next time, stay hydrated and eat lots of lettuce!