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June 15, 2012

Hydroponic gardens for small space living

As more people move into smaller spaces to be closer to population-dense urban hubs, health-conscious residents are finding innovative ways to avoid comprising on home grown agriculture. Sure cut flowers and potted plants are great ways to add life to your home, as are little gardens planted on balconies, but more apartment and condominium residents are discovering the beauty of hydroponic gardens. 

Hydroponics refers to plants that grow without soil — instead, they’re grown in nutrient-rich water — and can describe anything from bottled plants to entire vegetable gardens.

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“Researchers discovered in the 18th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water,” Wikipedia explains. “In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial plant will grow with hydroponics.”

Although hydroponics are frequently used commercially, they’re also being used domestically. Here are a few examples of both commercial and home hydroponic innovations that we found interesting:

The Grow Bottle
The Grow Bottle by Potting Shed Creations lets you cultivate your own organic miniature home herb gardens in upcycled glass containers made from old wine bottles. Each bottle comes with organic seeds good for one batch of herbs (basil, chives, mint, oregano or parsley). After they’ve been used up, the bottles can be cleaned and replenished with a “replant” kit.

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The Volksgarden by Omega Garden Technology
If you’re looking for something to yield a bit more greenery, the Volksgarden hydroponic wheel could do the trick — provided you have the space for it.

“The Volksgarden unit has space to grow up to 80 plants at once,” Gizmag explains of the $2,000 device. “Herbs, vegetables, fruits and grains can be harvested easily and continuously without the need for a degree in horticulture.”

Gizmag adds, “The Volksgarden, from Omega Garden Technology, uses a rotating cylinder housing to bask the plants constantly in light. The result is a highly effective use of lumens, water, and nutrients.”

Image via Vimeo

Organic hydroponic lettuce at Subway in Tokyo
The Subway store in Tokyo’s Marunouchi Building grows its own organic lettuce in a hydroponic garden. That’s a pretty great way to “Eat Fresh.” Although the garden only produces enough lettuce for about 5% of its sales, it would probably still be celebrated by health-conscious Subway customers around the world, even if they were charged a little extra for their organic greens.

Screenshot via Ustream/Treehugger

Bitponics connects your garden to the web
If you want to apply your geeky side to growing your greens, Bitponics is a hydroponic garden that connects to the Internet and delivers you information on when (and how) to care for your garden via sensors on the plants. The sensors send their data to the plant parents, giving them information like the pH of the soil, and the intensity of the lighting and humidity. The Brooklyn-based company reached its fundraising goal on Kickstarter yesterday, raising $23,662 from 261 backers.

Image via Kickstarter

Do you have a hydroponic garden, or would you get one? If so, what (legal) herbs, vegetables or other plants would you grow in your home?