Looking for a new way to grow a range of plants without soil? Aeroponics, a form of hydroponics systems, is a great way to level up from traditional farming methods.
I’ll go through all foundational basics of the aeroponic method of gardening, answering the questions of “What is Aeroponics” and “How Does it Work?”
What is Aeroponics?
Aeroponics is a system of hydroponically growing plants. The major difference between a hydroponic system and an aeroponic system, is how the nutrients are delivered to the plants.
With traditional hydroponics systems, the roots are either immersed in water or in a growing medium that keeps a moist environment. In aeroponic systems, they deliver a fine spray of a nutrient-rich mist directly to the plant roots.
With aeroponic technology, the seeds are typically planted in small pieces of foam that are placed in small plant pots or slots. The roots hang freely in a misty environment, unencumbered by space restrictions and with no resistance from soil or other growing mediums.
Aeroponic plants are able to grow far more than in traditional gardens or hydroponic systems. The unfettered growth of the roots promote a larger yield of quality plants, as in all smart gardens.
NASA performed experiments in space aboard the Mir space station that concluded aeroponic-grown plants absorb “more minerals and vitamins,” so they’re healthier and more nutritious.
Types of Aeroponics Systems
There are three common types of aeroponic gardens: Horizontal, A-Frame, and Vertical. Let’s go through the similarities and differences.
All types of aeroponic systems use spray bars or misters to deliver the rich nutrient water spray to the roots of plants in a controlled environment. This fundamental aspect of aeroponic gardens is consistent regardless of the type of aeroponic system.
All types of systems perform the same functions, plants grow on the outer surface while the roots are draped inside a closed environment, normally some type of dark chamber. This chamber is a nutrient-rich, mist environment that’s perfect for indoor plant cultivation.
The main differences between systems is mostly down to the architecture.
Horizontal Trough or Tray
In this method, a trough or large tray provides a closed chamber into which the plant roots hang. The plants themselves are inserted into the lid of the trough and are either exposed to natural light or indoor grow lights.
The roots are fed with nutrient-rich solution by means of a spray bar or mister.
As the name suggests, the A-Frame is shaped like a 3-D triangle (think Toblerone bar without the gaps). The outer surface of the triangle is covered with plastic sheets that are supported by the frame.
The plants are placed into holes in this sheeting and the roots are contained with the “A.” Inside the “A,” the plant roots are fed nutrient solutions through a pump and mister.
Vertical Columns (aka Tower Garden)
These are vertical gardens that utilize the often unused vertical space. Enclosed vertical columns have slots or pockets to place the plants into, the roots grow inside the column, where they are fed with a nutrient-laden mist from the water reservoir.
Vertical systems are a popular choice for indoor spaces or places with little outdoor space. Vertical farming technology has advanced quickly there are systems out there like the Tower Garden Flex and Home indoor gardens.
These spray water droplets and not actually true mist, because they’re low-pressure misters. True mist needs high pressure water sprays to create the mist.
What Types of Plants and Vegetables Can You Grow in Aeroponics?
There are some limitations to the variety of plants that can be grown in aeroponic gardens, but there are still some great options.
For obvious reasons, you can rule out root crops like potatoes and carrots. These simply don’t have the root support that are required to grow.
Shallow rooted plants are the best options for aeroponic gardens. Leafy greens are a great option, plants such as these will all thrive in aeroponic systems:
Short herbs also display healthy growth in this type of closed-loop system.
Tall plants and herbs are also possible, although they should be harvested frequently.
Fruits like strawberries and tomatoes can also be grown successfully. Although with tomato plants, a trellis or some other support structure should be used. Large fruits are less suitable as they require more space and support than aeroponic systems can provide.
What are the Benefits of Aeroponics?
There are many benefits to growing plants and vegetables using this method.
- Short Grow Time – Plants can grow complex roots very quickly in a soilless medium environment. Without soil or other growing medium to stunt growth, the naked roots quickly grow far larger than in all other methods.
- More Harvests – There’s a higher volume of plants and crops with this advance method of gardening. For example, some vegetable crops have a shorter crop timing before they harvest. Pair that with the ability to grow and harvest all year-round, you now have less need to run to the supermarkets.
- Efficient and environmentally friendly – Aeroponics use up to 98% less water than plants grown in soil, while maintaining healthy plant growth. They grow faster and also require little to no pesticides. Harvesting times are cut by a third when using aeroponics.
- Space Saving – These systems can be used to grow large quantities of plants in a very small space.
- Fewer Nutrients – Because of the high nutrient absorption rates in roots, these systems use less plant food than other methods.
What are the Disadvantages of Aeroponics?
While there are many advantages of growing using this method. There are a few drawbacks with aeroponics.
- Nutrient Levels – Maintaining the correct nutrient level in these systems is critical to plant health.
- Susceptibility to equipment failure – The roots need to be contained within a mist environment at all times. They are exposed with no damp soil or other medium to maintain root health in the case of equipment or power failure, they will quickly wither and even die in these instances.
- High Maintenance – Misters and spray bars require constant checking to ensure that mineral deposits haven’t clogged the spray holes. Aeroponic equipment like top-quality misters can get costly, so regular cleaning is a good idea.
What Is Aeroponics – Final Thoughts
What is Aeroponics? It’s a type of gardening that can provide many advantages when growing plants at home or in a commercial farm.
More home aeroponic growing setups are coming into the market, like the Tower Garden. They’re helping to provide solutions for healthy plant development without the high upfront costs that would be needed to build your own aeroponics garden.
1. What are the Costs for Aeroponics Systems?
The cost for aeroponic systems vary massively, a hobby or home kit can be bought for around the $100 price point. After that, the sky’s the limit with many professional systems running into tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to create the soilless environment.
2. How Often Do You Water Aeroponics?
Plant roots must be kept moist at all times, so you need to constantly water and provide nutrients to plants with aeroponics. Aeroponic systems automatically feed a supply of nutrient mist in an enclosed environment.
3. Who Discovered Aeroponics?
There are two people who discovered and invented the Aeroponics we know today. The term aeroponics was first used by a dutch biologist named Frits Warmolt Went. The first commercial use of the method was by Richard Stoner.
4. When Was Aeroponics Invented?
When we try to trace when aeroponics was invented, we look at two dates. Frits Warmolt Went first mentioned the term in 1957. However, it wasn’t until 29 years later in 1986 that Richard Stoner produced the first commercial crops using these systems. Richard Stoner also took out the first aeroponic patents in 1983.