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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about hydroponics. Sixty-five years ago this week, the first commercial hydroponicum opened, growing crops in water.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Ready to plant those vegetables? Here's a checklist: seeds (Ding), plenty of light (Ding), soil (Buzzer).

(Whispered echoing voice: "What is life?")

CURWOOD: Dirt, sun, even the great outdoors are not needed if you grow plants indoors with a sun lamp and immerse their roots in nutrient-laden water. It's called hydroponics, and 65 years ago this week the first commercial hydroponicum got going in California, where else? And the technique is still an economical way to garden. Plants grown indoors need fewer or no pesticides. And weeds? Forget about it. Hydroponics also require less water than traditional growing. The water and fertilizer can be carefully controlled and recirculated. And since plants don't need to work so hard searching out nutrients with their roots, they devote more energy to growing foliage and fruit. But soilless gardening is not modern scientific magic. The hanging gardens of Babylon were likely a hydroponic showplace. And the ancient Aztecs cultivated floating gardens on lakes. Nowadays, home gardeners can grow just about anything hydroponically: the indoor solution for a green thumb stymied by winter. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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