Growing in Water - Hydroponics Uses & Origins

Hydroponically grown TomatoesCompetitive & adventurous gardeners love growing in water with our Vivigrow and Rain & Drain Planters which use the hydroponic technique where plants are grown in water.

There are some fascinating origins and uses behind the technique of growing in water so we thought we’d share a few with you...

Floating gardens of the ancient Aztecs

The Aztecs were a nomadic tribe who were driven onto the marshy shore of Lake Tenochtitlan, located in what is now Mexico. They had no land on which to grow crops, so they learned how to build rafts of rushes and reeds and grow vegetables, flowers, and even trees on these rafts which they called Chinampas.

They dredged up soil from the bottom of the lake and piled it on the rafts. The soil was rich of organic debris that released large amounts of nutrients which fed the abundant crops of vegetables, flowers, and even trees planted on them. The roots of these plants grew though the floor of the raft and down into the water. This is much like the root growth you will see in our Vivigrow Planter. Watch our short video showing early root growth of our tomatoes growing in our Vivigrow.

Sometimes the rafts were joined together to form floating islands as long as two hundred feet long. Some Chinampas even had a hut for a resident gardener.

The Aztecs eventually developed a large and powerful empire but they continued to maintain the rafts. In the 16th Century when the Spanish arrived in the New World in search of gold, they were fascinated by these islands of trees seemingly suspended on the water. Chinampas continued to be used in the area into the nineteenth century.

Hanging gardens of Babylon

Many garden writers believe that the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, were grown using a sophisticated hydroponic system into which oxygen and nutrient rich fresh water was regularly pumped.

Egypt & Antartica

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic records dating back to several hundred years B.C. describe the growing of plants in water along the Nile without soil. The extreme environmental conditions found in the Arctic make the process of growing food a formidable challenge. Four months of solid daylight, four months of total darkness, and unpredictable winds and temperature changes make growing extremely difficult. However, in Antarctica, successful harvests are achieved on a daily basis.

Astrastronauts & Military

NASA have been trialling systems growing in water and now astronauts are likely to be fed on long flights using food originating from crops grown in water. In World War 2 the shipping of fresh vegetables to overseas outposts was not practical so both the American Army and the Royal Air Force opened hydroponic units at military bases. Many millions of tons of vegetables grown without soil were eaten by Allied Soldiers and Airmen during the war years. After World War II the military command continued to use hydroponic growing methods. The United States Army had a special hydroponics branch and in 1952 it grew over 8,000,000 lbs. of fresh produce in water.

Our Vivigrow & Rain & Drain Planters

The Vivigrow is a ‘hydroponic’ growing technique and our very own founder of Greenhouse Sensation was one of the pioneers of hydroponics. He developed the Vivigrow so that this technique of growing in water in a soil-less planter could be adapted for home/greenhouse use on a smaller scale. The beauty of the Vivigrow planter is that the planter pumps a constant stream of water & nutrients over your plants’ roots, which encourages your plants to take up more water, nutrients and oxygen compared to if you were growing in soil. Watch our founder harvesting a mass of chillies grown in our 3 Plant Vivigrow Planter at the end of the growing season.

Our Rain & Drain Tropical Planter has been designed by our horticulturists to replicate the watering & feeding conditions needed by tropical plants. The Rain & Drain Planters inclusive water timer ensures your tropical and exotic plants such as bananas, ginger and papaya are fed & watered several times a day without ever over-watering. Pebbles are used in the planter instead of soil and a small pump waters the plants several times per day ensuring the plants have access to everything they need for stronger healthier plants and bumper harvests. Watch our founder breaking ginger harvest record.