Every winter I get excited about gardening and get eager to start growing.  A couple years ago I almost bought an Aerogarden. I didn’t because of its cost, but I resolved to learn about how it worked and if I could make one myself.  As it turns out, the “Aerogarden” doesn’t actually use aeroponics, but “deep water culture” hydroponics.   Not everyone agrees philosophically that we should be using hydroponics, but the science behind it is fascinating nonetheless.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics, simply, is growing plants in a nutrient solution, without soil.  There are various methods to do this, and the Aerogarden is an all-in-one consumer kit.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a subset of hydroponics that incorporates fish into the mix, using the fish waste and physical filtering instead of a synthetic nutrient solution.  You can also raise the fish for food.  Many people use tilapia.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a specific type of hydroponics that suspends the roots in air and sprays or mists the nutrient solution over the roots at set intervals.  There are two types of aeroponics, high pressure and low pressure.  (There is also another type called “fogponics”, using ultrasonic foggers, but there are issues with root suffocation on established plants.  This tends to work best for cloning plants.)

high pressure

High pressure aeroponics uses mist and is considered more efficient with water and more effective at growing plants due to ideal droplet size.

As far as I know, there are no consumer-grade high pressure aeroponic systems available, likely due to the requirement for more knowledge and maintenance (potential mist heads clogging, etc).   The only company I know selling high pressure systems is Art Garden, and his systems require more than just a basic knowledge to operate, and are pretty easy to copy DIY.

Here’s an early video about the family behind Art Garden and their system:

There are some great plans for DIY systems on weed-related sites, the best I’ve found is from 420dotcom.com.

low pressure

Low pressure aeroponics is simpler and can be cheaper, but isn’t quite as efficient.  It uses slightly more water and the water droplet size isn’t as efficient for root update, compared with HPA systems.

Products like Tower Garden use low pressure aeroponics.  Here’s a great example of a DIY system:

This system seems like the easiest to build and maintain.  It could even work with an aquaponics setup as well.

So what?

At this point, I’m not ready to do anything.  I’m going to stick to regular outdoor gardening, using the compost I’ve made from my yard waste and food scrapes.  The first major project I have to start working on this year is finishing our basement.  After the basement is finished,  something like this could be a future project.  In the meantime, it is fun to learn about this stuff and watch YouTube videos about it.


Sources:

Various articles and videos I’ve watched in the last two years.  If you want specifics, I can try to dig some up for you, let me know in the comments!