Knowing the ideal growing environment and needs of the plant you are growing is the most basic way of determining whether you should grow your fruits in a hydroponic system or a traditional soil medium. Of course, each system brings its own pros and cons to the table which we will discuss below. Following that, depending on your soil conditions, size of growing area, and price limit, you can make an informed decision on which system works best for you.
Water vs. Soil Medium
Before even comparing which medium is better for growing fruits, we have to first establish a common ground on how each planting method functions. We all know the traditional soil medium where fruit-bearing plants are sowed directly in the soil. The plant will grow from the minerals in the soil. A newer (surfaced in the latter end of the 1800s), less popular method of gardening is known as hydroponics, where instead of soil, plant roots are submerged into a nutrient-water solution. There are also some hydroponics out there that enlist the help of additional media such as sawdust and sand to hold up the roots of the plants.
Traditional Soil Medium
Soil is commonly seen as the basic medium when growing fruits. So long as the soil conditions and general growing environment is suitable, you can grow any and every fruit you would like in soil.
That said, it can be tedious to manage the state of the soil in a conventional garden as opposed to the solution in a hydroponic system. In the case of blueberries, the ideal soil pH for it to flourish is 5.0. The pH level of normal soil is 8.0. No matter how much nutrient mixture or soil alterations you throw in, it is nearly impossible to decrease the pH of the soil by 3.0.
Therefore, if you’re an owner of a traditional soil garden, ensure to check the conditions of your soil prior to investing in the fruit-bearing plant for growing.
Revolutionary Water Medium — Hydroponic
On top of being useful in minimizing water usage and carbon footprint for industrial cultivation projects, hydroponics is also great to use in tight spaces. In addition, this revolutionary gardening technique gives vegetarians the convenience of obtaining food without making a trip to the food store or supermarket. If you’re a pescetarian, you can try an aquaponics system (i.e. a symbiotic system comprising of hydroponics and aquaculture).
Similar to traditional soil medium, you can theoretically grow any fruit you would like in your hydroponic system. However, certain fruits can thrive in a water medium while others cannot. Some examples of fruits that grow well in hydroponics are tomatoes, blackberries, and raspberries. They not only flourish in wet environments, but they also need a medium of low pH. And compared to soil, it is way easier to manipulate the mineral and pH levels in hydroponic systems.
Here is a list of some other delicious fruits that can thrive in hydroponics (note that the systems stated below are the best, but not necessarily the only, system these plants thrive in):
Although watermelons do survive in soil under hot climates, they thrive in water mediums. If you’re aiming to grow one watermelon, you can use direct water culture (DWC) with a floating system (planter is buoyed up) in your hydroponics. But if you’re looking to grow multiple melons, an ebb-and-flow system should be fine.
As watermelons have vines, don’t forget to ensure that the fruit has sufficient support as it grows.
2. Cantaloupe — i.e. Netted Melons, Rockmelon
Like watermelons, cantaloupe (where the skin of the melon looks like a rigid exterior net) can grow well with an ebb-and-flow system. Don’t forget to also provide enough support for this fruit — you can try placing the fruit itself in a net.
Strawberries are very picky fruits. Not only do they need an environment of moderate to low humidity, but they are also prone to root decay and require careful attention to grow. A nutrient film technique (NFT) system benefits them the most, on top of additional caution for humidity levels. But this will all be worth the effort when you get to yield batches of mouth-watering strawberries all year round.
Moving on to another type of berry, the blueberry. Bushes have a fair trade-off as blueberry plants require at least two years to bear fruits, yet, they won’t need to be sowed every year.
A suitable method for hydroponic blueberries is the NFT system, which provides a great way of giving nutrients to the bushes.
Grapes are another type of vine fruit and like the rest, they require plenty of attention and tender loving care. As a result, they can be quite a hassle to grow. That said, it is nothing a bucket system cannot handle, of course with supplements of a trellis as a structure for the fruit to develop on. Remember to monitor its roots for signs of decay as well as pH levels. Also, ensure that they are getting a sufficient amount of water.
If you wish to take on a challenge, you can definitely attempt growing tropical fruits like kiwi, pineapples, or even bananas. These are, needless to say, trickier and more complicated endeavors but with patience and research, you will surely feel satisfied with the results.
Under specific setups and environmental conditions, hydroponics is a great agriculture investment. But, it doesn’t work a hundred percent of the time. In fact, there are plenty of misunderstandings about this planting technique going around, one of which is the notion that hydroponics allow your crops to be resistant to pests and diseases. Yes, it might be true that with appropriate measures, hydroponic fruits reduce the likelihood of such issues occurring. But, a lack of care and mishandling of the gardening setup will still result in these setbacks.
But these problems can be easily avoided. As long as the hydroponics and fruits are well cared for, with the proper research done on the fruits and the agriculture system, you will have a constant source of fruit at any time of the year while utilizing a smaller area for growing them than in any conventional garden.