Soil-free gardening is a relatively easy and different way to grow plants when you don’t have a traditional soil based garden. But how do you go about creating one?

Hydroponics is a form of soil-free gardening that, instead of using soil, grows plants in a solution of nutrients mixed with water.

As you can imagine, there are many advantages to hydroponic soil-free gardening:

  • Plants grow faster – it is thought that plants that are raised in a hydroponic system grow up to 20% faster than those developed using a more traditional method and that yields of hydroponic plants are often a lot larger, by up to 25%.
  • No soil is needed – this is a considerable advantage where garden soil is of poor quality, or for people who live in apartments or homes without gardens.
  • It takes up less space – the plants don’t need to grow extensive root systems to take in the nutrients that they need so they can be packed together more tightly – again, an advantage for those with no outdoor garden.

When you first set up a soil-free gardening hydroponic system, you need to spend some selecting a system that will be most suitable for you.

soil-free gardening
Photo by Emile-Victor Portenart on Unsplash

Factors that need taking into consideration include the space you have, what you intend to grow and time that you have available for maintaining the system.

When it comes to beginners, there are three basic setups that we recommend, which are we going to cover below. These are:

  • Ebb and Flow
  • Wicking
  • Deep Water Culture

These systems can all be built up from individual parts bought separately, or you can buy a kit from a hydroponics store or other online retailer.

soil-free gardening
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Ebb and Flow

This is probably the most complex system of the three that we have mentioned above but are probably the most versatile.

It works by flooding the growing plants with a water/nutrient mixture and then draining it back into a reservoir.

To do this, you need a pump with a timer so you can customize your plants watering schedule based on the size of the plant, the number of plants, the humidity and a whole host of other factors.


This is the most simple system and the one that is easiest to set up, as it has no moving parts. There is a reservoir filled with water and nutrients and a container above with the growing plants.

The two are connected by a wick, which draws the water up to the plants for them to absorb through their roots. This is the perfect system if you’re growing herbs or microgreens,

soil-free gardening
Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

Deep Water Culture

This is another incredibly simple system, where the plants are placed onto a styrofoam platform that sits right on top of the water/nutrients reservoir. A bubble air pump is added to the reservoir to deliver oxygen to the plant roots

soil-free gardening
Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

Most plants can be grown using a hydroponics system, but if you are just starting out, it is better to start off small and simple. Vegetables and herbs grow quickly, require little maintenance and do not need too much in the way of nutrients.

It’s a good idea to start off with something that grows quickly so that you can check your system is working.

Header Image: Photo by PHÚC LONG on Unsplash