You can grow your plants either in soil or water. The method that you pick depends on what is best suited based on the available space and your goals.
Plants grow better in water or soil depending on how well you take care of them. If you provide the plants with the required light, oxygen, nutrients, and moisture they will grow well. It does not matter whether the growing medium is water or soil.
I’ve written a lot more details on the benefits and drawbacks of growing plants in soil or water. I’ve also mentioned how you can go about growing your plants in soil or water as you need. So keep reading.
Benefits of growing plants in water
Grow in limited space
The biggest benefit of growing in water is you can grow plants in a limited space. This is very helpful if you don’t have a large backyard for growing plants in soil.
You could even set up to grow plants indoors in water in a small apartment. You will need to take care of the light, heat, and moisture requirements of the plants you grow.
No need for using soil
Since you’re growing plants in water, you don’t need soil. This means you don’t need to worry about soil all on your clothes. You don’t need to worry about allergies from the soil.
You don’t need to test the soil in the garden and worry about amending it so it can get the right pH balance and the required nutrients. You don’t need to make compost and add it to the soil to improve it.
Grow healthy plants
When you grow plants in water, you need to provide them with the right amount of nutrients, moisture, oxygen, and light. You are more in control of these parameters which means the plants will grow healthy.
When growing plants in the soil, you need to amend the soil and try to make it rich with nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. But often these may not be easy to control and may take time to improve.
When you use water to grow plants, you place the roots in water. If you’re using a regular jar, you replace the water every week. And if you’re using hydroponics, you recirculate the water by adding nutrients to it.
When you water the plants in soil, a lot of the water drains out into the ground while some of it is absorbed by the roots. This means you save a lot of water when growing plants in water than growing them in soil.
Needs less maintenance
You can grow plants in water either by planting them in a vase filled with water or using a hydroponic setup which needs a little more set up at the start. But once you have set up the system, there is a lot less maintenance required.
You only need to add fertilizer to the water that is circulating to the roots of the plants. And you need to prune or harvest the plants as required. There are fewer problems with pests and diseases attacking the plants. And you don’t need to worry about weeds.
When you grow plants in the soil, you need to keep monitoring them for problems such as pests, diseases, and weeds. You also need to keep amending the soil that slowly loses nutrients as they seep out from the soil after watering.
Drawbacks of growing plants in water
Can only grow small plants
You can only grow small plants that can be placed in either a vase or a hydroponic system. Usually, you may grow small herbs, vegetables, or fruits in a hydroponic system.
You can grow any plant of any size when you’re growing it in soil. You can even grow larger plants in a container than growing it in water.
Can only grow in a limited space
There are only so many plants you can grow when using water. You either grow them indoors in glass containers or a hydroponic system. Of course, you can have a large hydroponic setup but that is only done by people who have a business.
When you grow in soil, you can grow in as much space as you need. You can grow in a large garden or you can create a container garden. You’re only limited by the space you have.
If you’re going to use hydroponics or aquaponics to grow plants in water, you’ll need to use materials like PVC pipes, pumps, and filters to create a working setup.
This can be an expensive one-time cost that you won’t have when growing plants in soil. You’ll need to spend on the plants, soil, and fertilizer but that’s a common expense when growing in water or soil.
How to grow plants in soil
There are several different methods you can choose from when you want to grow plants in soil. This depends on the soil and space you have in the garden.
This is the traditional form of gardening where you grow plants directly in your garden soil. This method requires that your garden soil has the right pH and the required nutrients for growing the plants.
You can know this by conducting a soil test for your garden. You can send the soil samples to your local extension service and they will test the soil. They will provide you information on what amendments you need to do to improve your soil for growing plants.
The best way to improve such soil is by adding rich, organic compost into the garden soil. Keep doing this for some months and the soil will improve.
Your garden soil might not be in a good condition. It may contain too much clay or sand making it unsuitable for growing plants. Or you may have soil that is full of chemicals left behind due to lawn fertilizer.
You can build a raised-bed using materials like wood or concrete. And fill the raised-bed with a mixture of organic compost and garden soil. This will help you make the best possible soil for growing your plants.
You can also create the raised-bed to a certain height which helps you maintain it without having to bend down too much. The raised-bed will also prevent the soil from washing away due to rain.
If you have limited space in your garden or live in a small apartment, you can use container gardening to grow your plants. This means you grow the plants in containers either indoors or outdoors.
The size of the containers depends on the plants you want to grow and the location where you want to grow them. You use potting soil for growing the plants. This has the right texture to retain sufficient moisture while draining out the excess.
You don’t use garden soil when growing in containers because the soil may be too full of clay or sand. Or it may contain harmful chemicals, pests, and diseases.
The drawback of growing plants in containers is you need to provide them with the required nutrients and moisture as the roots can’t get it from the ground as with the other types of gardening methods.
How to grow plants in water
There are different methods you can choose when growing plants in water. Some of these can be made into a commercial setup for growing a lot of plants if you want.
The simplest method of growing plants in water is using propagation. You can use a part of the plant such as roots, stem, leaves to propagate it.
You place the part in water for a few days and it starts developing roots. After some time, you’ll have a plant growing in the water that you can continue to grow. You need to make sure to provide the required light to the plant. You can do this either growing them near a windowsill or using artificial grow lights.
This method works for growing a few small plants indoors such as houseplants.
It’s important to change the water every week so the roots can get the required oxygen from the water. It’s also important to add liquid fertilizer to the water every 4 weeks so the roots get the required nutrients.
You should also clean the container every couple of weeks to prevent algae or other impurities in the water.
Hydroponics is a method where you set up a system where you have plants with their roots placed in flowing water. The circulating water contains nutrients and oxygen that the roots can utilize.
You need to set up a pump and filtration system that will circulate the water. You also need to add the nutrients in the water for the roots to absorb. You also need to provide the required light to the plants using grow lights.
You can grow several plants indoors by using the hydroponic system. People set up a commercial garden in a greenhouse growing and selling plants using hydroponics.
An aquaponic system is similar to hydroponics where you have the plant roots growing in circulating water. But in this system, you also have fish living in the water. You provide fish with the food they need and their waste provides the nutrients to the plant roots.
The bacteria in the water eat up the fish waste, plant waste, and uneaten fish food to release ammonia. This is converted into nitrate by nitrifying bacteria in the water.
The nitrate is then used by the plant roots to help them grow better. This process also helps keep the water clean for the fish.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.