Soil Vs Hydroponics – Which one to consider?

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Hydroponic gardening and soil gardening are two different growing methods for plants. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a nutrient-rich water solution instead of in the soil. Soil-based gardening is the traditional method of growing plants in soil that most of us use.

For most people, growing plants in soil is the most natural way of doing things. But hydroponics has been recognized as a viable method of growing food and ornamental plants for many years. This has opened up an ongoing debate about which is better. If you’re interested in learning more about hydroponics, it’s a good idea to compare the two growing methods. 

What are the differences between hydroponics and growing in soil?

Sometimes people say that soil provides plants with a stable environment and hydroponics doesn’t. This stands to reason since the soil becomes a foundation where plants can establish their roots and then absorb water and nutrients from the soil.

It’s certainly different for hydroponic gardening. Because there isn’t any soil, the roots form in nutrient-rich water. But there are hydroponic methods that provide plants with a footing for stabilization.  

Hydroponics can offer a faster and more controlled growth cycle, while soil-based gardening may produce a wider variety of plants with a greater depth of flavor and aroma. According to the Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences Extension, the growth rate of hydroponically grown plants is 30-50% faster than those grown in soil. 

Also, hydroponics can use less water than soil-based gardening, especially when the water is reused in a closed system. But many people use closed systems where plants are positioned in water channels that contain a recycled nutrient solution. 

That said, when you compare hydroponic farming to traditional farming that uses normal field crop-watering methods, hydroponics uses as much as 10 times less water.  

One big difference is that hydroponic systems can be set up in areas that don’t have access to the fertile soil. This makes any hydroponic method an option for growing crops in the desert, in urban environments, including highrise buildings, or in any areas with very limited space.

Is Hydroponic Gardening more difficult?

Another difference people often cite is that hydroponic systems require precise control over pH, temperature, and nutrient levels. But, if you don’t focus on elements like pH, temperature, and nutrient levels when growing plants in the soil, you may find that your results tend to be hit-and-miss.   

Nevertheless, it is true that the setup required for an efficient hydroponic system is considerably more sophisticated than straightforward soil-based gardening setups. As Shrestha and Dunn say, it’s a “highly specialized form of agriculture.” 

But, it is also true that some hydroponic systems are considerably more complex than others. A basic passive system is the simplest and cheapest of all!

Pros and Cons of Soil vs Hydroponic Gardening

There is no doubt that everything in life has pros and cons. It’s best you get your head around the pros and cons of soil vs hydroponic growing before you decide which is the best method for you. 

Soil Gardening

Soil gardening is the traditional method used for growing vegetables. Apart from basic know-how, all you need are plants, soil, a few garden tools, nutrients, and water. 


Good quality soil provides a stable growing environment for plants. It also offers a wide range of microorganisms that can help improve soil health.

Soil-based gardening, in general, is a simpler and less technical method of growing plants. This makes it accessible to a wide range of people.

Soil-based gardening is typically less expensive than hydroponic systems, even the simplest type. 


Soil-borne pests and diseases can be a problem, and soil-based gardens may require the use of pesticides and fungicides. This, of course, is a personal choice and you can stick with organic options instead. 

Soil-based methods can be a less water-efficient way of growing plants. This is because water can evaporate or be taken up by the roots of other plants (ie not the veggies you are intending to feed).

Traditional soil-based gardening may not be suitable for areas with poor soil quality or contaminated soil. In this case, a possible option will be to replace the soil or build raised beds. 

Hydroponic Gardening

Growing plants hydroponically is a soil-less process. Instead, the roots of plants are suspended in a nutrient solution that keeps them alive and enables them to keep growing. 


Hydroponic systems offer faster growth rates and higher yields. This is largely due to our ability to precisely control the growing environment.

It also offers those in areas with poor or contaminated soil an excellent alternative food growth method. Because hydroponic gardeners can ensure the constant availability of nutrients, they can grow crops year-round in controlled environments, such as greenhouses.

Additionally, hydroponic growing produces much higher crop yields. Labor costs are also lower. 

Research shows that hydroponic systems increase water efficiency. And there is less likelihood of soil-borne pests and diseases attacking the plants. 


More technical knowledge is required to set up and maintain an efficient hydroponic system. When compared to soil-based gardening, these systems can be expensive to set up and run.

Generally, hydroponic systems require careful monitoring and effective management of pH, temperature, and nutrient levels. Active systems require power to run. 

Does hydroponics yield more than soil?

Hydroponic gardening does yield more than soil-based gardening. 

Are hydroponic vegetables better than soil?

Both hydroponic growing and soil-based methods of growing call for some fundamental knowledge. These range from the nutrient requirements of different plants to their water and light needs. 

As Arjina Shrestha and Bruce Dunn from the Oklahoma State University Extension point out, there are no physiological differences between the plants grown in these two different ways. 

Inorganic and organic components must be decomposed before they are available to plants growing in the soil. The nutrients adhere to the soil particles and the growing plants absorb them. 

Plants growing in the water get their nutrients from that water. These are essentially the same as those they would get if they were growing in soil. 

While the approach to these two basic growing methods is totally different, you’re going to have to control and monitor nutrient levels, water use, and so on for both. This is especially important if you are focusing on farming vegetables or producing homegrown food. 

A study between soil and hydroponic systems published in 2021 compares the two basic systems. One crop they studied closely was tomatoes, and they found that when grown hydroponically they were firmer, higher in vitamin C, and had a higher sugar/acid ratio.


Ultimately, growing better plants using hydroponics is possible. But it depends on the individual circumstances and the specific plants being grown.

In terms of which method is better, it depends on the specific growing conditions, as well as the plants being grown, and the goals of the grower. As you have seen, both soil-based and hydroponics gardening has their advantages and disadvantages.

The choice of method will depend on individual circumstances and your priorities.

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