In ground, raised bed, hydroponic, aquaponic
Growing Methods ComparedWhen we talk about gardening, most people think of plowing the ground and preparing a very finely sifted bed, mixing in fertilizer before planting the new seeds and plants. But there are many variations that might work better, depending on your circumstances.
Raised beds have been popular for some time. For these, the ground is not disturbed; instead, beds are framed, usually with lumber, and the bed, often a foot high or more, is filled with a soil mix. Fertilizer is added to the top portion and mixed into the soil prior to planting.
The Mittleider planting method is a lesser known technique that utilizes either in the ground or slightly raised beds combined with an irrigation that feeds just the plant area a specific mix of nutrients with water. Similar to hydroponics, Mittleider method boasts a savings in water and nutrients as it feeds a smaller, more direct area. Also like hydroponics, plants can be more closely spaced, resulting in higher yields.
There are a variety of hydroponic methods including ebb and flow, bucket, trough, and NFT (nutrient film technique) with each one specific in its benefits and restrictions. Hydroponic production is more expensive to begin, but can result in a huge savings over a period of time in water and fertilizer costs. Some systems are closed systems; they recirculate the water and nutrients, with amounts adjusted as the plants use them. I’ll discuss the actual techniques in my next article, but for the purposes of comparisons, I’m keeping them as a single technique.
Aquaponics is an age old technique, going back to the Hanging Gardens, but is quite new on the commercial farming scene. Plants are grown similar to hydroponics, but the water is fed nutrient through a biological source of fish. With fish living off the plant residue, plus extra food, and the plants being fed by fish waste, the system is quite self sustaining with very little adjustment. It is entirely possible to keep it balanced without extra inputs at all, though that relies on balancing the number of plants and fish. It is a costly method to establish, but can be utilized for many years with some maintenance.
There are a variety of versions of each of these; aeroponics, no till, barrel-ponics, and more, and of course each can be customized to your individual needs and the crops you are growing. Each of these methods can be done using organic methods, though it is easier with some than others and often variable due to climate, growing conditions, and crops being planted.Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each growing method.