The Beginner’s Guide to Aeroponics: Soilless Cultivation Techniques

Aeroponics is a modern farming method that grows plants in air or mist without soil. It saves water and space and makes plants grow faster. This method works well in cities and places where the land can’t support traditional farming.

Aeroponics sends nutrients right to the plant roots with a fine mist, which is very efficient and creates little waste. This big step forward in farming could change how we grow our food worldwide.

Let’s explore how aeroponics works, its advantages, and its potential impact on feeding people everywhere.

What is Aeroponics?

boxed aeroponics systems

An aeroponic system is a gardening system that doesn’t involve any soil. Instead, the plants are suspended in the air and the roots are sprayed or misted with a solution containing nutrients and minerals.

Aeroponics is usually described as a sub-technique of hydroponics (soil-less gardening). However, unlike hydroponic systems, aeroponics does not use any kind of growing medium at all.

The basic principle of aeroponics is to deliver oxygen, water, and other nutrients directly to the roots through a well-controlled and precise water vapor system. The idea is to stimulate the plants to grow more efficiently reducing water usage by up to 98% and maximizing crop yield.

History of Aeroponics

aeroponics system with large metal frame

The history of aeroponics dates back to the 1940s, when researchers began experimenting with different forms of hydroponics. In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA scientists developed aeroponics as a way to grow plants in space, where soil was not available.

They found that aeroponics allowed for faster growth rates, higher yields, and better nutrient absorption compared to traditional soil-based growing methods.

In the following decades, aeroponics gained popularity in commercial agriculture, particularly for growing high-value crops such as herbs, lettuce, and strawberries. Today, aeroponics is used in a wide range of settings, from vertical farms and indoor gardens to research labs and educational institutions.

As technology continues to advance, it is likely that aeroponics will become an increasingly important tool for sustainable and efficient food production.

How Does an Aeroponic System Work?

plants growing in aeroponics system

Aeroponic systems are often preferred over other soil-less gardening systems by many gardeners due to their water-saving and higher-yielding qualities. However, aeroponics is also considered the most high-tech hydroponic method of all. This means the whole system and the process of it can be quite complex to build and execute.

Before starting your own aeroponic garden at home, it’s very important to have a proper understanding of aeroponic systems and how they work. Here’s a closer look:

In an aeroponic system, the plants are lodged through the holes of a tray or another kind of platform. This platform is placed on the top of a water reservoir in a sealed container so that the roots of the plants are dangling in the air.

The seeds or stems are planted in a type of foam.  There should be also a sturdy yet flexible support collar to hold them in one place and to provide enough space for the roots as they grow.

The reservoir is filled with a nutritious solution which is pumped upward with the use of a water pump. This pump is connected to a sprinkler system that sprays the plant roots by end nozzles with the nutrient solution.

The pump is attached to the timer, which turns it on and when this happens, the nutrient solution is pumped to the grow tray. When the timer turns the pump off, the solution slowly flows back to the reservoir.

A growing medium is not necessary since the plant roots are dangling instead of submerged. Therefore, the roots of the plants get a ceaseless supply of oxygen. This causes the plants to grow faster and healthier, resulting in a bountiful harvest.

Most of the time aeroponic systems are used in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse where it’s easy to monitor environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. They’re also often used in indoor and vertical gardening projects as a modern and sustainable way of horticulture and agriculture.

Just like any other gardening method, sunlight is the primary source of lighting in aeroponics. However, additional lighting may also be required, especially when it comes to indoor aeroponics gardening. In this case, a growing light source is required.

What are the Different Types of Aeroponic Systems?

Based on the technicality, installations, and water pressure, there are three main categories of aeroponic systems:

1. Low-Pressure Aeroponic Systems (LPA)

This is considered the most simple and popular type of aeroponic system of the three. As its name suggests, this type of aeroponic system uses a low-pressure yet, a high-capacity water pump that has the ability to pump water up to the sprinklers and spray the plant roots through sprinkler heads.

A low-pressure aeroponic system can be easily built with just a water tank, a tray or platform to insert plants, a high-flow water pump, a timer, and spray nozzles which makes it ideal for household uses.

2. High-Pressure Aeroponic Systems (HPA)

High-pressure aeroponic systems are much more costly and advanced to build and operate since they require high-tech equipment. These include:

  • High-pressure, low-flow water pump
  • Enclosed growing chamber
  • Pre-pressurized hydraulic accumulator tank
  • Pressure relief valve
  • Pressure switch
  • Timer
  • Mister nozzles
  • Excessive nutrient solution reservoir
  • Electrical solenoid
  • Tubing

When properly built, HPA systems produce a smaller mist of water droplets with precise control and timing, supplying more oxygen to the roots than LPA systems. Professionals and experts always describe HPA as the best and most efficient aeroponics system in the world. However, due to their high technicality and cost, these types of aeroponics systems are considered more suitable for commercial purposes.

3. Fogponic Systems

Also known as “ultrasonic fogger aeroponic systems”, the Fogponic system produces micron-sized water droplets using an ultrasonic fogger. These water droplets are so small that they look like mist or fog, hence the name.

While the tiny size of water drops makes it easier for the plant roots to absorb the nutrient solution, retaining the moisture for a longer period of time can be hard with this kind of system. Over time, these systems create minerals and salts which will clog the foggers causing the system to fail sometimes.

What to Grow in Aeroponic Systems?

plants in tiered aeroponics systems

Various types of plants can be grown successfully in a well-designed and maintained aeroponics system. These include vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, herbs, legumes, and even aesthetic plants. This is why aeroponics systems are considered ideal for nearly all types of gardening purposes and can be used in households or large-scale commercial projects.

Here is a list of different kinds of plants that can be grown in aeroponics systems.

Vegetables, Legumes, and Leafy Greens:                                       

  • Cucumbers                                 
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bulb fennel
  • Okra
  • Pumpkin
  • Gourds
  • Radish
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Cauliflowers
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Peas

Fruits and Flowers:

  • Strawberry
  • Melon
  • Blueberry
  • Orchid
  • Anthurium

Herbs and Spices:

What are the Pros and Cons of Aeroponics?

Just like every other gardening method, aeroponics systems have their pros and cons. Knowing these can help you decide whether an aeroponics system is a right choice for you. Let’s first take a look at the advantages of these systems:

Pros of Aeroponics Systems:

  • Plants grow healthier and faster due to the continuous oxygen supply.
  • Minimize the exposure to foliage disease or pest infestations.
  • No soil contamination.
  • No growing medium used. So, the plant roots have the ability to absorb the nutrient solution directly.
  • Higher and faster yield.
  • Saves space.
  • Very little water required.
  • Easy maintenance with no weeding.
  • Educational and research value.
  • Easy to move around and relocate the whole system.
  • No extra fertilizing or watering needed.
  • Nature-friendly gardening with no chemicals.
  • No gardening tools or labor work.

Cons of Aeroponics Systems:

  • Can be tough to operate – This requires some level of technical knowledge, so it can be difficult for beginners to understand how to operate it.  
  • The initial cost can be higher than the traditional gardening methods.
  • Need to supervise the system often for default parts and the pH and nutrient levels of the water.
  • In case of a power outage the plants can be damaged and you might have to water them manually.
  • The root container will need to be disinfected regularly.  
  • Constant exposure to water can cause root diseases.
  • Misters need to be cleaned often.

Should I Use an Aeroponics System?

aeroponics systems
Aeroponic Tower Garden. Check price here.

In today’s world, roughly over 97% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. Soil deterioration has also become another major problem due to all the chemicals and other toxic waste that is disposed to the environment daily.

With the increased need for fresh water and the limited space due to over-population, traditional agricultural and gardening techniques are becoming somewhat outdated day by day. Aeroponics systems provide long-term and effective solutions to each and every one of these problems.

FAQ’s about Vertical Gardens

1. What is a vertical garden?

A vertical garden is a type of gardening where plants are grown vertically on a wall or other vertical surface, using various systems such as pots, pockets, trellises, or hydroponic structures.

2. What are the benefits of a vertical garden?

Vertical gardens can maximize space utilization, improve air quality, reduce urban heat islands, reduce water usage, provide insulation, and enhance the visual appeal of buildings and landscapes.

3. What are the best plants for a vertical garden?

The best plants for a vertical garden depend on factors such as the available light, climate, size, and orientation of the wall, and the desired aesthetic and function. Some popular choices include succulents, herbs, ferns, climbers, and flowering plants.

4. How do I start a vertical garden?

To start a vertical garden, you’ll need a sturdy wall or frame, suitable plant containers or pockets, potting soil, a watering system, and appropriate hardware or mounting brackets. You’ll also need to choose the right plants for your location and ensure they receive adequate light, water, and nutrients.

5. How do I maintain a vertical garden?

Maintaining a vertical garden involves regular watering, pruning, fertilizing, and pest control, depending on the specific plant species and growing conditions. You should also monitor the structural integrity of the wall or frame and adjust the watering schedule and nutrients as needed.

Wrapping Up

Aeroponics systems are becoming increasingly popular around the world, used by gardeners for growing nutritious, chemical-free produce. These systems offer an entirely new method of gardening and they’re highly versatile since they can be used in both residential and commercial environments.