Once and for all: Does Hydroponics Grow Faster Than Soil?

Hydroponic fast growth 101: Does Hydroponics Grow Faster Than Soil? Why do hydroponic plants grow faster? Do seeds germinate faster in hydroponics?
seeds germinating in soil

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There has long been a debate among gardeners and farmers about whether hydroponic plants grow faster than those grown in soil.

When asking “does hydroponics grow faster than soil?” the definitive answer is YES. Many studies have found that on average, hydroponic plants do tend to grow at least 30-50% faster than those grown in traditional soil methods.

Many ask specifically about lettuce: how fast does lettuce grow hydroponically? In the Lettuce Grow blog, they say lettuce grows about 20%-30% faster in hydroponics.

This has led many people to wonder why hydroponics seems to produce faster, more vigorous growth in plants, and whether there might be some underlying mechanism behind this phenomenon.

What is hydroponics and how is it different from soil?

Hydroponics involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich water solution instead of soil. This system does not rely on the natural processes and interactions between roots, soil, and microbes that occur in traditional farming methods. Instead, hydroponic farmers and gardeners rely on careful monitoring of nutrient levels and careful control of the growing environment to ensure healthy, fast-growing plants.

What grows hydroponically

Some very popular plants to grow hydroponically are all the leafy greens you can think of: kale, lettuce, bok choy, parsley, coriander, peppermint, green onions, basil, and more. Other fruits and vegetables you can find and grow yourself are cherry tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, and more.

Why do hydroponic plants grow faster?

There are several possible explanations for why hydroponic plants grow faster than soil-grown plants.

Nutrients

One theory is that the nutrient-rich water used in hydroponic systems.

This is likely due to the fact that hydroponic plants are given all of the nutrients they need directly, without having to rely on soil as a means of acquiring them. The fertilized water can give the plant a better nutrient solution than soil because it does not have to filter out impurities as soil does.

Light

Another possible explanation is that hydroponic plants receive more direct light than soil-grown plants, as they tend to be grown in greenhouses or other environments where optimal sunlight levels can be controlled. The extra light exposure may result in faster growth and longer days of photosynthesis, which can give the plants a boost.

Controlled and monitored environments

Additionally, because hydroponic systems tend to be more controlled and monitored than traditional methods, it is easier for growers to create optimal growing environments for their plants. While there may still be some external factors in soil-based growing, such as pest infestations or weather fluctuations, these are much less likely to affect hydroponic plants.

Do seeds germinate faster in hydroponics?

Yes. That, too.

The reasons the seeds germinate faster in hydroponics are just the same: the controlled environments and nutrient-rich water available in hydroponics systems. They can play a major role in plant growth and development.

When talking about seeds, you should know that soaking seeds in water help germination. In hydroponics, the seed is placed directly into the water and does not need to worry about soil germination at all. And, since it does not need to break through any tough outer layers or navigate a complex root system, the seed can focus all its energy on growing quickly and becoming a healthy plant.

seeds germinating in soil
Seeds germinate in the soil. In hydroponics, it would have been faster.

Do plants flower faster in hydroponics?

So seeds germinate faster and plants grow faster in hydroponic systems than in soil.

But do they flower and produce fruit faster? The answer is once again yes. The growth speed is not for leaves and greens only. Hydroponic plants also produce flowers and fruits 30%-50% faster when grown hydroponically.

This speed doesn’t affect the taste though. Hydroponic fruits and vegetables are good to eat, tasty and full of nutrients.

Bottom line

As a result of all mentioned above, many growers have found that hydroponic systems can produce faster, more vigorous growth than traditional soil methods. While there may be some debate about the exact reasons behind this phenomenon, it does seem clear that hydroponics does indeed have some distinct advantages when it comes to plant growth.

Why is faster growth good?

One of the main reasons that faster growth in hydroponic plants is beneficial for us is that it allows growers to produce more food and other crops in a shorter period of time. This can be particularly useful for meeting growing demand for certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or grains, or for tackling issues such as food insecurity or environmental degradation. It also enables farmers to make more money for about the same effort and make a better living for themselves.

Beyond producing more food, faster growth of hydroponic plants also means that crops can be harvested at a younger age, before they become damaged or spoiled. This allows for better shelf life and less post-harvest waste, which can be a boon for both farmers and consumers alike.

FAQ

Which grows faster, hydroponics or soil?

Hydroponic plants grow faster than plants grown in soil. Statistics say they grow at least 20%-50% faster than those grown in traditional soil methods.

Why do plants grow faster in hydroponic systems than in soil?

There are a few things that can help plants grow faster in hydroponic systems. These include controlled environmental conditions like light and temperature, the ability to provide optimal nutrient levels at all times, and the lack of pests or other stressors that can limit growth in soil-based systems. Additionally, seeds may germinate faster in hydroponics due to their direct placement onto a nutrient-rich substrate without having to break through any tough outer layers.

What vegetables grow the fastest in hydroponics?

The vegetables that grow the fastest in hydroponics will be the ones that grow fastest in regular soil. Pro-tips: greens grow faster than flowery vegetables. So spinach, lettuce, and the likes of them are the fastest.

Mindy van Orden

Mindy van Orden

I have grown hydroponic plants for decades, in different weathers. I'm a retired financial planner, born in Chicago, spent some time in Spain and Portugal. I currently live in South Carolina.

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