Hydroponics Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Catherine Maher

Catherine has taught 4th through 7th grade and has a master's degree in reading education.

In this lesson you will learn about a method of farming that does not use soil. Hydroponics can be used to grow many of the foods you eat, and has many advantages over traditional farming.

Fruits and Veggies Grown in Water

Do you eat cucumbers and tomatoes? Do you enjoy herbs like oregano and basil on your pizza? Do you put strawberries on your cereal? Then you have probably eaten food grown without soil, using hydroponics.

Strawberries are a food that can be grown using hydroponics.
image of strawberry

What Is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method for growing plants without using soil. The nutrients that plants need to grow are put into water and then delivered to the roots of the plants. The term hydroponics comes from Latin word parts hydro, meaning water, and ponos, meaning labor. So in hydroponics, the water does the work of delivering the nutrients to the plants.

How Can Plants Grow Without Soil?

Plants need water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and mineral nutrients to grow. Normally, they get water when it rains or you water them. Sunlight is provided from the sky or from special types of artificial lights. Carbon dioxide is in the air we breathe. And mineral nutrients needed by plants are often naturally present in the soil, but they are also in fertilizers.

The soil itself is not really needed by the plants - just the nutrients in it. So if the nutrients are put in water, the plants can get what they need to grow without the soil.

Hydroponic farms can grow many crops.
Image of hydroponic farm

Types of Hydroponics Systems

If you want to get water containing nutrients to plant roots, there are many ways to do it. In some systems, the plants are hung in nets or other structures with their roots dangling into the water below. The water may be circulated around the roots and have oxygen pumped into it to keep the roots healthy. Other systems have the roots dangling into air, but the water solution is sprayed onto them.

Some systems have the plant's roots growing in materials other than soil. This material supports them and leaves lots of space around them. Some examples of these support materials are vermiculite, cocoanut husks, and fiber glass. The water is circulated through the support material so that it reaches the plant roots.

In any of these methods, hydroponics farmers may use pumps, gravity, timers, and technology to deliver the water to the plants in the most efficient and beneficial way.

This lettuce is being grown with a hydroponic method.
Image of hydroponic farming of lettuce

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