Grow vegetables at home without soil

Updated: Mar 15, 2015, 14:30 IST | Hassan M Kamal |

Are the rising prices of fruits and vegetables burning a hole in your pocket? Now, you can grow these at home with the help of soil-less cultivation techniques

Each time we shop for veggies and fruits in the local market, not only do we feel annoyed at the increasing prices, but we also end up feeling cheated by its quality. Add to this, the constant worry about pesticides. The only viable option left is to grow our own vegetables and fruits. But with it arises the big question — where does one get soil to grow plants in this urban jungle called Mumbai?

A hydroponics farm where lettuce is grown
A hydroponics farm where lettuce is grown

Hydroponics is the way
A possible answer to this is hydroponics — a method of soil-less cultivation that uses materials like coconut husk, foam, etc, to grow plants. Introducing Mumbaikars to this unique method of farming will be CV Prakash, a retired Indian Navy personnel who is also behind the Pet Bharo Project, which has been working at promoting hydroponics in India. Prakash has been invited by city urban farmers’ community, Earthoholics, to conduct a special workshop on this technology.

Tomato saplings
Tomato saplings grown on foam

Smita Shirodkar, head of Earthoholics, says, “Prakash has been working on hydroponics for many years now. He will teach us how to use the techniques of hydroponics at a small level to grow vegetables, herbs and other plants at home.”

She explains that hydroponics is a relatively expensive method of farming, but is very useful in cases where you want a certain type of yield, and/or where soil is not available easily.

CV Prakash
CV Prakash

Why does it work?
“It’s a scientific method of farming, which allows you to control the quality as well as the quantity of the yield. It uses materials like coconut husk and foam in the place of soil as support, and all essential nutrients for their growth are supplied manually in calculated portions — giving them the correct colour and size,” she adds. Shirodkar informs that there are several assemble-it-yourself hydroponics kits available in the market, but they are expensive and therefore, the workshop would also teach Mumbaikars on how to use old PET bottles, trays, plastic bags, etc, to grow plants using hydroponics.

Shirodkar feels that hydroponics is the future of farming, and probably the only method to grow fruits and vegetables in urban areas. “Soil is hard to find in urban areas. Even farmlands are struggling to meet the food needs of the growing population. All this makes hydroponics a useful method to meet our food needs as well as to help maintain clean air, especially in urban areas,” she reasons.

Rs 3,000 (includes sample nutrients, DVD, lunch and tea)

About hydroponics
It’s a scientific method of farming, which allows you to control the quality as well as the quantity of the yield. It uses materials like coconut husk and foam in place of soil as support.

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