Growing garlic without soil, also known as hydroponic cultivation, is a fascinating approach to urban farming and an excellent way to produce garlic in spaces where traditional farming may not be feasible. This method promises cleaner, faster, and sometimes more nutritious results than soil-based growth.
Here’s a guide to cultivating garlic hydroponically.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in water. Plants are suspended in this nutrient-rich solution, allowing their roots to absorb minerals and water directly. As garlic is traditionally a soil-grown plant, growing it hydroponically requires special attention.
Steps to Grow Garlic Hydroponically
- Choose the Right Garlic Cloves: Start with healthy, disease-free garlic cloves. Organic garlic is preferable as it hasn’t been treated with growth inhibitors often found in commercial varieties.
- Soak the garlic cloves in water for a few hours to kickstart germination.
- While they’re soaking, prepare the hydroponic system. A deep water culture (DWC) system is recommended for beginners due to its simplicity. See video below on DWC
- Setting Up the DWC System:
- Fill a container with water, ensuring it’s opaque to prevent light from penetrating and causing algae growth.
- Introduce an air stone connected to an air pump into the container. This ensures the water remains oxygenated, which is vital for garlic root health.
- Insert the garlic cloves into net pots filled with an inert growing medium like perlite or hydroton. These pots will float on the water’s surface, allowing the roots to dangle into the nutrient-rich solution.
- Nutrient Solution: Ensure the water has a balanced nutrient mix suited for alliums. Pre-mixed hydroponic solutions are available, but ensure it’s tailored for vegetables. Regularly check the pH of the water, aiming for a range of 6.0 to 6.5. Adjust using pH up or down solutions as required. The Hydroponic Society of Britain provides resources and guidance for a deep understanding of nutrient solutions.
- Lighting: Garlic requires adequate light to thrive. If natural sunlight is insufficient, introduce LED grow lights. Aim for 10-12 hours of light daily.
- Monitor Growth: Regularly check the garlic’s roots and growth. The water should be changed every 2-3 weeks to ensure fresh nutrients are available and to prevent the build-up of pathogens.
- Harvesting: Hydroponic garlic might grow at a faster rate than its soil-grown counterpart. Monitor the growth and when the leaves begin to turn brown, it’s typically a sign that the garlic is ready for harvest.
Benefits of Hydroponic Garlic Growth
- Space Efficiency: Ideal for urban dwellers or those with limited garden space.
- Cleaner Growth: No soil means reduced risks of soil-borne diseases or pests.
- Faster Harvest: With controlled conditions and direct nutrient access, garlic can sometimes grow faster.
Challenges and Considerations
- Initial Setup Cost: Setting up a hydroponic system may require an initial investment.
- Maintenance: Regularly monitoring water pH and nutrient levels is crucial.
Growing garlic hydroponically is an innovative way to enjoy this staple in a new, soil-free environment. While it demands attention and care, the rewards of a clean, fast-growing crop make it a worthy endeavour for gardening enthusiasts. As always, continuous learning and experimentation lead to the best results when exploring hydroponics. Consider joining local hydroponic communities or forums, such as the Hydroponic Society of Britain, for advice and shared experiences.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!