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Trott: Growing plants without soil

Hydroponics is "the cultivation of plants without soil." The plant's roots can either be in water or in a growing medium like sand, gravel, perlite, peat moss, sawdust, coir, or rockwool. Hydroponic systems are often used when the supply of water and farmland are scarce or among home gardeners with limited space or an interest in year-round gardening.

Soilless gardening offers many advantages to the home gardener:

• Since a sterile medium is used, there are no weeds to remove, and soil-borne pests and diseases are minimized, if not eliminated completely.

• Hydroponic plants can be healthier and more vigorous because all of the necessary growth elements are readily available.

• The plants can mature faster, yielding an earlier harvest of vegetable and flower crops.

• Hydroponic gardens use less space since the roots do not have to spread out in search of food and water.

• The big advantage to hydroponics is the ability to automate the entire system with a timer. Automation reduces the actual time it takes to maintain plant growth requirements. Automation also provides flexibility to the gardener as one can be gone for long periods of time without having to worry about watering the plants.

From 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, the Lake Agassiz chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association will host Hydroponics 101 at the Lakes Country Service Cooperative, 1001 E. Mount Faith Ave. in Fergus Falls, in partnership with University of Minnesota Extension, PartnerSHIP 4 Health and The Fresh Connect Food Hub.

Cost is $10 per farm or household and free for members of The Sustainable Farming Association.

Barry Thoele, a grower with 20-plus years of experience in hydroponic growing, and 30-plus years working in aquaculture, will teach the basics of hydroponic vegetable production. This workshop will feature the basic science, construction and operation of scalable hydroponic systems. Thoele will share his expertise as a designer, builder and operator of aquaculture, hydroponic and wetland restoration projects of all shapes and sizes through an interactive presentation and hands on activities.

For more information, or to register, contact the Sustainable Farming Association at 218-280-5253.

Hope to see you there! Until next time, happy gardening!