While most preppers also garden to make the most of their food dollars and be prepared, there are very few “ideal” locations in the world to produce food. Actually, there is no one place in which all varieties of foods we like to eat are produces. Tropical foods don’t grow in cold climates or even sub-tropical climates. Foods raised in the colder climates don’t produce in sub-tropical or tropical climates. Arid and semi-arid climates are more restricted in the types of foods that will grow.
While some plants are dependent on the short to long day cycles to produce good eats, others are not so particular. Maple trees produce sap that is cooked into syrup. In the fall when the sap flows to the bottom of the trees to store in the roots over the winter. The best peach, apple and pear trees grow in cooler zones. People like to say you can grow them in southern parts of Texas, but they are just little rocks. Give me an Illinois pear, Missouri apple, and a Georgia peach any day.
Probably few people would agree that trees are best grown in an aeroponic or hydoponic system. Since both systems use no soil and trees need large amounts of support for the massive root systems, so let’s just move on to smaller plants.
Aeroponics is a system in which the plants root system is exposed to the open air at all times. The plants are misted on a set schedule with a nutrient rich water system. This is one system that NASA has experimented with in preparation for long term space travel. The advantages are that plants are less likely to get diseases, humidity levels are high, moisture is controlled, and nutrients are absorbed efficiently. One disadvantage is the sprayers frequently clog as the nutrients accumulate on the mist heads and in the lines. Another disadvantage is that the humidity level is high. Attention needs to be paid to the humidity levels to be sure they remain at appropriate level.
Hydroponics is a system in which the seed is germinated in a planting medium and the roots dangle into a bucket or other container with nutrient rich water. Attached to the system is an aerator to keep the water oxygen rich. (An air pump for a fish tank can be used on small systems.) Advantages are that the root system is submerged in the water and always have exactly what it needs, it can be done as individual plants or in a multi-plant system. Individual plant systems are closed environments which provide less opportunity for disease. Multi-plant systems cost less over time to operate but if one plant is diseased, there is a risk of other plants getting the disease. It’s like going to the public swimming pool, except no chlorine.
Both systems offer the advantages of no soil, no soil related issues such as certain bugs and diseases, and no need for the same chemicals (organic or not) needed for soil gardens. This isn’t to say that there will be no problems with plants from time to time, but it might be that there are fewer.
Both systems can be implemented in a greenhouse. Most people wouldn’t really want to use a room of the house for the aeroponic system because things will constantly be wet from the misters. Both systems need a controlled environment to prevent freezing during cold months.
Before choosing one system or the other, do your homework! Choose plants that are best suited for your choice of soil-less gardening, your budget, and the amount of time you will have for maintenance.