Rows of tomato plants growing in raised beds inside the shed under lights.
Hydroponic tomatoes, Mawson 1997 (Photo: Jane Goddard)
Cucumbers growing on a vine.Cherry tomatoes on a vineA really big cucumber, probably five times the normal size, with tractor in the background.Giant zucchini lashed to Hagglunds vehicleA tomato as big as the hand that is holding it

Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil, the essential mineral nutrients being obtained from water. The word "hydroponics" is derived from two Greek words: hydro, meaning water, and ponos, meaning labour; thus, literally "waterworks."

Hydroponic gardening is an ancient form of agriculture, going back 3,000 years. References to hydroponic forms of plant growing have come down to us from ancient Egypt, particularly from the time of Pharoah Hatshepsut circa 1460 BCE. The most famous or well known of ancient gardens is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (600 BCE) that operated on hydroponic principals. The Chinese had their floating gardens that were reported on by Marco Polo in the 13th Century, and at the same time there were floating gardens in Mexico.

The modern history of hydroponics seems to start with experiments and observations undertaken by Leonardo da Vinci and later Sir Francis Bacon, whose work Sylva Sylvarum was published in 1627 started a long period of experimentation. By the 1860s the modern form of hydroponic gardening was perfected in Germany.

As hydroponics provides the ability to grow fresh vegetables in remote and harsh environments it has become part of the Antarctic experience at all Australian stations, since the late 1970s. As well a providing fresh veggies and tomatoes, maintaining the plants is satisfying recreational activity. It has at times become competitive between stations for the best or biggest. The two photos, below left, showing evidence of photographic manipulation.

See also

This page was last updated on 21 September 2009.