You Don't Need Dirt!

Like you, plants need good things like food, water, and minerals in order to grow. Usually they get these important nutrients from the rich soil in which they're planted. But there's another way to grow plants that doesn't use soil. It's called hydroponic gardening.

“Hydroponic” means “working with water.” In a hydroponic garden, plants grow with their roots in water, not in dirt. The water is filled with special food for the plants that gardeners have carefully measured and prepared.

Hydroponic plants grow quickly. In ordinary gardens, plants need time and energy to grow long roots that search the soil for food and water. In a hydroponic garden, plants can use their energy to grow tall instead. And because there is no soil, there are no weeds and few insect pests. Gardeners don't need to spray plants with dangerous chemicals. Both the plants and the environment stay healthy.

Scientists hope that, one day, hydroponic gardens may be able to help hungry people all over the world grow enough food—even in countries that have bad soil, or weather that is too hot, too cold, or too dry. And astronauts hope to take hydroponic gardens with them on the spaceships they fly to Mars, so that they will always have fresh vegetables—and the fun of growing a garden without dirt.


A material in soil that helps a plant live and grow. Roots take in water and nutrients from the soil.

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  1. Why would a hydroponic garden be a good way to grow food in a place that is very hot and gets little rain?
  2. Draw a picture of a lettuce plant in a hydroponic container. Label the parts of your picture to show the lettuce plant, the roots, the hydroponic container, and the water.