Can You Use Soil in a Hydroponics System?

Hydroponics refers to the agricultural practice that utilizes water to grow plants. The technique involves adding nutrients and minerals to oxygenated water, then applying the solution to the suspended roots of the plants. It is different than traditional farming, which uses soil to grow plants, but you might wonder whether you can use soil in a hydroponics system?

You cannot use soil in a hydroponics system, as it only uses water as the growing medium. The nutritious water solution fulfills the requirements that ensure plants’ proper and healthy growth, making it pointless to use soil in a hydroponics setting. The design also does not allow soil additions.

This article will highlight the complications of using soil in a hydroponics system. Moreover, it will discuss the inherent limitations of the hydroponics facilities to accommodate two growing mediums.

Why Can You Not Use Soil in a Hydroponic System?

The reason you cannot use soil in a hydroponic system is that hydroponics and soil-based are two different agricultural systems with varying mediums of growing. The arrangement of both systems does not allow the substitution of one growing medium into another.

Using soil in a hydroponics system will cause complications in carrying out the essential operations and do more harm than good. 

In a hydroponics setting, it is imperative to regularly maintain and measure the varying levels of variables like pH value and amount of nutrients left. Adding soil will make it very difficult to do that. 

Let’s now talk about how to measure and maintain pH and the nutrient level of your hydroponic system.

Measuring and Maintaining pH In A Hydroponic System

The ideal pH level for the growth of plants is between 5.5 to 7. In a hydroponics system, you can easily measure and maintain the pH level using a pH sensor.

However, different soils have varying pH levels, with acidic soils being less than 7 pH and alkaline soils being greater than 7pH. If you incorporate a particular soil in a hydroponic system, it will either increase or decrease its pH, which makes it challenging to maintain the pH of the system with two mediums.

Moreover, measuring the pH level of the soil is more time-consuming. You have to take the medium’s sample, mix it with deionized water, and shake it for at least 30 minutes. 

Then, after waiting for one hour, insert the electric probe into the sample and measure the pH value.

In a hydroponics system, you should measure the pH value at regular intervals. With this method, you’ll need to carry out the measuring process mentioned above after every few hours. 

In contrast, you can utilize a pH sensor to compute the pH of the nutritious efficiently.

Maintaining the pH is essential because it influences the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. If the soil is too acidic, the roots will not absorb any nutrients and eventually die.

Measuring and Maintaining the Level of Nutrients In Your Hydroponic System

In a hydroponic setting, plants receive all the required nutrients through the nutrient-rich solution. You can measure the level of nutrients and the dissolved oxygen using an Electrical Conductivity Meter and the Dissolved Oxygen meter, respectively.

If you want to use soil in a hydroponics configuration, you must also remember that soil naturally contains nutrients. While nutrient deficiency can harm the plants, excess nutrients can cause a nutrient burn

To avoid nutrient deficiency or burn, you need to measure the soil’s nutrient level and then make the nutrient water accordingly to balance out the diet. Furthermore, you will need to constantly monitor the nutrient level of both mediums to provide reinforcements according to the need. 

Different plants also require a varying portion of a particular nutrient. 

If your hydroponics facility grows a variety of plants, then you would have to formulate a soil-water nutrient diet for each one of them. It is not a logical action, so you can not use soil in a hydroponics system.

Potential Diseases With Soil In a Hydroponic System

Plants that grow in a hydroponic arrangement are more susceptible to waterborne infections and diseases. Using soil in the same setting could increase the probability of your plants getting infected because it has its own set of plant-related ailments.

Added to that, a combination of growing mediums will also make it hard to diagnose whether the disease is waterborne or soil-related. 

It will, in turn, take more time to remedy the situation.

Are the Hydroponics Systems Designed To Handle Soil?

The design of the hydroponics systems only accommodates one growing medium, which is water. This system uses water pumps to flow water around the facility. If you use soil, the dirt will mix with the water flow and runoff along the pipelines.

If the system has a water reservoir that recirculates the water around the facility, the runoff dirt will make the water body dirty and useless. The suspended dirt and other organic matter will clog the pumps and pipes, resulting in flooding and a complete breakdown of the entire system. 

Furthermore, hydroponics systems make use of a lot of electrical equipment. 

This system is well insulated so that they don’t come into contact with water. However, if flooding occurs due to soil, it can cause human injuries as well.

The only solution is to make a customized design for the facility that will incorporate both mediums. That will be very expensive to make and serve the same purpose that the hydroponics system serves without the soil.

Using soil in a hydroponics system is useless, and designing a hybrid configuration of water and soil-based arrangement will be expensive.

Final Thoughts

A hydroponics system is costly to set up. The main reason to adopt this agriculture system is to skip the soil requirement and all the related resources and hassle.

Hydroponics is indoor farming, which only supports water as a growing medium. Using soil will only increase the expenses of buying the soil, the pesticides to kill the insects, the equipment to test and measure different variables, all without any benefits.

If you want to use soil as a growing medium, you can opt for traditional agricultural practices. 

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Anat Goldberg

Hi! My name is Anat and I have lived all my life in the countryside. I grew on a farm in Northern Italy and from an early age, I took care of the animals on the farm and the family garden. Over the years I have developed a growing passion for organic cultivation and pest control.

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