I’d like to take a moment to address the issue of hydroponics and, why, after 10 years of growing wheatgrass in soil, I have finally given in to the idea that hydroponics is not only a viable alternative but actually a smarter one for some growers, with no loss of product quality. I will agree that hydroponics has taken a bad rap over the years for producing less tasty, more watery fruits and vegetables, but that was when commercial hydroponics was in its infancy, and growers were essentially just experimenting.
In more recent years, however, it has become clear that hydroponic growers are mastering their craft and producing fruits and vegetables that have surpassed the taste and quality of some of their soil-grown competitors. I now confess to choosing a particular type of tomato, basil, and salad green over all others at the grocery store, and (with great surprise!) they are all grown hydroponically. That got me to thinking. If these growers can produce such outstanding tomatoes, basil, and lettuce, couldn’t I produce an outstanding hydroponic wheatgrass?
While I am a strong proponent of soil-grown, it has caused me a fair number of infrastructure problems in my growing operation throughout the years. Soil definitely has its place, outdoors and in greenhouses, but for an indoor growing operation–in my case, a 300 square foot year-round, climate-controlled growing room akin to a laboratory setting–it wreaks havoc and has caused me innumerable problems in the way of soilborne pathogens, dust, odors, storage limitations, and physical injury. Even when one works as cleanly as possible, soil has a way of taxing indoor air cleaning systems, which can turn into hundreds and even thousands of dollars in maintenance costs when the system unexpectedly and prematurely fails because of fine dust buildup.
During the years when I was growing primarily in soil, I was also experimenting with soilless media for my floral wheatgrass crops. Call me crazy, but I just didn’t like the idea of putting soil on a fancy dinner table for the above-mentioned reasons: pathogens, dust, odors. Also, soil wasn’t the easiest thing for florists to work with when they needed to cut pieces to fit their decorating needs. So I began growing in coco coir (ground coconut husks), which turned out to be an exceptional growing medium. The simple fact that it is not soil is what makes it a hydroponic growing medium, and thus began my journey as a hydroponic grower.