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Greenhouses have been used for centuries, with the first one dating back to the Roman Empire. Even then, people knew that they could control their crops by controlling the weather and climate and other factors. While these techniques were primitive at best, it shows that gardeners were interested in manipulating their crops.
These techniques improved significantly over the years. It was during the 1600s that people noticed that they could also employ other techniques to improve their plants and crops. Common practices at that time included using glass jars, lanterns and frames to protect the plants from the environment. Portable wooden frames coved with translucent paper were also used to cover rows of plants.
The first glass greenhouse
It was during the 1700s that the first glass enclosure was made. These glass enclosures were using for fruits such as grapes, melons, and strawberries and only sometimes used for vegetables. These were heavily marketed to the wealthy because they could grow all sorts of fruits out of season year-round.
Over the years, the greenhouse developed and these houses were not used only by the wealthy. In fact, greenhouses became commonplace even among weekend gardeners. Today, you can build or purchase a greenhouse for your back yard and grow all of your favorite plants as well as your crops. The greenhouses that are used certainly range in size and technology, but the idea is the same— controlling the climate to produce viable crops all year long no matter if it is hot or cold outside.
The introduction of hydroponics
Hydroponics was first developed around 1925 and was slow to start. Why did researchers turn to hydroponics? It seems that interest began to develop in creating nutrient solutions that were more efficient in a greenhouse environment. When you use soil to plant anything, those soils are depleted of nutrients and over-time must be replaced or must-have commercial fertilizers added. Hydroponics was developed with the thought process that if the soil is eliminated then aerated nutrient solutions or artificial soil can be used.
It was around 1930 that more information and research started being used regarding hydroponics. Researchers started publicizing that there was a possibility that crops could be grown without the use of soil, an idea that seemed odd at the time. A professor from the University of California proved the point that this could be done by growing tomato vines that were twenty-five feet high using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. This feat propelled the idea that hydroponics could certainly work and proved to be quite beneficial.
Learning more about hydroponics
After initial studies were done, two researchers took hydroponics one step further by growing fruits and vegetables using these very techniques on Wake Island, a refueling stop for Pan American Airlines. This was a certainly an experiment worth the time and effort. Wake Island was known to be rocky and free of soil—an improbably place to grow any type of crop. During the 1930s, hydroponics here proved successful and these crops were served to the Pan American Airlines passengers.
Other examples of hydroponics
During the late 60s, a new hydroponics technique was developed by Allen Cooper, this new way was called the Nutrient Film Technique. This is the same hydroponic technique that is proximately used to grow crops at Disney World’s theme park EPCOT at the Land Pavilion. In fact, if you have ever visited Disney World, you can tour the popular hydroponics display at Living with the Land. This boat ride takes visitors through unique indoor plant growing areas displaying biomes, greenhouses and a hydroponics growing area. In the “Creative House” portion of this display, you will find all sorts of crops grown without the use of soil. You can also eat at the nearby garden grill where these fruits and vegetables are served to every customer.
Early forms of hydroponics
When people first started looking into hydroponics, it was a very difficult task to accomplish and as a result, many researchers abandoned the idea altogether. However, interest in this form of gardening was wide open again once plastics became commonplace. Soon the more versatile plastic started replacing the glass and this makes hydroponics easier, but cheaper too. Plastic was used to glaze greenhouses and lined the growing beds, where at one time, concrete was used. Plastic also revolutionized drip irrigation. This is an extremely important and crucial part of hydroponics and when plastics came into the forefront, it was obvious that it was the answer to many problems facing hydroponic gardening. Research continues today into hydroponics and technology continues to advance this type of gardening.