What’s the difference between hydroponic and soil gardening?

by Lettuce Be | Last Updated: 01/21/2022

The majority of people who start indoor gardens start with soil. Growing outdoor plants in soil look to be easier since it appears to be a more natural way of doing so. However, as your garden expands and demands more time, cultivating plants in soil may become a laborious operation, prompting people to seek out alternatives like hydroponics.

When it comes to cultivating indoor gardens, the debate between using soil cultivations vs. hydroponics has raged on especially among commercial growers. While many individuals advocate for the use of soil in indoor gardens, some advocate for soilless cultivation because of the distinct advantage. And, of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to adopting each medium.

While dirt is more natural for plants, it is also gentler and yields slower results. Hydroponics, on the other hand, is more direct since plants have more direct access to essential nutrients. As a result, it produces more but is more expensive and technologically intensive. It involves the growth of plants in organic materials as peat moss, coconut coir pith (coconut fiber), old bark, perlite, or clay pebbles in other hydroponic farms.

However, before deciding whether soil or hydroponic is superior, it is necessary to first understand hydroponics and how it differs from soil, and then compare the two approaches to make your own decision. So let’s get this party started.

What Is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a growth method that allows plants to grow without the use of soil. Because we are accustomed to plants growing on dirt, anything other than soil may startle us. However, because of its clear advantages over traditional farming, hydroponics has grown in favor over time.

Plants are grown in an artificially controlled environment without soil in hydroponics. Plants can continue to take both water and nutrients from an artificial nutrient-rich solution since they require nutrients and water for growth, which they generally acquire from the soil.

Plant roots are directly dipped in containers of nutrient solution for vegetative growth, allowing the absorption of nutrients and continue to grow even in the absence of soil.

Soil vs. Hydroponics: What’s the Difference?

The distinction between soil and hydroponics is self-explanatory once you have a basic understanding of hydroponics. But we’ll give you a fast rundown.

Soil serves as a foundation for the growth of plants, support themselves, and absorbs nutrients and water.

There is no soil in hydroponics, but the roots of the plants are dipped in a mineral nutrient solution that provides the nutrient-rich water required for plant growth.

While plants in hydroponics have access to nutrient levels and water, they lack a medium in which to stabilize themselves. A special sort of footing is employed to help overcome this problem, allowing the growth of plants.

Hydroponics vs. Soil: A Comparison

Now that you’ve learned the differences between hydroponics and traditional soil gardening, it’s time to evaluate the two methods using numerous criteria.

Find out which one is better for your indoor garden by looking at the yield, space requirements, nutrients, and water requirements.

Plant Health

When comparing the health of plants grown in soil against those grown in hydroponics, the latter results in healthier and stronger plants. When compared to soil-grown plants, hydroponic plants have higher absorption of nutrients. The additional oxygen promotes root growth and nutrient uptake.

In addition, hydroponic yields are more bright than soil-grown plants since they contain more vitamins and essential nutrients.

This is why hydroponics is not only a popular technology among indoor gardeners, but it is also one of the most popular among commercial farms.

Aeroponic plants are also less susceptible to pests, nutrient deficiencies and illnesses than plants grown by traditional farming since they are healthier.

In a hydroponic arrangement, if you place a sick plant next to a healthy plant, you’ll be shocked to learn that the sick plant has no effect on the health of the healthy plant (which is generally the case in plants grown in soil).

So you can witness nature in action in hydroponically produced plants, with the strongest plants surviving.2

When comparing the health of soil-grown plants to those produced hydroponically, though, you’ll notice a significant difference. Pests and disease are more likely to become an issue when plants are stressed owing to nutrient deficiencies.

Additionally, when growing plants with traditional fertilizer methods, chemical pesticides and fungicides are required to protect the plants from pests and fungi on the outside. Pesticides and fungicides have long been known to have harmful consequences.


When comparing the efficiency of soil with hydroponics, the latter comes out on top. Hydroponics allows plants to develop more quickly because they receive the exact nutrition they require for faster growth. Because monitoring and adjustments to temperature, pH, oxygen levels, flow rates, and nutrient concentrations for plant varieties can be made in a reservoir of nutrient solution with the capacity to feed thousands of plants, it is much easier to automate than static solution culture. Basic nutrient solution preparation and concentrations of individual nutrient ions must also be studied to avoid nutrient toxicity.

When compared to this setup, earth plants require a considerably larger root system, like root vegetables, to receive the appropriate concentration of nutrients. Plants grown in soil, on the other hand, do not have the same advantages as those cultivated hydroponically, thus have a slower growth rate.

Water Use

Hydroponic vegetables are clearly healthier than those grown on soil. Another feature that we can evaluate between soil and hydroponics is water requirements. An aquaponics system utilizes around ten percent of the water used in traditional gardening.

Plants cultivated in soil require far more water than plants grown hydroponically. Water in the soilless systems continues to circulate, unlike water in the soil, which evaporates. The nutrient film technique, top-fed deep water culture, and the ebb and flow system are examples.

As a result, when compared to growing plants in a traditional garden bed, hydroponics can save up to 80% water. As a result, we may conclude that hydroponics not only produces healthier plants, but it also conserves water, which is a precious resource on this world.


When comparing hydroponic farming versus soil gardening, the comparison isn’t complete until the cost is factored in. When compared to soil cultivation, hydroponic farms are generally an expensive endeavor. You must examine both the initial and ongoing costs, just as you would with any other investment.

There are many different hydroponic systems available, but the more expensive ones can cost more than $500. A hydroponic system also requires mineral nutrient solutions, as plant food, water pump, and air pump, which is a very pricey running cost. Because of the fish, aquaponics systems take longer to get up and running.

In contrast, soil is often less expensive than hydroponic gardening. As a result, the initial investment in an indoor garden with traditional fertilizer methods is significantly smaller.

However, the cost of maintenance may vary. If your soil is low quality, it may require a lot of chemical fertilizers on a regular basis, which can add to your maintenance costs.

As a result, while the initial cost is always lower, the ongoing costs can vary. It’s also likely that the expense of maintaining a soil system is higher than that of a hydroponic system.

Ease Of Use

If you are new to gardening, you should have a fundamental understanding of how to grow plants. This comprises the dietary needs, moisture requirements, and growing seasons of various plants. Micronutrients can also be obtained from organic fertilizers.

With this foundation, you may choose between traditional farming and hydroponic farming for your indoor garden. Many people believe that working with soil is easier than dealing with hydroponic nutrient solutions from commercial nutrient manufacturers, however, this is not the case.

In fact, working with soil necessitates a great deal more weeding and digging, something you won’t have to worry about while growing plants in controlled conditions or ideal conditions. Water culture experiments were carried out in this context in the hopes of producing identical symptoms under controlled conditions.

So both soil and hydroponics are simple, but hydroponics eliminates the need to dig and weed your hydroponic gardens. Successful hydroponic horticulture requires keeping the concentration of nutrients to avoid nutrient toxicity, oxygen saturation, and pH values within acceptable ranges. Because there are no CEC or soil pores in hydroponic systems, pH, oxygen saturation, and nutrient concentrations can change faster than in soil.


The yield is maybe the most significant difference between growing plants with the aid of soil and hydroponic gardens. Plants grown in a hydroponic system are healthier, more nutritious, have faster vegetative growth, and yield more, according to data.

When comparing the production of hydroponic plants to soil-grown plants, a hydroponics grower can enjoy a yield 20-25 percent greater than a soil-grown commercial vegetable. Hydroponics is not suitable for root vegetables, though.

Environmental Factors

When growing terrestrial plants in soil, environmental elements such as weather, sunlight, and soil type all have an impact on the plant’s health.

That is not the case when growing plants by hydroponic gardening. This means you have more control over the growth environment with continuous nutrient supply and can produce a higher yield as a result. Because these systems rarely have to deal with such issues, you won’t need to use as many chemicals in your garden, lowering the risk of negative environmental impacts.

Gardening in soil, as previously said, requires greater plant roots, whereas growing plants without soil do not.

Hydroponic gardens, with thinner plant roots, is an excellent technique to reduce space, especially when used to grow outdoor plants via vertical farming. A hydroponic method will not only save you time and produce a higher yield, but it will also save you a lot of room.

The Bottom-line

Now that you’ve studied soil vs. hydroponics, you can safely conclude that hydroponics is a superior and more efficient way of growing outdoor plants without soil.

While using soil to cultivate plants has its own set of benefits, it can result in a lower yield and can be more expensive in terms of delayed development and reduced pest and disease resistance.

For those who believe that working with soil is easier, let us reiterate that hydroponic gardens do not require expert gardening abilities, and it can be used even in a small indoor garden.

Growing outdoor plants in both soil and hydroponic gardening, however, needs a basic understanding of organic fertilizers or chemical nutrients as well as other elements such as light, carbon dioxide, and water requirements. When you buy soil, you are buying a mixture of organic material, with added minerals.

So, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned gardener, you can easily experiment with both soil and soilless cultivation for your indoor garden and see what results you get.

Though all tactics have distinct advantages and disadvantages, only you can decide which works best for you. We hope that after reading this advice, you are better equipped to make an informed decision.