Fun stuff to do

Growing Plants Without Dirt

Colonists arriving on Mars will find a nice surprise on their dinner plate: a fresh salad of lettuce, tomatoes and carrots. How is this possible? Mars has no fertile soil for growing veggies. For the answer, please step this way, into the dome of hydroponic life …

Living on Mars is still science fiction, but growing plants without soil is science fact. The technique is called hydroponics. It’s simply growing plants in water, something you can do today.

Researchers say hydroponics will someday be used not only for feeding space dwellers but also us earthlings.

Raising plants without soil allows farmers to grow more food in less space. That’s especially important in poorer countries, where many people go hungry.

The term hydroponics was coined in 1936 by a scientist in California who planted a tomato in a tub of water. The plant grew more than 25 feet tall!

Once word got around, people were growing plants in baskets, on patios and on rooftops using only water and a little plant food.

Disney Does Science

People who have eaten at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World have experienced hydroponics. Researchers there produce fresh tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers from hydroponic gardens.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is using hydroponics to provide fresh food for astronauts. On the frozen continent of Antarctica, scientists are testing hydroponic techniques that may be used on missions to Mars.

Many commercial growers around the world are turning to hydroponics as an alternative to traditional farming. More food can be produced, and weed problems are eliminated.

Strawberries are a popular hydroponics crop in Australia. Tomatoes, lettuce and a variety of herbs lead the way in Ontario, Canada. In the United States, cucumbers and tomatoes are grown in water.

A Year-Round Garden

Hydroponics is not only useful. It can be fun. Clear a place on your window sill, and you too can grow vegetables, flowers and fruits–and dream about feeding fresh veggies to colonists on Mars.


Plants don’t need soil as long as they have five things: food, water, light, air and support. You can provide all five in a hydroponic garden.

What You Need:

  • A small, single-stemmed houseplant. Most common houseplants will work well. Or try a vegetable plant.
  • A clear glass jar or bottle.
  • A cork stopper with a large hole in the middle.
  • Cotton waddling.
  • Plant food.

What You Do:

This will get messy, so go outside or spread newspapers over your work area. Carefully remove the small houseplant from its pot. Place one hand over the soil surface, with the stem between two fingers, and turn the pot upside-down. Tap the bottom of the pot while gently easing the plant out.

Gently brush all the soil from the roots.

Carefully thread the plant stem through the cork stopper and place the roots into the glass container filled with lukewarm tap water.

Use the cotton wadding to fill any gaps between the plant stem and cork stopper. Be careful not to squeeze the stem.

Move your plant to a sunny location and watch it grow!

After about a week, pour out the water and refill.

Your plant will be hungry by now, so add a general-purpose plant food according to label directions. Look for a food labeled “water soluble.” You can find it at garden centers, hardware stores or grocery stores.

Change the water and the plant food solution about once a month.

Comments about “Growing Plants Without Dirt”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Some veggies work. As stated above the sweet potato works very well and makes a super long vine after a while. If you use something larger then you will not need the cork. Best of luck to all of you.

  2. mysteryscience says:

    What else can we use besides cork stoppers?

  3. Jade says:

    im doing it for my science project:)$$!!

  4. jade says:

    This is a great idea for my science project and gardeners should do this!!!!:)

  5. hkhljkhlk says:


  6. Sasha says:

    where do you buy plant nutrients though?

  7. jimmnybob665 says:

    i’ve done it before, really works

  8. dog says:

    it is kantutan style

  9. Dre Day says:

    Something to waste time….

  10. mama says:

    This isn’t really a green project unless you use organic liquid fertilizer.

  11. yourmother5 says:

    all i read were the comments but it sound cool!! :DD

  12. lovely says:

    this is so asome i am going to try it with my science partner!!!:)

  13. Chuur(: says:

    I think i’ll do this for my Science fair project. Cheers :D

  14. meggie says:

    Can you grow it from a seed?

  15. supersonic says:

    Looks interesting to a kid scientist.Might try it!

  16. Candy says:

    Sweet potatoes work very well. They look great after growing for a while.

  17. Nature Boy says:

    I wonder what else will work insted of cork? I’m going to definetly try this.

  18. WaterGardener says:

    I just tried it! hope it works with morning glory vines…
    If you don’t have a cork a regular water bottle with a hole punched in the cap works great.

  19. The One who knows all (some dummy,actually) says:

    can it grow vegetables?

  20. JBlover says:

    I’m doing this for my science project with a calla lily bulb. Can’t wait to try it out! :)

  21. moo says:

    I’m going to try to use a 55 gallon barrel instead of a 2 liter bottle.I hope it works!

    • remi says:

      i was sopposee to be looking how to create oxygen on mars and one way we thought was to grow plants without dirt on mars.

    • The One who knows all (some dummy,actually) says:

      if it’s that big, you can probably put several plants in there.

  22. j99 says:

    this is a projet im doing some thing like it.

  23. southern Beau says:

    I need more informstion on how to prepare container for vegetables

    • wolflord says:

      Can u give me an idea about plants growing on preaty much anything thats liquid?I’m doing a project about how plants grow on anything thats liquid.I’m in 5th grade and I need an idea.I was thinking about how I can have 3 pots,one is filled with water,one filled with coollaid and the other one is filled with milk.I would see three weeks later which one grew faster the water,the coollaid or the milk.What do u think?

  24. cindy says:

    that’s a way to go

  25. Person says:

    Can you do it from seeds?

  26. kimmy says:

    great pic

  27. Smallgardener38752 says:

    This is a great idea. Philodendren houseplants really like to grow this way. Also potatoes will grow by growing roots in a cup of water. Spider plant hous plants grow tremendous root systems just by growing the house plants in water. Sometimes, house plant food spikes (such as Jobe’s house plant fertilizer food spikes) will dissolve right into the cup of water to provide nourishment to the house plants.

  28. milo says:

    this is cool i can see it working and i gonna try it but i wonder if you can start it from seeds too? i mean i love to grow tomatos but but i like to grow them from seeds.

  29. lballaerchick says:

    I really liked this website because I’m doing this for a science project. Thanks!!!

  30. emmywarrior says:

    well how do u grow a plant without soil starting from a seed?

    • justaguy says:

      you can grow an avocado seed this way at least up until it is about two months old i dont know after that. but it gets roots and starts growing. you will need an avocado seed, toothpicks,and glass of water, you have to stab the seed with three tooth picks spaced evenly around the seeds middle, the toothpicks will hold the seed on top of the cup, next fill the glass with water so that the seed only gets wet for about an inch. after a week you will see results

  31. nerd girl says:

    what pg was this is the magazine???

  32. Yankee Fan13 says:

    i might just use this as a science project

  33. gamemastr says:

    cant u grow hydroponices from a seed

  34. d man says:

    that is so totally awesome

  35. Old Scout 1960 era says:

    During WWII, American bases in the Pacific were supplied with fresh vegtables from hydroponic gardens.

    Take a look at some of the tomatoes in the supermarket and you will find some hydroponic tomatoes.

  36. planty says:

    This actually works

  37. nature man says:

    cool. im gunna try it

  38. john says:

    i did that it died in a day

  39. sci says:

    its going to make me to give it a try

  40. king1200 says:

    unusual but awesome im doin it

  41. king1200 says:

    thats awesome im doin it

  42. Demosthenes says:

    actually works. I tried this, and it works really well. Next, i’m gonna try a much bugger plant, and a large plastic barrel. a sunflower and a huge pretzel container!

  43. bobart says:


  44. bob says:

    i think its a bit creapy but hi

  45. tjseven says:

    i have heard a little about hydroponic but never knew how to make one this is pretty cool

  46. Nature lover says:

    pretty cool!:^)

  47. Da Boss says:

    pretty cool

  48. scouting kid says:

    This is AMAZING I’m totlly going to try this

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