BetterGrow Hydro Blog

The History of Hydroponics

This past October, Maximum Yield magazine brought its world renowned Indoor Gardening Expo to Long Beach for the first time. And as was customary with the annual San Francisco show, BGH was asked to provide an "Education Station" booth. Normally we would set up a booth of several complete growing systems as a way to educate attendees on hydroponic systems and methods. For the Long Beach show we decided to do something a little different. We left the HID lights and grow tents at home and instead, put together a booth that showcased the History of Hydroponics. The BGH team put in over a hundred and forty hours and consulted over 25 major organizations and companies all over the world. We reached out to numerous other sources when researching this topic, and many of our findings were surprising, even to us.

The history of hydroponics is deep and rich. Spanning thousands of years, hydroponic gardening has stood as proof of mankind's ingenuity and fortitude when faced with less than ideal growing conditions and hungry mouths to feed. What most of us today consider merely a hobby has been at the forefront of the advancements of civilization for several millennium. Come take a closer look with us at the vast and surprising History of Hydroponics!

We would like to take the time to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations that have contributed to this project. Thank you very much for your help and support with finding images, articles and other various important bits of information on the History of Hydroponics.

Laura Capell
Special Collections
University of Miami Libraries

Joanna Hopkins
Picture Curator
The Royal Society

Liz Suckow
Archivist WTSI History Division
NASA Headquarters

National Archives and Records Administration
Special Media Archives Services Division
National Archives at College Park

Kate Igoe
Permissions Archivist
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution

John Carberry
Press Relations Office
Cornell University

Lawrence Brooke
General Hydroponics

Christina Brooke
General Hydroponics

Martin Broenkow
General Hydroponics

Brian Mullen
Public Affairs Specialist
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Elizabeth C. Borja, CA
Reference Services Archivist
National Air and Space Museum
Archives Division

Kylie Moloney
Pacific Manuscripts Bureau
College of Asia and the Pacific
The Australian National University
Canberra, Australia

Gwen Pitman
NASA Media Services

Vibeke "Vee" Kjoelhede
Grodan Inc. North America

Kelley Nicholson
American Hydroponics

Florice Whyte Kovan, MA
Academic & Publisher Research

Richard Spencer
Library Manager
World Technical Services, Inc.

Dr. T. Keith
Glennan Memorial Library
NASA Headquarters

Roy Peleg

Ryan Pettigrew
AV Archivist
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Holly Reed
National Archives & Records Administration
Still Picture Reference

Geary Cooper
Canna Hydroponics

1.    Adams, William Howard. Nature Perfected: Gardens through History. New York: Abbeville, 1991. Print.
2.    Ayres, Pat A. "Wake – the Vegetable Isle." Paradise of the Pacific Jan. 1944. Print.
3.    Bacon, Francis, William Rawley, and Thomas Cecil. Sylua Syluarum: or A Naturall Historie In Ten Centuries. VVritten by the Right Honourable Francis Lo. Verulam Viscount St. Alban. Published after the Authors Death, by VVilliam Rawley Doctor of Diuinity, His Maiesties Chaplaine. London: Printed by I[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee at the Turkes Head in Fleet-street, next to the Miter, 1631. Print.
4.    Baldwin, By Sam. "The Altered States of America | Mother Jones." Mother Jones | Smart, Fearless Journalism. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
5.    Bietenholz, Peter G., Thomas Brian Deutscher, and Desiderius Erasmus. Contemporaries of Erasmus: a Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1985. Print.
6.    Boussingault, J. B. Rural Economy --. 1848. Print.
7.    Cooper, Allen John. The ABC of NFT: Nutrient Film Technique : the World's First Method of Crop Production without a Solid Rooting Medium. London: Grower, 1979. Print.
8.   Crowther, J. G. Scientists of the Industrial Revolution: Joseph Black, James Watt, Joseph Priestley, Henry Cavendish. [S.l.]: [s..n.], 1962. Print.
9.   Curator, A. W. Letter to Gilbert Smith. 1938. MS. Wake Island.
10.   Dickson, Donald. "Farming a Rock in Mid-Pacific." Country Home Magazine. Print.
11.   Didius, Thea. "Aztec Farming." HistoryWalker. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <>.
12.   Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911. Print.
13.   Gericke, W. F. Soilless Gardening: a Complete Guide. Delhi: Biotech, 2007. Print.
14.   Gericke, W. F. The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening,. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940. Print.
15.   Gibson, Reginald Walter. Francis Bacon: a Bibliography of His Works and of Baconiana to the Year 1750. Oxford: Scrivener, 1950. Print.
16.   "Hanging Gardens of Babylon." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 1 Oct. 2010. <>.
17.   Hobhouse, Penelope. Gardening through the Ages: an Illustrated History of Plants and Their Influence on Garden Styles--from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1997. Print.
18.   "HowStuffWorks "Julius Von Sachs"" Howstuffworks "Science" Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
19.   "Hydroponics at Wake." Pan American Weekely News Bulletin 3 May 1938. Print.
20.   Jardine, Lisa, and Alan Stewart. Hostage to Fortune: the Troubled Life of Francis Bacon. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999. Print.
21.   Kemp, Martin. Leonardo Da Vinci: the Marvellous Works of Nature and Man. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
22.   Memorandum, By Same. "Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General [OQMG]." National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
23.   Olivares, Patrick. " The History Art and Culture of Ancient Mesoamerica." The Ancient Web - the Ancient World's Great Civilizations. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <>.
24.   "Operation Intercept: The Policy and the Research Problem." DRCNet Online Library of Drug Policy. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
25.   "Operativo Actual, Símil De Operación Cóndor - El Universal - México." Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
26.   "Oval Office History." White House Museum. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. <>.
27.   "Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records, 1927-1991 | University of Miami Special Collections." Finding Aids Redirect. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.
28.   <>.
29.   Pedretti, Carlo. Leonardo Da Vinci Nature Studies from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle: the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 15 November 1980-15 February 1981, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 4 March-7
30.   June 1981. [New York?]: Johnson Reprint, 1980. Print.
31.   Priestley, Joseph, and Robert E. Schofield. A Scientific Autobiography of Joseph Priestley. 1966. Print.
32.   Priestley, Joseph. Observations on Different Kinds of Air. London: Society, 1772. Print.
33.   Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair., and Francis King. The Story of the Garden. Boston: Hale, Cushman & Flint, 1936. Print.
34.   Saunby, T. Soilless Culture. London: W.H. and L. Collingridge, 1953. Print.
35.   Scherschel, Joe. "Hydroponic Farms." Life Magazine 1951. Print.
36.   "Science: Hydroponics - TIME." Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <,9171,757343,00.html>.
37.   Slobac, Susan. "Ancient Hydroponics Gardens." EzineArticles Submission - Submit Your Best Quality Original Articles For Massive Exposure, Ezine Publishers Get 25 Free Article Reprints. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.
38.   Thacker, Christopher. The History of Gardens. Berkeley: University of California, 1979. Print.
39.   Venn, John. Alumni Cantabrigienses. Cambridge: Univ., 1974. Print.
40.   Weaver, Robert J. Plant Growth Substances in Agriculture. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1972. Print.
41.   "What’s Become of Hydroponics?" Business Week July 1940. Print.
42.   "What’s Become of Hydroponics?" Business Week July 1940. Web.
43.   Wright, Richardson Little. The Story of Gardening, from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Hanging Gardens of New York,. New York: Dodd, Mead &, 1934. Print.

  • strobezz

    Awesome poster !! good work but Oupss mistake 1397 instead of 1937 between 1933 and 1940

  • Hydroponics

    G8 post………really interested….I lov gardening……but I don't hv enough knowledge about hydroponics……thnx for your info

  • a9 jensi
  • socrates plato

    I want to be assure more not to waste and spend more about it. Learning and experiencing new makes me do more research, particularly about the disadvantages and disadvantages for all of these. I very glad to read this article.
    Also try to check on this Hydroponics Adelaide

  • John Atkinson

    I read in a post on another website that vegetables grown hydroponically don’t have as strong taste as vegetables that are grow naturally in soil. Is that true? And do carbohydrates sold on the market really help to improve the flavour of the production? Are these carbohydrates safe for people?

    Regards, John from

    • David G.

      That is a statement we’ve heard many times in the past, and it’s a total fallacy. The taste of the product will vary depending on a number of factors, such as variety, climate, fertilizer makeup and the experience and talent of the grower. Sure, when some people grow produce using hydroponics the taste isn’t as strong, but the same can be said about growing in soil. If you grow hydroponically and the flavor is not there then you are simply doing something wrong. One of the reasons this stigma exists has to do with commercially grown tomatoes, often labeled “hot house” tomatoes. The varieties grown were commercial greenhouse cultivars, bred for production, shelf life, etc. – not for flavor. These tomatoes were grown hydroponically but they were grown very far away from the market they would be sold at. For this reason, the tomatoes would be harvested while green and allowed to “ripen” (turn red) during the long journey they took before arriving on a consumers dinner plate. Of course they tasted like water! I grow tomatoes hydroponically every year in my backyard and I can assure you that when I hand them out to friends and neighbors all I hear is how they’ve never had a tomato that tasted so good. It’s all about variety, the climate and, most important, the grower.

  • Melissa Green

    HI David,
    I absolutely agree with you. I’ve been growing hydroponically for more than 3 years, and I don’t bother growing in soil anymore. I can even grow hydroponically cheaper than growing it in the ground. It’s really rewarding to be able to eat and share fresh produce that you grew yourself and even budget-friendly.
    Best regards, Melissa from Handy Gardeners London