This morning, my friend Sharon and I toured the Urban Oasis Farm in Tampa where veggies are grown hydroponically in a sterile soiless growing media. Since the purpose of the "soil" is for root support and not for nutrients, such material as pebbles and mulch are sometimes used. Urban Oasis chooses to use a growing media consisting of coconut fiber and perlite. I surmise that this particular mixture has an added benefit of absorbing moisture from the water soluble fertilizer applied to provide the plant's nutrients. The farm's owner explained that the fertilizer they use is OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved.
The styrofoam planters are stacked in sets of four with a plant in each of the four corners, thus allowing sixteen plants to grow in each vertical unit. The corners of each planter are inserted in notches to hold the pot above the "soil" line of the one beneath it. An irrigation system on a timer supplies liquid fertilizer to the top planter which then runs into each planter beneath it.
Florida soil is less than ideal for vegetable gardening, which was a reason given during the tour for using this method. I will not be convinced that this is a good alternative to gardening in soil that has been enriched with good quality compost, cover crops, and mineral amendments along with utilizing crop rotation until I investigate further. My research will be part of a project I am working on in my Gardening for Good Nutrition class that I am taking this present term.
At the farm, I bought tatsoi, dandelion greens, and flat-leaf parsley which I blended to make a green drink.
To prepare the green drink, I roughly-chopped a handful of each the three kinds of herbs (tatsoi, dandelion greens, and flat leaf parsley), added 1 cup water, 1/2 cuke, 2 stalks celery, and an apple and whirred it up in a blender. If you happen to be out of apples, I sometimes add apple juice (preferably raw unfiltered). I have also prepared the green drink using my juicer. You can drink it as is or strain it. Straining the mixture makes it prettier for serving, but the pulp adds fiber.