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Home > Types of Gardening > Soiless Gardening > Handling Plants in Soilless Culture
Handling Plants in Soilless Culture
Handling Plants in Soilless CulturePlants for soilless gardening may be started from seed, as above described, grown from cuttings as directed in the chapter on Propagation, or purchased while small from a grower. In either case, their roots should be gently washed free of all soil, peat moss or other foreign substance before they are planted. If tank culture is to be followed, let the roots pass through the wire netting so they will hang in the solution, and pack excelsior or some such material around the plants to support them. In the case of sand or gravel culture, spread the roots out in the container as you sift the material carefully around and over them, then soak it generously with the solution so as to settle it firmly.

In the constant-drip method, the plant is set in an ordinary pot with a drainage hole in the bottom and placed above a small pan or deep saucer to hold the liquid that drains through. Then a container full of the solution is placed a little above and to one side, either on a separate stand or on a bracket that can be hooked on the edge of the pot. One good arrangement consists of an ordinary mason jar inverted in a shallow saucer, like the drinking fountains used in chicken yards; from the liquid in the saucer a piece of wicking or a length of twisted gauze bandage runs over to the sand or gravel in the pot. A little experience will show just how wide a piece of bandage is needed and how tightly it should be rolled in order to convey just enough of the solution to keep the plant supplied.

Among the conditions that a plant must have is a supply of air for the roots, as well as the leaves. When the tank or solution culture method is followed, this air is provided by aerating the solution. A small air pump like those used in aquariums will do this nicely, or some of the solution can be dipped out with a pitcher and poured back so as to agitate the liquid. Another plan is to lift the whole tray and prop it up so that the roots are in the air instead of the liquid for half an hour; this can be done once every three or four days until the plants become too large and heavy, then some other scheme must be resorted to. In sand or gravel culture, the roots are sufficiently aerated between the floodings with the solution, and in the constant-drip method just described, the solution in its slow passage down through the pot carries enough air with it.

As far as plants to grow in soilless gardening are concerned, the method used is of less importance than the conditions in the room or greenhouse in which they are to be kept. If there is plenty of sunlight and if the temperature can be maintained evenly between, say, 62 and 75 degrees F., almost any of the popular flowering house plants can be tried. Primulas, Begonias, Cinerarias, Impatiens, Fuchsias, Lantanas and Geraniums are all good subjects, provided, as noted, conditions of light and temperature are favorable.

Calendulas, Alyssum, Ageratum, Nemesia, Nemophila, Browallia and other garden annuals can be handled in this way, if the temperature is somewhat on the cool side. Commercial growers are doing well with such crops as Carnations, Sweet Peas, Gardenias and Chrysanthemums, so if you have even small greenhouse facilities, you might experiment with a few. An) of the commonly grown forcing bulbs-Paper white Narcissus, Chinese Sacred-lily, etc., are. of course, easy to handle, and others not so commonly grown in the house may succeed in sand or gravel because of the uniform moisture supply, notably, Gladiolus, Freesias, Ixias, and even Ranunculus and Anemone.

If there is less light, the familiar foliage plants are well adapted to soilless culture, including the reliable Aspidistra, Sansevieria, Aucuba, Dracena Peperomia, the true and asparagus ferns, and a number of vines such as English Ivy, Wandering Jew, Periwinkle and the small-leaved Climbing Fig. Again it should be pointed out that soiless gardening of itself will not make any particular location any more favorable for a particular kind of plant; but if favorable conditions exist, it can be employed to get good results with moderate attention and care.
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