KENNEWICK -- Tracy Christensen of Finley is all about eating healthy, recycling, and doing her part in making planet Earth a cleaner place to live.
One way she accomplishes those goals is through hydroponic gardening, which translates into working water.
Hydroponics is where plants are grown in plastic containers with only water and no dirt. Water pumps keep the water flowing through the containers, periodically draining the water and giving the plant roots time to breathe.
Though might think this growing process is relatively new, it isn't, Christensen said.
"The hanging gardens of Babylon and the floating gardens of the Aztecs of Mexico are good examples of hydroponic culture," she said. "This is my second year in doing this kind of gardening and I love it. My vegetables just taste better. And you can have a hydroponic garden either indoors or outdoors. There is no set growing season as you can garden all year long."
Christensen will have an exhibition of hydroponic gardening at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo this week. Her growing booth is next to the food court.
Besides growing all her own produce, Christensen also likes the no weeding advantage hydroponic gardening offers, and no back strain by bending over and tending plants growing in the ground. She says anything that grows in a garden, flowers included, can be grown hydroponically.
Christensen, a Franklin County 911 dispatcher, says a hydroponic garden can be started with four-inch plants placed in PVC pipe with holes cut out on one side, sort of like a planter box.
The gardens can be made from various sizes of the plastic pipes, barrels or tote containers. Fertilizer is fed to the plants through the watering process. Some beds have pea gravel inside so the plants have support during early grow periods, she said.
A timer is used to drain the water from the pipe for about for 15 minutes every hour so the plants' roots have time to soak up some much-needed oxygen. Then the water is recycled through the pipe all over again. The recycling process also cuts down on the amount of water needed for growing vegetables.
"People can customize their hydroponic garden to suit their needs," Christensen said. "People who are wheelchair-bound can do this because the gardens can be customized to suit any height.
"I grew the most awesome zucchini last year in a 55-gallon plastic barrel. And I used a 15-gallon Rubbermaid tote to produce two huge pumpkins last year. There are just so many ways to grow vegetables that makes them better for you as well as taste better."
House water is the preferred choice for hydroponic gardens, but during the summer irrigation water can be used if the water is filtered before it enters the garden, Christensen said. And there's little worry of garden pests, including mosquitoes, infesting the plants grown hydroponically as well as the water supply, she added.
"The cells of plants grown in a hydroponic garden are thicker and stronger, making them healthier in resisting bugs," she said. "There is a peace of mind that comes with any kind of gardening. There is great satisfaction that comes with growing it, harvesting it and eating the food you grow."
Hydroponic gardening already is being done around the world, and some high-end restaurants in large cities also are starting their own hydroponic gardens, she added. With pollution threatening crops and food shortages happening globally, Christensen believes hydroponics is definitely the future of gardening.
Christensen, who founded the Tri-City Hydroponic Gardeners, will be at the fair all week, so anyone interested in finding out more about hydroponic gardening can contact her either at the fair or by email to tchydroponic firstname.lastname@example.org.