Fabled Gardens Unearthed

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon have fascinated ancient and modern-day scholars for well over 2000 years. They were listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world; but there has been no physical evidence to prove they really existed. There is no mention of the fabled gardens in any of the known Babylonian writings or carvings of the time, with most accounts of their existence based on tales told by returning travellers and soldiers, and written about over 300 years later by Greek writers who never actually saw them.

However, the recent rediscovery of cuneiforms recovered from archeological digs in the mid-19th century, and deposited in the British Museum, confirm they really did exist. This new evidence dispels all that we believed about the legendary gardens. Far be it for me to risk the wrath of Ares by telling the story here. In this issue we publish a wonderful historical article by Rick Donnan, who describes the real story of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon in his Reader Inquiries column. This new evidence is compelling and means that all historical accounts published in hydroponic books, and on the Internet, should be dismissed or rewritten.

Water disinfection is an essential component for all soilless culture installations, or risk plant disease and crop losses.  With a variety of disinfection systems on the market at varying costs and capabilities, it’s difficult to wade through the plethora of seller claims to select a system or combination of disinfection methods that meet individual grower requirements. The selection process is made more onerous without an understanding of how oxidising chemicals work. The most basic principle is that they attack exposed organic plant matter as well as pathogens. If you overdose, you will kill plants. Nor will disinfection cure infected plants; rather, it is used to try and minimise the spread of disease if an outbreak occurs. In the hydroponic world, disinfection methods are used to treat supply water, the nutrient solution, and for post-harvest washing. Each has to be managed carefully, or risk damaging plants. In this issue, we outline the major disinfection methods available to commercial growers, from an Australian perspective, as well as describe developing technologies to sanitise water.

Our story on Hydroponics and the Homeless is inspirational, where technology is being used to feed the unemployed and their families, and provide job training and work opportunities for those who have fallen on hard times. Such initiatives are occurring across North America, led by non-profit charities who sell excess produce to restaurants, retail outlets and farmers’ markets to cover operating costs. Most are community outreach programs. Developing urban hydroponic farms on roof-tops and in basements to feed and train the homeless and unemployed, is a concept that has spread to other countries, but yet to be taken up by non-profit charities in Australia.

PH&G May 2014 / Issue 143