Two bolts of lightning striking the woods
(Image credit: mishooo)

There are so many gardening techniques out there. Some are new techniques, some are old techniques, and some a blend of old and new. Electroculture gardening is an example of the latter. Electroculture gardening techniques have been studied since the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, but many of us have never heard of them. That’s because until recently electro gardening was deemed to have little to no benefit, often because those initially interested went chasing after another possible more profitable enterprise. New studies are proving that electroculture does influence plant growth as well as having other beneficial effects. Intrigued? Keep reading the following information on electroculture for beginners.

What is Electroculture?

Electroculture is the study of electricity’s effects on biology -- specifically plant biology. Prior to the initial studies of the late 1800’s, Mother Nature shockingly hinted at her ability to increase crop growth. In Japan it was observed that mushrooms increased growth and propagation after a lightning storm.

If only this energy could be harnessed... and of course it was, in the 1740’s! But by then another scientist, Pierre Bertholon de Saint-Lazare, had reinvestigated his contemporaries’ experiments on plants and electricity. He noted the increase in bloom time, bigger and brighter blooms, and accelerated ripening of fruit when electricity was applied.

Bertholon went further still, inventing the electro-vegeto-meter, a device that could infuse electricity into an entire garden plot somewhat like lighting rather than individually. Bertholon went into a tizzy of experimentation, zapping pests and using electrical “water" to replace fertilizer.

All was well until Jan Ingenhousz, the scientist who discovered photosynthesis, used the electro-vegeto-meter in his own garden – and his crops promptly died.

So, the idea of electroculture was shuttered for a while with the exception of some, including Darwin, whose fascination with plants that move temporarily opened the topic up for further discussion.

Electroculture for Beginners

Until fairly recently, electroculture was dismissed until China got involved. China has more people than any other country, and they all need to eat. This means the government is constantly looking for ways to maximize food production.

Increased food production equals increased use of resources like water, fertilizer and soil. But researchers in China have found a way to increase food production without draining resources: electricity.

The Chinese have found that the use of electricity can increase crop yields 20-30% by using much less pesticide and fertilizer. In greenhouses that measure 8895 acres (3,600 hectares), bare copper wires have been hung 10 feet (3 m) above ground. They run the length of the greenhouses, carrying pulses of up to 50,000 volts. These bursts of voltage kill both airborne and soil borne bacteria and diseases.

This isn’t the only benefit found, but for the purposes of electroculture for beginners, this is enough information for the moment. Suffice it to say that China is sold on the program and plans to increase the use of electroculture throughout the country.

Electroculture Gardening Techniques

Electroculture gardening techniques are said to increase plant yields and quality, increase the nutritional value of crops, and reduce the need for fertilizer and other chemicals.

It all sounds good, but how will these techniques be applied? First is direct current stimulation which applies the current directly to cables buried around the plant. This current is generally supplied by a battery.

The next technique is alternating current stimulation, which exposes the soil or plant to a weak AC electrical field using wired or electrodes buried in the soil or around the plant.

Lastly, the third option is induction stimulation. This is when electroculture equipment is used to produce low level AC electrical fields in the soil or in plant tissue without the use of wires or electrodes.

If you are interested in utilizing these techniques in your own garden, remember the science is still in its infancy. So do your research. Select your technique, collect supplies, start small and keep track of your results.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.