Hydroponic gardening is an exciting solution for gardens with limited space. However, many gardeners are confused as to where to start.
We asked garden experts for helpful tips about growing a hydroponic garden. Some good ideas include:
- Research the most suitable hydroponic system
- Choose the right plants
- Some tools you may need: pH tester, water reservoir,…
Read our article to find out more!
Jen Stark from Happy DIY Home
Things you need to start
Tools you will need to get started are: a bucket or basin for water reservoir, water, hydroponic fertilizer (dry or liquid), cotton or nylon cord, growing medium, seedlings, and a growing tray. Optionally, you may need a grow light as well as a drill or screwdriver.
Set up wick system
Due to its lack of mechanical parts, the wick system is the simplest system to set up, and it works best with microgreens, herbs, and peppers.
- First, create a reservoir filled with water and nutrients.
- Next, add 1 or 2 wicking ropes or strips of felt through holes in the bottom of the growing tray to connect the wicking medium to the solution.
- Follow this with setting up a growing tray by placing seedlings within a wicking medium such as vermiculite or perlite and set it above the water reservoir.
- Finally, place your hydroponic system in a sunny location or station an LED or fluorescent grow light 6 to 12 inches above the growing tray.
Lu Hernandez from EasyIndoorGreens.com
It can be intimidating when you think about growing plants without the need for soil, but that’s what hydroponics is all about, and it’s what makes it fun. There is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize how rewarding it is.
Research the most suitable hydroponic system
If you want to start, you have to research the most suitable hydroponics system for you, as there are several, and each has its own set of pros and cons and different ways to deliver nutrients to plants.
You may also need the know-how to create the right mix for your nutrient solution. After all, your plants will depend on this nutrient-rich solution to grow and thrive.
Check water pH
Other parameters to consider such as (but not limited to) ensuring your water has the right pH, you’re growing under the right temperatures, and you’re exposing your plants to the right amount of light.
Of course, you can skip through all that if you opt for automated systems that do everything for you. One example is the Aerogarden, a smart garden with all you need – the device with all the mechanical parts, the seed pods, grow lights, and a ready-to-use nutrient solution.
All you have to do with these automated systems is to add water and run your device. You can then sit and watch your garden come alive.
Choose the right plants
But whether you want to build a hydroponics system from scratch or want to go for a ready-to-use smart system, one tip I’d like to share with beginners is choosing the right plants. I suggest starting with lettuce as it’s the perfect go-to plant for hydroponic beginners.
You can use the most advanced tech for hydroponics, but if you went straight for a plant you’re not familiar with or one that is generally not easy to grow for beginners, then you could have difficulty falling in love with hydroponics.
Start small and go slow
Just like traditional gardening, it will take time to build your indoor garden – although it could be faster in hydroponics.
But unlike soil gardening, hydroponics has the advantage of growing your favorite veggie or herbs all year round without worrying about the right seasons, outdoor elements, and pests.
James Jennings from Home Garden HQ
Never try to start planting from seeds
Starting from a live plant will not only give your first grow a greater chance of living but will save yourself from frustrations as well.
When I was just starting in hydroponics, a plant seedling was never my first choice and started with a seed. And despite the efforts, I only got 5% of my seeds fully grown.
Frustrated with the results, I decided to start all over again using a clone. And I was surprised by the result. Without so much effort, almost all of them managed to grow successfully.
You need to understand that starting with a seed is harder than hydroponic gardening itself. And it’s even more complicated if you’re just a beginner. To save yourself from the trial and error phase, starting your first grow with a live plant is ideal.
That being said, your success in hydroponic gardening all depends on the plan you’ve crafted before even starting anything. And for a beginner, there’s no other way to start it right than eliminating things that might go wrong.
Heather Yan from learnplanting.com
Keep it simple
It’s okay to start with only one kind of plant in your hydroponic system, and you shouldn’t start with more than a handful and expect good results.
Make sure you’ve got a good nutrient formula on hand that provides all of the big 3 nutrients your plants need (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium).
Don’t worry about other micronutrients for now. You can add those nutrients in a little later once you’ve got some more experience with hydroponics.
Have the proper light schedule
It’s also essential to make sure you have the proper light schedule for your plants if you want to get the kind of fast growth hydroponic systems are known for. If your plants aren’t on the right light schedule, they’ll struggle to grow.
Lack of light is just as significant as light during your light schedule. Make sure you’re using a light-protective sheeting to ensure that no-light periods during your plant’s schedule have no light.
Otherwise, your plants might not cycle through their respiration process, which slows things down.
Change the light bulbs
Many beginners forget to change the light bulbs in their system when they’re first starting. This can be a big problem because lowered light efficiency also means less photosynthesis and slower growth. Always make sure you’re on top of changing light bulbs.
Casper Ohm from Water-Pollution.org.uk
Hydroponics sound quite complicated at first, but having your hydroponic garden at home is easier and more affordable than you think.
While you need some materials and time dedicated to creating your garden, starting is the only tricky part. Maintenance is much easier once you get the hang of things.
If you are a beginner, I will leave you my best tip for your first hydroponic garden.
Buy a PH testing kit
When you start, it may be tricky to figure out the perfect pH, and any variation on its level can harm your plants. Buy a testing kit so you’re always aware of the pH levels.
Samuel Belan, from Growbuds
Choose your hydroponic system wisely!
There is always some confusion when it comes to hydroponics. Some mediums such as coco would also be considered hydroponic since they don’t hold nutrients as the soil does, and you will have to supplement those either in liquid or powder form.
Deep Water Culture
If you are very present and willing to monitor all the variables such as the PPM (concentration of nutrients in your water), pH, and water temperature, a system such as DWC (Deep Water Culture) might be a good fit for you.
With this technique, roots are dipped directly in water where the nutrients are mixed. Using an air pump and air stone, we create bubbles that oxygenate the roots and keep the water moving constantly.
This technique is fantastic and can boost your growth significantly. Be careful, though, as this technique is a double edge knife, as a small error in the pH, water temperature, and nutrients concentration and your crop can be ruined in a flash.
You can always invest in automation to avoid this and optimize results but get ready to dive into a rabbit hole.
Another option for beginners would be coco, as mentioned before. This technique will improve the speed and size of growth compared to traditional soil, although it might not be as explosive as DWC.
The good news is it is more forgiving than DWC, and even if you still need to monitor pH, PPM, and Water temperature, you can quickly resolve small mistakes, and you generally have more time to fix them.
Corrine Bart from Forward Greens
You can give plants a jump start sooner than when they typically would survive outdoors with indoor gardening. Let plants thrive in your ambient temperatures, as it will feel like spring or summer to them (because your house is warm!).
Grow for love
Start with what you enjoy the most. If it’s herbs, grow what you like to eat fresh and eat in everyday cooking. Herbs like thyme, oregano, basil, cilantro are versatile and great for newbies.
Follow their cycle
For plants that will fruit or green, follow the seed’s natural cycle of its developmental period. Plant it indoors to give it time to germinate before it would usually thrive outdoors and only move it after the last frost.
Stress it out
If you start a plant indoors to move it later outdoors, don’t water as frequently. Roots need to be built strong, so stress it out a little. For those staying inside, drainage is vital. Check the soil often and top it off only when it’s looking dry.
Stuart Wellbert from Home Tool Guides
Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without the use of soil. Water is the base on which the plants grow. To be successful, you will need a few essential items.
Tools you need
- One is a hydroponics supply store, which you can find easily on the internet.
- A greenhouse is a must because the plants will need to be protected from cold and harsh weather conditions.
- When growing in a hydroponic system, you will want to ensure that the nutrient solution you are using is saturated with oxygen. To ensure that your plants are getting the nutrients and oxygen they need, you will need to monitor the water levels regularly.
- You will need a timer to water your hydroponic plants, and you will also need an inexpensive thermometer to check the temperature of the nutrient solution.
Henry Bravo from Smart Garden and Home
Start with easier plants
Leafy salad greens (lettuce, spinach) and herbs (basil, oregano) are the easiest and most fun to grow because they grow fast.
Maintaining the plants is easy, and they grow fast, so it’s a helpful motivation that hydroponics is a viable way to grow plants.
Use a regular fan
Use a regular fan for two benefits: airflow and temperature control. Plants need carbon dioxide, and circulating air in the room can help make sure all the plants get what they need.
Higher temperatures in the air and the water tank will negatively affect plant growth. A fan will help maintain the air and water temperature, saving energy costs from other cooling options.
Above are tips on growing a hydroponic garden at home, ensuring a high probability of success. Growing clean vegetables at home ensures safe food processing for the family’s health and saves a considerable amount of money!