Hydroponic Gardening: How to Get Started
Hydroponic gardening comes with serious benefits — especially in the current economic climate.
First off, it allows you to grow your own produce and potentially save tons of money (a big plus if your job’s been affected by the pandemic.)
On top of this? You can do it all indoors — meaning those cold winter months won’t hold you back at all. In fact, it might just give you something to do when the outdoors are too chilly to venture out in.
Are you interested in getting started in hydroponic gardening? Just tired of all those trips to the grocery store amid the pandemic? Here’s how to get started.
Hydroponic gardening tips for beginners
1. Pick your plants.
Your first step is to pick what plants you want to grow. Are you looking to just grow some herbs and small greens for salads? Or do you want actual produce options, like tomatoes, strawberries, peas, carrots, or cucumbers? Make a short list of a few plants you’d like to have. You’ll need this to determine which gardening system is the best fit for your goals.
You may also want to start your seeds. Rapid rooters can help speed up germination and reduce error when setting up your system.
2. Choose your hydroponic gardening system.
There are several hydroponic farming methods to choose from. The right one really depends on the amount of space you have, the plants you want to grow, and your budget for the project.
Here are some of your options:
- NFT – Nutrient Film Technique, or NFT, is a small, sloped system where water flows through the roots using a water pump. It’s best for plants with shallow roots, like leafy greens.
- Wick – The Wick systems requires no pump or electricity whatsoever, just a nylon wick that runs from the plant down to a nutrient mixture. These are ideal for herbs.
- DWC – Deep Water Culture systems use a deep water bucket, air pump, and air stone to provide nutrients to the plants suspended above. It’s a good option if you’re looking to grow larger plants (like tomatoes, for example).
- Ebb and flow – These are good for basically all plant types — even deep ones like root veggies. These require a full garden bed, with a water-based nutrient system underneath. They tend to take up a good amount of real estate.
- Drip – This one uses a water pump to drip nutrients onto each plant, in a sort of circulating system. It’s a good option for virtually any plant, since you can customize the flow rate accordingly.
There are some other system types, too, but these tend to be the most common.
3. Let there be light.
You’ll next need a light source for your hydroponic gardening system. Again, there are a lot of options here, and the best choice will depend on your budget, the amount of space you have, and the plants you’ve chosen.
One of the best all-around options is a full-spectrum LED light. You can use these on herbs, greens, fruit, and other plants. Make sure the light has a timer, too, as you’ll need to have control over how long your plants are exposed.
4. Purchase your “soil,” nutrients, and other supplies.
Get all the supplies you’ll need for your chosen system, as well as a pH meter and pH test kit.
You will also need a medium to plant in (soil isn’t used in hydroponic gardening). Common options include expanded clay pebbles, rockwool, perlite, and vermiculite.
You’ll also need the appropriate nutrients and supplements for your plants. Nutrient solutions typically come in one-, two-, and three-step systems.
5. Set your hydroponic gardening system up.
Finally, set your system up, install your lights, and run the water and any pumps to make sure everything is working as it’s supposed to. If it all looks good, mix your nutrient solution, and test the pH levels. You may need to adjust your nutrients to get the right pH level for your plants.
Once that’s right, you can add your plants, set your light timer, and get started on your gardening.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of hydroponic gardening — or just a bit confused about it all — then consider talking to an expert at your local garden or home improvement store. They can recommend the right gardening system for your needs, as well as help you choose appropriate plants and supplies for getting started. They may even be able to come set up your system for you.