Even though hydroponics sounds like a new concept, it is not. However, it has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently and really is a tried and true method for growing many plants-herbs, vegetables and fruit included. For those of you who are new to the concept and are searching around for ideas, we will research how to find a complete hydroponic system for beginners so you too can get started.
Be careful of the hype you see about hydroponics though. Sometimes it reads like the latest diet fad! It does take some work to get started-and there are upfront costs (just like any initial garden project) but it can yield your produce in one-third the time of any outdoor garden. Now THAT’S amazing!
Fortunately, there is a lot of good information available on how to start a hydroponics garden. I always recommend my BF’s over at Mother Earth News. They have a ton of articles going back to the 70’s written by veteran gardeners, homesteaders and farmers. This group has walked the walk!
First, why is hydroponics so successful? Basically, the roots do not have to work as hard to grow in the hydroponics system as in a traditional soil environment so instead of trying so hard to establish a strong root system it can focus its energy on growing the edible leaves and fruit we love so much.
If being organic is a concern, no worries there either. You can grow an organic Hydroponics garden.
In essence though, if you have ever had a tropical fish aquarium with live plants, you have experienced hydroponics.
How to build a Hydroponics Garden
You can build your hydroponics system two ways. Either as a DIY project or you can buy a basic kit to speed the process up.
DIY Hydroponic Gardens
Fortunately, the items needed to build your own hydroponic growing systems are fairly easy to obtain. The container can be anything that is a minimum of 8-9 inches deep. Tin and iron are not recommended as too much zinc can leach into the plants poisoning them. Most wood will rot (Redwood will not).
Similar to a typical garden, using the right growing medium is critically important. Since hydroponic gardens are soilless, your choice of medium is there simply to anchor the roots of the plants. It provides no nutritional benefits. You will do that separately. Some options for growing mediums are perlite, coir (coconut husk fibers), clay pellets and rockwool (made from basalt rock), Sunleaves rocks (made from shale), hydrocorn (lava rock) and growstones. Each has its own benefits.
Check out this video on how to build a diy hydroponic garden system for $35.
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Nutrients and Fertilizer
The nutrients needed for hydroponics gardening is important as basically you are imitating nature at her best when she creates soil. If you would like to make your own fertilizer from scratch, I found an article on Mother Earth News from 1977. <Remember, these are the experts, right?!?>
The author makes it sound really simple actually. Either make or purchase a high quality compost tea or create a solution of fish emulsion, liquid seaweed and bloodmeal. The latter is a basic mix that you can supplement depending on what you are feeding.
* Ensuring pH levels are balanced is a common problem with hydroponics growing so keep a close eye on it.
Best Hydroponic System for Vegetables
The infographic below gives a great graphical guide to organic hydroponic gardening. It also tells us about the different types of systems. Pros and cons. Etc.
This is the easiest system to set up. The wicking means the nutrients are drawn up a tube to feed the plants above.
Ebb and Flow System
A pump floods the grow tray at periodic times throughout the day bringing with it nutrients for the plants. The pump would be on a timer so you can control when it happens.
This is one of the most popular types of systems. A submerged pump pushes nutrient filled water up to the plants feeding them regularly.
Nutrient Film Technique
Similar to the Ebb and Flow system, a pump keeps a constant flow of food going to your plants. However, a timer is not needed with this system. A growing medium is not needed either.
In this technique, the roots are exposed to the air and the nutrient filled water is fed to the plants via a misting system on a timer.
A few additional thoughts
Your hydroponics garden will thrive best if grown at temperatures between 73F and 82F. That’s pretty warm so take note.
Additionally, they do still attract the typical pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
Grey water can be used for hydroponics if you have access to it.
Best Hydroponic System For Beginners
Indoor Garden Kit with Grow Light, 2 detachable Self Watering Gardening Pots Seeds Fertilizer Hydroponics Grow Light LED Soil FreeHydroponic Site Grow Kit 90 Site Ebb and Flow Deep Water Culture Garden System with Nest Basket, Water Pump and SpongeGeneral Hydroponics EcoGrower Drip Hydroponic System. Can Be Used to Grow Very Large Plants. Includes Flora Nutrients.Smart Herb Garden Grower Kit, 2 Detachable 18 Pots Seeds DIY Self Watering Hydroponics for Indoor Include LED Growing Lamp
Growing hydroponically can be a great method for either adding to your existing garden or a way to extend your season by growing indoors. There are many ways to get your complete hydroponic systems for beginners. You just need to do a little advance planning. Bring on the healthy, homegrown produce for your kitchen table! Good luck and I cannot wait to hear how it goes!