Have the itch to grow a garden but lack the soil or space outside? Bring the garden indoors! Hydroponics is a great alternative to outdoor gardening that lets you raise your own vegetables, herbs, and other plants indoors all year round. With a small investment of time, money, and space in your home, you can bring farm-fresh and highly nutritious produce to your dinner table. If you’re looking for the best way to get started, here are a few tips on how to grow a hydroponic garden.
What Exactly Is Hydroponics?
Let’s begin with a brief primer on hydroponics. Essentially, it’s all in the name: hydroponics. Translated from the original Greek terms, “hydroponics” means water labor. In short, water does all the work. Hydroponic systems vary, but all involve growing plants with or in a solution of water and nutrients. You can suspend the plants in a medium made of perlite, clay, coconut coir fiber, or Rockwool, but no soil is involved.
Hydroponics is an environmentally friendly process for growing a garden. It takes up less space, doesn’t expend soil, provides higher yields, and saves water. The plants can also supply beauty and fresh air to your home. It’s an amazing and rewarding hobby, but it will work best if you approach it with baby steps.
Set Your Goals
Before you pick up a top-of-the-line hydroponics system, start small. Decide what you’d like to grow. Some plants are easier to raise than others, and you’ll learn more and feel less frustration while raising certain plants. First-timers should consider planting leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. Lettuces have shallow root systems that work well in hydroponics setups, while you can easily sprout spinach elsewhere and transport it to your system. Peppers and strawberries require a little more work but are still hardy plants that thrive in hydroponic systems. Basil, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and many other herbs are also great for growing hydroponically. And just imagine the convenience and flavor of fresh-from-the-vine herbs for your favorite dishes.
Pick a System
When considering how to grow a hydroponic garden, know that there isn’t one best method or means. Several types of hydroponics systems are available, but as a beginner, consider buying a simple wick-based system. A wick system suspends the plants in a medium like those mentioned above, where they receive the nutrient-rich solution via a cotton or nylon rope wick dipped into a reservoir below. Wick-based systems are inexpensive, easy to build, and need no electricity or plumbing.
On the other hand, if you have a little more money and space, consider buying an ebb-and-flow system, which uses a pump to deliver the solution to plants suspended overhead. You can set up this system to recycle water and curb waste. Ebb-and-flow systems allow larger growth by using multiple pots. Other hydroponics systems exist but cost more and take up more room. See how you feel about expansion after you harvest your first crop!