Hydroponics 101

Hydroponic gardening allows you to quickly grow year-round fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit 

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Hydroponics is a specialized type of gardening that grows plants in soil-free nutrient solutions, allowing the roots to have direct access to essential nutrients and oxygen. Plants grown using a hydroponic system typically have an increased growth rate and larger, more vibrant blooms. Additionally, hydroponic gardening is economical and environmentally friendly, and can be done indoors year-round, no matter your climate.

All your hydroponic garden needs is a system, water, light, seeds and nutrients. You’ll grow more in shorter time than traditional gardens, without the bugs and dirt. Although it seems daunting at first, even the most beginner gardener can feel comfortable using a hydroponic system.

For more tips on how to grow a year-round hydroponic garden, read this article from The Home Depot Garden Club.

Tip: For an abundant hydroponic garden, make sure you plants get proper nutrients and plenty of controlled light. Regularly test the water and keep the temperature and humidity in range. 

Hydroponic Systems

All hydroponic gardens require a growing system, growing media and lights. Make sure to set up your system in an area 

Growing Media

The growing media holds the moisture and oxygen your plants require to grow. But why do you need a growing media if hydroponics is by definition the process of growing plants in the absence of soil?

To be technical, soil contains sand, silt or clay. The growing media in hydroponic systems don't contain any of those elements, and therefore it is not soil. Think of it this way: Traditional, outdoor potting soil should not be used in hydroponic gardening systems, but a hydroponic growing media can be used for traditional, outdoor gardening.

Grow Lights

Just like any other indoor seed growing, hydroponic systems need a grow light. If there is not an abundance of natural light where you set up your system, you must install a light that offers blue and red light. A standard incandescent light does not emit enough light in these spectrums to encourage growth.

Hydroponic Systems

There are two main types of hydroponic systems: Deep water culture systems and ebb and flow systems.

  • Simplest system
  • Grow one plant or scale up
  • The roots of plants hang in water rich with air bubbles and nutrients
  • Lower initial investment
Deep Water Hydroponic System
  • Efficient growth for high yield
  • Grow multiple plants at one time
  • Floods and drains a tray of plants with nutrient-filled water on a schedule
  • $400+ to start, pays off with low maintenance and high output
Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System

Nutrients and Monitoring pH

Monitor your hydroponic system regularly - check the nutrients and pH levels weekly, if not more often. For beginner hydroponic gardeners, some kits supply a pH meter and nutrients. Follow manufacturing instructions for a timeline of how often you should check your system's pump, filter, lights and more.

Depending on what you grow, your plants will require different nutrients and different stages of its growth cycle.

Use pH testers to keep the water, pH balance and temperature in the ideal range. Ensure that your garden is organic by using only organic plant food and fertilizer.

Tip: Most liquid nutrients developed for hydroponic gardening are highly concentrated and should never be mixed prior to being added into the hydroponic system's water reservoir.

For more growing tips, this Garden Club article details six easy steps to growing a hydroponic garden.

Fertilizers and More

Although not absolutely critical to growing hydroponically, using seed starters and organic fertilizer can improve the growth of your garden.

  • Nutrients and Fertilizer - Ensure that your fruits and veggies are grown organically by using organic plant food and fertilizer
  • Seed Starters - Simplify seed growth with seed starters. These are typically plug peat pellets.
  • Hydroponic Pumps - Pumps keep the water aerated and flowing, ensuring that your plants get the most oxygen-rich water possible. These are especially important for hydroponic gardens grown in an area with low airflow indoors.
  • Net Pots - Plant your individual seedlings in net pots as they grow in the hydroponic system.
  • Grow Tents - Grow tents create a safe growing environment for your indoor hydroponic gardens. Keep all of your plants in one secure area and provide continuous light to the seeds.