Hydroponic Gardening – 5 Easy Ways to Get Started

Have you ever wondered if you could grow a plant without using any soil? Well, now you can, thanks to an existing system of gardening called Hydroponic Gardening.

Instead of using soil, this system allows you to grow plants and vegetables in a solution of nutrients and water! It doesn’t end there, this method can grow plants much faster, can be used all year round, requires less space, and yields more than conventional gardening.

Some of the easiest and most common plants, herbs, fruits you can grow are lettuce, oregano, tomatoes, and some other kinds. This is great for those who do not have a gardening plot or a yard of their own.

So, if this piqued your interest, then you’re in the right place. Here are 5 easy steps to get started with your hydroponic gardening!

how to get started with hydroponic farming

1. The Wick System

Let’s start with the simplest system (mechanically speaking) indoor hydroponics system – the wick system. It’s the simplest because there’s no need for any electrical components or moving parts at all.

Even though this system isn’t ideal for water-hungry plants like tomatoes or lettuce, as they tend to use nutrients faster than the wicks can supply. However, it works perfectly for herbs, peppers, and microgreens.

Setting Up a Water Reservoir

To begin with, you have to create a reservoir filled with nutrients and water. This reservoir will need to sit right beneath the tray that’s holding your plant and growing medium.

Connect Wicks to the Growing Tray

Next, connect one or two wicks through the hole in the bottom of your tray. The wicks will start soaking up the water from the reservoir and get the water to the wicks that are connected with the growing medium in the tray. If you need to make more holes, use a drill or screwdriver.

Growing Tray

The growing medium, which contains the seedlings, will need to be placed above the water reservoir. It’s best to use a medium that won’t drain water too fast. Instead, it should utilize the capillary action of the wick most productively, such as perlite, soilless mixes, and vermiculite.

Light Fixture

If your growing tray is getting natural light, then you can skip this step. But if it isn’t, then install a light fixture above the tray. For incandescent light bulbs, you’ll need to set them at a distance of 24 inches from the plants.

In the case of LED and fluorescent lights, since they don’t get as hot, you can place them 6-12 inches from the plants. This can be implemented for all the systems that we’ll be discussing in this article.

2. The Lettuce Raft or Water Culture System

A lettuce raft system, aka a water culture system, is another simple method that’s super easy to set up. Start by placing the plants in a styrofoam platform. Then make sure it floats on top of the reservoir that’s filled with nutrient-rich water.

Unlike the wick system, you’ll have to aerate the water by incorporating a raft system. This system is perfect for growing leaf lettuce, but other plants won’t grow quite as well.

Water Reservoir

Same as the previous two systems, fill the reservoir with nutrients and water. Get yourself an opaque container at least 12 inches deep. Avoid using unclear or translucent containers.

Aerate the Water

The most usual and economical aeration is by using an air stone and a pump. Found in most home aquariums, the air stone can be placed in the water and then connected to an air pump placed outside the reservoir.

The pump will assist in pushing air through the stone, which will then release tiny bubbles into the water to disperse oxygen. Simple and easy, right?

Growing Raft

Cut a floating styrofoam platform to fit inside the reservoir’s top for your expanding raft. After that, you’ll require net pots.

Seedlings with a growing media, such as perlite, mud balls, or coconut fibers, are held in these plastic containers with perforated bottoms. Because the roots need to be in contact with the reservoir water, you’ll need to make holes to insert the net pots.

3. The Ebb and Flow System

The ebb and flow system, sometimes known as the flood and drain system, may appear complicated in design, yet it is extremely adaptable. This technique operates by flooding the growing medium with a water-nutrient solution, which is subsequently drained back into the water reservoir.

Water Reservoir Connected to a Fill and Drain Tube

You’ll need to place the water reservoir directly below the flood tray container filled with nutrients and water. Thankfully, the same water can be used for about a week at a time. Just make sure to add the nutrients every time you change the water.

Next, use a drain or fill tube to connect the water reservoir to the tray. The fill tube connects to a timed submersible pump, which regulates the flow of water back into the food tray.

A submersible pump with a timer allows a lot of control to this system. You also have the power to customize the length and frequency of watering based on your plant’s requirements!

On the other hand, the drain tube uses the power of gravity to pull the water back into the reservoir after flooding it, so that the water can be reused.

Setting Up the Flood Tray

To stand tall, the plant tray must be a deep container. Plant your seedlings in vented planters filled with perlite or other growing material.

Remember to make the seedling pots twice as shallow as the flood tray.

4. Nutrient Film Technique

Our 4th system is called the nutrient film technique, and it works best with fast-growing, shallow-rooted plants like spinach, lettuce, radishes, and herbs.
benefits of hydroponic farming

This system uses a water-nutrient solution that continuously flows in a loop for a reservoir through the help of a growing tray. It’s beneficial for the plant roots that are suspended in the growing tray, which enables the plants to absorb the nutrients from the solution.

This technique reinforces the idea that the ebb and flow system is on a continuous stream that never stops.

Setting Up the Water Reservoir and Aeration

Fill the water reservoir with nutrients and water and place it directly under the flood tray stand. You’ll also need to add an aeration bubbler in the reservoir to help oxygenate the water.

Join the Drain Tube, Fill Tube, and Pump

Then, using a fill and drain tube, attach the reservoir to the tray. The fill tube, which is connected to a submersible pump, will regulate the water flow returning to the flood tray. After flooding, the drain tube will allow gravity to suck the water back into the reservoir, allowing you to reuse the water.

And unlike the ebb and flow system, you won’t be needing a timer, since this system is already constantly pumping the water.

To Set Up the Growing Tray

Finally, instead of a flat tray, utilize tubes or channels to set up the growing tray. Using a tube allows you to put it at an angle that ensures the fertilizer solution reaches the roots directly. You can also use a PVC pipe or a round tub with holes punched in it to accommodate the seedlings or net pots!

5. The Aeroponic System

Finally, for our last system – the aeroponic system. This is another complex hydroponic method that requires the plants to be suspended in air and misted every few minutes with a water and nutrient solution.

This is a particularly effective method and requires sophisticated misters and pumps. If for some reason your equipment or tools malfunctions, then the plant roots can dry out and die rapidly.

Set Up a Water Reservoir with Aeration

Fill a container with nutrient-rich water and place it beneath the growing chamber. Then, to assist oxygenate the water, put an aeration bubbler in the reservoir. This water reservoir can also serve as a catch basin for the solution’s misted droplets.

Connect a Submersible Pump

Next, connect a pump to a sprayer or mister. This will allow the solution in the reservoir to be pumped to the sprayer or mister via tubing from a submersible pump tube in the reservoir.

All you have to do is make sure the sprayer or mister is aimed at the plant’s root in the growing chamber, and that is all!

For the Growing Chamber

To set up the growing chamber, you can follow the same procedure as used in the nutrition film technique. You’ll need to set up channels or tubes to evenly suspend each seedling’s roots.

hydroponic farming

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we’d like to say that we hope our article on hydroponics for beginners helps you to learn a little more about hydroponic plants and how wonderfully great they are. We hope the 5 systems mentioned here will inspire you to set up your hydroponic garden and grow some nice plants and herbs.

It can look challenging or complex, but the result is worth it. Let us know in the comments if you have your very own hydroponic garden going, and don’t forget to share it with your gardening enthusiast friends. Happy gardening!

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com
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