Hydroponic Gardening Indoors
Hydroponic gardening is one of the best ways to grow fresh vegetables year round. It is also a great alternative for growing a variety of plants in smaller spaces, such as indoors. Hydroponic gardening is simply a means of growing plants without soil. When plants are grown hydroponically, their roots do not find it necessary to seek out the required nutrients for survival. Instead, they are provided with all the necessary nutrients for strong, vigorous growth directly. As a result, root systems are smaller and plant growth is more abundant.
Elements of Hydroponic Gardening
There are many advantages to hydroponic gardening. For instance, all the required elements that influence healthy plant growth can be easily controlled and maintained. This includes factors such as light, temperature, humidity, pH levels, nutrients and water. The ability to control these elements makes hydroponic gardening easier and less time consuming than gardening with soil.
When using hydroponic gardening methods indoors, light can be provided through a bright window or beneath suitable grow lights. In general, the type of light used and how much is needed falls on the gardener and types of plants grown. The light source, however, must be bright enough to trigger flowering and fruit production.
Temperature, Humidity & pH Levels
Suitable temperatures with sufficient amounts of humidity and pH levels are equally important. There are many hydroponic gardening kits available to help get beginners started. Generally, if hydroponic gardening indoors, room temperature is adequate for most plants. Humidity levels should stay around 50-70 percent for optimal plant growth, much the same as for growing houseplants.
With hydroponic gardening, pH levels are extremely important and should be checked regularly. Maintaining pH levels between 5.8 and 6.3 is usually suitable for most plants. Suitable ventilation is another important aspect of hydroponic gardening and can be easily accomplished with ceiling fans or oscillating ones.
Nutrients & Water
Nutrients are provided through specifically designed hydroponic gardening fertilizer and water. The nutrient solution (fertilizer and water) should always be drained, cleaned and refilled at least one or two times a month. Since plants grown hydroponically do not require soil, there is less maintenance, no weeding and no soil-borne diseases or pests to worry with.
Plants can be grown using a variety of mediums, such as gravel or sand; however, this is merely for anchoring the plant. The continual supply of nutrient solution is what keeps the plants alive and healthy. There are also different methods used for providing this nutrient solution.
- Passive method – The simplest form of hydroponic gardening uses the passive method, allowing you to determine when and how much nutrient solution plants receive. Wick systems are one example, using Styrofoam trays filled with growing medium and plants. These trays simply float on top of the nutrient solution, allowing roots to absorb nutrients and water as needed.
- Flood and Drain method – Another easy method of hydroponic gardening is the flood and drain method, which is just as effective. Growing trays or individual pots are flooded with nutrient solution, which is then drained back into a reservoir tank. This method requires the use of a pump and proper levels of nutrient solution must be maintained to prevent the pump from running dry.
- Drip System methods – Drip systems require a pump and are controlled with a timer as well. When the timer turns the pump on, nutrient solution is ‘dripped’ onto each plant. There are two basic kinds, recovery and non-recovery. Recovery drip systems collect the excess runoff while the non-recovery ones do not.
Two other common methods for providing nutrient solution to plants are also used in hydroponic gardening, the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and aeroponic method. NFT systems provide a continual flow of nutrient solution without the use of a timer. Rather, the roots of plants hang down in the solution. The aeroponic method is similar; however, it requires a timer that allows the roots of hanging plants to be sprayed or misted every few minutes.
Nearly anything, from flowers to vegetables, can be grown with hydroponic gardening. It’s an easy, clean, and effective method for growing plants, especially in limited areas. Hydroponic gardening adapts well to most indoor settings and produces healthier plants with higher quality yields.
Hydroponic gardening is one of the best ways to grow fresh vegetables year round. Hydroponic gardening is simply a means of growing plants without soil. Learn more in this article.
How To Start Growing With Hydroponics For Beginners
If you’d like to know how to build your own hydroponic garden and get started with indoor growing then this article will show you how!
Think of this as the “ultimate” hydroponics guide for beginners because we’re not going to bog you down with too many details or confuse you with a ton of jargon …
On this page you’ll just find the simple, 30,000ft view of how it all works and how you can get started as quickly as possible growing your own hydroponic plants!
What Is Hydroponics?
Before we get started, let’s actually define what we are talking about here …
What is hydroponic farming anyways?
Wikipedia actually has the perfect definition because it’s so simple:
“Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral solution only, or in an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel. The nutrients in hydroponics can be from fish waste, normal nutrients, or duck manure.”
So basically, we’re looking to grow plants without actually having to plant them in the ground. That means we can grow them indoors if we choose!
Eljay from the YouTube series “How To Hydro” has a great explanation for why we want to do indoor gardening. He says, “Indoor growing is all about creating perfect Sundays, every day, for all your plants”:
Why Would You Want To Start Growing With Hydroponics?
A hydroponics vs. soil comparison for Holland Hybrid tomatoes showing taller plants from hydroponics. There are many reasons why people want to get into hydro plant growing, but we’ll cover some of the most important and popular reasons here…
- Faster Growth! Plants grow faster with hydroponics because it’s a more efficient way to grow them. For example, most experts agree that plants will grow at least 20% faster with hydroponics vs soil. That’s a huge time saver!
- Bigger Yields! Scientists have lots of theories as to why this is the case, but the fact of the matter is that experts also agree you can expect at least 20-25% more yields with hydro as compared to growing in soil. That truly adds up!
- No soil! This can be a benefit because you may live in an area where there is no good soil to grow plants outside. Or perhaps you don’t have any outside area because you live in an urban area. With a hydro grow you can still grow plants, even if you don’t have soil!
- Space Saving! Because your plants don’t need to spread their roots out into lots of soil to get the nutrients they need (because they’re surrounded by oxygenated nutrient-rich water solution)–you can pack more plants closer together. This saves a TON of space and one of the amazing features about indoor grows is how many plants can be put together and grown in a small space. Again, this is perfect for urban dwellers who want to grow a lot of plants with little space.
- Water Saving! Because you are using reservoirs that are covered (to prevent evaporation) and no water seeps out of the bottom (because they’re sealed)–the plants take up the exact amount of water they need at any one time and the rest remains in the reservoir to be used later. Compare this to soil gardening where you have to water your plants daily and most of the water is wasted. It’s easy to see how the same amount of water used to water a plant in soil for a day can water a plant in a simple hydroponic system for multiple days or even a week at a time! In short, you can save about 90% of your water by switching to hydro growing.
- No Weeds! One of the most tedious, time-consuming and frustrating activities for many gardeners is cleaning their gardens and pulling out weeds. With hydroponics growing there are no weeds to pull!
- Less Diseases & Pests! Because you’re not using soil, you also get rid of a lot of soil-borne diseases and pests that can normally wreak havoc on your plants and make gardening a pain.
A graph showing bigger circumference (size) plants from hydroponics. From A hydroponics vs. soil comparison for Holland Hybrid tomatoes.
Why NOW Is A Great Time To Start Your Own Hydro Farm
The truth is that Hydroponics gardening has never been more popular than right now!
In fact, you can get started with your own indoor garden hydro setup by buying many of your supplies right off online sites like Amazon.com.
The Different Types of Hydroponics and How They Are Different
When it comes to hydroponics systems, there are six main types to choose from. These are:
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Now, there are actually multiple variations of each of these different types of hydro systems, but these are the “high level” overviews and categories of basic designs.
Here’s the important thing to remember:
ALL these systems are hydroponics because they don’t use soil, and because you’re feeding the plants a nutrient-rich water solution instead of planting them in soil. The only difference between each type is HOW they deliver the water, oxygen and nutrients that you’re feeding the plants.
The EASIEST Type of Hydroponics System To Setup
Without a doubt, most hydroponics experts would agree that a Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponics system is the easiest type of hydro system to use for indoor growing because it requires the LEAST amount of materials, supplies, and know-how to get started:
The Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydro system is the easiest for beginners to use. In a DWC hydro system, you simply fill up a reservoir with your nutrient solution. You then suspend your plant’s roots in that solution so they receive the steady, continuous supply of water, oxygen, and nutrients.
Then a continuous oxygen supply is added to the water. The most common way that growers oxygenate the nutrient solution reservoir is with an air pump and airstone to pump bubbles into it. This keeps your plant’s roots from “drowning” which — while it sounds weird — is a real concern because your plants will suck the oxygen they need out of the water.
Using the DWC system, you’ll find it’s extremely simple to setup (once you understand how it all works) and extremely low-maintenance (again, once you understand how it works) making it perfect for hydroponics beginners.
How To Setup a SuperSimple Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System For About $25 and 1 Hour of Work!
Diagram showing how a 5-gallon bucket Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System is setup. At this point, you may be wondering how to get starting building your own Deep Water Culture hydroponics system.
The good news is it’s easier than you think!
Probably the most simple way to get started is to use a traditional 5 gallon bucket for just one plant. From the picture diagram above, you can see this setup is extremely easy.
What About Lighting For Your Plants?
The fact is that your plants need light to grow.
The simple answer is that if you can locate your hydroponics system where your plants can get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, that is the best. Sunlight provides all the lighting that your plants need to grow correctly.
If you can’t locate your plants in direct sunlight, then you will have to provide artificial lighting using your own indoor grow lights. The truth is that a complete discussion of the proper indoor grow lights is beyond the scope of this article, but you will need to select the proper lighting system with the correct spectrum of light, intensity, power and that covers enough “footprint” to work with your garden. For more information on choosing the right hydroponic grow lights, click here.
For a simple, 5-gallon bucket DWC hydro system like we’re encouraging on this page — you should try to just place your 5-gallon bucket system in direct sunlight.
Big Tip: Start Your Plants From Clones
A plantlet seedling. If you’re just getting started growing hydroponically, you want to make it easier on yourself. The best way to do that is to eliminate all the things that might go wrong.
That’s why we recommend starting from a live plant instead of trying to use seeds for your first grow. This is called “cloning” and more tips on how to do this can be found here.
To use herbs as an example, simply acquire an herb seedling and gently remove it from the soil and potting container it came in and wash away all the dirt from the roots of the plant. You don’t want to contaminate your water.
Once you have rinsed the plant’s roots with water, then you can simply add it into your net pot in the lid of your bucket. If the seedling already has roots that you can pull through the net pot into the water, that’s even better and going to make your job easier. Then you simply cover the root system with your growing media and let the system do the rest of the work!
How To Make Sure Your Water Doesn’t KILL Your Plants!
If possible, you want to use Reverse Osmosis (RO) water for your nutrient solution because if you don’t you could seriously harm your plants. See our article “Why all hydroponics growers should use reverse osmosis water systems” for complete details.
Also, if you are using RO water and especially if you are using tap water, you need to know that pH is an important factor. Most tap water is in the 7.0-8.0 pH range. The recommended herbs in this guide thrive in water that’s a little lower pH than this, around the “sweet spot” of 5.5-6.3
Example of commonly available pH testing kit made for pools.
How do you know? You’ll need to buy a pH testing kit to test your water. And if your pH is off then you will need to add pH-Up or pH-Down to adjust your pH levels.
Why is this so important? Because when the pH of your hydroponic system gets out of balance—which can happen quickly if some kind of stabilizing agent or mechanism is not put in place—the ability of your plants to absorb macro, secondary, and micronutrients, as well as vitamins, carbohydrates, and other beneficial sources, is limited.
The truth is that dealing with pH issues can be a real hassle. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, if you use the right products, you can completely eliminate all your pH issues and you will never have to worry about this!
The Best Nutrients For Beginners Are From Advanced Nutrients
The fact of the matter is that, no matter what you’re growing, the nutrients from Advanced Nutrients are the best nutrients for beginners (They’re also the best nutrients for professional growers too, but for different reasons that are beyond the scope of this article!).
How can we make such a bold statement?
Quite simply, it’s because all of Advanced Nutrients products are specifically designed for hydroponics growing. And they are the only nutrients to utilize scientific breakthroughs like pH Perfect Technology.
The fact is that Advanced Nutrients has spent many thousands of man-hours developing a technology that automatically balances your pH for you — putting it in the “sweet spot” and holds it there for weeks.
You can see more about pH Perfect Technology when you click here but the point is that for a beginner, again, the less variables the better. And utilizing the best nutrients in the world will only make your job easier.
Specifically, for the types of herbs we’re recommending on this page for beginners, we recommend using pH Perfect Sensi Grow A & B because you don’t actually want the herbs to bloom (because that could make them bitter).
Follow This Simple Feed Chart Designed by our Research Team
Conversions: 1 Teaspoon = 5mL | 1 Tablespoon = 15 mL | 1 Ounce = 30mL | 1 Cup = 240 mL
Cutting and Seedlings: 1 ml/L | Small Plants: 2 ml/L | Mature Plants: 4 ml/L
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Easy hydroponics information for beginners who want to do indoor growing