Ok. Before we even talk about how to start a hydroponic garden, let’s talk about what a hydroponic garden actually is.
A hydroponic garden is one grown in a soilless solution. Yes, that’s right. A garden grown with no dirt! The soilless solution might be water, or it could be any nutrient solution in an inert growing medium that supports the plant’s weight, holds it upright, and allows the root system to get the moisture and oxygen it needs to grow.
In a nutshell, a hydroponic garden is one cultivated in nutrient solutions other than traditional potting mixes or soil.
So now that we have that out the way…
What you need to get your hydroponic garden started
A hydroponics system
This is your structure. It can be a tower, an A-frame, a tray, or anything else that can hold water, your inert media, and your plants. In solution systems the roots of the plants grow directly in the nutrient solution. In aggregate systems, the roots grow into the medium, such as gravel, sand, or small clay pellets.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend using a proven formula from a reliable manufacturer rather than creating your own. Try hydroponics nutrient fertilizers from Verti-Gro, JR Peters, General Hydroponics, AmHydro, Hydro-Gardens, or Crop King.
An inert hydroponics medium
This is the part that supports the plant’s weight and holds it upright. “Inert” means the medium won’t break down quickly. It also means the medium won’t supply any nutrients to the plants growing in it. Some hydroponic medium options include: water, rock wool, small clay rocks, perlite, sand, vermiculite, and coconut fiber or chips.
A light source
These are plants you’re growing, so they’ll require light. But you knew that, right? Natural light will work, of course, but if you’re growing indoors and away from a natural light source, you can also use metal halide, high-pressure sodium bulbs, LEDs, high output fluorescents, or compact fluorescents.
You have so many options when it comes to the kinds of plants you grow in a hydroponics garden. But you’ll have the most success if you choose the right system for the plants you plan to grow. For example, top-heavy fruits and vegetables such as squash and cucumbers are best in an aggregate system. Same with deep root vegetables like beets. A solution system works well for plants with shallow roots such as leafy greens and herbs.
If you have ever even failed at growing plants before, you are probably aware that there’s more to gardening than just making a quick trip to the garden store and jamming some plants into the ground. Any kind of gardening requires time to get to know the preferences of whatever you’re trying to grow as well as time to care for your plants. Hydroponic gardening requires that time, plus the time you use to read up on hydroponics itself. You’ll probably want to read some blogs about hydroponic gardening, and so on and so forth.
Now that you know…it’s time to grow!
The next step to starting your hydroponic garden is to jump in and give it what you’ve got. The benefits of hydroponic gardening are numerous!
A hydroponic plant has an average growth rate that’s 30%-50% faster than a plant grown in soil under the same conditions. Fruits and vegetables grown in a hydroponic garden even taste better! The yield is also greater, even though you’re using up to 2/3 less water.
Want to conserve even more water…?
…garden with water collected from a rain barrel!
When you use rainwater harvested with a rain barrel in your hydroponics garden, you’re not only conserving water, but you’re also providing your plants with water free from high levels of “hard minerals.” Those hard minerals are bad for your plants, but the salt in water softeners is bad for them, too. Collecting water in a rain barrel to use in your hydroponic garden is an excellent solution for getting that garden to grow.
Come see our selection of rain barrels at SD Barrels & Totes. If you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, we’ll help you find the right one to complete the setup of your new hydroponic garden.