lettuc pods in an indoor hydroponic system

What Is Hydroponic Gardening and Is It Easy Enough for Beginners?

Hydroponic gardening is becoming a very popular hobby due to the fact that you can grow your plants and vegetables without soil using nutrient-rich water. This means you can move the garden into a smaller space either indoors or outdoors.

Benefits of Hydroponic Growing

Well with hydroponic gardening you can be rid of those nasties which come with soil, and you can avoid having to chemically spray your plants for garden pests, making what you harvest much healthier to eat. It’s a scientific fact that in a well-developed hydroponic garden, plants grow up to 40% faster and produce more fruit.

Another incentive for hydroponic gardening is you can control the season with the help of a Grow Light System, if you are using it indoors, and grow what you choose. Just imagine, homegrown tomatoes & lettuce all year round!

cherry tomatoes growing in a hydroponic sytems
Tomatoes can be grown year-round in a hydroponic growing system.

Also, because you are constantly reusing the water and nutrients used in hydroponic gardening, you are recycling, which is a plus for the environment. One of the best nutrients is Flora Nova Bloom.

Hydroponic gardening can be mostly fully automated, all you have to do is add the necessary nutrients, water, and minerals that are needed, obviously checking that everything is working from time to time.

The hydroponic gardening environment which delivers nutrients to the plants on a regular basis enables them to grow better, as they don’t have to search for food like plants grown in soil. Oxygen is readily available, so the energy saved goes into growing a healthy plant and producing a larger quantity of fruit. This is why many larger farms have started to use hydroponics for food production.

lettuc pods in an indoor hydroponic system
Large quantities of lettuce and other vegetables are commonly grown in a hydroponic setup.

You are unlikely to have as many problems with bugs and diseases, so there is no need for toxic pesticides, however, it is advisable to be on the alert, and if needed use a good organic pest control product, easily available from a nursery.

One of the most frequently asked questions is, should you buy or make your own, I can only suggest you initially buy a small kit to see if you would be happy with the whole idea of hydroponic gardening. Also doing this would help you understand the process before going ahead. AeroGarden makes a small setup that is easy for even beginners to get started.

If you are interested in building your own hydroponic gardening system have a look at this book list with highly illustrated plans and colored pictures to make it simple for you.

Types of Hydroponic Growing Systems

Hydroponic gardening has several basic systems, which are either classed as active or passive:

  1. Wick – this is the simplest system and is passive, i.e. has no moving parts. The nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium (such as perlite, rock wool) from the reservoir with a wick.
  2. Water Culture – the simplest active system where a platform holds the plants and floats on the solution. A pump supplies air to the airstone which bubbles the solution and supplies oxygen to the roots.
  3. Ebb & flow – a container is filled with material such as clay pebbles to surround the roots and support the plant. The container is then flooded with the nutrient solution periodically by a pump. Take a look at the Hydroponic Megagarden System
  4. Drip – most widely used type. A timer controls a pump and the nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of the plant by a drip line.
  5. N.F.T. – (nutrient film technique) uses a trough as a container with holes in the top to hold the plants. The trough is sloped so the water flows into the reservoir where it’s pumped back again.
  6. Aeroponic – the roots are suspended in a mist which is provided every few minutes by a timed pump

You need to decide which is in your price range and how they would suit your needs.

A pH test kit is essential when hydroponic gardening as you need to make sure a pH range of 5.8-6.8 is attained. Most plants will thrive in this setting although a pH of 6.3 is considered optimal. The tests are easy to do using either paper test strips or a digital meter and should be done regularly. To raise pH use soluble potash, if you need to lower the pH use phosphoric acid.

A hydroponic gardening system can be moved around to better utilize space and is ideal for the greenhouse or well-lit shed.