Basic Hydroponics Set Up

Hydroponics is mess free gardening where nutrients, medium, and water is used for growing plants. There are different types of hydroponic systems available in the market to suit different levels of gardening. A beginner can go for basic hydroponic system whereas an advanced hydroponic gardener may prefer expensive and sophisticated system. If you are a beginner who is interested in starting a hydroponic garden at your home, then it is advisable for you to go for a basic hydroponic system. There are various hydronic designs available, but you can design one based on your gardening needs and budget. One can easily set up a basic hydroponic system in less than £75. The basic system can work well for everyone who is interested in starting a small garden indoors. The system is free from tubes, pumps and has almost zero maintenance. One can comfortably accommodate eight to ten plants in a small space.

Supplies required to set up a basic hydroponic system

•    50 litres storage bin

•    2-inch mesh pots, 8-10 no’s

•    Rockwool cubes/ coconut fibre/ expanded clay pellets or sand 8-10 numbers

•    LED lights or bulbs for lighting

•    Saplings 

•    Nutrients to mix with the water

Step 1

Prepare the storage bin to accommodate the saplings. In the lid of the storage bin drill, eight equally placed holes to place the pots. Once the holes are drilled, remove the plastic shavings and thoroughly clean the storage bin. Replace the lid and place the pot to check whether they fit perfectly.

Step 2

Place all the pots in the holes drilled in the lid and place the top on the storage bin. Fill the container with the water to a level to a point where at least ½ to a 1 inch of pot is immersed. Once the water level is achieved, remove the lid with pots and add fertilizer or hydroponic nutrients to the water as per the instructions on the nutrient package. Now replace the cover with pots.

Step 3

Place the medium which can be either Rockwool cubes or coconut fiber or expanded clay pellets or sand in each pot. If the medium is in cube form, place one each in the pot or if it is in granule form then fill to the brim of the pot.

Step 4

The growing lights are crucial for hydroponic gardening. However, if you are growing plants outdoors and there is adequate natural light, the growing lights are not required. It is advisable to research into the type and intensity of light necessary for your gardening requirements. Fix the lights in the area where you want to place the storage bin. The lights should be at least 2 to 4 inches above the top leaves of the sapling. The lights should not be set too close to the leaves as the heat may dry out the leaves and plant. If the lights are placed too far from the plant, then the warmth cannot be received, and the plant will not grow.

Step 5

The growth of the plant can be noticed in about a week, and the roots of the plant can be seen extending towards the nutrient solution. The colour of the roots should be white and not brown. White roots indicate healthy roots whereas brown roots indicate rotten roots which means the roots are deprived of the right amount of oxygen. If the roots are rotten, the plants need to be replaced with the new ones as the condition cannot be cured. However, stirring up the nutrient solution occasionally can ensure adequate oxygen supply which prevents the roots from rotting.

Step 6

The fluid level depletes as the roots grow longer and longer. The roots continue to absorb the fluid as they grow longer. Plants grow big leaves in about 30 days where only 1/10 of liquid remains in the storage box. 

Step 7

If you are growing the plant for leaves then at this stage the plant is ready for harvest. However, if you are growing plant for flowers or fruit or vegetable purposes then carefully remove the lid and fill the storage container up to 1/3 with water and then add the required nutrient depending on the plant. Make sure that you remove the lid gently as forcible removal will break the tangled roots and cause damage to the plants. Once the water and nutrients are added, replace the lid and place the container back under the growing lights.

Step 8

The nutrients and water need to be refilled whenever it reaches 10% till the crop is harvested. Remember the more the plants grow the more nutrients and water is required. So it is crucial to monitor the liquid nutrient level in the container frequently to prevent the roots and plant from drying. Once the crop is harvested, then it is recommended to empty the pots and thoroughly clean the container before reusing it for the new crop.

The above set up is simple and easy and proves to be best for beginners who want to grow plants in a small area using hydroponics. However, there are other designs and advanced hydroponic systems that use pumps and tubes for growing plants. Irrespective of the type of system, the steps involved in hydroponic gardening remains the same for all. 

The following are the general steps involved in hydroponic gardening.

  • Assembling hydroponic system
  • Adding the hydroponic nutrients to the water
  • Planting the saplings in the tubes or inert medium
  • Supporting the plants by tying them to the supports
  • Check the growth and colour of the roots.
  • Add water and nutrients if the level of the solution is depleted.
  • Monitoring the growth regularly.

Growing plants using hydroponics technique cannot ensure healthy growth of plants and do get infected with diseases and pests. The plants can be infected with diseases or attacked by pests even when the soil is not used for growing. Checking plants regularly for pests’ diseases can protect the plants and helps to prevent the disease from spreading.

How to Start Hydroponics Gardening

What is hydroponics

For most the people that are passionate about gardening, it is digging into the dirt which is quite tedious but, not anymore with hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening is growing plants without soil using solutions. The soil mixture that is used for general gardening is replaced with the solution and other mediums such as perlite and sand or nutrient solution.

Things to get started

Are you wondering if hydroponic gardening suits you? How to go about it? What things do you need? How to begin hydroponic gardening? Then below we have discussed all it. Once you are familiar with what exactly is hydroponic gardening, then you can quickly decide whether it suits your gardening needs or not. Once you have decided that you want to go for hydroponic growing, then you will need

A hydroponic system, 

  • an inert medium such as perlite and sand, 
  • nutrients for hydroponic gardening, 
  • a source of light, plants 
  • and apparently your time and efforts.

Hydroponic System

Various structures that provide a place for the plant to grow by holding water or inert media are called hydroponic systems. These systems can be either trays, towers or A-frames. There are two basic categories of hydroponic systems; liquid culture and aggregate culture. The fluid system uses nutrient liquids into which roots grow. But in aggregate system roots of the plants grow into a medium such as sand, gravel and clay pellets. The primary purpose of the hydroponic system is to provide the plant with three essential ingredients for growth which are moisture, oxygen, and nutrients.

1.    Different types of hydroponic systems

There are different types of hydroponic systems available on the market to suit various individual needs for hydroponic gardening. Some of them are rip, water culture, ebb, and flow, wick, aeroponics and nutrient film culture.

2.    Where to buy a hydroponic system

Today many commercial suppliers sell hydroponic systems for home growing. Finding a system that fits your growing needs is crucial and can be done quickly using search engines. If you are just a beginner, then small home growing kits are ideal, but there are also advanced systems available for more experienced hydroponic home gardeners.

3.    DIY systems

If you want more customized systems and have an eye for creativity, then you can also design your own system. There are several websites online that offer provide free hydroponic designs. There are also video tutorials that provide step by step visual instructions on designing and building of hydroponic systems. The DIY systems have the edge over other systems as these are exclusively designed to fit your garden space and kind of plants you are planning to grow.

Nutrients and Medium

The nutrients used for hydroponic gardening are different from nutrients used for growing plants in the soil. There are three types of hydroponic nutrients available; primary, secondary and micro, the mix of these nutrients is used for hydroponic gardening. The nutrient mix should be soluble in water, and the amount of concentration of the nutrient is at the discrete of the gardener. However, if you are not familiar with these nutrients, it is always advisable to buy a proven mix from a reliable nutrient manufacturer.

Medium is another crucial part of hydroponic gardening. Gardeners use different types of medium which include small clay pellets, sand, vermiculite, coconut chips or fiber and perlite. These do not break down easily are called ‘inert’and facilitates growth by supplying nutrients. However medium alone cannot help the plant to grow. Plants placed in the medium needs the proper supply of nutrient solution to grow. No one best medium fits all types of hydroponic gardening requirements and hence needs to selected based on the kind of plants you want to grow. It is advisable to keep the medium only moist but not too wet as it can deprive the roots of required oxygen. The roots of the plants do not suffocate when grown in water as the air pumps used in the system generates bubbles to increase the oxygen content in the water.

Light

Growing plants with the hydroponic system can be carried out both indoors and outdoors with sufficient natural or artificial light. However, if you are planning to grow plants indoors or in places with insufficient natural light, then there are different types of artificial lights available for hydroponics. Metal halide is one of the favorite light sources and is the choice of many hydroponic gardeners. Other popular artificial lights include LEDs, sodium bulbs and fluorescent bulbs, high-pressure ones are used for indoor hydroponic gardening.

Duration

Growing plants using hydroponic system takes time like general gardening using soil. Learning about the hydroponics and setting up of the system consumes considerable time while maintaining the system and harvesting the plants also requires you to spend time. However hydroponic gardening is free from weeding which consumes a lot of time in traditional gardening. Many gardeners think that hydroponics gardening is organic gardening which is not true. Nevertheless, the ecological values of hydroponic gardening are the same as organic gardening.

Types of plants 

All kinds of plants can be grown using a hydroponic gardening system which include houseplants, vegetable, fruit, and flower plant. Ideally, solution systems are better for growing shallow root plants such as cabbage, lettuce, spinach and radish. On the other hand, aggregate systems are ideal for growing plants with deeper roots such as beetroot and cucumber.

The hydroponic system of gardening can prove to be more yielding when right growing conditions are maintained along with adequate light and can exceed traditional gardening yield. The taste of the produce grown with the hydroponic system is said to exceed to that of traditionally grown crops. If you are new to hydroponics gardening, it is recommended to start with simple systems and easy to grow plants and progress to the advanced and high-end systems once you have gained sufficient experience. Advanced hydroponic systems are used for growing produce commercially and need higher investments when compared to basic hydroponic design and systems.