Months of lockdowns, business closures, and isolation during COVID-19 prompted people to take on new hobbies, such as cooking, painting, and reading, to name a few. However, some people decided to flex their green thumbs following the disruptions in food supply chains and security worldwide. Overnight, gardening became a ‘blooming’ trend, with millions growing their favorite vegetables, fruits, and herbs in their backyards and windowsills.
However, many new home or indoor gardeners found out that conventional gardening comes with certain complexities, from seasonal shifts to space constraints, soil erosion, pest infestation, and laborious care routines. If you’re vexed by some of these issues, perhaps, it’s time to upgrade your garden by building a hydroponics system.
Hydroponic gardens offer a smart alternative for apartment dwellers and people with strict routines to grow plants faster with fewer issues. In this post, we’ll explain what a hydroponic garden is, its benefits, and the plants you can grow in one. For those intrigued by this intelligent indoor gardening solution, we’ll also share how to build a hydroponic garden at home.
Let’s get growing!
What is a Hydroponic Garden?
A hydroponic garden is an unconventional gardening system in which plants are grown in a soilless solution, usually nutrient-rich water. This water-based system can be used to nurture a huge variety of vegetables, greens, and fruits indoors all year round, regardless of what Mother Nature is up to outside. Plants need four things to grow – water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. In traditional gardens, soil serves as the medium through which plant roots absorb nutrients. In a hydroponic system, water serves as the medium and allows for faster and easier access to the nutrition plants need. As a result, plants can grow up to 35% faster compared to traditional gardens.
The Main Benefits of Hydroponic Systems
While there’s nothing wrong with taking the traditional route to grow plants, here are some incredible benefits of building a hydroponic garden:
Less Space Requirement
Plants spread their roots to find water and nutrients in the soil, so they need to be planted a certain distance apart. Therefore, they require more space. In a hydroponic system, plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution, so plants can be grown close to each other. This makes hydroponics a perfect solution for apartment or tiny home dwellers, especially in urban cities.
Traditional farming wastes a lot of water due to evaporation, soil absorption, and overflow. Hydroponic gardens use up to 10 times less water since plants are grown in a closed, controlled environment.
Hydroponic systems give gardeners more control over the nutrients their plants absorb. Traditional gardens, in contrast, usually require fertilizers to be mixed with the soil, which is not only laborious but expensive.
No Pests and Diseases
Since hydroponic gardens are usually grown in indoor environments, they’re less susceptible to pest infestation and diseases. This way, farmers and gardeners can enjoy bigger, healthier yields.
Best Plants to Grow in a Hydroponic System
As you can see, hydroponic systems offer an innovative solution for indoor gardeners and farmers looking to improve plant growth. However, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so you can’t or shouldn’t grow root vegetables like onions, garlic, garlic, and turnip. So the question remains, “what can you grow in a hydroponic garden?” Here are the best plants to grow in a hydroponic system:
- Herbs (Lemongrass, mint, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.)
- Bell peppers
- Tomatoes, etc.
How to Build a Hydroponic Garden at Home
Hydroponic gardens are incredibly easy to build and maintain. A basic system essentially requires four core elements to be sustainable:
To grow plants hydroponically, you need clean water with a pH level between 6-6.5. You can adjust the acidity or basicity using store-bought solutions. In a basic system, water is supplied using PVC pipes, forming a spray manifold to force the water upwards.
Since there’s no soil to hold the plants, you need a container or structure to hold them in place. Popular materials include coconut fiber, vermiculite, and perlite.
To grow plants indoors, you need to invest in grow lights according to your plants’ requirements. Herbs generally fare better in indoor environments and require shade most of the time. So, an LED light should suffice.
Finally, you need to stock up on plant food like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. You can take the DIY route for this as well, but to save time, simply head to a local store and buy ready-made mixtures.
Whether you’re a new gardener or a savvy ‘DIYer’ looking for a new challenge, here’s how to build a hydroponic garden at home:
Tools, Equipment, and Materials
- Tape measure
- Piper cutter or hacksaw
- Hole saw
- Storage container or bucket (with lid)
- Measuring beaker
- Air pump (for oxygen supply)
- 1-inch PVC pipe, tees, and elbows
- Air pump
- Hydroponic sprayers (as per requirement)
- LED grow lights
Find a Suitable Container for Your Hydroponic Garden
First things first, you need a deep storage container, like a bin or bucket. The rule of thumb is, the deeper the water reservoir, the more stable the nutrient solution is. Once you have a container, use a tape measure to jot down the inside dimensions (length and width). Measure the height for the spray manifold, which is typically fitted 3 inches below the container’s top.
Drill Holes into the Container’s Lid
Your greens and vegetables will grow in net pots. Therefore, you’ll need plenty of holes for the roots to grow through. All you need for this is a hole saw or drill. To ensure the net pots don’t fall through, make sure you measure the holes accordingly. You can drill multiple holes according to your requirement.
Build the Spray Manifold’s Outer and Inner Section
The next step is to build the spray manifold’s inner and outer sections using the PVC pipe, elbows, and tees according to the measurements and holes you made earlier. Start by building an outer perimeter with small pieces of pipes and elbows to form a rectangle. For the inner section, run two long sections of the PVC pipe and tee through the manifold to build the spray and downspout.
Assemble the Submersible Pump
Just like a fish aquarium, a pump is used to supply oxygen into the water solution, so the plants don’t suffocate. Place the air pump outside the reservoir and connect the air stone and check-valve with the tubing that comes with it. Place the tubing inside a water container and test to see if bubbles emerge on the surface before fixing it to the reservoir.
Fill the Reservoir with the Nutrient-Rich Water Solution and Adjust the pH
Before filling the reservoir, make sure you find a suitable place for your hydroponic garden since it can get quite heavy. Once you’ve done that, fill it with water and the nutrients using a measuring beaker to get more accurate results. Since most vegetables and herbs require an acidic pH between 6-6.5, you may have to adjust the solution using a few drops of phosphoric or sulfuric acid. Make sure you wear safety gloves and goggles for this purpose.
Set Up the GlowLight and Get Growing
Once your hydroponic garden is ready, the last step is to set up your glow light to ensure your indoor plants get sufficient energy to grow. Once you’ve done that, you’re all set to grow your favorite herbs and vegetables. We recommend starting with simple, low-maintenance plants before switching to more complex ones.
And there you have it, folks – how to build a hydroponic garden at home. With this information, you’re just a few hours away from upgrading your garden with an intelligent growth system that requires less space, money, and maintenance. The materials and steps mentioned above have been kept simple for beginners to understand the basics of hydroponics before they can take on more complex DWC systems. So, what are you waiting for? Head to the local store to get everything you need and get started right away!