Hydroponics gardening is easy, once you learn the basics and have spent a little time fine tuning a system that works for you. Fact is, much of the work is in learning all the basic info, setting up, and adjusting your first system. These pages will help you do just that.
Hydroponic gardening boils down to simply this: The food is in the water. All considerations when designing a system will focus on this, and on the types of plants you are growing. These considerations include...
How to get hydroponic nutrients and water (also called nutrient solution) to your plants requires a look at the different hydroponic gardening systems. As you look over each type of system, you will see how each one addresses these three concerns.
There are as many ways to deliver the nutrient solution to your plants as you can possibly think of. For our purpose here, lets take a look at the main ones. Visit the pages below for a crash course on each hydroponics gardening system type.
No, I'm not talking about the paparattzi here. Except for aeroponics and deep water culture systems, you have to grow your roots into something besides air and water. The best hydroponic gardening medias have the following qualities. They are...
Just as there are many hydroponic growing systems, there are many, many different types of grow media. Some types of media are better suited for certain grow systems, so make sure to do a little research in the links above! The best hydroponic gardening medias that meet all of the above requirements, and that people most commonly use are...
One thing to consider if you are building your own homemade hydroponics gardening system is the cost of "disposable" grow medias. Even a modest 4ft x 8ft garden could cost you a couple of hundred dollars every grow cycle to replace the old rockwool with new rockwool (for example). Coconut coir has the same drawback.
Soilless mixes using perlite and vermiculite, either together or by themselves, can be washed and re-used once or twice. After that you begin having problems with algae, fungus gnats, and disease from decaying bits of organic matter from the previous crops (and so should be replaced with new grow media).
Clay pellets and lava rock (pumice) can both be washed, rinsed, and reused indefinitely. Designing a hydroponics gardening system around one of these grow medias is the most affordable way to go....with just one exception. Aeroponic systems and deep water culture (DWC) systems both grow plants directly in water and air, leaving no grow media to be maintained or replaced.
When I build a homemade hydroponic system, I use netted pots as small as I can get away with. My goal is to grow as much of the root system as possible in Oxygen rich water beneath the plant (my system of choice being a DWC system). The netted pots are just there for a small amount of physical support.
The exact size of the netted pots differs from system to system....and I use expanded clay pellets to secure young plants in their netted pots before going into the hydroponic system for the first time. Expanded clay is cheaper than volcanic rock and lasts nearly as long.
The end result is that my systems have no disposable media
to maintain or replace. The small amount of reusable media in any
particular system is reduced to a bare
minimum. Therefore the total expenses to operate my systems have been
to a bare minimum, and the amount of time and energy it takes to
maintain my hydroponics systems have been reduced to a bare minimum as
Some homemade systems are more difficult to put together than others.
Most aeroponic systems, for example, I would recommend that you just buy. They can often be expensive to build, and it is difficult to match the technical specifications and capabilities built into a store bought system.
A small flood and drain (aka ebb and flow) system, on the other hand, can be put together for less than $100 and will work just fine for a small home hobby garden. The biggest expense is a good water pump. A 300-400 GPH pump is ideal for a small garden between 4 x 4 and 4 x 8 feet. If you want to go this route, brush up on all the basics, then visit my homemade hydro page.
Besides the environment you put your hydroponics gardening system into, success with hydroponics depends largely on one single factor...the quality of your nutrient solution. Your plants' nutritional needs change as they grow, and the nutrient solution needs to change with them. All of my best tips for maintaining the quality of your nutrient solution can be found on my hydroponic feeding tips page. This page covers...
The best of both worlds. Organic hydroponics is simply hydroponics in which the nutrient solution is made with organic fertilizers. You get all the benefits of hydroponic gardening, AND all the benefits of organic gardening. There are some special considerations with this approach, however. Most organic fertilizers will clog your spray heads and drip emitters. General Hydroponics makes a great organic hydroponic fertilizer that will not. Follow this link if you are interested in organic hydroponics.
When plants do not have to grow roots down into the soil to "mine" for food, they use that extra energy to grow extra fast above ground. These faster growth rates are the biggest attraction to hydroponics gardening in general, and to aeroponics in particular.
However, if conditions are not kept just right these fast growth rates can also be your biggest problem. The only way a plant gets to thrive is for you to keep giving it EXACTLY what it needs EVERY DAY (get a TDS meter and a pH meter and use them every day). If you don't, the plant has no other protection...no backup plan...there will be damage. Since growth rates are fast, the damage will happen quickly. For my best advice on how to keep your plants happy, see my hydroponic feeding tips page.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT
having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow
your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality
nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with
and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as
possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only
just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only
because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique
and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more
high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole
year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to
increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the
same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your
own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...
The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!