Start a Hydroponic Garden: Tips for Beginners
Scientists started experimenting with soilless gardening in the 1950’s but the idea has been around since ancient times; represented by the extravagant Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Floating Gardens of ancient China. Hydroponics can increase growth rate by up to 50% compared to a soil-grown plant and increase yield. Growing with hydroponics is also a great alternative to a soil garden during cold months or for those that lack outdoor space.
Pick Your System
The four most common techniques for beginners are the Ebb and Flow, Top Drip System, Deep Water Culture and the Wick System.
Ebb and Flow
The Ebb and Flow is the classic hydroponic system. It can accommodate pots of any size and is easy to build yourself. Potted plants are arranged onto a drain table which is then filled with 2-3 inches of water and nutrient solution which is pumped into the drain table. The solution is then brought in through the hole in the bottom of the pots. After soaking for a few minutes, the reservoir is drained. This should be repeated 2-4 times a day.
Top Drip System
Top Drip Systems are the most common hydroponics system. In a drip system, the nutrient solution is held in a reservoir and is pumped through tubing to the base of potted plants. The excess solution is then released through the hole in the bottom of the pot and returned to the reservoir. This process should be repeated 2-4 times a day.
Deep Water Culture
A Deep Water Culture system is the most economical choice to build. Plants are grown in small net pots which are suspended in a floating Styrofoam plank. Underneath the plank lies a shallow pan of nutrient solution and the roots grow through the net pots into the solution. An aerator provides oxygen to the roots by forming bubbles in the solution.
The Wick System is the simplest form of hydroponics. This method does not require pumps, timers or aerators. The nutrient is fed to the plants roots by a cotton wick. The plant is merely potted in a large pot with a wicking mat in the bottom, which brings the nutrient solution up to the plant.
If you are growing your hydroponic garden indoors, you will need a light source. There are many starter kits available and it is recommended that you buy all of the components together because you must match the ballast to the lamp and bulb wattage.
Scientists believe that the reason behind hydroponic-grown plants’ increased growth rate and yield is due to a surplus of oxygen and direct water to the roots but plants grown hydroponically do not have access to the nutrients it requires, which is present in soil. The topic of nutrient brands and mixes could be discussed all day but why, when Growers Secret’s Grow Big 521 fish emulsion fertilizer is perfect for your hydroponic garden. Grow Big 521is balanced, organic, and is refined enough to flow easily through your hydroponic system. Grow Big 521 is a vegetable garden stimulant with a lavender-scented fish emulsion that helps your plants grow even faster and with a greater yield. Grow Big 521 is like pure liquid sunshine for your indoor hydroponic garden!
Pick Your Medium
Soilless gardening means just that, no soil but you must replace soil with a good medium. There are two mediums suggested for beginners: Coconut Coir and clay balls (also called LECA).
Coconut Coir is made from coconut husks and is composed of tiny micro-sponges which absorb up to eight times their weight in water. Coconut Coir is a great medium for almost any system except for the Ebb and Flow system.
Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate or LECA is made by heating balls of clay under very high heat until it expands. They excel with drainage and do not move so they are great with the Ebb and Flow system.
Hydroponic gardens are becoming popular because of their ability to conserve water and pesticide use while providing a medium for urban gardeners to provide themselves with fresh produce. Join the trend, with these tips you should have your hydroponic garden up and growing in no time!
Looking for more info? Catch the Hydroponics Happy Hour on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. Check out last week's edition with our Chief Science Officer Dr. Wes Chun at www.dufffreezone.com.