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When you think of gardening, what do you see? You envision your plants growing in the dark, loamy soil.
Of course, this is how our parents have done gardening for centuries. Still, more people are moving to non-traditional gardening, where traditional gardening struggles.
One of these indoor garden systems is the hydroponic system you can also use outdoors.
What is a Hydroponic Gardening?
Hydroponic gardening creates a sustainable smart garden growing plants in a soil-free environment. But you still provide them with a nutrient solution and water to grow.
Hence, you provide the essentials to the roots with the water nutrient solution. Still, the water runs off from the roots to prevent rotting of the roots.
The concept with hydroponic plants is that you’re delivering water and nutrients directly to the root, allowing the water to run off freely and prevent things like root rot.
These days you can find a deep water culture system popping up everywhere.
Why Grow Indoor Gardens Without Soil For Plant Growth?
Recently, everyone thought that they could only grow plants in soil like in nature. But some innovative farmers have proven you can plant food using other methods for:
Hence, you can now enjoy the best indoor garden in urban spaces to enjoy local produce. So, according to a recent WWF report, hydroponic gardening methods can reduce pesticide use, food loss, and soil erosion.
Benefits of Using a Hydroponic Garden System
The roots are submerged in water when creating a smart garden using hydroponic growing. You then add a nutrient solution to provide nutrient-enriched water for the plants to thrive.
In more complex systems, the water is aerated with a flow system that works with a pump with air stones to ensure the roots receive oxygen to grow.
But are there any benefits to using a watering system to grow plants in an indoor space?
Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening Methods
Hydroponic gardening, once established, is low maintenance. You only need to replenish the water nutrient solution when needed. Still, it all depends on the number of plants, the size of the system, and the water trays. On average, it needs replacing every three weeks.
Indoor garden systems are more affordable, as we will see in our DIY hydroponic section later.
Depending on your indoor garden systems, you do not need a growing medium like soil or a lot of space. But you might need growing lights, led lights, and an air pump.
Still, as with any new system, the hydroponic garden also has disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Hydroponic Gardening
A big concern with smart gardens like the hydroponic system is waterborne diseases. While you eliminate common pests, your plants grown in water become susceptible to Pythium attacking the plant roots. Yet, you can prevent this by cleaning and replacing the water or recycling water.
You must regulate the water tank temperature to remain between 60F and 68°F.
Not very water efficient as you need a lot of water to fill the water tank to reach the growing tray. Hence, you will need more nutrients as well.
The last concern is power outages, especially with your cutting-edge systems. You need a regular oxygen supply for healthy plants, and disruption is detrimental to your plants.
DIY Indoor Hydroponic Garden Setup
Now if you want to start a hydroponic system at home instead of investing in more advanced systems, we have some easy DIY steps for beginners.
While this is not a technological hydroponic system, it is still ideal for growing fresh herbs or other plants indoors.
Or, if you are not DIY-inclined, you can invest in hydroponic indoor garden kits online for beginners.
Gather Your Equipment and Tools
Cordless drill with a set of drill bits
A set of auger bits and a set of steel tap bits or a threader
A hacksaw or PVC pipe cutter and a 3-inch hole saw
Submersible pump like a fountain water pump
An 18-gallon latch and carry bin with a lid
16 Hydroponic sprayers and 12 hydroponic mesh net cups with 3-inch neoprene collars to use as grow trays
12 Feet of one-inch PVC pipe with two one-inch PVC elbows and seven one-inch PVC tees
Steps to Make Your Hydroponic System For Small Spaces
The project here is based on a bin with an inside dimension of 26 3/4 inches by 16 1/2 inches.
Take the tape measure and jot down the inside dimension of your bin, as the spray manifolds are placed about three inches below the bin lip and best measured from that height. Also, measure the inside length and width.
Start with building the spray manifold for the inside using the PVC pipe, tees, and elbows. Make it according to the measurements taken earlier. Next, you can build the outer perimeter with the PVC elbows, six pieces of 4 1/4 inch PVC pipe, two 25-inch pieces, and 4 PVC tees forming a rectangle.
The short sides of the rectangles developed using two elbows/tees and two four inches sections of PVC. The two by 25-inch lengths of PVC form the long sides.
Next, build the inner spray manifold section by running the two long sections lengthwise on the manifold inner section. These sections comprise two by 12-inch PVC sections and one PVC tee.
Construct the spray manifold downpipe with two 1 3/4 inch pieces of PVC pipe and one tee to connect between the two inner long pipe sections.
Now, drill 16 evenly spaced holes on the manifold by creating threads in the holes using the steel tap bit to screw in the hydroponic sprayers. These sprayers face downwards in the water, so the side you drill will face down.
Next, place the submersible pump at the bottom of your bin to measure the distance from the manifold to the pump and cut a piece of PVC pipe accordingly. Finally, fit all the various parts together and place them inside the bin.
Take the one-inch auger bits to drill two holes inside the bin to the top. Then drill 12 evenly spaced holes in the lid using the three-inch hole saw for the net cups.
Now fill the bin with ten gallons of fresh water, add your nutrient solution, and let the pump cord run outside the container.
Place your net pots inside the holes in the lid and fit them with the neoprene collars on top of the net pots.
Lastly, place the seedlings you chose inside the net pots. For your new hydroponic technique used in an indoor garden, you will need to simulate the plants growing conditions by adding some grow lights, as fluorescent lights alone will not help.
The reason for not using plastic containers is that the plant’s roots need access to water. When the pump is on, it creates tiny bubbles filled with oxygen the plant needs to grow.
Maintaining Plants Grown Hydroponically
When you grow indoors using the hydroponic gardening system, it does not need much attention, but there are some things to check to keep your plants healthy when growing your own food.
Check The Temperature
With deep water culture, nutrient solution temperatures are important. When it gets too high, the oxygen levels in the air pump go down. So it can result in drowned roots and is best kept between 65°F to 75°F.
Check The Water Reservoir
You do not want stagnant water in the reservoir tank, and best to freshen it up weekly or biweekly when doing your nutrient changes.
The EC Meter Will Become Your Best Friend
The EC meter will help you determine how much nutrients are in the water. Adding the nutrient solution to the water reservoir can result in a build-up of minerals. When changing the solution, the EC meter helps you maintain important nutrients.
The EC Meter Will Become Your Best Friend
When the roots do not get oxygen, they cannot absorb nutrients and drown and rot. You must prevent that by providing the right aeration in the water reservoir. We recommend adding an air stone if you find it difficult to keep consistent aeration.
Invest in a Filter
We recommend adding a filter system to prevent debris from getting into the water reservoir, which will help reduce the cleaning to maintain the system. Still, do not forget to clean it often.
Do a Regular pH Check
Most importantly, hydroponic gardening keeps the water’s pH levels right. You can have the best indoor garden systems, but when the pH levels are down, it causes issues for the root system. The recommended pH water level is between 5.5–6.5.
Other Advanced Forms of Hydroponic Indoor Garden Setup
While the DIY hydroponic garden setup is only one type available, you can find many others. How much space you need will also depend on the system you choose.
The Wick System
Hydroponic gardening is simple and does not require all the fancy equipment from pumps, air stones, or electricity. The wick system works with perlite or vermiculite by placing your plants in it.
You then place nylon wicks around your plants into the nutrient solutions. Hydroponic gardening is suitable for use with herbs and small plants. Still, avoid growing tomatoes or peppers in this system as they are heavy-feeding plants.
Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain)
The ebb and flow systems are ideal for home gardeners. Your plants grow in a spacious grow bed packed with a growth medium like perlite or rock wool.
Once completed with planting, you flood the grow bed with a nutrient solution in the water a couple of inches below the top grow medium layer.
The pump has a timer switching off at specific times. When this happens, the water drains from the bed and returns to the pump via the water drain tube.
You can grow most plants using this hydroponic gardening system. It works well with growing carrots and radishes.
The drip system works well with most plants, especially when you make regular changes. The nutrient solution pump into a tube, sending the water nutrient solution straight to the base of the plant.
At the end of the tube, you find the drip emitter controlling the solution to feed the plant, which is adjustable. With more available space, you can expand the drip systems according to your growing needs.
You can attach a circulating system allowing the nutrient solution to flow back to the tank.
Nutrient Film Technology
The nutrient film system has a simple design to use with different applications. You place the nutrient solution in a large reservoir tank, and it runs through sloped channels. In turn, the nutrient solution flows back to the reservoir tank.
Once the nutrients run through the channels, they will flow down a slope over the roots to provide the necessary nutrients. You use pots and plants with small roots for the nutrient film technique.
The aeroponic systems are complicated to build compared to the hydroponic gardening systems. Your plants grow in the air with mist nozzles positioned below them. The nozzles spray the nutrient solution onto the roots.
The mist nozzles are connected directly to your water reservoir pump. As the pressure increases, the dissolved nutrients are sprayed, with the excess falling down to the flood tray and returning to the reservoir.
You can grow any plant, but you must ensure the reservoir can accommodate your plant growth needs.
What Plants Grow Well in Hydroponic Systems
Small root plants like leafy greens work best for most hydroponic gardening methods. For example, you can grow lettuce, kale, spinach, celery, and other fresh herbs. Here are some examples of how you can regrow a few plant foods:
You can easily regrow celery with hydroponic gardening by following these tips:
Cut your store-bought celery about four inches from the bottom and remove the brown circle you find at the bottom.
Then place the celery into the cups in your system.
After a few weeks, you will notice roots forming and leaves growing out of the top.
The important thing is to keep the system in a lot of light or use a lighting system.
You typically grow celery in winter when you live in the southern states and will need to mimic the growing conditions.
Regrowing Green Onions
Grab a bundle of store-bought green onions and remove the green from the stem leaving about up to two inches on the root side.
Place the root side in the cups in the water system.
You should notice roots developing in 14 days, and it grows fast.
Growing plants hydroponically is a great way to ensure you always have leafy greens and other herbs available. But, of course, the above systems all depend on your space available.
You can buy more advanced hydroponic gardening systems if you have more space. You can even use them in a vertical space year-round.
But for a small smart garden, the DIY solution works excellently with the bin as a growing medium, cups, pump, and built-in LED lights.