Unlike normal gardening that requires soil, hydroponics is another method of gardening that immerses the plant in a combination of water and solution. If you are an apartment dweller and do not have the land space to grow your plants in, or simply detest the fuss of the soil that a knocked down potted plant can do to your pearly white carpets, then hydroponics is just for you. A hydroponic system requires less space, as well as the amount of soil and water needed to sustain your plant. Furthermore, they even grow faster than normal potted plants do! There are several ways to master hydroponic gardening, and we will cover some of the more common ones in a step-by-step guide. If you’re intrigued, sit tight and read on to find out how you can make your own hydroponic garden at home!
The Wick System
The wick system is one of the simplest methods yet. They do not require any moving parts or electrical components, so it is perfect for individuals who want to put in the least amount of effort possible. Though it is incredibly easy to set up, this system does not work for all kinds of plants. Water-hungry plants like tomatoes or lettuce will not thrive in a system like this, so consider other alternatives like microgreens, peppers, and herbs.
1. Set up a water reservoir
Create your water reservoir using a mix of water and store-bought nutrients. This will be placed below the tray holding your plant.
2. Connect the wicks to the growing tray
Select one or two wicks and connect them to the growing tray through the holes of your pot. If your pot lacks holes, you can use a drill or screwdriver to do so. Allow the wick to absorb the water from the water reservoir that you have set up earlier to draw water up to the growing medium in the tray.
3. Set up a growing tray
The growing medium, which will contain a seedline, should be placed above the water reservoir. Choose a medium that prevents extremely fast absorption such that the water reservoir will be drained out too quickly; to allow the wick time to soak up the water through its capillary action. Some of these growing mediums like perlite, soilless mixes, and vermiculite are recommended to help your wick work effectively.
4. Add light fixtures if necessary
If your apartment has sufficient sunlight that can reach your plants, then you can skip this step. However, for gloomier apartments that do not get direct sunlight, it is recommended to set up a light fixture above the growing tray to give your plant ample light. If you are using an incandescent light bulb, place it about 24 inches away from your plant. Alternatively, you can also use LED or fluorescent lights as your preferred light source. However, since they are not as hot, you should place them 6 and 12 inches respectively away from your plants. And there you have it, your wick system is all set up!
Water culture (raft) system
This system is another easy setup for newbies to gardening. It involves a styrofoam platform in which the plants are placed on, and it floats above the water reservoir. Unlike the wick system, the water in the reservoir has to be aerated in order for it to be effective.
1. Set up the water reservoir
Similar to the wick system, the water reservoir is mixed with water and nutrients, and it has to be a substantial amount so as to allow the styrofoam platform to float on top of it. Due to the greater amount of water, plants that absorb more water like lettuce can be grown in this system. However, tomatoes that live longer than other normal plants should not be grown in this setting.
2. Aerate the water
In this system, the water has to be aerated. One of the most common sources and very affordable option is an air stone and pump. The air stone is essentially the bubbler that you can find in small fish tanks and ponds, that are immersed in the water and connected to an air pump outside of the water reservoir. The pump forces air through the stone, and the tiny holes on the stone create little air bubbles to distribute oxygen through the water as a form of circulation. This is an important step in the water culture system.
3. Assemble your growing raft
To make your growing raft, cut out a platform from any styrofoam that you can find, that fits the size of your reservoir. Cut out holes into your platform and add in net pots. Net pots are essentially containers made out of plastic that is equipped with perforated bottoms. Growing mediums like clay balls, perlite, and coconut coir are usually placed inside these containers along with the seedlings. A final step is to ensure that the roots are touching or slightly immersed into the reservoir water to allow the roots to absorb water.
4. Add a light fixture
As usual, if the area that your plants are at does not have access to direct sunlight, setting up a light fixture is necessary. Similar to that of the wick system, incandescent light bulbs should be placed 24 inches away from your plant, while LED and fluorescent lights should be set up 6 and 12 inches respectively away from the plants since they are a lot less hot. After this, you can enjoy tracking the growth of your little saplings in your very own homemade water culture system!
While what we have covered is not exhaustive, these are the two easiest ways of setting up your hydroponic system in the comfort of your own home! It is important to do your research, to determine which system works best for the kind of plants that you want to grow. Even if you have the perfect set up, growing the wrong plant that is not suited for the kind of system that you have will not help your plant grow. Therefore, research is very important before you embark on your gardening journey. Lastly, have fun setting up your own hydroponic system, and as you get more skilled in it, you can add on more plants to your collection!