Complete Indoor Hydroponics System for Beginners: How to Start Growing Quick

Sustainable living is increasingly becoming popular with people these days. The ability to grow one’s own vegetables is extremely appealing and wonderful to many. It helps cut costs and is very environmentally friendly. Hydroponics is one great way for people to grow their own food. But, what exactly is hydroponics? And what kind of vegetables can you grow with hydroponics? 

A Quick Introduction to Hydroponics 

To put it simply, hydroponics allows one to garden and grow plants without soil. Instead, a solution containing water and nutrients serves as the medium and that is all that is needed for your plants to grow. Hydroponics is a growing method that is well-loved across the world for two main reasons. One, it allows for faster growth and consequently, faster harvests. Two, it’s a gardening system that is doable even in a smaller space. Unlike traditional gardening, hydroponics doesn’t need a big plot of land – you can even do it in your apartment! 

Hydroponics can be tricky as it requires a specialized setup and some basic knowledge. For example, you’d have to control and ensure that your plants are getting the nutrients and conditions that they need. This includes things like the type and portion of nutrients that are receiving, the amount of light they get, the water quality in the solution, the air quality, and many others. However, once you’ve figured all of that out, you’d be able to plant a great variety of vegetables. For beginners, vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and kale are suggested. You could also plant herbs like mint, basil, parsley, and many others. 

For beginners, there are three main systems suggested for a hydroponics garden system. They are the wick system, the water culture system, and the ebb and flow system. 

Wick System 

This is the simplest hydroponic system that one can build. It has no mechanical or electrical parts and thus, is super simple to incorporate. However, it is also not the best for all plants, especially plants that require more water. Instead, it works better for microgreens, peppers, or herbs. 

It’s easy to build and takes about half an hour. And you would only need to change or add water to this system once every few days. It’s also pretty affordable. To begin with, you’d need these few equipment and materials: 

  • Drill
  • Lights (Optional)
  • Reservoir Container (can be simply a bucket) 
  • Water
  • Hydroponic fertilizer 
  • A Cord (must be nylon or cotton) 
  • Growing Medium 
  • Seedlings 
  • Tray for Growing 

Basically, what you’ll do is connect the cord between the reservoir to the growing tray and the medium placed within it. The cord will wick water from the reservoir into the growing medium. Through this, water and nutrients can be provided to the seedling. To do this, you’d have to drill some holes for the cord to go through. You should also cover your reservoir with a lid to prevent pests. The growing medium you choose must also be one that doesn’t drain water too fast. And, it must be able to use the capillary action of the wick to draw water. The best mediums suggested are vermiculite, perlite, and soilless mixes. 

I mentioned a light in the materials needed and you can mount lights for your setup if needed. However, if the setup is able to receive the light it needs, then there will be no need for this. If you do set up lights, LED, fluorescent or incandescent lights are suitable. However, they will need to be placed differently due to the heat that they give off. 

Water Culture System 

This system is also another simple and basic hydroponic system. It can alternatively be called the raft system as you will essentially be placing your plants on a styrofoam platform and letting that float on your nutrient solution. However, this system is slightly more challenging as the water in this system must be aerated. 

This is also easy to build and will take around 45 minutes to complete. After that, you would only need to top up the water and fertilizer whenever necessary. Here are the materials you would need: 

  • Drill or rotary tool 
  • Light (optional)
  • Airstone 
  • Pump 
  • Reservoir Container (can be simply a bucket) 
  • Water 
  • Hydroponic Fertiliser 
  • Styrofoam sheet 
  • Seedlings (must be in net pots) 

Firstly, you would have to create your reservoir. Basically, you would have to fill it with water and the nutrients that your plant would need. This reservoir is basically what your plants will float on. Unlike the wick system, this system is great for plants that need more water. However, such plants shouldn’t be long-lasting plants that can be continuously harvested. Instead, they are better for growing one-harvest plants like lettuce. 

Next, you would have to aerate your water. You could do this simply with an airstone and a pump. The airstone is connected to the pump and it is placed in the water. The pump then pushes air through the stone and releases tiny bubbles of oxygen within the water. 

Lastly, you would have to create your floating platform. The styrofoam board will have to be cut with holes to allow for your net pots to be inserted. If you aren’t sure, net pots are basically plastic containers that have holes at the bottom. The pots then contain a growing medium and the seedling. By placing the net pots and the seedlings through the styrofoam holes, the roots of the seedling are able to be in contact with the nutrient solution and this allows growth. 

Again, set up lights if you feel it is needed. 

Ebb and Flow System 

Lastly, we have a slightly more complicated system in the form of the ebb and flow system. This is more challenging to build and use, however, it allows you to grow a greater variety of plants. Basically, this system has the nutrient solution flooding and filling the growth medium of the plants. Thereafter, the solution will also drain back into the reservoir. 

It takes just slightly longer to build at an hour and requires weekly topping up of water and fertilizers. Here are the materials and equipment that you will need: 

  • Lights (optional) 
  • Two tubings (one for filling and one for draining) 
  • A submersible pump 
  • An electronic timer 
  • Reservoir Container (can simply be a bucket) 
  • Hydroponic fertilizer 
  • Water 
  • Growing Tray 
  • Seedlings (must be in net pots) 

Firstly, you would have to set up the reservoir. This will be placed below the growing trays. Fill it up with enough water and nutrients for a week. Remember to refresh both of those weekly for your plant’s growth and survival. 

Next, connect the two tubes to the reservoir and the growing tray. Remember, one tube is for filling the tray with water and the other is for draining it. The filling tube should be connected to the submersible pump and the timer. The pump pushes water up the tube and the timer automates this to ensure that it happens at set intervals. The draining tube then simply drains water from the tray through gravity. 

Lastly, set up the growing tray. This will be flooded with water and hence, it should be a large but shallow container. This tray should then be placed above the reservoir with the use of a stand. You should place your seedlings into net pots that already have a medium within them. These net pots should also be twice as deep as your container to ensure that water doesn’t submerge them. Place these pots into the growth tray. 

Again, set up any lights if you feel that it’s needed. 

Conclusion

These hydroponic setups are fairly easy and affordable to set up. If indoor gardening is something you are looking to try, these are excellent ways to begin!

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