Are you new to hydroponics, or water gardening? It can be a bit overwhelming to get started if you have never done it before and you may find that you have more questions than answers as you try to get going. When I first started pursuing hydroponics on my homestead, I was in the same boat. Here are some of the basics that I learned along the way to help you with your own hydroponics garden.
First, you are going to have to try and decide which type of hydroponic gardening system will work best for you and your property. There are three main kinds of systems that most new hydroponic gardeners will pick from: Ebb and Flow, Wick, and Water Culture.
The ebb and flow system is the most complicated of the three, but still widely used. It works in a variety of settings, so it can be customized for different plant types too. It works by flooding the roots and soil (or sand, rock, etc.) and then having some drain back in to a reservoir. This system can be set on a timer, and you can plant things individually, rather than in one large section.
The wick system – by far the easiest to maintain and assemble – is great for beginners. Since it doesn’t have any moving parts, it’s very low maintenance. Basically it is set up using two containers: one with the plants and growing medium and a container below that has a “wick” to draw the moisture up into the plant area. Some plants won’t grow well in this type of setup, like lettuce, but other plants such as peppers and herbs will do really well in this type of hydroponic garden.
The water culture system is also a really easy one to set up and maintain. It has a foam base that houses the plants over the top of a reservoir. This system needs an air pump to help give oxygen to the roots, but works really great with plants that need a lot of water, but not plants like tomatoes that are more long term.
By knowing the basics of these systems, it can help you decide which will be the best choice.
Next, you will need to decide on which plants you are going to grow. Many times, hydroponic gardens are not the primary garden plot and are used alongside a traditional or container garden. Plant choices that work best would be ones that don’t need a lot maintenance. Select those that grow fast, don’t need a lot of additional fertilizer or other additives, and are hardy. The reason fast growing plants are great for hydroponic gardens is that it helps you to see how your system is operating, and if certain plants are right for the setup. Some gardeners new to hydroponics will start with jut one variety, while others want to try more than one kind of vegetable. If you are going to try to grow multiple plant varieties, make sure they have the same growing needs and requirements, so they can be placed in the same water garden.
Some good starter plants for your first hydroponics experiment include lettuce, strawberries, Swiss Chard, tomatoes, and peppers. You might also try herbs like mint, cilantro, and basil.
These tips will give you a little bit of a head start as you plan your hydroponic garden. You may find that you can grow several varieties just as you would in a traditional garden. I first started using hydroponics out of curiosity, but quickly fell in love with this easy gardening system. Next spring, I plan to expand my water garden to three times the size of last year’s!
Have you ever tried hydroponic gardening? What are some of your tips for beginners?