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5 Ways to Start Hydroponic Gardening - Growing Plants Without Soil


The wick system is the simplest system mechanically, as there are no moving parts or electrical components. This system is not ideal for water-hungry plants like lettuce or tomatoes, as they may use up the nutrient solution faster than the wicks can supply it. This system works best for microgreens, herbs, and peppers.

Source compliments of: https://thespruce.com/befinners-guide-tohydropoinc-1939215

Instructions

  1. Set Up a Water Reservoir

    Create a reservoir filled with water and nutrients. This reservoir sits beneath the tray holding your plant and growing medium.

  2. Connect Wicks to the Growing Tray

    Connect one or two wicks through holes in the bottom of the growing tray. If you need to make holes in the growing tray, use a drill or screwdriver. The wicks will soak up water from the reservoir and draw it up the wicks to the growing medium in the tray.

  3. Set Up a Growing Tray

    The growing medium, containing a seedling, is set above the water reservoir. Use a medium that will not drain too fast and will utilize the capillary action of the wick most effectively, such as vermiculite, perlite, and soilless mixes.

  4. Set Up a Light Fixture

    If you're using natural light, skip this step. Otherwise, set up a light fixture above the growing tray. If using incandescent light bulbs, set it 24 inches from the plants. LED and fluorescent lights are not as hot; place them 6 and 12 inches, respectively, from the plants.

Water Culture (Lettuce Raft) System

plants in a styrofoam "raft" to be placed on top of the water
The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

A water culture, or lettuce raft, system, is another one that's very easy to set up. The plants are placed in a Styrofoam platform that floats on top of the reservoir with the nutrient-enriched water. However, unlike with the wick system, you will need to aerate the water with a raft system. This system is best for growing leaf lettuce, but very few other plants grow well in this system. It is not recommended for long-lived plants like tomatoes.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: Add water-fertilizer solution as needed
  • Material Cost: $50 ($100 if using a grow light)

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Drill, rotary tool, or X-ACTO knife (optional)
  • Grow light (optional)
  • Air stone and pump

Materials

  • Bucket or basin for water reservoir
  • Water
  • Hydroponic fertilizer (dry or liquid)
  • Styrofoam sheet
  • Seedlings in net pots

Instructions

  1. Set Up the Water Reservoir

    Fill the reservoir container with water and nutrients. The container should be opaque (not clear or translucent) and at least 12 inches deep. A good example is a 14-gallon Roughneck tote.

  2. Aerate the Water

    The most common and inexpensive aeration system is an air stone and pump. The air stone, the same bubbler found in home aquariums, is placed in the water and connected to an air pump outside the reservoir. The pump pushes air through the stone, which blows out tiny bubbles to distribute oxygen through the water.

  3. Set Up Your Growing Raft

    Cut a floating Styrofoam platform to fit inside the top of the reservoir. Cut holes to insert net pots. Net pots are plastic containers with perforated bottoms that contain a growing medium (coconut coir, perlite, clay balls) and seedlings. The roots will need to be in contact with the reservoir water.

  4. Set Up a Light Fixture

    If you're using natural light, skip this step. Otherwise, set up a light fixture above the growing tray. If using incandescent light bulbs, set it 24 inches from the plants. LED and fluorescent lights are not as hot; place them 6 and 12 inches, respectively, from the plants.

Ebb and Flow System

An ebb and flow system, also called the flood and drain system, is slightly more complex in design but is extremely versatile. This system works by flooding the growing medium with a water-nutrient solution, then it drains back into the reservoir.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: Refresh the water-fertilizer solution every week
  • Material Cost: $75 ($125 if using a grow light)

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Grow light (optional)
  • Submersible pump
  • Electronic timer

Materials

  • Bucket or basin for water reservoir
  • Two tubes (fill tube and drain tube)
  • Water
  • Hydroponic fertilizer (dry or liquid)
  • Growing tray
  • Stand for growing tray
  • Seedlings in net pots

Instructions

  1. Set Up the Water Reservoir

    The reservoir is placed directly below the flood tray's stand with the water and nutrients. You can use the same water for about a week at a time, making sure to renew the nutrients every time you change the water.

  2. Connect a Fill Tube and Drain Tube

    Connect the reservoir to the tray via a fill tube and a drain tube. The fill tube attaches to a submersible pump with a timer, which controls the flow of water up into the flood tray. The drain tube allows gravity to pull the water back into the reservoir after flooding so that the water can be reused.

  3. Connect a Submersible Pump and Timer

    A submersible pump with a timer allows for a lot of control in this type of system. You can customize the length and frequency of watering based on your plant's needs.

  4. Set Up the Flood Tray

    The plant tray, or flood tray, is a large, shallow container on a tall stand. Plant your seedlings in perforated pots filled with a growing medium, such as perlite. The pots that your seedlings are in should be about twice as deep as the flood tray.

  5. Set Up a Light Fixture

    If you're using natural light, skip this step. Otherwise, set up a light fixture above the growing tray. If using incandescent light bulbs, set it 24 inches from the plants. LED and fluorescent lights are not as hot; place them 6 and 12 inches, respectively, from the plants.

Nutrient Film Technique

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The nutrient film technique uses a water-nutrient solution that constantly flows in a loop from a reservoir through a growing tray, where plant roots are suspended and absorb nutrients as the solution flows by. This system makes the ebb and flow system a continuously flowing system, never taking periodic breaks. A nutrient film system works best with fast-growing, shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, and herbs.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: Refresh the water-fertilizer solution every week
  • Material Cost: $85 ($135 if using a grow light)

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Drill or rotary tool (optional)
  • Grow light (optional)
  • Air stone and pump
  • Submersible pump

Materials

  • Bucket or basin for water reservoir
  • Water
  • Two tubes (fill tube and drain tube)
  • Hydroponic fertilizer (dry or liquid)
  • Tube or PVC pipe to fit the seedlings
  • Seedlings in net pots

 

More info for supplies? Pease visit LettuceGrow.com


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