Soil isn’t always easy to get just right for your plants.
If you’re the type of gardener who’s looking for an easier way to achieve beautiful plants, then maybe hydroponics is the better alternative for you.
What, exactly, is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in water instead of soil, and it usually involves treating the water with nutrients that will benefit the plant.
It sounds really intriguing, doesn’t it?
Let’s look at how to grow plants in water in greater detail.
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Plants That Do Well In Hydroponics Gardens
As you know, plants need a variety of things in order to survive and thrive. These include oxygen, water, and nutrients. The soil plays a big role in how plants can get enough oxygen and water into their roots.
If you want to replace that soil with water, plants need to be able to get oxygen and nutrients from it. Water on its own doesn’t have the nutritional requirements plants need to stay alive. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose to plant things in water instead of soil.
To get started in hydroponics, you first have to make sure that you’re choosing plants to grow in water that will actually be able to survive and thrive without needing soil. These include the following:
- Bell peppers
- Peace Lily
- Chinese Evergreen
- Arrowhead Vine
- Female Dragon
Once you know what you want to grow in your hydroponics garden, here are step-by-step guides on how to build your own!
Hydroponics Tutorial 1: The Soda Bottle Method
This one is super-easy because you can make use of many items you already have around the house.
What you’ll need:
- Soda bottle
- Utility knife
- Twine (30cm long)
- Nutrient solution
- Growing medium (such as coconut coir)
- Cut four or five inches of a plastic bottle from the top. Cut all the way around so that you can remove this part. Put it aside. A soda bottle is a good kind of bottle to use, as one bottle will be able to house one plant in your hydroponic system.
- Next, take a screwdriver and make a hole in the bottle’s cap. The hole should be about a quarter-inch in size.
- Run a thread of twine through the bottle cap hole that you’ve made, then put the cap back on the bottle.
- For the next step, you’ll need to fill the base of the bottle with a nutrient solution for hydroponic plants. You can get one online or from a gardening store. This solution will have to be mixed with water and stirred well before use.
- Take the top of your bottle that has the cap and twine on it and place it head-first into the base of the bottle. You want most of the twine to be covered by the solution, as WikiHow reports.
- Since you won’t have soil to feed your plants, you’ll need to give your plants enough nutrients. Besides for your nutrient solution, you’ll also need growing medium and this should be put into the bottle’s top section. The medium is basically just a substance, such as coconut coir or vermiculite, that enables the nutrients to move through it easily. Basically, how this system will work is that the nutrient solution that was dissolved in the water will travel up the twine and through the growing medium so that your plant will get the nutrients it needs to survive.
- Put two handfuls of the medium of your choice into the top of the bottle and gently press it with your fingers.
- Now you can plant your seeds into this medium!
You can make as many of these hydroponic plants as you like, and keep them indoors or outdoors as your own mini garden.
Hydroponics Tutorial 2: The (Slightly More Difficult) Nutrient Film Method
This is called the “nutrient film” technique and it’s great because you will have a larger space in which to grow plants. It does require more items and assembly, however, and it can be a bit more high-maintenance. Let’s check it out.
What you’ll need
- Air pump
- Water pump
- Water reservoir (make sure it has a lid)
- Air stone (buy it from a pet store; it’s used to slowly send oxygen into the reservoir)
- Nutrient solution
- Medium (such as coconut coir)
- PVC pipe
- 2 sawhorses
- You’ll need to create a hole that’s about two inches from the top of your reservoir (that’s approximately 20 gallons).
- Put an air stone in it that’s on the same side as where you made the hole. You should push the air tube through this stone, before attaching it to the air pump, as WikiHow explains.
- You’ll need a water pump on the reservoir’s other side and it should be able to be submerged.
- Cut a hole into the side of the reservoir that’s about three inches from the top. It needs to be large enough to house the power cable and tubing. The tube and power cable should be pushed through this hole.
- You should put nutrient solution into half of the reservoir and remember that it will need to be mixed with water.
- Next, place a PVC pipe between two sawhorses on either side of the reservoir so that you can make a sort of channel that will be put on top of the reservoir. The sawhorses should cause the pipe to slope a little bit.
- Make holes in the pipe as these are where you’ll plant your seeds. A hole saw attachment on your drill will be useful to use.
- Ensure your plants will have about 30cm distance between each other so that they have space to grow.
- Now, you need to create a drain hole in the channel as well as the lid of your reservoir. This will ensure that the water in your hydroponics container will continue being recycled.
- The water pump tube will now be put into the higher end of your channel, and again you can use a drill to make a hole in your PVC pipe. Make it smaller than the holes that you’ll use for your plants.
- Take some medium, such as coconut coir, and fill the holes (these are your pots) with it. You should aim to fill the holes about three-quarters of the way.
- Add your seeds for the plants you want to grow.
- Now you can plug in your water pump. Check that it sends the nutrient-rich water into the bottom of your pipe, or channel, without any leaks.
Benefits Of Hydroponics
There are many good reasons to build your own hydroponics garden. Let’s take a look at some of them!
- Hydroponics makes excellent use of water. You can save a lot more water by planting in water instead of in soil because the water that gets drawn up by the plants will be recirculated back into the system. There’s no water wastage, except for minimal evaporation or leaks.
- Hydroponics makes gardening easier. Once you know what the best nutrient solution for your plants is, you will be able to enjoy low-maintenance planting. Just think: you won’t have to deal with pests or weeds that try to attack your plants!
- Hydroponics avoids the use of pesticides. If you’re not using soil to grow plants, this enables you to prevent using pesticides and herbicides in your soil, both of which can cause chemicals to enter the ground. If you’re growing produce with the use of hydroponics, you’ll be able to enjoy healthier, cleaner foods.
You can use rain water or purified water. However, avoid mineral or spring water.
These can be toxic to your plants or cause them to lack nutrients. You should also avoid using tap water as it contains chemicals that will have to be eliminated from the water so that they don’t harm your plants.
To remove chlorine, leave tap water in the sun for a day. To remove chloramine, you’ll need a filter to eliminate it. If you have hard tap water, you’ll have to filter it too, but this doesn’t guarantee that its harmful ions will be removed, so opt for a different water type.
It’s easy to see that hydroponics is a fantastic way to start your own garden, especially if you have no outdoor garden to speak of and want to save money on things like soil and fertilizer.
In this article, we’ve given you information about what hydroponics systems are about as well as their benefits.
We’ve also provided two methods you can use to set up your own DIY hydroponics garden.
It might be a good idea to try your hand at hydroponics gardening with the first method and then, when your plants grow well, you can try the second, slightly more difficult, method.