How To Build A Hydroponic Garden

Milosh Potikj | May 11, 2023

How To Build A Hydroponic Garden

If you're looking to grow plants without soil and maximize space utilization, hydroponics is the way to go. Building a hydroponic garden allows you to cultivate a wide variety of crops efficiently and effectively, whether you have limited outdoor space or want to grow plants indoors. By harnessing water-based nutrient solutions, hydroponics offers a controlled environment for plants to thrive.

Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening

Hydroponic gardening has steadily gained popularity over the years due to its numerous advantages over traditional gardening methods. One of the key benefits of hydroponic gardening is that it allows for increased plant growth and yields. This is because plants grown hydroponically are provided with nutrient-rich water that is delivered directly to their roots, resulting in healthier and more vigorous growth.

Another way that hydroponic systems are contributing to solving social and environmental problems is by providing fresh produce in food deserts. Food deserts are areas where fresh, healthy produce is difficult to access, and this can lead to poor nutrition and health outcomes. Hydroponics provides a way for communities to grow their own fresh produce, which can help to address this problem.

Materials Needed for Building a Hydroponic Garden

Before learning how to build a hydroponic garden, it is important to know about the essential materials needed to start your project. Some of the basic materials include plastic containers, PVC pipes, grow lights, air pumps, nutrient solutions, and water reservoirs. In this article, we’ll delve into each required material, its functions, and how to utilize them effectively in building a hydroponic garden. So, let's get started!

Water Level Meter

A water level meter is an essential tool for anyone engaging in hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic gardening involves growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water instead. To ensure that the plants receive the necessary nutrients, it is important to maintain a consistent water level in your hydroponic system. Failure to do so may result in inadequate watering or overwatering, which can lead to unhealthy and stunted plants.

Using a water level meter is an effective way of monitoring the water level in your hydroponic system. A water level meter is a simple tool that allows you to measure the current water level in your system, making it easier to maintain the optimal water level. You simply stick the meter into the water reservoir and read the measurements

Air Pump

When it comes to hydroponic gardening, one of the key components that play a crucial role in ensuring healthy plant growth is the air pump. An air pump helps to increase the amount of oxygen dissolved in the nutrient-rich water, which is essential for the growth of healthy plants.

One of the primary reasons why an air pump is important in a hydroponic garden is that it provides aeration for the plant roots. Without proper aeration, the roots may suffocate and rot, resulting in stunted growth or the death of the plant.

Another important benefit of an air pump is that it helps to boost the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. This is important because plants need oxygen to metabolize nutrients and grow. When there is little or no dissolved oxygen, the plant's root system cannot function effectively, resulting in poor plant growth.

Submersible Pump

One of the essential components of a hydroponic garden is a submersible pump. This pump sits within your water reservoir, drawing water and distributing it through your PVC piping system or spout. To ensure that your pump performs effectively, it's important to select the right type of submersible pump for your hydroponic garden.

When selecting a submersible pump, you must consider the capacity of your water reservoir, the water flow rate you desire, and the depth at which the pump must operate. Your water reservoir capacity will determine the power of the pump you need. If you have a larger water reservoir, you'll need a stronger pump to move the water.

Nutrient-Rich Water Solution

With hydroponic gardening, a nutrient-rich water solution is crucial for healthy and robust plant growth. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare the perfect nutrient solution for your hydroponic garden.

  1. Test Water pH and Electrical Conductivity: Before preparing the nutrient solution, you should test the water source for its pH and electrical conductivity (EC). This information is essential as it will help you determine the appropriate nutrient levels.
  2. Adjust pH Levels: To ensure that your nutrient solution is balanced, adjust the pH levels according to the test results. Acidifiers like sulfuric, nitric, citric, or phosphoric acid can be used to lower the pH. On the other hand, hydroponic-approved base solutions or household baking soda can be used to increase it.
  3. Avoid Using Rainwater: Although rainwater is a natural water source, it is not recommended for hydroponic gardening due to its high risk of harboring harmful bacteria and parasites.
  4. Add Hydroponic Liquid Fertilizers: Next, add hydroponic liquid fertilizers to complete the nutrient solution. These fertilizers are readily available in hydroponic stores and online. Ensure you follow the manufacturer's instructions and account for the size of your water reservoir.
  5. Mix the Nutrient Solution: Mix the nutrient solution thoroughly to ensure an even distribution of nutrients. The solution should be well-aerated and oxygenated, vital for healthy plant growth. 

Plastic Containers or Pots

When it comes to hydroponic gardening, choosing the right container or pot is crucial for the healthy growth of your plants. There are various types of plastic containers or pots that are suitable for hydroponic gardening. Let's take a closer look at what to consider when choosing the containers for your hydroponic garden.

Firstly, the container should be made of opaque plastic to ensure that the roots of your plants are protected from light. Exposure to light can lead to the growth of algae or other harmful microorganisms that can affect the health of your plants. Therefore, choosing opaque containers is very important.

Secondly, the containers should be deep enough to accommodate the root systems of your plants. The roots need enough space to grow and develop properly. Using shallow containers can limit the growth potential of your plants and may even lead to stunted growth.

Grow Light (optional)

If you're starting a hydroponic garden, investing in a grow light can be one of the best decisions you make. When using hydroponic systems, plants need a consistent source of light in order to grow properly, and a grow light can provide that.

  1. Types of Bulbs: When it comes to hydroponic gardening, there are two main types of light bulbs you'll want to consider - LED and fluorescent lights. Fluorescent bulbs are a more affordable option and work well for smaller plants like herbs and greens. LED lights, on the other hand, are a bit more expensive but last longer and are more energy-efficient. 
  2. Configuration: There are a variety of configurations to choose from when it comes to grow lights. Freestanding lights are the most popular and can be placed anywhere in the room. Wall-mounted lights are ideal for those with limited space. Hanging lights hang over the plants and can be adjusted as the plants grow.
  3. Light Schedule: It's important to maintain a consistent light schedule when using a grow light in your hydroponic garden. Most plants need between 15 to 20 hours of light each day to grow properly. The best way to ensure you're providing adequate light is to set a timer to turn your grow light on and off at the same time each day.

Pipes (optional)

Using a piping system for hydroponic gardening is a great way to provide an organized and efficient way to grow healthy plants. If you decide to use pipes for your hydroponic system, be sure to use elbows, tees, and a water pump to help circulate the nutrient-enriched water.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Hydroponic Garden

Whether you are an experienced hydroponic grower or a gardening enthusiast looking to try something new, building a hydroponic garden can be a fun and rewarding project with a little know-how and a few basic supplies.

Fill the Reservoir with Fresh Water

When it comes to hydroponic gardening, filling the reservoir with clean, fresh water is a crucial step in ensuring the healthy growth of your plants. Hydroponic plants rely on a nutrient-rich water solution to thrive, and using water that is free from contaminants can prevent damage and diseases from affecting your plants.

Regularly monitoring and adjusting the water quality in your hydroponic system is also essential. Adding tap water to your reservoir as needed can help maintain the proper balance of nutrients, and prevent any potential issues that may arise from stagnant water.

To fill the reservoir with fresh water, start by emptying any old or stagnant water and flushing the system thoroughly with fresh water. Once the system is clean and ready, simply fill the reservoir with the recommended gallon of water based on the size of your container.

Place the Containers/Pots in the Reservoir

One of the key components of building a hydroponic garden is properly placing your plastic containers or pots in the water reservoir. This is essential for ensuring the healthy growth of your plants, as they rely on nutrient-rich water to thrive. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose the right size containers: Before placing your containers or pots in the reservoir, make sure they are the correct size to fit into the space without overcrowding. This is important, as too many containers can affect the water circulation and quality. Leave ample space to fit the water pump.
  2. Prepare the containers: When you’re ready to place the containers, fill each one with some peat moss to provide support for the roots of your plants. This will help give them a stable base to grow from and ensure they have the hydroponic nutrients they need.
  3. Carefully place the containers: Once you have your containers filled and ready to go, carefully place them into the reservoir. Make sure they are stable and secure so that they don't tip over or move around too much.

Drill Holes in the Bottom of Each Container/Pot

When setting up your hydroponic garden, one crucial step is to drill holes in the bottom of each container/pot. This allows for proper drainage and aeration of your plant's roots. Here's how to do it:

  • The number of holes to drill on the bottom of each container/pot depends on the size of your plants. Generally, smaller plants would require about 1-2 holes, and larger plants may need up to 4 holes. Ensure that the holes are evenly spaced out to avoid overcrowding.
  • You will need a power drill and drill bits suitable for the size of holes you need. You will also need an appropriate container/pot and growing medium. Before drilling the holes, ensure that the hydroponic growing medium is slightly packed into each container/pot.
  • Using the drill bits, carefully drill holes at the bottom of the container/pot. Be careful not to drill too many holes too close to each other or too close to the edges. The holes need to be big enough to allow proper drainage and aeration for the roots but not too big that the growing medium falls out.
  • After drilling the holes, check that there is proper drainage by filling the container/pot with adequate water. Ensure that the water drains out without any obstructions, indicating that the holes are of the appropriate size and spacing.

Add Peat Moss to Each Container/Pot

When setting up a hydroponic garden, one of the important steps is to add a growing medium to the containers or pots before planting any seeds or seedlings. Peat moss is a popular choice among hydroponic growers due to its ability to retain moisture and provide essential nutrients to plants.

To add peat moss to each container or pot, start by pouring a small amount of the growing medium into each container. Aim to fill about one-third of the space, leaving enough room for the roots and nutrient-rich water.

Next, gently press down on the peat moss to even it out. However, make sure not to compact it too tightly as it can prevent water and oxygen from reaching the roots. A light press down should be enough to ensure the peat moss stays in place.

Tips For Maintaining Your Hydroponic Garden

Hydroponic gardening is an innovative growing technique that enables gardeners to grow plants using water and nutrient-rich solutions, rather than soil. Although this method is quite different from traditional gardening, with some expertise and practice, anyone can learn to maintain a hydroponic garden efficiently. Here are some tips from experts on how to keep your hydroponic garden thriving:

  • One of the most critical aspects of maintaining a hydroponic garden is ensuring that the water is clean and nutrient-rich. Therefore, it is essential to change out the water in the reservoir regularly – at least once every two weeks, but some plants may need more or less frequent changes.
  • Measuring the pH and electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution helps you maintain optimal plant growth by ensuring that the nutrient-enriched water is at the right levels. You can use sensors like a pH pen or a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter to check the nutrient concentration and electrical conductivity regularly.
  • Researching and gathering information about hydroponic gardening from reputable sources can save you time, money, and hassle. Also, knowing the specific nutrients that your plants need will help you avoid nutrient deficiencies, which can cause slower growth or even plant death.
  • Understanding the relationship between the plant's needs and the nutrient-enriched water is crucial for plant growth. Plants need a balance of macronutrients, micronutrients, and trace elements for optimal development. Ensure that you adjust the nutrient solution accordingly.
  • If you are new to hydroponic gardening, it is best to start with a small and inexpensive system to learn the basics, such as nutrient management, pH, and water quality. This system is also ideal for learning about different plant types, their ideal growing conditions, and the different hydroponic systems available.

Applying these tips from experts, including changing the water regularly, taking sensor readings, gathering information from reliable sources, building a small and inexpensive hydroponic garden, and regular maintenance, will help you to keep your plants healthy and thriving.