There is a little more that goes into the planning portion of your hydroponic garden compared to the traditional soil garden. A little pre-planning and time spent up front can mean less of a chance of hiccup during your grow. Here’s how to start a hydroponic garden in 7 steps.
1. Decide What To Grow
The first thing you should do when starting a hydroponic garden is deciding what type of plants you’re looking to grow. This decision will help determine what type of hydroponic system you should use, the lighting, and the amount of space you will need. Different hydroponic systems work better than others for different plants.
If it’s your first time growing using hydroponics, I would recommend starting with a leafy green like lettuce. Different plants grow better in different environments so research the variety of plant that you’re looking to grow so you can best recreate that environment.
2. Decide On Your Hydroponic System
Before starting a hydroponic garden you will need to choose your hydroponic system. There are many choices when it comes to purchasing a hydroponic system. There are several different types of hydroponic systems to choose from.
A few factors will go into choosing the best system for your garden. The amount of space you have, type of plants you’re growing, your budget, and the amount you want to grow all factor into the choice of a hydroponics system.
3. Choose A Light Source
Proper lighting is going to be a major factor in the success of your garden. If you’re not using the sun as your light source, then you will need to choose grow lights for your hydroponic system. There are some considerations when choosing the best light for your system as there are different types of lights that have their advantages and disadvantages.
Do your research to find what light setup will work best for your hydroponic garden. Some things you will want to consider when choosing a hydroponic grow light are cost, light intensity, the light spectrum, and the coverage area. If you want to grow quality produce I suggest not going the cheapest route on your lighting.
4. Choose A Hydroponic Grow Medium
When planning your hydroponic garden you will have to determine what type of grow medium will work best with your system. The type of grow medium you should use depends on what you’re growing and what type of system you’re using. There are several types of grow mediums offering different advantages. Some things to consider when choosing a grow medium will be cost, water retention, aeration levels and pH stability.
5. Purchase Hydroponic Nutrients & Additives
There many different types of nutrients that come in 1, 2, and 3 part systems. For beginners to starting a hydroponic garden, I would recommend a 1 part nutrient solution such as Dyna–Gro Grow and Dyna–Gro Bloom. If you have a good understanding of a plant’s nutrient needs, General Hydroponics makes a great 3 part series. Many companies provide general feeding schedules on their website as a guide.
There are many additives that will assist in the sterilization of your system, the growth rate of your plant, the taste, and the general size of your plants. Think of them as vitamins to plants. While they are not necessary, they can give your plant that extra boost to produce at the highest level.
6. Purchase A pH Meter & pH Up/Down
Plants can only take in nutrients within a specific pH range. You will need to purchase a pH meter to regularly test the pH of your nutrient solutions. There are a few different options when it comes to measuring the pH. You can get a liquid kit, test strips, or an electronic meter. I prefer to use electronic meters. They are pretty inexpensive on the internet and also the most convenient.
You should also purchase a pH up and a pH down to adjust the pH of your nutrient solution. In my experience, you will use pH down more often then pH up. I typically purchase a larger bottle of pH down and a small bottle of pH up to adjust in case I overcorrect.
7. Start Your Seeds
Once you get your system set up and have purchased all your supplies it’s time to start the seeds. It’s important to have everything in order before starting your seeds, in case you run into delays with your set up. To start my seeds, I prefer to use rapid rooter and place them in a greenhouse dome. Plants can be left in the grow tray until they form a good root system and are a few inches tall. At this point, they are ready to be transplanted into your hydroponic system.