nft hydroponic systems

How To Start A Hydroponic Garden In 7 Steps

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So you’ve decided that you want to start a hydroponic garden, but where do you begin? There are several components that make a hydroponic garden work. I’ll walk you through the steps of starting your hydroponic garden and have included more in-depth information in the links below.

7 Steps to starting a hydroponic garden

1. Choosing Plants And Starting Your Seeds

The first thing to starting a hydroponic garden is to decide 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/setups work better than others for some plants.

If it’s your first time growing using hydroponics, I would recommend starting with a leafy green like lettuce. To learn more, you can check out the article I put together on how to grow hydroponic lettuce.

I suggest using rapid rooter cubes to germinate your seeds. I believe the plugs make the process of starting your hydroponic garden easier by increasing your germination rates and the plugs really promote a healthy root system. You should use a heat mat to keep the seeds warm.

After several weeks of growth, when the plant has a healthy root system, it will be time to transplant them into your system.

Step 2. Decide On Your Hydroponic System

The next step to starting your hydroponic garden is choosing your hydroponic system. There are several different types of hydroponic systems to choose from so take some time to learn a little bit about each method.

A few factors will go into choosing the best hydroponic 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. I recommend starting small, there’s always time to expand in the future. When learning, too many plants can be overwhelming, especially if you end up running into issues.

3. Choose A Light Source

Proper lighting is going to be a major factor in the success of your hydroponic garden. If you’re not using the sun as your light source, then you will need to choose a grow light 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.

If you’re at a loss on what type of grow light to go with when starting your hydroponic garden, I suggest a full spectrum LED grow light. They are relatively cheap, can grow both leafy greens and plants that fruit, and are all around efficient. Check out this review of the 300 watt Marshydro LED grow light, it was one of my first grow lights and I’ve leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and more. It’s been 4 years and still going strong. *Dont forget a timer!

4. Choose A Hydroponic Grow Medium

When starting your hydroponic garden you will have to determine what type of grow medium you want and what will work best with your system. The type of grow medium you should use depends on the types of plants you’ll be growing and what type of hydroponic 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. If in doubt, I would recommend hydroton expanded clay pebbles. They’re versatile, working well for many different types of plants and systems.

5. Purchase Hydroponic Nutrients & Additives

There many different types of nutrients that come in 1, 2, and 3 part systems. For beginners in starting a hydroponic garden, I would recommend a 1 part nutrient solution such as DynaGro Grow for vegetative growth and DynaGro flowering & blooming. If you have a good understanding of a plant’s nutrient needs, General Hydroponics makes a great 3 part nutrient solution called the Flora 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 for plants. While they are not necessary, they can give your plant that extra boost to produce at the best it can.

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 one more than the other, so just purchase a small amount of each to start with. It’s good to always have some available so you can correct any dips or spikes before nutrient lockout occurs.

7. Mix & Add Nutrients, Start your system

The last step of starting your hydroponic garden is to get everything going. You will need to put water in your system and let it run to make sure everything is working properly. This is an important step as you want to catch and leaks as soon as possible. If everything is working properly mix your nutrients, wait 15 minutes and test the pH. You will need to adjust the pH of the nutrient solution and adjust it accordingly. Next, add your plants to the system and set your grow light timer to the duration of light needed for the plants your growing.


Starting your own hydroponic garden is easy. The key is planning things out. Spending some time up front planning out your hydroponic garden saves you both time and money in the long run.

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