- 1 Hydroponic Gardening: What Is It?
- 2 Hydroponic Gardening: How Does It Work?
Don’t want to deal with soil mess? Have you ever tried starting a garden indoors? There may be a limitation on the amount of space in which you can grow plants, so you need to find out how to maximize your space. There is no better way to grow plants without soil than hydroponic gardening.
Growing vegetables without soil indoors is most easily accomplished with hydroponic gardening. A hydroponic system is one in which plants receive all the nutrients they require directly from the water. A growing medium, such as pebbles, is used to hold the hydroponic plants upright instead of soil. For the plants to grow, the water is enriched with nutrients and occasionally oxygen. For hydroponic farming to work, plants still need light, so a sunny windowsill or grow light is necessary.
Indoor gardening allows you to have fresh produce all year long, regardless of the weather. This guide explains how you can grow vegetables indoors without soil. Before we go over setting up a hydroponic system, let’s understand what hydroponic growing is.
Hydroponic Gardening: What Is It?
Hydroponics is derived from the Greek words “hydro,” meaning water and “ponos,” meaning labor. Unlike traditional gardening, which grows plants in soil, hydroponic gardening grows plants in clean water without soil.
Growing plants without soil may seem impossible at first. In hydroponics, plants grow bigger, faster, and more robust than soil gardening, which is even more perplexing. Hydroponics, however, has existed for a long time.
What Plants Need
Growing plants and farming is most commonly done using soil. Most people grow vegetables by planting seeds or seedlings in soil, adding nutrient-enriched water, and waiting for them to grow. Plants can thrive without soil, but we must understand what soil provides for them to accomplish this.
Plants need soil for two main reasons:
- hold the plant upright as the plant grows taller; otherwise, the plant falls
- provide nutrients that the plant needs to grow
If we do not intend to use soil, we must provide nutrients and a means of growing taller without falling over. Water is the core principle behind hydroponics, as we grow plants with it. Nevertheless, we still need to provide the plants with nutrients and a growing medium.
Hydroponic Gardening: How Does It Work?
A hydroponic system consists of growing plants in running or stationary water rather than in soil. Just as a plant in soil requires light, nutrients, and support as it grows tall, so does a plant in soil.
In our hydroponic setup, we germinated seeds into seedlings using:
- A container filled with water
- A net cup for holding the growing medium and seeds
- Growing medium for holding the plants upright
- A grow light (LED light) for providing plenty of light
Hydroponic systems provide plants with everything they require to grow and thrive. Imagine watching a seed sprout into a seedling. The system is straightforward as it is mostly just a glass jar with water that encourages seeds to grow into seedlings. Let’s discuss how to grow hydroponic vegetables without soil indoors.
It is possible to plant most vegetables and fruits in a hydroponic system. We’ve compiled a list of recommended plants for one of the standard hydroponic methods, so you don’t need to tread water to harvest the fruits of the earth.
Moreover, hydroponic systems can also be mobile, which means you can move from one place to another with ease. To grow vegetables indoors with hydroponic gardening, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Grow light. Growing plants still need direct sunlight as the primary source of light. For vegetables to propagate, they need at least six hours of light each day. Growing your plants on windowsills is the best way to germinate seeds. Use grow lights if you can’t meet this requirement.
- Micro and macronutrients. Liquid hydroponic nutrients in pre-mixed bottles are readily available on the market now. Nutrients are also available in dry form, which is typically more cost-effective per pound. However, baking and testing are required before use in hydroponic systems.
- Net pots. The bottoms of these pots contain slits or holes that allow plant roots to grow. It’s possible to make net pots by cutting holes into plastic cups with the bottoms open so that water flows past the roots.
- Substrate or Medium. You can replace the soil with substrates such as coco coir, gravel, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. The other alternative is Rockwool and hydroton, which is a clay aggregate expanded in a specific way. As these substrates provide no nutrients to the plants, you still need dissolved nutrients in the water.
- Water. Use a chemical-free water source and avoid chlorine when watering your plants. The best water to use is mineral water or spring water. You can add nutrients to the water that has been filtered or undergone reverse osmosis in either case.
- pH meter. To ensure your mineral nutrient solution is neutral, it should have a pH value between 5 and 7. pH levels between 5.5 and 6 are ideal for absorbing nutrient-rich water by most plants. Your plants will not be able to absorb all the nutrients if your water is too alkaline (pH 8 to 14) or too acidic (pH 0 to 5).
Besides the above items, there are other tools that you can use for your setups, like a water pump or air stone, but those above are the essentials for any hydroponic setup.
Easiest DIY Hydroponic Methods
The Kratky Method and the Wick System are the two easiest DIY hydroponic methods for growing plants indoors. These two systems do not require any air pump or water pump to operate so that plants can be grown without electricity. The advantage of this is that you can move the plants around on windowsills very quickly. In addition, these systems are more affordable to set up as they don’t require electrical pumps.
Kratky Method System
A Kratky system is an easy way to start hydroponics since it’s the most straightforward to set up. You can just set it and forget it by using this method. Roots of the plant are directly in contact with water through the Kratky Method.
When using the Kratky system, water is let into the plant, resulting in a gradual decrease in water level. With each successive descent into the water, you will expose more roots to the air. As opposed to air pumps and air stones, this is the way the plants get the oxygen they need in the Kratky system.
The method is entirely hands-off as long as your water container is big enough for the plant you are growing.
When growing a tomato plant, you need to refill a mason jar almost daily so that it can grow to maturity. Despite this, cilantro can thrive without additional water in a small mason jar, even from seed to maturity.
DIYers can grow plants using hydroponics. Reuse things you already have around the house to keep costs low. The following items are needed to set up a Kratky system:
- Growing medium
- Hydroponic solution
- Indoor grow lights (unless the plant is in a sunny location)
- Net pots
- Water reservoir (could be a mason jar, bucket, etc.)
- pH test kits
Vegetable Growing Tips in Kratky Method
Here are a few guidelines to remember when it comes to growing vegetables in a Kratky hydroponic system:
- An herb plant can grow well in mason jars.
- Ensure that the water container is not filled more than half or two-thirds full of water to prevent drowning.
- If you notice algae growth, cover your water container with aluminum foil or use a black container.
- Selected containers should allow for full-grown plants.
- You can add more water if your nutrient water has a high PPM level.
- You can use buckets to grow large plants.
- You should add more nutrient water if the level of water drops and your plant isn’t finished growing.
Another straightforward system is the wick system, which does not need any electric pumps. Wick systems generally consist of a water reservoir above a growing area, separated by a wick.
A wick system pulls water up from a reservoir through capillary action with wicks, such as cotton rope. The roots of the plant pull up water and nutrients as they grow.
Plants of different growth cycles can be grown in the same grow tray using the wick system. A mature plant pulls up more water than a seedling because it needs more water to grow.
The downside of the wick system is that it limits what kind of plants you can grow. Tomato plants don’t do well in wick systems because they need more water than the rope can provide. Despite its effectiveness, capillary action is not very fast. In this system, plants such as fresh herbs and lettuce grow quickly and do not need water.
Grow Vegetables Indoors Without Soil
The cultivation of plants indoors without soil, also known as hydroponics, is an efficient and effective method of growing vegetables. Having fresh produce year-round means, you can grow, harvest, and eat it whenever you want.
An inexpensive and easy way to begin hydroponic gardening is to grow leafy greens on a windowsill. Moreover, growing plants without soil is a more accessible and less messy method of growing and harvesting vegetables.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to get started with hydroponics. There are several ways to grow hydroponically, but the Kratky and Wick Systems are the easiest. It is possible to expand to other hydroponic systems as each hydroponic system has its pros and cons. build a hydroponic garden indoors no matter what the season is, so you will have an opportunity to see how it works.