Gardening is a fun, satisfying, and sometimes profitable activity. Unfortunately, it has such a limited window of time to perform in any given year. From spring to summer to fall, you’re at the mercy of the weather, sun, soil, and seasons. When autumn arrives, that’s it. It’s time to gather your harvest and wait for the coming year. But if the thought of fresh, year-round produce appeals to you, it’s time to look into hydroponics. Hydroponics involves growing a garden without the unpleasantness of sweat, sunburns, and dirt under your fingernails. Here’s a selection of hydroponic gardening tips for beginners to help you explore this fascinating and satisfying hobby.
What Is Hydroponics?
The thing that makes hydroponics different from traditional gardening is all in the name. Hydro, of course, means water—and that, rather than soil, is the main medium for your indoor garden. You have a number of hydroponics systems to choose from, but they all deliver food and water to plants through a nutrient-rich solution. Hydroponics is gentler on the Earth because hydroponic gardens don’t take up much space, don’t leech nutrition from the soil, and conserve water by being self-contained systems. Grown properly, hydroponic gardens can also produce more crops than land-based gardens, and they’re great for bringing fresh air and natural beauty indoors all year long.
Pick a Crop
Your first course of action should be to decide on what to grow. Basic crops for beginners include peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs, and assorted greens (spinach, arugula, and endive are popular, and they grow quickly). Pick one and go from there. As you learn more, you’ll want to expand your crops as you build onto your system. And speaking of systems…
A Happy Medium
When you’re considering hydroponic gardening tips for beginners, decide on the proper medium for your garden. All hydroponics systems operate on the delivery of water and food. They’re also consistent in providing a suspension medium that holds up plants and allows their roots to reach the nutrient solution. Suspension media include clay pebbles, perlite (a mineral sourced from volcanic rock), coco coir (fibers from coconut shells), and rockwool (spun from basaltic rock).
All Systems Go!
Several hydroponics gardening systems are available, from the very simple to the more complex. Though they share several features, not all systems work the same way. Start out with a wick-based system, in which plants receive their food and water through a nylon or cotton rope running between the media and a reservoir receptacle. The reservoir, in turn, is connected to a larger tank filled with the solution. No electricity or plumbing is involved since it’s all gravity powered. A wick system is an easy way to start out, and most setups are inexpensive, but know that the cost goes up with larger and more elaborate systems. They take up more room as well. But after that first bite of straight-to-your-table produce, you might consider it all worthwhile!