Hydroponic farming is a fantastic way to cultivate plants because it does not require soil. This type of cultivation allows us to manipulate the growing environment in such a way to maximize production and minimize the use of resources. We now have the technology to grow food anytime and anywhere in the world. Despite the advanced technology, you can also learn how to set up a hydroponics system and have a small hydroponics garden even with little space.
But, if you are like me when I first became interested in hydroponics, I was a bit confused on where to start. Of course I consulted several references and read through them but it was also a lot of information. What I want to accomplish in this post is to give you a step-by-step guide on how to set up your first hydroponics garden. There will be other posts to explain lots of things in further detail. However, this guide will give you a good place to start.
First decide on what plants you would like to grow in your system. If you are a beginner at hydroponics, then start with smaller plants that are easier to grow. Some of the easiest plants to grow are lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers.
When starting out with hydroponics, keep your expenses and initial investment at a minimum until you get some experience.
Once you have decided on plants to start with, you will need:
There are different types of germination cubes. Rock wool or Oasis germination cubes come in sheets with cubes typically being one inch to 1 1/2 inch square. The cubes have small holes in the top to drop in seeds. The sheets of cubes are first placed into the germination tray then soaked with pH neutral water. Seeds are dropped into the holes. Place the humidity dome on over the trays and set the trays on a heat mat. Trays will stay on the heat mat for 3 to 5 days until the seeds germinate.
Once the plants start to grow, the germination cubes serve as a substrate or foundation to support root growth. After several weeks, there should be a healthy root system on each plant with the roots incorporated into and through the cubes. This makes it easy to transplant into your chosen hydroponics system.
Transplant your new spouts into your chosen hydroponic system. Several factors will determine the type of system that you choose. Your budget, personal knowledge, the types of plants you want to grow, and your space requirements all factor into the type of system you want to set up.
If is valuable to familiarize yourself with the different types of hydroponics systems, as well as the advantages and disadvantages to each set up. Whatever you do, start small in the event that you run into problems. And if you happen to live off the grid like I do, you want something that requires minimal maintenance and electrical input.
If you are not using natural sunlight for your hydroponic garden, choosing the correct lighting will dramatically affect your success. There are different types of lights which all have their advantages and disadvantage.
Just as you need to understand the different types of hydroponics systems, you also need to do some research on the different types of lighting systems. Different considerations if cost, coverage area, light spectrum and intensity. If you are new to hydroponics, then LED grow lights may be your best option. They are relatively inexpensive and are good for all around use.
As with most things in hydroponics, there are lots of options. The same is true with grow medium for your hydroponics garden The basic considerations for grow medium is cost, water retention, pH stability, and aeration levels. Again, if you are a beginner, it is likely easier to start with Hydroton, which is an expanded clay pebble. Hydroton is inexpensive, easy to use, and works well with a variety of plants.
There are a variety of products offered for nutrient solutions for your hydroponics garden. These typically come in a one, two, or three part system. Basic considerations are ease of use, affordability, and quality of the product.
If you are a beginner, it will be easier to start with a simple one part solution such as Dyna Grow. However, hydroponic nutrients come in one part solutions, two part solutions, and three part solutions. They can also be purchased in dry form, which is much more affordable.
The pH of your nutrient solution is important simply because plants can only take up nutrients in specific pH ranges. There are different options for measuring pH including test strips, kits and meters. Electronic pH meters are easy to use and inexpensive. I think they are by far the best option as you can purchase one for less that $20.
The pH Up/Down solutions are used to adjust the pH of your nutrients as needed.
After nutrient solutions are mixed, you should wait about 15 minutes then test the pH. After adjusting it according to the plants you are growing. you can add these solutions to your hydroponics garden. Depending on the type of system you have, you can run your system to make sure there are no leaks. Once that is done, set your timers and you are ready to go.
Starting a hydroponics garden is truly very easy. You just have to plan things out and do your homework in order to maximize your success. Fortunately, there are enough variations in the types of systems that there is something for everyone.
When you are ready, move onto my next post on Hydroponics Part III.
Go off grid and live well,
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