Growing your own food and specifically, your own produce, is a great way to feel independent, save money, and learn a new and valuable skill in the process. However, if you’re living in an apartment, or you don’t have access to things such as a community garden. Hydrophonics are new method of growing produce without the need for soil or an outdoor garden. They grow plants and vegetables through the use of water and nurtrients; and the benefits of this growing method are huge. Not only are they great as a solution for those who can’t garden outside, but they often yield a larger harvest, require less space in your home, and use less water than the usual gardening methods. Additionally, hydrophonic systems can be utilized year round as opposed to being at the mercy of seasons and weather.

Hydrophonics are also great for beginners, because there’s a variety of methods and systems you can use in order to grow your produce. For this article, we’ll try to stick to the basics by covering the wick method of hydrophonic growing. This is a great ways to get started growing simple greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale, or your favorite herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint. Addtionally, more complex hydrophonic systems are capable of supporting the growth of fruiting plants like tomatoes, strawberries, and hot peppers.

Materials You’ll Need

  • A drill or screwdriver.
  • A bucket or some sort of container for your water resevoir.
  • 1-2 grow lights.
  • Water, distilled preferred.
  • Hydrophonic fertilizer. (Either dry or liquid will work.)
  • A cotton based or nylon cord.
  • A growing medium.
  • A seedling area.
  • A growing tray.

Instructions: Starting your First Grow!

We’re going to begin by introducing the wick system, which is the simplest system for beginners to use as it requires no moving parts or electric components. While the Wick system is great for growing and harvesting things like microgreens, herbs, and peppers; this system will struggle with water hungry plants like lettuce and tomatoes. Additionally, they may use up the majority of the nutrients released by your wick system which can cause wilting and death in other crops if they don’t receive the nutrients they require.

Creating your Wick System

  1. To begin, you’ll need to set up your water resevoir. This is where your water and nutrients will be held. Set your reservoir directly beneath the tray that will be holding your plants and the growing medium as well.
  2. From there, you’ll begin the process of preparing your growing tray. Begin by using your drill or screwdrivers to make holes in the bottom of your tray. Then, insert one or two wicks inside the holes in the bottom of your growing tray. Your wicks will feed your plans by soaking up water from your reservoir, which then draws up into your wicks into the growing medium of your tray.
  3. After this, you’ll take your growing medium. Plant your seedling inside of the medium, then set it above your water reservoir. Make sure your medium doesn’t drain too quickly, and be sure to utilize a capiliary for your wick which will be effective. Often times, vermiculite, perlite, or a wide variety of soilless mixes found in most hardware stores will do the trick.
  4. Next, you’ll begin setting up your grow lights or the lighting fixture you’ve chosen to use. Place it above your growing tray. If you’re using incandescent light bulbs, it’s recommended to set your lighting fixture 24 inches, or two feet from your plants. Given LED lights, as well as fluorescents do not burn as hot, you can place them 6 or 12 inches respectively from the growing tray. Additionally. If you’ve decided to use natural light and have a large enough window or source, you won’t need a lighting fixture; however this is simply up to the growers preference.

After Installation

Once you’ve finished setting up your wick system, you’ll need to remember to do daily maintance for it as well such as cleaning, replacing vermiculite, changing the nutrient water with fresh mixtures, and watching for growth. Typically, most hydrophonic systems will begin to sprout around 3 weeks, and can typically be harvested after a span of six to eight weeks, depending on the plant, your overall setup, and the light source you’re utilizing.