Everywhere you look, it seems as if the hydroponic movement is taking agriculture by storm. From young to old, businessman to housewife, people are looking to expand their knowledge of and experience with agriculture in a way that is manageable and convenient.
What is the hydroponic movement?
Hydroponics is the art of growing vegetation and fish without the use of dirt, but rather the use of a nutrient-dense water solution. Hydroponics is a more efficient way of growing food—food tastes better, you can monitor what is used to grow your food, and you leave less of a carbon footprint with your operation. Hydroponic operations use less space, which is great for those of us who don’t have extensive backyards to transform. These simple steps will hopefully get you up and running, or at the very least give you more information about what options you have available to you and how you can make a tidy side income with mastery of this skill.
Step 1: Assemble your supplies and secure a growing space
This step is elementary but essential. Starting out with the right materials will ensure that you don’t waste valuable time and money trying to get your system off the ground. Some basic materials you’ll need include:
- Opaque container that can hold water
- Mesh pots
- Growing solution
- Aquarium air pump
- Air stones and air hose
- Syringe for precise measurements
- Razor knife, pencil, compass for construction
With a few simple steps, you’ll have a growing environment that is ripe with potential.
Step 2: Plant your pots
Before you put anything in your pots to grow, you must set up your growing environment. Creating a space for your pot to fit snugly in while it soaks up growth solution and water is an essential step; finding a Rubbermaid tote with a lid might work nicely as you start small and think about expanding. Trace and cut holes in the top of the tote lid, and make sure pots fit snugly in each opening. Soon you’ll be ready to fill and start growing.
Step 3: Aerate your “soil”
Using the airstones and the airline, run these items across the bottom of your tote, making sure that the opening that you choose to thread the airline through is sealed around the hose. It is essential to keep both rainwater and sunlight out, as this can damage the delicate balance of hydronutrients you’ll be trying to create in the water.
Connect your airstones to your airline and hook up to your aquarium pump.
Step 4: Sterilize your environment
Fill your clean, debris-free container with water. Fill to the brim and then add 1 Tablespoon of chlorine bleach. Begin the aeration system as you immerse your pots in the solution to create a fully sterile environment as preparation for adding your vegetation. After about 20-30 minutes of aeration, dispose of all of the water and allow the pots and container to air dry completely.
Step 5: First fill
Follow the directions on your nutrient solution bottle to the letter. Fill your container with a second volume of water, add the correct volume of nutrient solution, and begin aerating your system once more. You should make sure that before this first fill that you have placed your garden where you need to be, for it will be very difficult to remove after you have filled the container with water.
Step 6: Introduction of plants and prepping medium
When first starting out, it is recommended that you purchase plants that have already been started, as this is easier to maintain. Use rockwool with caution, as it is made from fiberglass; if possible, use a mask and gloves when handling this substance.
For every pot, you plan to grow, scoop out one potful of growing medium (rockwool). Place it into a large bucket and measure out the gallons of water used to completely submerge all of it. Measure off the appropriate amount of nutrient solution needed for that amount of water used, and completely soak the medium.
While the medium is soaking, wash your plants and clean off all dirt and debris. As you place each plant in its own pot, surround the root system with growing medium, doing the same thing for each subsequent plant. Place plants in the lid and submerge in your aerated water.
Step 7: Maintain your system
At this point, your job becomes maintaining your plants by replacing your nutrient solution every two weeks and monitoring fluid levels in case your solution/water balance becomes toxic.
With a little persistence and some practice, it will soon become easy to sustain your hydroponic environment and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Thanks to the growing network of people dipping their hydroponic toes in nutrient solution these days, it is easier than ever to connect with a network of local growers for tips and tricks on setting up, maintaining, and expanding your system. AgriLabour Darwin is a great resource for finding out more about obtaining supplies, getting started, and even expanding your individual system into a commercial opportunity. Get excited about the prospect of becoming self-sufficient as you learn how to work with nature’s bounty to increase your own. Best of luck to you in all of your hydroponic adventures!