Why grow hydro?

Hydroponic gardening simply means growing plants without the use of soil.  Hydroponic gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening including, bigger and more frequent harvests, no day-to-day maintenance, precise control over growing conditions, fewer bugs, it saves water and both you and your plants stay dirt free.  However, the best reason to grow hydroponically is because it is awesome.  I am still amazed that it works so well!  

Some disadvantages include the cost, labor, initial set up time.  I can tell you that the pros outweigh the cons which is I like it so much.  But don't take my word for it, many Big Hydroponic farms have sprung up around the country.  Most of you have only heard of hydroponics because of hydroponically grown marijuana or "hydro".  Do you really think those pot heads would go though that much effort if it wasn't a great method of growing plants?

How does it work?

All plants grow by combining water, nutrients and carbon dioxide into usable proteins and sugars.  If I can remember back to third grade, plants use the power of the sun to photosynthesize these products.  As you may have noticed, there is no requirement for soil for plants to grow.  As long as plants gets adequate nutrients, water, gas exchange and light they will grow.

All hydroponic systems deliver the water and nutrients in the form of a nutrient solution.  The basic nutrients a plant needs are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Most fertilizers will display the amount of these 3 macronutrients in a form like "12-8-10".  This means 12% nitrogen, 8% phosphorus and 10% potassium, the rest of the fertilizer is less than 1% micro nutrients (boron, magnesium, copper ect) and water.  Care must be taken to add the right amount of nutrients.  In the soil, components are broken down slowly giving the plant the right amount of nutrients.  In a hydroponic system we can add the exact amount of nutrients a plant needs to grow at its maximum, but more is NOT always better.  Adding too much fertilizer can give a plant "nutrient burn" or even kill it.

Soil allows the roots of plants to exchange gasses like oxygen and carbon dioxide.  This is why having lots of earthworms is a good thing, they help aerate the soil.  With hydroponics, access to air must be provided to roots and many clever systems have been created to do this.  The general rule is that the better gas exchange and access to nutrients the faster the plants will grow.

There are a couple of types of hydroponic systems each has it advantages and disadvantages:


Deep Water Culture

This is the simplest method of growing hydroponically and i have used it a few times.  All you do is fill up a container with nutrient solution and place some airstones in the container to aerate the water.

Pros : Easy to set up, inexpensive, low-maintenance, don't need substrate, can survive through power outage

Cons: Plants don't grow that fast, can be difficult to change the water without harming the roots, hard to scale up

Drip System


Drip systems are what you might think they are.  A plant is placed into inert growing media like pearlite or expanded clay pellets and a small hose continuously drips nutrient solution onto the roots of the plants.

Pros : Still pretty easy, plants grow faster than Deep Water Culture, easy to scale up

Cons: Lines can clog, need grow substrate, susceptible to power outages

Nutrient Film


In a Nutrient Film systems, roots grow in a film of nutrient solution so that to always have access to both nutrients and air.  In this system great growth can be obtained.

Pros : Easy to set up, easy to scale, great plant growth, nothing to clog or break, easy to maintain, relatively quiet

Cons: Can only scale up to a limit, if the power goes out everything dies



Aeroponics systems spray the nutrient solution directly on the suspend plant roots.  This provides maximal nutrient and gas exchange leading to great plant growth.

Pros : Tremendous plant growth

Cons: Expensive, loud, takes lots of electricity to run, many parts to clog, if the power goes out everything dies

How to Make the Most Awesome Hydroponic System

The ideal hydroponic system borrows different elements from the above systems to create a system has every property one could want.  The most awesome hydroponic system is easy to build and maintain, is quite, uses very little electricity, can be expanded to whatever size you want, will survive for days during a power outage and allows for great plant growth.  The materials and step- by-step instruction are below.  You will need some nails, some small screws, a saw, a soldiering iron, power drill and hot glue gun in addition to the consumable items below.