Hydroponics is growing plants without soil.
If you have never tried it, you heard about it and you would like to try it, then this article is for you.
There is an abundance of information about hydroponics on the web but it’s not easy to find out what you need since plenty of it is actually not useful for the hobby gardener but more suitable for big installations and professional horticulturists.
You often get the impression hydroponics requires a lot of specialized and very expensive material. But a hobby gardener who only wants to grow a few pot plants, veggies and fruit does not need all that material. It is only useful for professional growers.
I know, plenty of hobbyists do buy this stuff (read smalltime cannabis growers who grow a few plants in their bedroom or living room), hoping to start a profitable business. But if you grow plants on a few square meters or feet, the investment is too high to be able to make a profit.
But you are an amateur gardener (read plant nut, palm tree nut, banana nut, orchid nut, green nut…) and you want to grow a few plants in hydroponics.
My advice is: keep it simple.
What do you need to start with hydroponics?
You need 3 things to start basic hydroponics:
- a waterproof pot
- an inert substrate or growing medium
- a specialized fertilizer for hydroponics
- a water gauge (optional)
That’s it! No need for expensive material like testers, growing lights, a growing chamber or ready made containers.
1. Waterproof pot:
A waterproof pot or container, without the holes at the bottom as in pots for growing plants in soil.
The pot needs to be made of inert material: no wood or metal, preferably plastic, porcelain…
Ideally, the pot should be opaque to avoid proliferation of algae. But for a temporary use, a transparent pot will do.
In hydroponics, you typically use inert substrates that do not contain any nutrients.
Expanded clay can be found in DIY stores. The ones sold for construction are exactly the same as the ones stored for hydroponics. What’s the difference then? The price and the fact that the ones for hydroponics have been pre-washed. But you have to wash either before using them, so you might as well go for the cheaper variety.
Coco peat is found in compressed tablet form or in bags in bulk. The ones in tablet form are easier to transport and store.
3. Fertilizer for hydroponics:
Hydroponics require a specialized fertilizer as the substrates contain no or very few nutrients.
This fertilizer has to be added with every watering.
It is usually sold in specialized hydroponics shops or online.
4. Water gauge (optional):
A water gauge is necessary when using an opaque pot. It allows you to check the level of the nutrient solution and if watering is required.
In a transparent pot, you don’t need a water meter as the level is visible through the pot.
Finding a water meter is not that easy but you can build a water gauge yourself very easily and cheap.
My hydroponic plants:
These are a few of the plants I grow hydroponically.
I recently transferred a banana plant to hydroponics and it doesn’t seem to be traumatized.
Most of my orchids are in hydroponics too and they love it.
You can even sow directly in hydroponics. Big seeds like avocado pits can be planted in clay granules, smaller seed in vermiculite or coco peat.
Strelitzia reginae: I bought this one very small a few years ago. It’s healthy and growing regularly. Now if it would just flower…
Monstera deliciosa seedling. This is the most basic hydroponics configuration possible: a plastic bottle and clay aggregate. The water level can easily be checked through the pot.
Avocado in coco peat, in a subirrigation container.
You may notice some algae in the water reservoir but that’s not a huge problem. I usually wash it with vinegar before refilling and the pot is temporary, a few months at most.
Avocado in clay aggregate.
Washingtonia filifera seedlings in soil and clay aggregate.
You’re interested or intrigued? You have questions? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
- Avocado in hydroponics: Own work
- Strelitzia reginae: Own work
- Monstera deliciosa seedling: Own work
- Avocado in self-irrigating pot: Own work
- Persea americana in expanded clay granules: Own work
- Washingtonia filifera seedlings: Own work