Grow your own hydroponically. Hydroponic gardens are great for adults and kids alike, plus they are easy on the wallet and the environment. Hydroponicist and grow store expert Chad Garbet tells you how in three easy steps.

Many beginners looking to try hydroponics have—after little success and much frustration—concluded that hydroponics is too much work and too complicated. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. A well maintained hydroponic system requires less hands-on work and less hassle compared to a typical outdoor garden. Even if you don’t want to grow one complete garden from start to harvest, you can start small, experiment and maybe gain some experience for your green thumb. Gardeners tend to have a sense of adventure and the curiosity of a cat, always watching, waiting and anticipating growth. Think of your garden—no matter the size—as a giant experiment.

With just $25 to $35 you can make a simple deep water culture system. You will need:

  • A bucket with a lid
  • An air pump with ¼ inch line
  • An airstone
  • A net pot filled with grow rocks (or whatever grow medium you wish to use)

All of these items can be found at your local indoor gardening shop.

Directions:

  1. Cut or drill the bucket lid so your net pot can comfortably sit in it. A hole saw works great. If you don’t have a hole saw an X-Acto knife is a suitable alternative. Be very careful though to keep your fingers in and cut away from your body.
  2. Next, drill a hole slightly smaller than ¼ inch so your air line will go through with an airtight seal.
  3. After you feed you airline through the ¼ hole and attach the airstone, connect it to the pump and fill it with water. Make sure the airstone is letting off micro bubbles for proper aeration.

This is a basic deep water culture system. All you have to do is put your rocks (or grow medium of choice) in the net pot with your plant snuggly in the rocks and fill with water and your nutrient mix and adjust the pH to the plant’s preference.

Success is up to you

The rest of the work is maintenance, but more importantly watching your plant grow. Compare it to some soil plants that you plant at the same time and watch the difference; see how well hydroponics works and watch the plant’s root mass grow.

Change your bucket out once a week and give it a quick cleaning to prevent any root mould or mildew problems. Always make sure to maintain proper pH after you add your nutrient mix. Come back the next week and do the same thing, ensuring your roots are clean and white (any brown might indicate root rot). It’s also important to keep a diary of how much nutrient you use and anything that is off or interesting about you plant for later reference.

This little tip will save you time, water and nutrients too: buckets only need to be change once weekly, although they might have to be topped up a few times a week once they get bigger. Hydroponics can save you time and effort, and it can also save you money. Growing fruits and vegetables is fun and rewarding once you get the hang of it, and it can also save on gas and grocery bills.

The bucket system is versatile and can be placed almost anywhere as long as the air pump has a dry place above the bucket’s water level. You can even place them in ornamental pots and add them to your deck or patio. They are great for indoor gardens or greenhouses. Even a small bucket can be put in a kitchen window for herbs, or flowers as long as they get full light.

Experiments of this nature are great for children (adults should be present when children are using tools, sharp objects or measuring nutrients). Hydroponics can be an inexpensive hobby for kids and teaches them a great deal about plant growth, a bit of work ethic and a keen sense of responsibility. Let them grow some lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers and I’m sure no child would have a problem making a salad they grew themselves for their family. Let the kids keep their own garden journal and care for their own plants, and help them fix any problems that might arise.