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How to make a hydroponic garden

What do you need to make a hydroponic garden?

Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil and allowing the roots to grow in nutrient-fortified water. If you're thinking of growing plants hydroponically, you’ll need to know how to make a hydroponic garden. 

Hydroponic systems are becoming increasingly popular for growing plants at home. Not only because they're less messy, but because plants grow more quickly and have a more significant yield when grown hydroponically. 

It's not too tricky to make a basic hydroponic garden yourself, though you can choose to buy a ready-made hydroponic garden kit that only needs some simple assembly.

DIY hydroponic gardens vs. hydroponic garden kits

When setting up your indoor hydroponic garden, you’ll have to either DIY your setup or utilize a hydroponic garden kit. DIY options are those you source and make yourself, buying all the parts separately and turning them into your hydroponic setup. Hydroponic garden kits either come fully assembled or contain all the pieces you need and instructions to build them, much like flatpack furniture. For complete newcomers to hydroponics, it's much simpler to buy a ready-made hydroponic system. However, it's also possible to make a simple DIY hydroponic garden.

How to make a simple hydroponic garden

When you're making a hydroponic garden system for the first time, it's best to keep it simple. Start with a basic deep water culture system that doesn't have moving parts or recirculating water. This is easy for the average individual to set up, even with a limited DIY experience. If you want a more complex hydroponic garden tower or vertical hydroponic system, you're better off buying a kit that you simply need to assemble. 

Find a suitable container

First off, you'll need to find a large, lidded container that will act as the base of your hydroponic garden. Anything between roughly 15 and 40 gallons is fine, depending on how large a garden you want. If containers are too small, nutrient levels and pH will likely fluctuate more, which can cause problems, plus you'll need to top up the water more regularly. 

Make holes in the lid

You'll need to make holes in the lid of your container to accommodate the 2-inch net pots that will hold your plants. These holes must be large enough to fit the net pots but not so large that the rim of the net pot falls through into the base. Make the holes using an appropriately-sized hole saw attachment on a standard electric drill.

The ideal spacing between holes depends on plant types, but around three inches is fine for herbs and most leafy greens. You can always leave some holes empty when growing plants that need a little more space. Once you've set up the rest of your hydroponic garden, you can fit the net pots into the holes.

Set up an air stone

This type of hydroponic garden doesn't have circulating water, which means that the plants will quickly use all the oxygen in the water if you leave it as it is, eventually killing them. As such, you need an aquarium air stone attached to a pump sitting inside the base of your hydroponic garden. The air stone and pump will push air into the water and oxygenate it for healthy plants. Set up the air stone according to the instructions that come with it. 

Set up a grow light 

Since you're growing plants indoors, you'll need a full spectrum to grow light to facilitate photosynthesis. Ideally, choose a grow light that comes on an adjustable stand so it's easy to set up over the top of your plants and raise higher as your plants grow. 

Start growing

All that's left to do is fill the base with water, so it's 1/2-1 inch below the lid. Then, add hydroponic nutrients to the water and add the plants you want to grow. Seedlings can't tolerate high-nutrient water when they're just starting to grow, so it's best to start these in seed trays with domes and transfer them to the net pots in your hydroponic garden once they've developed their second set of leaves.

What you need to buy for making a hydroponic garden

Sterilite 30 Gallon Latching Tuff Tote

These large, durable storage containers are the perfect base for your hydroponic garden as they give you plenty of room with which to work without taking up too much space. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Milwaukee Hole Dozer General Purpose Bi-Metal Hole Saw Set

You'll need hole saw bits for your drill to create holes in the lid of your storage container. This is the only specialist piece of equipment you'll need for the setup. 

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

CZ Garden Supply 2 inch Net Pots Cups

These net cups hold your plants and grow medium, suspending them in the water. The 2-inch size is excellent for most hydroponic setups. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Hygger Aquarium Air Stone Kit

A simple air stone to oxygenate your water. This model comes with a pump, so you won't need to source one separately. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients

Although designed for the AeroGarden, you can use these hydroponic nutrients in any hydroponic system. Since they're all-in-one, they're simple for beginners to use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Urban Leaf Sponge Kit

You can use these sponges as a growing medium to start seeds before transferring the seedlings to your hydroponic system. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Feit Electric Plant Grow Light

With its adjustable stand, it's easy to set up this grow light. It has different light settings for seeding, vegetation and flowering.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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