How to grow plants hydroponically

Hydroponics is fast, simple and most importantly great fun! In general, plants grown hydroponically are healthier and happier plants.

What is Hydroponics?

The term hydroponic has gained popular appeal, and is widely used to cover all ways of growing plants without the use of soil as a medium.

There are many systems and hydroponic methods such as NFT, Drip Systems, Ebb & Flow and Aeroponics.

In most cases the seeds are germinated in Peat Pellets and then grown in rockwool blocks.

Usually the roots will hang into a premixed nutrient solution and take up the water as they need.

If you don’t have a hydroponic set up yet, considering what kind of plants you wish to grow can help inform what kind of system you choose. If you love fresh herbs and salads, but only have a small amount of space to dedicate to your garden, you may do best with a small D.I.Y home build.

The average home hydroponic system usually consists of a few basic parts:

1. Growing chamber (or tray) - this holds the root system. This can be made from many different materials and designed in many ways depending on what you have to use and what you want to grow. A simple storage tote bucket with a lid that you cut a hole into to set the plant in nets pots, can cost less than R100. Or you may want to use a bucket in a bucket system for larger plants. The designs here are endless. You may want to look around and get some ideas of what and how you want to use different things.

2. Reservoir - This holds the nutrient solution that feeds the plants and can be made out of just about anything, from a bucket to a 100 litre trash can from Game or Makro for R100. Even a Styrofoam cooler leftover from last summer can be suited. Again here its just up to your imagination (Note: it should just be clean from anything that might contaminate the nutrient solution).

3. Submersible pump - To water the plants with. You can use one from a Hydroponics store, or use a fountain pump found in the garden section of any home improvement and hardware store. These can range greatly depending on the size you choose, from about R150 to R900.

4. Delivery system to get the water/nutrients from the pump in the reservoir to the plants, and back to the reservoir again. Vinyl tubing or regular PVC pipe also found at grow shops & home improvement stores work very nicely, and can easily be customized to your application.

5. Simple timer - To turn on and off the pump, as well as the lights. You just want it to be able to turn on and off many times a day for the pump (Note: if using a timer for lights you will need 2 timers of course).

6. Air pump and air stone - To oxygenate the nutrient solution, this is the same kind used in fish tanks and are quite inexpensive. Oxygenating the nutrient solution is not absolutely necessary but is highly recommended. This helps the root system to get the oxygen they need but because the water is continuously moving it cuts way down on algae growth, and helps to keep the nutrients fresher.

7. Lighting - For lighting you can use many different lighting systems. We have everything from LED or HID lights  to Ceramic Metal Halide technology available at Grow Guru. Or you can simply just use the free sunlight if you’re thinking of growing outdoors.

We suggest using an EC or TDS meter to measure the strength of your solution:

  • EC Meter – This is used to measure the EC (electrical conductivity) of the solution
  • Alternatively, you can buy a PPM (Part Per Million) / TDS meter (Total Dissolved Solids).

A simple equation to work out PPM from EC when referencing to growing a particular type of plant:

EC X 1000 ÷ 2 = PPM

Reversed

PPM X 2 ÷ 1000 = EC

We hope this helps to get you started!

Have you got a few great ideas to share? Feel free to leave comments below.

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