Hydroponic gardening is the technique of growing plants in a solution to which nutrients have been added. Because the roots do not have to stretch for food, hydroponic gardening is perfect for small spaces, allowing for indoor gardening all year. Complete hydroponic gardens can be purchased along with the solution, or you can make your own system and solution.
The best way to get the largest crop from a hydroponic garden is to keep growing, according to the "Complete Guide to Gardening." Because the plants receive the nutrients directly through the solution, they grow in half the time, so seedlings should be continuously started in smaller containers while awaiting transplant to the larger system. This works in reverse as well. Use the hydroponic system to start seedlings for later transplant outside or start houseplants in a hydroponic solution for later transplant to a pot or container.
The Hydroponic Environment
Plants grown in a hydroponic garden need a suitable environment, including enough light, ventilation and the proper temperature. Use the correct high-intensity discharge lights, specifically metal halides, which emit blue light for leafy green vegetables and high-pressure sodium lights for flowering plants or plants that produce fruit, according to "How To Hydroponics" by Keith Roberto. Provide oxygen by using a continuous-flow system, to ensure nutrient solution is constantly being introduced to the space, or bubble air through the solution. The correct temperature is also essential for hydroponic gardening. Cool-season vegetables such as lettuce should be grown between 50 and 70 degrees F, while warm-season vegetables and flowers thrive in a temperature range of 60 to 80 degrees.
Ensure the nutrient solution is changed once every two weeks in a hydroponic garden when plants are young. Change once a week as the plants grow, adding water daily to keep an even level, recommends the University of Illinois Extension. Nutrient deficiencies will show up on plants in a number of ways. For example, a lack of magnesium will present as yellow lower leaves and if a plant's shoots die, it may be a lack of boron or calcium.