How to Set Up a Hydroponic Garden


Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil in a liquid nutrient solution. The roots can be supported in a soil-free substrate, or the plant can be supported from above and the roots left to float. Although the science of hydroponics only dates back to the 1930s, mankind has been growing plants in water since ancient times. According to the University of Arizona, it is possible that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were a form of hydroponic garden. And in Mexico City, Aztec gardeners used dirt and reed woven rafts called chinampas to farm directly over the lake that surrounded the city. Today, a hydroponic garden can be set up easily using items found in a home improvement store.

Step 1

Place your vegetable seeds in the seed starting pellets, and place in a bowl that is large enough to hold all the seed starting pellets. Fill the bowl with 2 inches of water and allow the seed pellets to soak the water up. Place the bowl in indirect sunlight so that seeds can sprout. Check on the seed pellets daily. If they seem to become dry, add more water to the bowl. Wait two weeks for seeds to sprout.

Step 2

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with a lid almost completely to the top with water. Mix the hydroponic fertilizer according to the fertilizer package instructions. Typical mixing instructions include mixing 2 teaspoons of the fertilizer, 1 teaspoon Epsom salt and 2 teaspoons calcium nitrate per 5 gallons of water.

Step 3

Drill six evenly spaced 2 inch holes around the perimeter of the bucket lid. The holes should not be too close to the edge of the bucket. Place the lid on the bucket.

Step 4

Put the seed starting pellets into the planting cones and insert the cones into the holes drilled in the lid of the container.

Step 5

Put your hydroponic container in a place where it receives enough sunlight to fulfill the plant's growth needs. Typically this is at least six hours daily for vegetables. Flowers such as impatiens may be left in full shade. The package that your seeds came in should have sunlight requirements written on the back, along with the planting instructions.

Things You'll Need

  • Rockwool seed starting pellets
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Small bowl
  • Garden hose
  • 5 gallon opaque bucket with a lid
  • Water soluble hydroponic fertilizer
  • Epsom salt
  • Calcium nitrate
  • Drill
  • 2 inch spade bit
  • Planting cone


  • University of Arizona Agricultural Department Website: Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes
  • University of Arizona Agricultural Department Website: Hydroponics
  • Simply Free Plans

Who Can Help

  • Simply Hydroponics E-School Project: Starting a simple Hydroponic Garden
Keywords: hyroponic garden, gardening in water, liquid nutrient solution

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."