Hydroponic planting is a way to grow plants without using soil. Instead you use a nutrient solution recreating the nutrients that a plant would draw from a soil environment. Hydroponic systems are fairly simple to set up, and once you understand the nutrients required for your specific plant, growing healthy vegetables and flowers is simple.
Figure out early on if you want to grow your plants in a soilless culture. Hydroponic plants do not require a solid medium to grow in--the nutrient bath being a substantial substitute. But you can buy solid medium that recreates the structural integrity of soil as well as its absorptive quality. There are several kinds of growing mediums that work well with different varieties of hydroponic systems. Fast-draining mediums work well with ebb and flow systems. Rockwool and perlite are the two most popular mediums you can buy. Rockwool is a bit more expensive than the rest, but this is due to its incredible absorptive quality.
There are several different hydroponic systems, so choose the one that is best for your space and budget.
The wick system is a system that does not use pumps; the nutrient bath is kept in a reservoir bucket and this solution travels up a wick to the plant roots. This is one of the most simple systems.
The ebb and flow system uses a submersion pump in the nutrient reservoir. The plants are situated in a separate tray above the pump. The pump in the reservoir pumps the nutrient solution into the pump tray for 20 to 30 minutes. This is called the flood stage. The nutrient solution then flows back into the reservoir.
The continuous drip system uses a pump in the reservoir to channel a continuous stream of solution through tubes leading to the plants. Under each plant is a tray that catches excess solution, which is then drained back to the reservoir.
You will need to provide your plants with nutrients to aid in their growth. A hydroponic nutrient solution provides all the simple elements a plant needs to grow, much like normal soil fertilizers. These solutions come as concentrated solutions--as liquids or powders--in separate containers that need to be mixed together. Nutrient solutions are available in organic and chemical variations. Organic solutions are more difficult to handle as they can cause blockages in your system. The exact nutrient solution you will have to use will depend on the plant you are trying to grow. Each plant has different nutrient requirements and will need a different mix of nutrients to stay alive.