Hydroponic gardening is a GREAT way to keep a supply of fresh herbs and vegetables available all year round. There are several types of hydroponic gardens to choose from. The right one for you depends upon what type of plants you want to grow and how much space you can devote to your hydroponic garden.
Deep Water Culture
The simplest hydroponic garden is a deep water culture. In this type of garden, plants float directly on the nutrient-enriched water. To set up a deep water culture, cut a piece of Styrofoam slightly smaller than the opening of your nutrient reservoir. Cut a series of 2-inch holes in the Styrofoam, and place 2-inch net pots in the holes. Fill the net pots with a growth medium such as HydroClay pebbles or coconut coir, then plant your seedlings. Fill the nutrient reservoir with water and mix in concentrated nutrient solution. Mix this well, then float the styrofoam with the plants in the nutrient reservoir.
A deep water culture garden is an ideal choice for growing lettuces and tender herbs that thrive in a very wet environment.
Ebb and Flow
Ebb and Flow hydroponic gardens are an effective all-around system. This type of garden will grow everything from tomatoes to corn.
To build an ebb and flow hydroponic garden, you will need to set up a pump on a timer. The pump will flood the growth tray for 15 minutes every hour. When the pump turns off, the nutrient solution drains back into the reservoir. This type of garden closely mimics the natural cycle of rain and drought.
An ebb and flow garden is more complicated than a deep water culture, but can be used for a much wider variety of plants.
Aeroponic gardens are also an ideal system for starting cuttings from existing plants. In an aeroponic garden, nutrient solution is misted directly on the roots. These gardens can be complicated to build and maintain, but give tender cuttings the best chance to thrive.
The easiest way to set up an aeroponic garden is to use a submersible pond fogger. Submerge the pond fogger in the nutrient reservoir, and run it continuously. This will create a fine mist around the roots of the cuttings, delivering nutrients without over-watering.
Aeroponic systems tend to clog as mineral salts from the nutrient solution builds up, and require frequent cleaning to maintain. Use a solution of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide and water to clean the pond fogger.