Hydroponics is an alternative method for growing herbs and vegetables in which substrates instead of dirt are used to germinate and grow plants. A hydroponic grow box consists of several components. Plant containers rest on water trays while an irrigation system circulates water and delivers nutrients to plants. Hydroponics is an ideal system for urban dwellers and other people who would otherwise forgo gardening.
Individual plastic pots or specially designed multi-unit plastic trays are suitable for hydroponics. Each plant grows in its own pot, or pothole in the multi-unit tray. Your hydroponics store should have a selection of pot sizes for the types of plants that you plan to grow. Herbs like lemongrass and coriander do well in 1-inch-diameter pots. Choose larger diameter units like 2 or 3 inches for vegetables.
The water tray is another main unit of the hydroponic grow box. Plastic trays are usually about 4 inches deep with corrugated bottoms to accommodate water flow. Whether you have single pots or multi-unit trays, you need to set them into the water tray for the duration of the plants' life.
Substrates & Nutrients
In lieu of soil, the hydroponic system requires a suitable alternative planting medium. Substitutes like vermiculite, gravel, perlite and clay can be used to hold seeds in place and provide the necessary substrate for the developing roots to attach to. Nutrient additives are essential for the life of your plants. You'll need to get appropriate nutrients for the types of plants you grow.
Water is the lifeline for all hydroponic setups. Any hydroponic system needs access to fresh water, such as a faucet or reservoir tank, and plastic tubing is the method of water delivery. The irrigation system is designed so that an input valve for fresh water can be turned on when needed. The tubing is set up to circulate water and nutrients from one point to the next throughout the closed, contained system. Along with tubing, you'll need T-connectors to put hoses together. The connectors allow quick changes for adding and deleting growing trays or boxes.
Depending on the quality of your water, you may want to insert a water filter at a point before water enters the hydroponic system. This can be before or at the faucet. City water often contains chlorine. And well water can contain silt, clay, heavy metals, sulfur and rust. Check with your hydroponics dealer or at your hardware store for water filters and systems.
Not every setup may have adequate access to sunlight. If you live in a particularly cloudy area or have dreary winters, a hothouse-style grow lamp is in order. The light should simulate the sun, and does not need to be on constantly.
An electric pump can be used to deliver water throughout your hydroponic system. This may be necessary if water pressure from the tap is low or irregular. Alternatively, the pump can be used in conjunction with a reservoir water tank.