The idea of sampling fresh, homegrown crops in the middle of winter catches the attention of many gardeners. And while indoor hydroponics systems may be a little tricky to set up, growing crops is straightforward and fast. Some vegetables will grow quicker with off-season indoor hydroponics than in a summer garden patch. Many species suit hydroponics growing, but beginners should avoid large sprawling plants until they're familiar with the hydroponics approach. One of the most productive home hydroponics setups is the aeration method using an aquarium pump.
Source a plastic container that's wide enough to hold several growing plants. Fit a 2-inch-deep mesh tray over the top of the open container. Use tape or superglue to hold the tray in place. Ensure the base of the tray is well above the bottom of the container.
Place the container and tray in a sheltered location indoors. Set up an adjustable lamp fitted with two cool white fluorescent bulbs and an adjustable timer. These should be available from local garden specialists. Position the lamp about 4 inches above your tray, according to Marcy Stanton, Master Gardener at the University of New Hampshire.
Buy some hydroponic fertilizer from a garden center or online store. Mix a growing solution following dosage instructions on the packet. Check the pH of the solution using a pH testing kit to ensure it's between 5.0 and 6.0, according to Virginia Tech University.
Pour the solution into the container until it's an inch below the base of the mesh tray. Set up a basic aquarium air pump next to the hydroponics container and insert the hose into the container solution. Use an air stone to soften the bubbles, and fit to the pump a timer scheduled to turn on for an hour in morning, midday and afternoon, according to the University of New Hampshire.
Fill the tray with a suitable growing medium. Good options for hydroponics include perlite, sterilized sand or wool rock, according to the University of New Hampshire. Spray water on the mix until moist.
Sow seeds directly into the tray of growing mix. Choose edible leafy plants such as lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. More elaborate hydroponics systems can accommodate tomatoes and climbing plants, but make sure you have supports in place above the tray.
Change the hydroponics solution every two weeks, according to Virginia Tech University. Top up the solution with a little water if it dips below root level between changes. Move the lamp level up as the plants grow so that it remains 5 inches above the foliage. Harvest when ripe.