How to Use Hydroponics

Overview

Hydroponic growing systems don't use soil, instead relying primarily on water, along with a growing medium, which can be sand, perlite (volcanic glass), gravel, coconut fiber or even air, among other things. Without soil, nutrients must reach plants through water. This requires special hydroponic fertilizer. Since plants don't need to search soil for nutrients, they tend to grow faster and, if the plants' other needs are met (appropriate light, for instance), they are more fruitful. The trade-off is that hydroponic gardening requires paying a lot of attention to the plants' needs.

Basic Care

Step 1

Learn the needs of your plant, including pH, light and the temperature your plant needs.

Step 2

Prepare the starter cubes, if necessary, according to package directions.

Step 3

Poke a hole in the cube up to one-half inch deep and add seed.

Step 4

Cover the seed with some of the cube material.

Step 5

Wet cube as needed to keep it moist.

Step 6

Mix a nutrient solution from water and hydroponic fertilizer according to package directions.

Step 7

Test the pH of the solution.

Step 8

Adjust the solution according to the needs of your plant.

Step 9

Wet the cube using one-quarter to one-half strength nutrient solution after the seeds have developed true leaves.

Step 10

Choose the appropriate growing medium, according to your plant's needs and the hydroponic system you are using.

Step 11

Add your chosen growing medium to the growing container of your hydroponic system unless your system is using air as the medium.

Step 12

Plant seedlings in the growing medium after roots have emerged from the starter cube.

Step 13

Water or mist the plant one to three times per day, depending on the system, or more if the plant demands it. If using a separate reservoir for the nutrient solution, keep the water level adequate.

Care When Using a Recycling System

Step 1

Check the pH of the nutrient solution periodically if using a recycling reservoir hydroponic system. Adjust as necessary.

Step 2

Flood the growing medium with clean water and drain it periodically: once every 10 to 14 days.

Step 3

Mix a new nutrient solution, check pH, and adjust if necessary.

Step 4

Add solution to the reservoir or the growing medium, whichever is appropriate for your system.

Tips and Warnings

  • Perlite dust shouldn't be breathed in. Wear a mask when handling it. Follow precautionary advice when using pH adjusters, which contain chemicals that should never get in your eyes and could burn skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Seeds
  • Starter cubes, especially organo-cubes and Oasis cubes
  • Toothpick
  • Hydroponics system
  • Growing medium
  • Water
  • Hydroponic fertilizer
  • pH test kit
  • pH adjuster

References

  • Hydroponics for Home Gardeners-Alabama Cooperative Extension System
  • Getting Started with Hydroponics

Who Can Help

  • Basics of pH
  • Basics of Growing Medium
Keywords: hydroponic gardening, using hydroponics, hydroponics

About this Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.