When you grow a hydroponic garden, you are helping the environment and giving yourself a fresh supply of vegetables and herbs all year. Hydroponic gardens can be as simple as a small kit for growing kitchen herbs or as complex as a full greenhouse with pumps and light timers. Whichever size and complexity you choose, the basic principles of hydroponic gardening are similar. You use a liquid nutrient solution and no soil around the plant's roots. By controlling the light, temperature and pH, you achieve a productive garden quickly.
Select the types of plants you want to grow hydroponically. Most culinary herbs do very well in a hydroponic garden. Tomatoes and peppers are good choices, as are salad greens. However, warm weather plants need a different growing environment than cool weather plants.
Choose the type of hydroponic technique you want to use to grow plants. The flood and drain system is a good choice for new hydroponic gardeners because it offers versatility, simplicity and efficiency.
Assemble your flood and drain system. Place the plant tray on a supporting stand and set over the nutrient reservoir. Place a pump into the reservoir and attach the pump to the plant tray using a tube. Attach a drain tube from the plant tray back into the reservoir.
Attach a timer to the pump and fill the reservoir with a commercial nutrient solution.
Place your plants (either seedlings or transplants) into a pot with holes through which the roots are exposed to the nutrient solution. Net pots, available from nurseries and hydroponic supply stores, are an excellent container for hydroponic gardening.
Surround the plants to the top of their containers with a growing medium. This is the soilless support for the plants in their containers and may be composed of rockwool, vermiculite, perlite, coconut fiber or clay pellets. Place the containers into the plant tray.
Set the pump timer to release nutrient solution every 30 minutes or hour depending on the plants you are growing.
Set up a grow light above your plants. The height of the light and the lumens required depends on the plants you are growing and their size. Set a light timer that ensures your plants receive 12 hours of light per day.
Monitor the pH of the nutrient solution with testing strips weekly. The correct pH range is a function of which plants you are growing.
Monitor ambient temperature with a thermometer. The best temperature range depends on whether you are growing warm season or cool season plants.
Refill the nutrient reservoir as needed.
Check your plants daily for any disease or pest problems. You can minimize these problems by selecting resistant varieties, allowing proper ventilation and controlling temperature.