A system to grow plants hydroponically is inexpensive and easy to design and set up. A hydroponic garden consists of a reservoir of nutrient solution, a container to hold the plants and a way to transport the solution. Plants grown in a hydroponic garden are healthier and produce more fruits or vegetables than plants grown in the same size area of soil. Hydroponic gardens do not have weeds or soil-borne insects and generally tend to have less pests overall.
Use a sturdy, dark-colored plastic or glass container as a reservoir. A 15 to 20 gallon storage tote or aquarium (covered with dark paper) is ideal for this. Pour the nutrient solution into the reservoir and add water according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Use another sturdy, dark-colored plastic or glass container for the plants. Put 3 to 5 inches of soil-less media, such as gravel, sand or clay aggregate in a tray that will fit inside the container. Plant lettuce, spinach or other leafy vegetables 8 to 12 inches apart in the soil-less media, depending on the mature size of the plants. Alternatively, cut small holes 18 to 24 inches apart in a piece of Styrofoam that fits inside the container. Slip plants, such as tomatoes or peppers, through the holes and set the Styrofoam in the container so the roots will hang down into the solution. Small containers may only hold 3 or 4 plants.
Slip the dark-colored tubing onto the air valve of the aquarium pump. Insert the tubing through holes in the reservoir and the plant container to recycle the nutrient solution through the system. Use silicone aquarium sealant to seal the holes around the tubing.
Plug the pump into a 24-hour timer and plug the timer into an electrical outlet. Set the timer to cycle the nutrient solution through the system 4 to 8 times a day, based on the needs of the plants.
Use a heater or fan to maintain the proper temperature for the plants. Also use the fan to provide air circulation around the plants.
Hang a grow light or other artificial light from hooks in the ceiling above the hydroponics system if there is not adequate natural light.