I’ve thought about growing vegetables in my home for awhile now, but probably like many of you, I live in a high rise condo and we don’t exactly get a lot of floor space or outdoor gardening options. I had heard of hydroponics, but I didn’t really know much about it. Because much of the world is currently under self-isolation, I figured now was a good time to start a new hobby. Getting started with hydroponics is actually pretty easy and if you do it yourself and stay away from the pricey kits, it’s pretty cheap too. I figured I’d do a post sharing with others what I’ve started so far. If you are interested in DIY hydroponics in your home, you can get started with me too.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead of soil you use a mineral nutrient solution in water to feed the plants. Although that sounds complicated, it’s actually pretty straight forward.
How Do I Get Started in DIY Hydroponics at Home?
You can purchase tiny seedling plants from your garden center, but you can also just grow them from seeds, which is what I am doing. The cost is pretty good. In Canada on Amazon I got all these items for less than $40.
Things you will need to get your seedlings started:
- Grow Lights
- Rockwool Cubes
- Flat Watertight Tray
- Net pots or a Container with holes the rockwool cubes can go in
In the next post I will go into the chemicals you’ll need and some DIY home setups you can make with some tubs and things, but let’s get started on the seeds.
What do you want to Grow?
First, you need to decide what you want to grow. Lettuce, kale, spinach and leafy greens grow easiest. Tomatoes (which is a fruit) can be harder. Some things like carrots can be even harder. Do some independent research if you like. I chose a few different seeds and purchased them from a local gardening store. Amazon has a wide selection as well. Check it out here to see what you can get.
Which Lights Should I Use?
You also need a light source that you can use to replicate sunlight, especially if you are in a colder, northern, climate like me. Thankfully LED lights have become cheaper and more accessible lately. You can get some pretty cheap ones for less than $25 here in Canada. The grow light industry is really not regulated. Lots of ads will show you all kinds of “what you need”. You are ideally looking for full spectrum LED lights.
Some of the ones on amazon come with a hefty price tag. I went with a cheaper option because i’m just trying this out and it seems that some of the cheaper ones do check the right boxes. Try and look for a minimum of 50 watts of light per square foot of grow space you are planning on making.
Red, blue and purple or White lights have support for both camps. You do want to look for ones that have timers to turn them on and timers to turn them off. 2 cycles they are called. This means you won’t have to do much after you set them up. There are quite a few lights that only have turn off automatically, but you will still need to go out and turn them on everyday. Just something to keep in mind.
What do I grow my hydroponic seeds in?
Depending on the setup you can use a lot of different sources. I chose to use Rockwool. These are tiny fiber-filled cubes that hold onto moisture for a lot longer than many other materials (like soil) . These cubes allows you to plant your seedlings in them and then move them directly to your hydroponic system really easily. Rockwool cubes will anchor the roots of your baby plants and functions as a temporary reserve of water and solvent mineral nutrients. Pretty neat.
If you plant in peat or other dirt for the seedlings, you will need to remove ALL the dirt when you move to the hydroponic system. Better to just start right from the start, I say.
Getting Started with The Seeds
This is actually the really easy part.
- Soak the rockwool cubes for 2 hours up to over night.
- Use a glove to place the soaked cubes into the Net pots.
- Do not squeeze them out, they should be damp.
- Poke a hole into the cube and place a few seeds into the hole.
- Label you seeds in some way. I used straws and tape on the edge of the container.
- Place all the plants in the flat tray with some additional water at the bottom of the tray.
- That’s it. Place in a damp location and put your LED light over top.
I’ll get into my actual hydroponic setup in the next post… Stay tuned!