Grow Q&A: Getting Started With Hydroponics

Dear Dan, What is all the stuff you need to get to start growing hydro? I need to know everything as soon as possible.KooBee

Dear KooBee,
Wow, that’s surely an all-encompassing question! The first thing you’ll need to know is precisely what hydroponics is: the growing of plants without soil or soil-less mix to hold the roots. That means your medium can be rockwool, expanded clay pellets, coco coir, or even not having a medium at all such as in aeroponics or Deep Water Culture (DWC, where roots dangle in an oxygenated nutrient solution).

You still have many choices such as a re-circulating system or a drain-to-waste one. The former relies on a reservoir and pump that feeds your plants allowing all excess solution to return to the reservoir for future use. The latter consists of a system in which nutrient solution is discarded after one use.

There are several styles of re-circulating hydroponic growing as well. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) bathes roots in a shallow stream of solution while Drip Emitter System feeds plants individually using tubing places at the foot of each plant. The Ebb and Flow (or flood and drain) technique utilizes a timer and pump that floods a growing tray with nutrient solution at chosen regular intervals and then returns the solution back into the reservoir.

The most important thing to remember about growing hydroponically is temperature and PPM (parts-per-million) and of minerals and salt elements in the water as well as the pH of the solution. Reservoir temps should never go below 65 or above 75 and you’ll need a heater, a chiller and a regulator to control this. Also, you must have a PPM and pH meter and controller in order to maintain proper balance in your plant food.

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