If you’re like me, you love the idea of growing a sustainable mini-ecosystem within your house. If you want to grow some fresh parsley, oregano, basil, or any other herb, hydroponics is a great idea since it’s not only cheap but easy and fun to do as a project.
The only hard part is finding out what you need. But building your hydroponic system and maintaining it is the easy part. I’m a hydroponic beginner, and I thought it would be interesting to show others my journey and provide what I’ve learned along the way. Sometimes advice from a beginner to beginner can be helpful since we have the same pain points and you don’t make the same mistakes I do!
Sure hydroponic systems that take up warehouses, as well as hydroponic systems built for growing the optimal amount of weed can be complex, but for the hydroponic beginner who just wants to grow a beautiful head of lettuce or cilantro, or just wants to start hydroponics as an alternative way of gardening, then this guide is for you!
Hydroponics Beginner Set/Kit
This Hydroponic set costs around $100. Sure you can find YouTube videos claiming you can build a hydroponic system for under $10, but these videos are unrealistic since they don’t account for shipping, the cost of fertilizer, grow lights, tax, and other extraneous costs.
This guide is for the TOTAL beginner. If you don’t need to buy EVERY part, you can lower this cost significantly. In addition, you can even build more than one hydroponic for less since you can share some of the materials (fertilizer and seeds).
What you’ll need:
|Plant Food for Hydroponics||$10-12|
|Mini Blocks for Seeds||$12-13|
|Mesh Pot (50 pack)||$9-10|
|5 Gallon Bucket With Lid||$19-20|
|Total Cost = $90-100|
How to Build Beginner Hydroponic System:
Step #1 Sprout Seeds
The first thing that you’ll need to do is sprout your seeds. To do this, get a small container like a Tupperware and put seeds in the mini blocks. Then water the mini-blocks with the seeds every day for a week until you see a green sprout. This is when you are ready to transfer the seeds into the hydroponic system. For me, I got impatient then just implanted the mini-blocks with the seeds into the system. One thing to note is that you should break open the mini block a little bit to put the seeds in the middle. I should have done this, but even now my seeds are growing fine.
Step #2 Put Holes into Lid for Mesh Pots to Stand
From here, you need to start building the actual system. What you need to do is put three holes in the top of the lid so that you can drop your mesh pots into the system so they stay at the top. Easier said than done, however, if you get a sturdy bucket.
TIP: Make sure you have a sharp razor blade on hand, or a drill bit saw attachment like these. Now, once you have made proper holes so your mesh pots can sit comfortable, put the mini-blocks with the seeds in the mesh pots. For me, my setup turned out a bit ghetto since I didn’t have a sharp enough tool (soon to be fixed!).
Step #3 Fill Bucket With Water + Fertilizer
Once you have your holes cut out, and your mini blocks with the seeds in the top, you’ll need to set it aside temporarily and fill up the bucket with water. From here you need to make the water level high enough so that the mini blocks sit submerged in the water partially. You don’t want the hole thing if in, maybe just an inch or so the bottom of the roots get fed.
Once you get all the water in the bucket, add some fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the one you buy for how much to add. Remember that herbs and things like lettuce don’t require too much nutrients to grow. Generally, you’ll feed your plants every 1-2 weeks.
TIP: Make sure you get the hydroponic fertilizer in the table (not all fertilizer works, even if it’s water soluble).
Step #4 Introduce Pump
Now you need to connect your pump to the airline. From here you need to drill or cut a hole in the lid so the airline can fit down into the water.
You want the airline sitting comfortably in the water, not sitting at the bottom with tons of cord wrapped around which could decrease its efficiency to blow oxygen to your plants.
Step #5 Setup Grow Light
You want the grow light to be setup on the bucket. If you got the grow light in the table, you can clip it to the bucket and plug it in. From here the hydroponic system is up and running, and you should see results very soon!
Is Aerogarden Worth it?
Some might think about purchasing the AeroGarden, and in some ways, it can be a good solution if you’re a beginner or want something more pleasing to the eye. In fact, I started out hydroponics with a cheap Aerogarden system.
The only thing is that the various AeroGarden models feel a bit overpriced to me. Sure some have pretty advanced features with LCD screens, but if you get the version under $100, your plants can’t be very big or effective. There are a few different options and the lowest option is around $60 which is pretty cheap.
Another reason is that the quality of the parts used in the gardens are cheap/overpriced for the value, and you’ll find that the lights and pump go out after only a years time. In addition, the seed pods for the kit can be pretty pricey since Aerogarden likes to mark the kits out for convenience.
If you’re wondering exactly which AeroGarden is for you, check out this article I made.
Hydroponics vs “Real” Gardening – Which is Better?
Why use hydroponics over simple soil planting. Well, there are a ton of reasons why!
Does your apartment have low light? Do you hate the idea of constantly having to water your plants? Does the idea of going outside scare you?
Any of these reasons could give you incentive to grow hydroponically, but the main reason is that due to the nature of hydroponic systems and how they provide an exact amount of light, oxygen, and water, your plants will grow faster and bigger and provide more yield!