Looking for a new winter hobby? Do you have access to fresh vegetables and herbs during the winter months? A fun project for kids or a unique holiday gift idea?
Hydroponics checks all these boxes!
Hydroponics allows you to grow greens and herbs indoors all winter, making it easy and affordable.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Hydroponics is usually done indoors, but it’s also a great option for gardeners with limited access to balconies or outdoor gardening spaces.
This method uses less water than soil-based gardening, grows faster, often yields higher, and requires fewer materials.
Growing in water also means no weeds.
With artificial lighting, even Minnesota can grow hydroponically all year round.
Almost anything can be grown hydroponically, but short-season crops and non-fruit-producing crops such as herbs and leafy greens are best suited for indoor winter production.
The simplest hydroponic system to use at home falls into the category of hydroponics called “deep hydroponics”.
Plants are suspended above the aquarium, with roots hanging in containers to absorb water and nutrients.
This is the most popular type of hydroponic system for small growers, such as for personal use or for school demonstration gardens.
It is also the cheapest and easiest to maintain and extend.
You can buy off-the-shelf deep hydroponics systems, but they are more affordable and almost as easy to build your own.
For this type of system, containers for water and plants can be as simple as a 5-gallon bucket or plastic storage bin. Any container that holds water is suitable for hydroponics, as long as it’s clean and made from food-safe materials (materials that don’t leach harmful chemicals into the water).
The containers in a hydroponic system hold water and nutrients, but something needs to support the plants.
When using buckets, the most common plant support structure is a bucket lid with a hole drilled for the plant.
Another popular support system for do-it-yourself hydroponics is the netpot/substrate combination.
A netpot is a simple pot with holes or slits in the sides to allow the root system to reach the nutrient solution below. only need to be immersed in water.
Netpots come in a variety of sizes and styles to suit different systems. Instead of filling net pots with soil, common substrates include perlite, hydroton, pumice, gravel, coconut coir, and rockwool.
There are 17 nutrients that plants need for proper growth and development.
Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are the only substances naturally available to plants in a hydroponic system. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are considered macronutrients because plants use them in large amounts. If you’ve ever gardened outdoors, you’re familiar with using commercial fertilizers and compost to add these nutrients to your garden.
Soil naturally contains many of these essential nutrients, so other nutrients are often not a problem in traditional soil-based horticultural systems. , should be supplied not only potassium, but also calcium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, iron, molybdenum, copper, zinc, boron, chlorine and nickel.
The good news is that there are many ready-made fertilizers available that are specifically designed for hydroponics.
Determine the correct balance for each crop
The easiest solution to ensure the right balance of nutrients for your particular crop is to purchase a hydroponic fertilizer solution that is tailored to your crop. Fertilizer can be purchased.
This information covers the basics of hydroponics. For more hydroponics details, visit z.umn.edu/hydroponics.
Tara Young is an Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Educator at Hubbard County University Extension in Minnesota. If you have any questions on this or any other topic, please contact her at 732-3391. If you are interested in information about agriculture, gardening, and natural resources, please consider signing up for the Hubbard County UMN Her Extension’s Agriculture, Gardening, and Natural Resources e-newsletter at z.umn.edu/HCExtensionNewsletter .