As we wrap up our hydroponic adventure on the homestead this month, come along with me as I show you how I plant my indoor hydroponic garden.
It’s been quite an adventure this month as we have covered all things hydroponics for your home. If you missed my previous post on an indoor hydroponic garden for your home, you can find them here and here. This will be the final instalment as I actually get my plants in the garden.
Deciding what to plant
So, how do I decide what to plant in my indoor hydroponic garden? There are a few considerations to think about when you make this decision.
The first is that you cannot grow root vegetables. Ok, maybe someone, some where has figured this out but your carrots or beets would be really hard to get out of the planting net and probably won’t be a decent size.
The next consideration would be the size of your plant. Do you have room in the garden for a large size plant?
Time, how long does it take the plant to mature? Are you committed to keeping the indoor hydroponic garden going for that long?
For us, on the homestead, I focus on plants that are a high value for me to purchase during the winter months. This means that we have lots of fresh herbs in our indoor hydroponic garden. Those tiny plastic packs of fresh basil in the supermarket are ridiculously expensive. So basil gets a lot of real estate in the garden. Our garden will also include parsley, chervil, and sage. We like to grow a variety of soft herbs so that we can have fresh herbs all winter long.
We also will grow greens in the hydroponic garden. Usually a hardy lettuce, maybe some kale or chard. It’s never enough for full meals all winter long, but there is more than enough to add greens to soups or lettuce to a sandwich.
I have friends who have had great success growing cherry tomatoes in their indoor hydroponic garden. I personally haven’t tried, but I would encourage you to give them a go.
Advantage & disadvantage of hydroponics
Before you jump into an indoor hydroponic garden, I think we should take a look at the advantages and disadvantage of the systems.
- Saves space – our garden takes up less then 3 square feet.
- Saves water – because of the closed loop system of a hydroponic garden, the water is recycle and used over and over
- Inside – because they are often inside, they can be used year round
- Less pest – they are less likely to get pests because there is no soil
- Less work – hydroponic garden require minimal maintenance once they are set up. A weekly check on pH and water levels is often enough
- Fresh food – If you live some where that year round gardening is not possible or very challenging, having fresh food in your house is quiet the luxury.
- Can be expensive – The start up cost for an indoor hydroponic garden can be quite high, especially if you are looking a a pre-built unit.
- Requires electricity – you need to have a reliable source of electricity for the pumps to work. If you are off grid, or your grid is unstable, this might not be the right choice for you
- System failure – as with anything, system failure is always a possibility. The pump could go, you could have a leak. If not caught early, it could result in your garden failing.
- Detailed – hydroponics systems can be extremely detailed. Between the nutrients, pH monitoring, timers turning on and off for water and lights. It can be a lot to keep track of.
If, after all this, you are still ready to start your indoor hydroponic garden, keep reading because I will go through how to start seeds and get them in the garden.
You really only need three things to start seeds for your indoor hydroponic garden.
- Planting medium
- Container with a clear lid
1. First you are going to cut apart your planting medium into sized that will fit in your net pots. I use this pre cut rock wool to grow my plants it. Place your rock wool into the container. The rock wool usually has an opening in the middle where you will plant the seeds. I like to use the dull end of a pencil to make the opening a little bigger.
2. Pour water into the container so that it just comes up the sides of the rock wool. Leave it to sit and allow the rock wool to absorb the water. You want the rock wool to be fully wet. If you go back and there is no water in the container but the growing medium is not fully wet, add a little more and come back later.
3. Once the wool is fully wet, add pereilite to the holes.
4. Add 2-4 seeds into each hole. Each cube of rock wool will take up one spot in your indoor hydroponic garden, so if you would like 3 basil plants, fill 3 cubes with 2-4 seeds.
At this point you can label the tray if you like, just so you know what everything is. I often let my children add the seeds so labeling isn’t always an option. But the good news is that you will eventually find out what everything is.
5. Loosely cover the tray with the lid and place it in a sunny window. You want to make sure that there is a little water in the bottom of the tray. If the cubes dry out there is a chance the seeds won’t germinate.
At this point you just leave them alone until they have all germinated and look like tiny plants.
Planting a indoor hydroponic garden
Once your seeds have all germinated and look like tiny plants it’s time to get them into the indoor hydroponic garden.
1. You are going to use one net pot per one cube of rock wool (plant). Take your net pot and add a plant to the net. Make sure the cube of rock wool is all the way to the bottom of the net.
2. Decide where you would like to place your plant in your indoor hydroponic garden. If you are a using a TowerGarden like me make sure the net is all the way into the opening. If it is sticking out water will leak out of the garden and on to your floor (ask me how I know? haha!)
3. Once you have placed all your plants into the indoor hydroponic garden, it’s time to fill it up. I like to use a hose when possible, but you can also use a 5 gallon bucket.
We have a 3 part nutrient system. So I add the first part when I start filling up the reservoir, the second when it is about 1/3 full and the final when the reservoir is almost full. Just check the label on your nutrients to make sure you are adding them in the proper order to the indoor hydroponic garden.
4. When the reservoir is full, you can plug in your pump, lights and timer. Do NOT connect the garden to power before you fill it. Water and electricity should not be mixed and it is safer to do this once all the water is in the reservoir.
5. Set your timer. Our pump comes on every 15 mins during the day. So from 7am our pump runs 15 mins on, 15 mins off. After 7pm our pump will be on for 15 mins and off for 45. It’s just less noisy in our house that way. If noise is not a concern for you, feel free to continue the 15 on/15off during the night.
6. Turn the whole system on and watch your indoor hydroponic garden grow!
Hopefully you have learned something and been inspired to try your hand at an indoor hydroponic garden this winter. If you do decide to set one up, be sure to tag me on Instagram so that I can see your set up!