Hydroponic systems come in all shapes and sizes, but the few things they have in common tend to be the most important. Deep water culture in 3-5 gallon buckets generally proves to be the most exciting method for new hydroponic gardeners because it is easy to maintain and easy on the wallet. This will be a quick and easy rundown of how you can get started growing inside today!
Before I talk equipment, it is important to think about location of your set up. First, you’ll need a space in a room that is well-ventilated because you will be dealing with a decent amount of water, which can increase humidity. It is also really important to pick a spot that is not carpeted because a small, one-time leak on carpet can turn a little water into a big mold problem.
Now on to the the fun stuff – your growing system! General Hydroponics makes it easy to jump right into hydroponic growing with their Waterfarm and PowerGrower kits. Both of these systems include containers, growing media, nutrients, and a pump and tubing – everything necessary to get you growing from day one. These systems are easy to assemble and maintain, and you can use them individually, or link multiple units together to create a larger growing system.
Deep water culture is easy, fun, and effective, but demands attention in some key areas that are also relevant to almost all hydroponic systems. Water temperature alone can make or break the deal. Too hot and the water loses the ability to hold the dissolved oxygen that your air pump is pushing through the system (and we all know that without oxygen, we get foul-smelling, anaerobic bacteria that turn roots to mush). Too cold, and the plants will go into shock, slowing all growth because the roots won’t be able to metabolize the sugars in their own body let alone the nutrients in the water. To combat this temperature issue, bring your room to a cozy 70 degrees; the water temperature is going to be a little lower in the bucket, but anything above 63 degree water is optimal.
Cleanliness is also key to success in the these small systems, so cleaning them out once a week with fresh water can prevent anything funky getting ahold of your plants. Super key role here: try to design and arrange your buckets so that you can easily get in and out each bucket for regular maintenance. You need to be able to lift the plant up out of the bucket to change to water, so be sure to keep your plant height in check (i.e topping, and low stress training).
I personally am a constant nut about checking the potential hydrogen of the water what seems like every five seconds. I long ago ran out of the pH liquid test indicator provided by General Hydroponics (and subsequent bottles that I bought myself), and have now bought myself a nice digital readout BlueLab pH Pen, making my life a whole lot easier. Keeping pH levels in check will ensure that your plants will receive all nutrients in the water, and not just a select few. For example, if your pH is consistently too high, your plant will become depleted of available iron and magnesium, and will not have the ability to uptake more, even if you are adding these elements to the water every week. On the opposite side, if your water is too acidic, macro nutrients like phosphorus and potassium become unavailable, causing fruits not to fully ripen.
Our Fifth Season pH House Up (potassium hydroxide acid) and pH House Down (phosphoric acid) are easy to use, with only a few drops per gallon needed. Huge tip: don’t add PH up and down in the same water! This can create nutrient lock out, essentially sentencing your plant to death over time, so if you mess up, pick your favorite tree or shrub outside to dump your reservoir water on, and just start over with fresh water in your system.
Deep Water Culture is a great way to get into hydroponic growing, and the all-in-one systems make it even easier. We are always happy to walk you through the set-up process, and troubleshoot any problems you may encounter along the way – we LOVE to talk indoor gardening! If you’ve been interested in hydro, these are great items to put on your holiday gift list!