A Guide to Hydroponic Gardening
What’s more environmentally friendly than a garden? Hydroponic gardening! It doesn’t require any soil, but instead uses a nutrient-rich solution. Hydroponics is a sustainable way to grow food in your apartment, and as complicated as it may seem, even novice gardeners can take care of these plants because they are in a controlled environment. Growing plants in an apartment can get messy–especially if you have furry friends that tend to knock over anything with one wag of their tail, but a hydroponic system is easy and allows you to control everything. Plus, you can use artificial light, making it more plausible to grow plants throughout the winter.
What You’ll Need
Hydroponic gardens are super cheap, and you may even have some of the supplies lying around your apartment. You’ll need a Styrofoam ice cooler with a deep lid cover or a plastic tub, as well as six Styrofoam or plastic cups. A black plastic heavy-duty garbage bag, pen or marker, and craft knife are also necessary, but you should be able to pick these up anywhere.
You’ll have to go to a store that specializes in gardening to get the rest of the items: Perlite, Sphagnum moss, plant nutrient mix and seedlings. There are also several hydroponic kits on the market, but they will often cost at least $200.
How to Build Your Garden
First, take a Styrofoam cup and flip it over to use as a template. Trace six circles along the cover of the Styrofoam container. Then, carefully use the craft knife to cut out those circles - make sure to cut them slightly smaller than the trace marks so the cup will fit into the hole without falling through. A good rule of thumb is to go about ¼-inch smaller than the top of the cup.
After that, cut a small hole in the bottom of each of the cups so that water can drain through. Place moss in the bottom of each one and top it off with the perlite, filling the cup about 80 percent full. Place your seedlings in each cup and then cover them with more perlite.
Now you’re ready to put it all together! Use the black garbage bag to line the Styrofoam cooler and fill it with six gallons of distilled water. Then, put the top on the container and place each cup into one of the holes.
How to Care for Your Hydroponic Garden
Make sure to water your garden each day with the nutrient mix, but don’t overflow the container. Keep about an inch between the water level and the bottom of each cup, and in roughly 10 days you should start seeing roots from the seedlings entering the container.
Hydroponic gardening is a great way to grow your own food in a small space–and it can also slash your grocery budget!