Hydroponics is when plants are grown in any medium that is not soil. The plant can be in anything that holds it upright, from specially made mediums like expanded clay balls to perlite, to even just water. The plant is watered at intervals with water mixed with nutrients.

No. Hydroponic nutrients are especially formulated to give a complete feeding to plants that are not in soil. There are many choices of hydroponic nutrients available. But you can’t just mix up any commercial fertilizer (such as Miracle-Gro) and water and hope it works. You can, however, pour used nutrient solution onto your soil plants.

The hydroponic system that is the best is the one that works for you. If you just have a small space on your counter, a sleek herb kit would be what you are looking for. If you have room in the basement, maybe a grow tent would be a good fit. If you have space outside, you could set up a big Dutch bucket situation, or a run-to-waste greenhouse.

Yes, any plant that grows in soil could theoretically grow hydroponically. However, most people stick with herbs, annual vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, and leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. It would be very hard to build a hydroponic system for a tree!

Hydroponic nutrients are all the food a plant needs to live. They include macro nutrients (the one plants use the most of), secondary nutrients, and micro nutrients. You must give the plants a complete diet that consists of all the nutrients.

Yes! In fact, hydroponics uses less water than conventional farming. With overhead sprinklers a lot of water is lost by evaporation, and with drip irrigation into the soil. Hydroponics keeps the water contained in a reservoir until the plants need it.

Yes, you need both of these. The EC meter is far more important. If you are not monitoring your nutrient solution, you are certain to either over or under feed your plants. The pH is a little more flexible…if you have neutral water (pH 7) the solution stays pretty constant if you are adding the right amount of nutrient and draining your reservoir regularly. Don’t forget to calibrate your meters if needed, and store them properly.

No, plants can grow hydroponically anywhere. In fact, if you have the right temperature, plants grow better outside. Lights are made to mimic the sun, but the sun is still the ultimate grow light.

Hydroponics with fish is called aquaponics. It is a system where the grower feeds and waters the fish, and then the plants are watered and fed with the fish waste water. This way you don’t have to buy nutrients, but you do have to care for fish.

No. Perhaps you’ve heard people say hydro tomatoes have no flavor. That’s simply not true. Commercially grown tomatoes are picked early, often when still green, so they will hold up to shipping. That’s what makes them tasteless. A hydroponic tomato given the right nutrients will be bursting with flavor.

Yes. Do not put nutrients into your fish water

Yes. When you drain and refresh your reservoir once a month (or more often), definitely pour the used solution on your garden or lawn or houseplants. However, hydro nutrients are often more expensive than soil fertilizer, so buying hydro nutrients for your soil may not make sense economically.

Sometimes, but be aware that it is very shocking to the plant to suddenly change from hydro to soil. The older the plant, the longer it will take to adapt. Some plants will not be able to adapt, and will wilt and die.

You can harvest it leaf by leaf as soon as the leaves are big enough to eat, or wait until it forms a nice head and then pull the whole thing.

Seedlings should not be transplanted until they have at least one set of true leaves, and a good looking root system. Do not move them too early.

Yes, but it is a little more work. Look for the certified organic symbol on your nutrient bottle.

There are many, many nutrient companies and each one claims to be the best. It can be very confusing to sort out what they are selling. Be sure you are buying a complete nutrient, not just additives and enhancers. Also, calcium/magnesium  is usually sold separately. Your plants must have CalMag. If you do not understand what you are buying, study the label and ask questions.

No, but if your plants are growing well it can be fun to add extra things to them to see how much you can accelerate the growth.

Yes, hydroponic plants generally grow faster. Because you are delivering the exact nutrients and plenty of water to your plants, they can grow incredibly fast. However, if you are not monitoring your nutrient levels and watering schedule, things can go wrong pretty quickly too!

Now that you have read through the FAQs, you may be wondering…

These are the things you need to start your hydroponic garden:

A system: Buy or build a way to support your plants and get water/nutrient to them

Meters: You need an EC meter and a pH meter

Nutrients: Choose a complete nutrient and carefully read the recommendations of how much to use

Seeds or plants: Choose what you want to grow!

Experimentation: You won’t figure out hydroponics all at once. Even when you fail, you are learning. Keep trying and you will be rewarded with beautiful plants.