As explained in the article titled Indoor Garden, there are two styles of gardening indoors –- container and hydroponic.
Also known as soil-less gardening, hydroponic is a method of gardening in which plants grow without soil. The garden includes a basic plant growing in a container of water or in a soil-less medium like gravel, sand, vermiculite, crushed rock bricks or even Styrofoam.
There are a number of benefits to using such a system to grow an indoor garden. They include:
· A sterile environment. Since you are using a soil-less medium, a sterile growing environment is created. There are no pests or diseases as you would find in natural soil and weeds are also eliminated.
· More plants in a smaller space. In hydroponic gardening a controlled environment is created that permits you to concentrate growing plants in a tighter space. A garden can actually fit on a counter top and take up no more room than a toaster or under stairs and still leave room for storage.
· Ideal conditions. Since the environment is controlled, output is much greater. There is no stress on the plants because there are no pests, diseases or weeds so they grow faster. Lighting is also optimal, there are no rainy days and there are no fluctuating temperatures. All of this also encourages the plants to grow faster and healthier.
Creating a Hydroponic Garden
As is the case with any style of gardening, you need the proper supplies to establish the garden. These include:
· The containers
· Optimum temperature
Containers can be sophisticated watering tables in a greenhouse to a small self-contained unit on a counter top. The container must be non responsive, easy to clean and the proper size for the plants.
Lighting includes a proper amount of sunlight or artificial lighting. A good location is next to a window that faces east or west so that the plants are bathed in direct sunlight. The use of artificial lights can provide the needed lighting during times when the sun is not available or if you select a location where there is no direct sunlight. To make sure that the right intensity of light is offered, you can use a light meter when searching for a location.
It is essential that the ambient environment have the proper temperature. Selecting an area next to the window will help provide heat. The use of soil heat mats will also suffice in keeping temperatures between 75° to 85° Fahrenheit
The ecosystem of hydroponic garden includes a water tank on the bottom and the plants on shelves on top. The water should be fertilized and fed to the plants using a pump system. The water filters down to the plants and the excess is drained back into the water tank.
There are variations to the system. For example:
· You can put freshwater fish in the tank. The fish offer natural fertilizer into the water that ultimately gets to the plants.
· Make a smaller scale hydroponics system that includes cut-off plastic bottles and locate the hydroponic garden near a sunlit window. Such a set up could prove ideal in tight spaces.
· Use one large container to host the plants rather than several small ones.
Choosing a Location
Keep in mind that a hydroponics system will succeed best with direct sunlight. So select a space near a window. The sunlight from the window might prove to be sufficient as the only source of light. You will also need a lot of vertical space so that you can stack the components. This is why using shelves or even an organizational bookshelf could be ideal. Do not locate the shelves directly over or under an air vent or duct. The air could dry out the plants. Moreover, it might be best to place the system on a floor rather than carpet to prevent mold and mildew.
Any container will work in a hydroponic garden as long as it is not chemically treated and includes holes in its bottom so that excess water can drain out. If there is a particular style of container you like and want to include as part of the garden, then make sure that you drill holes into the bottom. Fill the pots with perlite, a porous soil replacement that is ideal for this type of garden. Plant seeds or plants into the containers and water them heavily to reduce transplant shock.
Set Up the System
If you have decided to purchase a commercial hydroponics system, then set it up in accordance with the instructions that come with the unit. If you want to create your own system, then follow these directions:
1. Place the shelving unit a few inches above the floor and then put the water tank on the bottom shelf.
2. Place the plant containers on the shelves above the tank.
3. Set up the water pump system so that it delivers water to the plants.
4. Hang fluorescent lights directly above the plants.
5. Connect a timer to the water pump so that the pump waters the plants for only a few hours a day.
You will have to monitor the hydroponic garden to make certain it is working properly and is in good condition. Exchange the water in the tank periodically and adjust the position of the lights as the plants grow. If you include fish in the tank, don’t forget to feed them and monitor their health.
Consult with a local hydroponics expert at a nursery for advice.