What is hydroponics and how can I get started? The technology, techniques and variety of products are constantly changing and improving, so here’s what you need to know.
Of course, the types of plants you’re “allowed” to grow at home with hydroponics in Canada have changed. Either way, our handy info guide will help you get started with the right knowledge to begin sprouting your very own herbs and leafy greens in the convenience of your own private growing sanctuary. How green is your thumb?
Table of Contents:
- Why is hydroponics better?
- Setting up: How to build hydroponics at home
- Hydroponic growing equipment
- How to plant hydroponics
- Hydroponics farming and horticulture
1 Why is hydroponics better?
A recent report from our friends at Scott’s Root Farm suggests that 55% of new growers started with hydroponics just last year. I might say that began sometime in October, but there are a number of theories as to why that spike occurred.
Why hydroponics is better, or if it’s better, is a matter of need, intent and preference. An article published by the CBC last May suggests that hydroponic systems should not be expected to sustain a human diet completely.
“The vast majority of these systems produce only vegetables, and especially low-calorie vegetables like lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, herbs, etc. Human beings cannot survive on these types of foods.” – CBC News, May 8, 2017
So at-home hydroponics growth is likely better served for herbs, leaf greens and flowering rather than sustaining a village or taking a competitive run at Canada’s agriculture industry. Here are a few benefits of growing at home:
|– Fresh plants and herbs||– Organic and sustainable|
|– Control over what goes in and out||– Control over the handling of food|
|– Ultra-cool conversation starter||– Looks beautiful and smells fresh|
|– Niche craft grows and seeds||– Cost effective source of herbs and greens|
Capiche? Good. Let’s grow on.
2 Setting up: How to build hydroponics at home
What cool and innovative tech will you need to produce the indoor garden of your dreams? It’s a lot more accessible than most aspiring horticulturists think. The first thing you need to determine is if you will grow in a substrate or water-based environment, also known as the “growing media”. Hydroponic substrates are soil-less, inactive and used to anchor the roots of your plants. It’s really just a fancy term for the medium they are planted in, like high-performance potting mix and felt pots. Water-based hydroponics feature a tech-forward recirculating hydro and pump system with a more controlled nutrient cycle that typically yields faster growth and more volume.
The hardware shortlist includes:
|Substrate system:||Water-based system:|
|– Felt pot or felt container||– Hydroponic planter/pot|
|– Substrate medium (growing mix)||– Water pump/irrigation|
|– Drip tray to capture runoff||– Growing Light/lighting system|
|– Growing light/lighting system|
As far as pros and cons of substrate vs. water-based systems go: Substrates ‘feel’ a little more like farming, require less cycling/draining maintenance and don’t require power themselves, but can be messy, require more space and be more time-consuming in the long run. Water-based systems seem a little more tech-forward (for better or worse), boast simplified ‘set and forget’ operation, cleaner aesthetic appeal, but require a power source for the pump and more precise water changing/draining.
3 Hydroponic growing equipment
The tools of the at-home trade will vary depending on which method you choose as well; however, both require significant and controlled exposure to light. Be aware that there will be varying costs associated with every lighting setup, based on your regional utilities and electricity consumption.
When shopping for hydroponics lighting, systems are usually categorized by physical size, power throughput (watts), and number of light emitting diodes (LEDs). Walmart has a variety of well-priced options to help you customize your setup without breaking the bank.
If you’re looking for a cost-efficient intro to home hydroponics growing, then you might want to start small with a countertop setup or floor stand, like the Root Farm All-Purpose LED Grow Light or the Jiffy Hydro Grow Light. Both setups are height-adjustable – an important consideration for plants that grow high over time and need that height to change.
Beyond that, you will need a growing tray or pot for substrate systems or a hydroponic pot, or set of pots for water-based systems. Substrate pots are usually made of felt, like the Root Farm Hydroponics Felt Garden Pot, and are measured in litres. Water-based hydroponics growing pots are the space-age looking plastic or ceramic units, measured by the number of plants they accommodate, with either a built-in or after-market (external) pump system for irrigation. The Fusion Garden Hydroponic System from Grow Lights Canada or the full-featured Root Farm Hydroponics Garden System are good examples.
On that note, you can always buy the whole shot with a full hydroponics growing starter kit, like the one mentioned above or the Jiffy Hydro Growing System or Starter Kit. You’ll still need the lights though.
4 How to plant hydroponics
Regardless of the system you choose, you will need a crop and nutrients. As substrates are inactive and sterile – read: have no nutrient value like soil does – and water also has no nutrient benefits, you will need to fortify your crop with nutrient concentrates or treatments, like Root Farm base nutrients, PH Balancing and a nutrient balance testing kit. You can always just pull the ripcord and pick up an easy to grow seed starting kit for substrates or a starter kit for water-based systems too. I won’t tell anyone your secret.
If you’re learning how to plant hydroponics in either a substrate or water-based system just remember:
- Be sure to source your plant seeds from a trustworthy and credible supplier
- Always plant seeds according to your supplier instructions for each specific type of plant you want to grow
- Make sure you have space for your plants to grow up and out with plenty of light
5 Hydroponic farming and horticulture
Imagine the ability to grow your own little organic production that you control, every step of the way. It’s a great way to zen out, relax and watch something truly creative literally bloom in front of you. Hydroponics growth in Canada is on the rise, so get in on the action today. It’s still relatively new and fairly cost-effective to get into and I bet you’ll be swapping trade secrets with your neighbours, friends and co-workers in no time. You might even find a little friendly competition among fellow home-growing enthusiasts. Happy horticulture-ing!
Special thanks to our buds at Scott’s Canada for the stats and orientation around these hydroponics growing methods.