How to Start a Hydroponic Garden for Beginners?

Growing plants hydroponically is an excellent opportunity for urban gardeners who need more outdoor space.

Apart from having quality yield, hydroponics allows the harvesting of edibles year-round.

While you can grow different plants hydroponically, most gardeners prefer growing vegetables, as it allows you to enjoy chemical-free, nutrient-rich food.

Before starting hydroponic gardening, let me clarify that it is much easier to grow veggies in the soil than growing them in water hydroponically.

Unlike traditional gardening, hydroponics requires you to spend heavily on initial equipment.

But you don’t have to tackle soil-borne diseases and weeds. Also, you can expect a good harvest regardless of the climate.

Starting a hydroponic garden indoors is fascinating and equally challenging for beginners.

However, with the proper guidance, even a beginner can kick-start a hydroponic gardening journey.

What is Hydroponics?

In simple words, hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil.

Instead of potting soil, plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution. This method can be done indoors or outdoors and is especially popular in areas with poor soil quality or limited gardening space.

This gardening method offers several advantages, like faster plant growth, higher yields, and the ability to grow plants year-round.

To cut down the cost, you can build your hydroponic system.

But, if you’re looking for an incredibly user-friendly system, then pre-made hydroponic systems can be a saver even for those without a green thumb.

Before dwelling further, let’s dive into the pros of this soilless gardening.

Benefits of Hydroponic Gardening

Studies claim that it is faster to grow veggies hydroponically compared to soil gardening.

Also, the quality of the yield is 20% better than those grown traditionally in the soil.

Including faster growth and better yield, growing hydroponically allows you to use space efficiently, thanks to tower hydroponic systems.

As there is no soil, you don’t have to deal with weeds and soil-borne diseases.

Within a controlled environment and lightning, you don’t have to worry about pests and other plant diseases.

  • Faster Growth: Plants grown hydroponically can grow up to 50% faster than those grown in soil.
  • Higher Yields: Because you can control the growing environment, hydroponic systems can produce higher yields than traditional gardening.
  • Space Efficient: Hydroponic systems can be set up vertically, making them ideal for small spaces.
  • Water Conservation: Hydroponics uses less water than traditional soil gardening because the water is re-circulated through the system.
  • Fewer Pests and Diseases: Growing indoors and without soil reduces the risk of pests and soil-borne diseases.

How to Start a Hydroponic Garden Indoors?

Plants need water, nutrients, and sunlight to grow. Soil or other growing mediums hold the nutrients and help plants stay stable against the wind.

Hydroponics supply essential nutrients and water directly to plants, making it easier for roots.

This allows plants to grow faster in a shorter timeframe.

Depending on the scale of your gardening budget, skill, and growing environment, there are multiple hydroponic systems to develop.

Deep water culture and wicking systems are two hydroponic systems that are popular among beginners due to their low maintenance and ease of setup.

1. Deep Water Culture (DWC)

As mentioned above, the deep water culture system is one of the simplest and most popular among beginners.

In this hydroponic system, plants are suspended in a nutrient-rich oxygenated water solution.

This method allows plants to access both nutrients and oxygen directly, promoting rapid growth and higher yields compared to traditional soil-based growing.

  • Choose a Container: Select a sturdy, lightproof container to prevent algae growth. Common choices include plastic buckets or tubs.
  • Install Air Pump and Air Stones: Place air stones at the bottom of the container and connect them to an air pump using tubing. This oxygenates the water, which is essential for healthy root growth.
  • Prepare the Lid: Cut holes in the lid of the container to fit net pots. The net pots will hold the plants and allow their roots to reach the water below.
  • Add Water and Nutrients: Fill the container with water and add hydroponic nutrients according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the water level reaches the bottom of the net pots.
  • Place Plants in Net Pots: Fill the net pots with a growing medium like clay pellets or rock wool cubes, and place your plants in them. Position the net pots in the holes on the container lid.

Regularly check the pH level of the water, aiming for a range of 5.5 to 6.5. Adjust as necessary using pH up or down solutions.

Ensure the air pump runs continuously to keep the water oxygenated. Regularly top up the water and nutrients as the plants use them.

Monitor your plants for signs of nutrient deficiencies or disease and adjust the nutrient solution as needed. Keep an eye on the root’s health, ensuring they stay white and free from rot.

2. Wicking System

A wicking system is a simple type of hydroponic setup where plants get water and nutrients through a wick. The wick pulls water and nutrients from a reservoir and brings them to the plant roots. This method is easy to set up and maintain, making it great for beginners.

  • Set Up Containers: Use one container for plants and another for the water and nutrient solution (the reservoir).
  • Insert the Wick: Place one end of a wick (like cotton or nylon rope) into the growing medium around the plant roots and the other end into the nutrient solution in the reservoir.
  • Add Growing Medium: Fill the plant container with a growing medium (soil, coco coir, or perlite) to support the plant and wick.
  • Fill the Reservoir: Add water and hydroponic nutrients to the reservoir according to the instructions on the nutrient package.
  • Monitor and Maintain: Regularly check and refill the reservoir, ensuring the wick stays in contact with both the nutrient solution and the plant roots, and adjust as needed for healthy plant growth.

Other Hydroponic systems include

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

The Nutrient Film Technique uses a constant flow of nutrient-rich water over the roots of plants.

The plants sit in channels, and a thin layer of nutrient solution flows along the bottom. This gives the roots nutrients and plenty of oxygen. NFT is efficient and great for growing leafy greens and herbs.

Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)

The Ebb and Flow system works by flooding the plant roots with nutrient-rich water and then draining it back into a reservoir.

Plants are placed in a grow bed filled with a growing medium like clay pellets or rockwool.

The system floods the grow bed with the nutrient solution at set times, making sure the roots get both nutrients and oxygen. This method is flexible and can support many different types of plants.

Drip System

In a Drip System, a nutrient solution is delivered directly to the base of each plant through tubes and emitters.

The solution drips slowly, giving the roots a constant supply of nutrients and moisture. This system can be either a recovery system, where the excess solution goes back to the reservoir, or a non-recovery system, where the excess drains away.

Drip systems are very customizable and suitable for different types of plants, including larger plants and vegetables.


This method gives roots oxygen, water, and nutrients right where they need it, which helps plants proliferate and use nutrients well.

Aeroponics is a fancy hydroponic way where plant roots hang in the air and get sprayed with a special nutrient mix.

Plants hang in a frame, and their roots float in a misty space. Aeroponics works really well and is perfect for growing different plants, like leafy greens and herbs.

How to Set Up Your Hydroponic Garden Indoors?

Once you’ve chosen your system, it’s time to set up your garden. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need the following basic supplies to set up your hydroponic garden:

  • Hydroponic System Kit: Depending on the system you choose, you can either buy a pre-made kit or build your own.
  • Grow Lights: If you’re growing indoors, you’ll need artificial lights to mimic sunlight. LED grow lights are energy-efficient and effective.
  • Nutrient Solution: This is the lifeblood of your hydroponic garden. You’ll need a high-quality, hydroponic-specific nutrient solution.
  • Growing Medium: Even though you’re not using soil, you’ll need a medium to support your plants. Standard options include rock wool, clay pellets, and coconut coir.
  • pH Meter: Maintaining the correct pH level is crucial for nutrient absorption. A pH meter will help you monitor and adjust the pH of your nutrient solution.

2. Set Up Your System

Follow the instructions for your chosen hydroponic system. Make sure all components are correctly connected and secure. Place your system in a location with easy access to water and power, and if you’re indoors, set up your grow lights to provide adequate lighting.

3. Prepare Your Nutrient Solution

Mix your nutrient solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fill your system’s reservoir with the solution and check the pH level, adjusting it if necessary. Most plants thrive in a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5.

4. Plant Your Seeds or Seedlings

Start by germinating your seeds or purchasing seedlings. Once they have developed roots, transfer them to your hydroponic system. Ensure the roots are in contact with the nutrient solution or growing medium, depending on your system.

5. Monitor and Maintain Your Garden

Regularly check the water level, pH, and nutrient concentration in your system. Replenish the nutrient solution as needed and monitor your plants for signs of growth or distress. Adjust the lighting and environmental conditions to promote healthy growth.

Tips for Success

Hydroponic gardening requires attention to detail and regular maintenance. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Start Small: If you’re new to hydroponics, start with a small system and a few plants. This will help you learn the basics without being overwhelmed.
  • Choose Easy Plants: Begin with easy-to-grow plants like lettuce, spinach, herbs, and strawberries. As you gain experience, you can experiment with more challenging crops.
  • Monitor Regularly: Check your system daily to ensure everything is functioning correctly. This includes water levels, pH, and the health of your plants.
  • Keep It Clean: Clean your system regularly to prevent algae growth and nutrient build-up. This will keep your plants healthy and your system running smoothly.
  • Stay Informed: Join online forums, read books, and watch videos about hydroponics. The more you learn, the better you’ll become at managing your garden.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Even with careful attention, you might encounter some common issues. Here’s how to address them:

1. Nutrient Deficiencies

If your plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies (e.g., yellowing leaves), check the nutrient concentration and adjust as needed. Ensure your pH is within the correct range to allow for proper nutrient absorption.

2. Pest Infestations

While hydroponic gardens are less prone to pests, they are not immune. Inspect your plants regularly and use organic or hydroponic-safe pest control methods if needed.

3. Algae Growth

Algae can grow in your system if it’s exposed to light. Cover your reservoir and any exposed solution to prevent algae growth. Regular cleaning also helps keep algae at bay.

4. pH Imbalance

Fluctuating pH levels can affect nutrient uptake. Use a pH meter to monitor your solution and adjust with pH up or down solutions as needed.

Best vegetables that can be grown hydroponically indoors

When it comes to hydroponic gardening indoors, certain vegetables thrive exceptionally well. Here’s a curated list of some of the best vegetables for indoor hydroponic cultivation:

Lettuce: Various lettuce varieties, including leaf lettuce, romaine, and butterhead, are well-suited for hydroponic cultivation due to their shallow root systems and rapid growth.

Spinach: Spinach is a nutrient-rich leafy green that grows exceptionally well in hydroponic setups, offering a continuous harvest of fresh greens.

Kale: Kale is a hardy, leafy green that flourishes in hydroponic systems, providing abundant harvests of nutritious leaves packed with vitamins and minerals.

Swiss Chard: With its vibrant colors and mild flavor, Swiss chard is an excellent choice for hydroponic cultivation, offering a continuous harvest of tender leaves.

Herbs (Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Parsley): Culinary herbs thrive in hydroponic environments, providing a convenient source of fresh flavorings for your dishes year-round.

Tomatoes: Compact tomato varieties, such as cherry or grape tomatoes, can be successfully grown hydroponically indoors, producing sweet, juicy fruits.

Bell Peppers: Bell peppers are another vegetable that adapts well to hydroponic systems, offering a steady supply of crunchy, flavorful peppers for cooking and snacking.

Cucumbers: Dwarf cucumber varieties are ideal for hydroponic cultivation, producing crisp, refreshing cucumbers perfect for salads and snacks.

Green Beans: Dwarf bush bean varieties are suitable for hydroponic systems, yielding tender green beans with minimal space requirements.

Radishes: Radishes are quick-growing root vegetables that thrive in hydroponic setups, providing a crunchy and peppery addition to salads and sandwiches.


It is exciting to grow your food indoors, too, using hydroponics.

As mentioned, there are several hydroponic systems based on the growing environment and the scale of your budget.

With the right system, supplies, and a bit of patience, you can create a thriving hydroponic garden in your home. Remember, every gardener started as a beginner, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

By following the steps and tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful hydroponic gardener. Enjoy the journey, and happy growing!

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