Get your hands wet with hydroponic houseplants

Could this be the future of houseplants?

Elizabeth Meade
7th March 2022
Image from Pixabay @naidokdin

Have you ever wanted to have houseplants in your flat, but don’t want to get soil everywhere? Then you may want to look into the world of hydroponic houseplants.

Hydroponics is a form of growing plants in which nutrient-infused water is used as substrate instead of soil. This method has frequently been used to perform plant experiments, to increase crop yield, and even to grow plants in space.

Setting up a hydroponic garden at home can be very complicated, as you typically need to obtain a lot of unusual equipment and put it together yourself. The start-up costs can also be a barrier, as the construction materials and nutrients can be quite expensive if you are making a huge setup. However, there are smaller kits that you can purchase online that include the necessary materials to grow a small hydroponic garden at home.

If you are not interested in cutting up your own PVC pipes and purchasing supplies more suited to keeping freshwater fish than growing your own basil, ordering a kit is the best option. These kits are often suited to growing herbs and tomatoes. These plants are perfect for when you want to make spaghetti or homemade pizza.

Whatever method you are using, you will need to figure out the best nutrient mix for your plants and the vessel in which you want them to grow.

If you want to build your own setup, it is important to research the different methods. Whatever method you are using, you will need to figure out the best nutrient mix for your plants and the vessel in which you want them to grow. You might also need a rooting medium, which is not used in “pure” hydroponics but can nevertheless be effective. This method requires a drip irrigation system or similar to flood the rooting material with nutrients.

If you are using pure aqueous solution with no rooting medium, you will need an air tube and a pump. An aquarium pump should work well for this. This setup pumps air into the aqueous solution to keep it flowing. The vessel, in this case, can be a large tub. In this setup it is also helpful to have a large sheet with holes in it for the plants to grow through in order to keep them separate and upright.

You can also use a nutrient film technique system, often abbreviated as NFT. In this setup, the plants are situated in a tube or a trough and aqueous solution is flowed through the tube with a pump. You can use PVC pipes for this. This setup is a bit more difficult because you not only need the pipes and the pump, you also need a reservoir for the nutrient solution and a receptacle to capture excess solution that spills over and bring it back into the reservoir. A capillary mat is placed at the bottom of the pipe to retain moisture. Just as with the pure aqueous method, it is important to have something on top of the tube to hold up the plants and prevent them from falling over. The “film” refers to the fact that the trough can be made of polyethylene film.

While hydroponic gardening can be difficult, it is a great way to grow fresh produce at home if you are interested in doing a small-scale engineering project—or just want to add some greenery to the windowsill.

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
(she/her) 4th year Chem student. Former Head of Current Affairs and Former Science Sub-Editor. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking. Wrote the first article for Puzzles. Probably the first Courier writer to have work featured in one of Justin Whang's videos.

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