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Using Hydroponics at Home

Hydroponics continues to be a popular topic in the horticulture industry, but usually it's on a very large, greenhouse scale. But did you know, you can try it easily at home?! If you're not familiar with the term hydroponics, it's a method of growing plants in a nutrient rich water solution instead of soil. Why, you may ask? Because the growth rate can be 30-40% faster in this type of system. And it's just pretty darn cool!

I've been experimenting the past few years with an at-home system that allows me to have a fresh supply of lettuce and herbs at the ready whenever I need it. Find out below how to make that system!

The particular system I'll show you is a passive hydroponic system. A passive hydroponic system relies on capillary or wick systems to deliver nutrients to the plant's roots. What this means is that nutrients, which are in a fluid solution, are drawn up and absorbed by the growing medium, a wick, or some other device, and passed on through contact to the roots. An active hydroponic system would rely on pumps and other mechanical devices to actively move the solution to the roots which requires more equipment and set up.

Today I'll feature the first setup and will post the other type of passive setup next month, so stay tuned! I'll also discuss some lessons I learned throughout the process.

Passive System #1


  • Plastic container with lid (from any home store)
  • Plastic net pots (online from various sources or hydroponic stores)
  • Rockwool growing medium (online from various sources or hydroponic stores)
  • Seeds (I use a lot of lettuce and other herbsl)
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution (I used CNS17 commercial nutrient solution from Botanicare)
  • Aquarium air pump (from any pet department)
  • Aquarium tubing (from any pet department)
  • Air stone (from any pet department)
  • Supplemental lighting
  • Ph test strips and EC meter
Print our the supply list and instructions here.

In this system, the first step is to take a plastic container and cut holes in the top to hold the plastic net pots.

Seeds were started in the rockwool cubes and then the rockwool cubes are placed in the net pots. The rockwool serves as the growing medium and wicks up the nutrient solution.

The container is then filled with hydroponic nutrient solution, high enough that the rockwool cubes are suspended in the solution. A hole is also made at the top of the container in order for the plastic tubing to reach the water. On this end of the tubing the air stone is connected. The air pump is attached to the other end of the plastic tubing and serves as a way to oxygenate the water. Without this, the roots of the plant would not get enough oxygen while buried in water.

Supplemental lighting should be placed within 1-2 inches of the plants and left on for 14-16 hours a day. The nutrient solution is changed every 2 weeks and the container is cleaned out with each changing. Ideally, weekly pH and EC readings would be taken to make sure the pH and nutrient levels are within the correct range for the plants you're growing.

Whenever your plants are at a large enough stage to harvest, go ahead! The great thing about growing the lettuces and herbs is that I can harvest only a portion and the plant will continue to produce for many months.