Hydroponic Farming: How Do I Start a Hydroponic Farm?
If you enjoy farming or are looking for a hobby that will let you enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits, then hydroponic farming is worth considering. As one may guess, this farming involves planting crops using water and without any soil. Is this even possible?
Of course! Mineral nutrient solutions just need to be in the equation. The roots of terrestrial plants may grow when they are exposed to nutrition in the form of a liquid. This is how hydroponic farming works.
Nutrient Sources for Hydroponic Systems
Before we proceed on how you can start your hydroponic farm, you need to know about the nutrients that should be present in your farm to give you the best chance of succeeding with your Hydroponics farm. Here are some of the different sources of nutrients so that your plants will grow through a hydroponic system.
Artificial Nutrient Solutions
There are tons of synthetic nutrients in the market that can make your plants survive without soil. These solutions are lab-produced. The experts create the nutrients by formulating compounds with some vital elements such as potassium.
On the other note, producers may also mix multiple solutions to produce a product with abundant nutrients.
Although most artificial nutrient solutions are made in labs, it is also possible to make these solutions as a DIY project. You can make your artificial nutrients by blending stuff such as salt and nutrient extractions. However, it is best to leave it to the experts to save your time, money, effort, and plants.
Chemical fertilizers need macro elements, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients to keep the plants alive. These nutrients are made to be easily absorbed and processed by plants. A huge amount of energy is used for the process of chemical fertilizers.
Dependable resources are also needed to produce efficient ones. When you get a good one, expect it to be rapidly effective to your plants.
Researchers discovered that leafy greens or vegetables that are near water recirculation survive with less soil and water because of the fish waste or in layman’s terms, fish poop. These plants grow without pesticides as well. This is the reason why fish waste is also an excellent nutrient source for hydroponics.
Duck manure can be gathered from duck sheds and is a good nutrient source for hydroponic systems. You can collect the duck waste from the water and use it for your plant’s growth and survival. Duck manure has mineral benefits as it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace minerals from the mud that ducks backwash from time to time.
For this reason, it is recommended to choose duck breeds that love to swim. Also remember that they love freshwater, plus points for you if you have a fountain or any moving water in your haven.
How to Start Your First Hydroponic Farm
If you are a beginner in this type of field, there’s a higher chance that this will be a trial and error experience for you. However, here are some tips that will surely give you a better experience in starting a hydroponic farm.
1. Choose your Hydroponic System
There are several types of hydroponic systems that you can choose for your garden. When you are still in the experimenting stage, you still have to study and observe the process so that you will know what hydroponic farming system works best for you.
Here are some of the hydroponic systems that work:
In this method, the plants are suspended in air while the roots are left hanging so they can be exposed to get more oxygen. However, other unlike systems, this system is expensive and is ideal if you have the means to invest in quality equipment for a high-quality return.
Read more about the Aeroponics Hydroponics System
Nutrient Film Technique
This has a recirculating system and is mostly used commercially. Recirculation produces less waste but failure in pumps may also ruin the plants.
Read more about the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Hydroponics System
Ebb and Flow
If you want your water and energy to be efficiently used, this system is for you. It is known to be customizable depending on your needs. The minor downside of this is that it uses up a lot of growing mediums for your crops.
Read more about the Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System
This is the most basic of the systems and it has been used for thousands of years and was not seen as a hydroponic system back then. Just like a rope, the wick will move the nutrients and water into the plants.
This system works passively, meaning that the water pumps and air pumps are not needed for the operation. Wick systems are best for plants that don’t require a lot of nutrients and water.
Read more about the Wick Hydroponics System
Deep Water Culture
The reservoir is used in this system to hold a hydroponic solution where nutrients are from. This suspends the roots of the plants in the solution. Air pumps and air stones are also in the equation to avoid the drowning of the roots and give the water oxygen constantly.
Deep water culture is inexpensive, low-maintenance, and recirculating. However, a downside of this system is that it is not compatible with large plants or plants that grow for a long period.
Read more about the Deep Water Culture Hydroponics System
This system is for a large-scale operation, which means that a smaller quantity of plants may get drowned with this choice. This is also relatively cheap, making it a good choice for an experimenting stage. It also has a high level of control for both watering and feeding.
Read more about the Drip Hydroponics System
2. Choose a Grow Medium
There are different types of grow mediums and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The grow media may include clay pellets, gravel, cotton, sand, stone wool, and many more. The grow medium you choose will depend on the type of plant you intend to grow, water retention, PH stability, aeration levels, and cost.
3. Choose Your Type of Plants
If you are looking to start a hydroponic farm, you first need to choose the right type of plant that will work best for you. There are different plants to choose from depending on the type of hydroponic system, space available, and lighting.
This can include vegetables like spinach, kale, and lettuce. You can also opt for flowers or herbs. Put the seed in your hydroponic system and let it soak in the water.
4. Add Nutrients
Something else that you will need for your hydroponic garden is an ideal hydroponic nutrient. You need to add nutrients once the seeds start to produce plants. Usually, these nutrients come in one, two, or three parts and your choice will depend on your plant needs and the size of your garden.
For adequate performance, make sure that the nutrient has 16 elements in the right concentration. If you are a beginner, you may want to opt for liquid nutrients rather than dry mix nutrients. This is because liquid nutrients don’t need any mixing and are less expensive.
5. Select the Right Light Source
For hydroponic gardening to be successful, you need the right light source. The sun works best for this garden. Nevertheless, you can still select the best grow light that will be ideal for your hydroponic system. When choosing, you need to consider several factors such as the light intensity, coverage area, light spectrum, and cost.
6. Test the PH Level
As part of your hydroponic garden maintenance, you should test the PH level regularly using a PH meter. This is important since plants can only take in nutrients in a specific PH range. You can also use test strips, a liquid test, or an electronic meter.
Best Plants to Grow With Hydroponic Farming
When it comes to hydroponic farming, plants with shallow roots do well. Basically, you can grow any fruit, vegetable, or houseplant that has deep roots. Now that you are done constructing your hydroponic system, here are the top 5 plants you need to consider growing:
This has a growth period of about 30 days. Your pH level must be 6.0 to 7.0 for this plant to survive. With a shallow root system that’s a good match to their height, set guides or tie stakes are no longer necessary. You’ll get a free lunch when they are palatable to eat.
Spinach grows in about 40 days with a 6.0 to 7.5 pH. Growth temperatures should be between 65 degrees F and 72 degrees F to make your spinach sweeter. As long as your solution is highly oxygenated, your spinach will grow quickly. For this type of plant, it is highly recommended to use Nutrient Film Technique.
This seasonal baby can now be harvested all year long, thanks to hydroponic farming. Strawberries have a growth time of about 60 days with 5.5 to 6.2 best pH. If you want to stack a lot of strawberries, then you may consider the Ebb and flow system.
Nutrient film technique and deep water culture will also do well for a smaller crop. To enjoy these fruits earlier, get cold-stored runners instead of strawberry seeds.
These will grow for about 90 days with the best pH levels of 6.0 to 6.5. Ebb and flow systems, as well as deep water culture, are conducive for this plant. Give them at least 18 hours of light each day and keep your plants 6 inches from the light.
These herbs are more aromatic and tasty when they are grown in a hydroponic garden. You can choose from watercress, basil, cilantro, chives, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. These varieties of herbs have been tested to grow well with hydroponic farming.
You can also plant carrots in your hydroponic system, although they may take a while to fully mature. When placed in a hydroponic system with a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, carrots can take up to 3 months to grow fully.
If you are planning to start a hydroponic garden as a hobby, we hope that this article has been helpful. Hydroponic gardening is easy and you can get started even with a limited budget. You just need to plan and select the right plants and hydroponic systems.