Hydroponics is a specialized type of gardening that grows plants in soil-free nutrient solutions. An economical, environmentally friendly, and sustainable way to produce food, hydroponic gardens are grown in a controlled environment, so require only basic agriculture skills.
Here, University of Arizona professor Dr Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, explains how anyone can create a low-cost hydroponic garden at home using basic Styrofoam boxes.
Tools and Materials
- Black plastic heavy-duty receptacle liner bag
- Styrofoam ice chest with deep lid cover
- 6 Styrofoam cups
- 6 gallons distilled water
- Marking pen
- Craft knife
- Sphagnum moss
- Lettuce seedlings or enough lettuce seeds for six plants
- Plant nutrient mix
Hydroponic Garden How-To
1. Line Styrofoam ice chest with black liner bag. Fill with distilled water.
2. Using the top of Styrofoam cups as a template, trace 6 evenly spaced circles on Styrofoam chest's deep lid cover. With a craft knife, cut out circles 1/4 inch smaller than Styrofoam cup lid circles.
3. Using craft knife, cut small hole in the bottom of Styrofoam cups. Place Sphagnum moss in cups and top with perlite, filling to just under rim of cup.
4. Insert lettuce seedling into perlite, and fill in perlite around seedling.
5. Place lid upside-down on chest. Place cups in holes of lid.
6. Water seedlings each day with nutrient mix, making sure that the water level in the container is not too high: There should be about an inch of room between the water line and the bottom of the Styrofoam cups. After a week to 10 days, roots from the seedlings should begin entering the container. As the plants grow, pick leaves as desired, always being careful not to overharvest.
Hydroponic seed starters, perlite, moss, and specialty nutrient mixes are available at most garden shops.