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Simple Success Indoor Gardening Instructions

So, where to start?
I recommend using hydroponics, especially when growing indoors, since you don't use dirt, it's a lot cleaner and plants will grow much faster after germination. Just about any plant can be grown hydroponically, but for beginners it is best to start small. The best choices are herbs and vegetables that grow quickly, require little maintenance, and do not have a huge variety of nutrient needs. You want fast-growing plants so that you can assess how well your system works and tweak it as necessary. It would be a real letdown to wait months until harvest time only to find out your system is not working properly. Low-maintenance plants are great for beginners because they allow you to focus on learning about your system. If you are growing a variety of plants it is also important to make sure that they are similar in their nutrient requirements, so that they grow well together.

The root environment is what separates hydroponics from soil cultivation. In soil, plants await rainfall or irrigation, and their roots search out essential nutrients. With good, fertile soil and abundant water plants thrive.  In hydroponics, the plant roots are constantly provided with water, oxygen and nutrients - no searching for available nutrients or waiting for the next rain. The challenge for the grower is to keep up with the plants' needs and to avoid damaging plants with excesses or deficiencies of minerals, extremes in pH and temperature, or a lack of oxygen. A few simple tools and techniques can make the difference between success and failure.


Will the plants fit?  How much vertical and horizontal space will you provide for the plant?

How noisy is the system?  Air Circulation – Fans ~ Water Circulation – Pumps

Electrical outlet nearby?

How will I get water to the hydroponics containers?

How much will it cost?  Lights, pumps, fans, heaters, and the controller use electricity


Enclosed Growing Space:  Tent, closet, spare room, basement, attic with access to vent from outside.

Plant Growing System:  Containers and Growing Medium

Soiless Media:

  • Expanded Clay (LECA / Hydroton)
  • Coconut Coir
  • Peet, Perlite, Vermiculite
  • Rockwool


How much wattage does it take to grow healthy, happy, plants?

Fluorescent lights, LED lights are typically suitable for vegetation stages of growth

but it is recommended to use High Pressure Sodium and/or Metal Halide grow lights. 

minimum to maximum:  250W/400W/600W/1000W

Maintain Environmental Conditions:  Temperature, Humidity, Air Circulation, control air pump(s), and water pump(s) going to plants



Water pH 

A subject that is often discussed but rarely understood by many growers is nutrient pH. Generally, we worry about pH and its affect on nutrient availability. For example, if pH is too high, iron may become unavailable. Even though your nutrient solution may have an ideal iron content, your plants may not be able to absorb it, resulting in an iron deficiency: the plant's leaves will yellow and weaken.


On the other hand, advanced hydroponic plant foods contain special "chelates" that are designed to assure iron availability at higher pH ranges. The result is that your crop will grow reasonably well. even at higher pH levels. Nonetheless, high pH can damage plants in other ways, The cause of a high solution pH can be fairly complex. Most city water supplies contain calcium carbonate to raise the pH of the water and prevent pipes from corroding. As a consequence you are starting with water that has an abnormal pH, typically 8.0 for city water.

As the plants grow. it is a good idea to occasionally test the pH and adjust it if needed. You can safely allow pH to drift between 5.5 and 7.0 without adjustment. in fact, constantly dumping chemicals into your system to maintain a perfect pH of 5.8 to 6.0 can do a lot of damage. It is common for pH to drift up for a while, then down, and up again. This change is an indication that your plants are absorbing nutrient properly. Adjust pH only if it wanders too far.

 A pH below 5.5 or above 7.0 can mean trouble. but don't overreact. An apparently sudden and dramatic shift in pH can be the result of a malfunctioning pH meter. If in doubt, double check with a reagent (color match) pH kit before adjusting your solution. Also remember that all pH measuring methods are temperature dependent. Read and follow all of the instructions that came with your meter or test kit.

Another cause of unstable pH is poor quality growing media. Industrial grade rockwool and gravel are notorious for having very high pH levels that cause your nutrient pH to rise, often to constantly rise, often to dangerous levels.

A simple way to test a new growing medium is to put some of the medium - rockwool, gravel, soil - into a clean cup, then immerse (soak) the sample. in distilled or "deionized" (chemically pure) water. Let this sit for a little while and then test the pH of the water, note the pH and continue to let the sample sit. Test the pH occasionally for about a week until it has stabilized. Has the pH risen to 8.0, perhaps 9.0? Construction grade gravel can go as high as 10.0 torture to roots. Death to plants!

Never underestimate growing media as sources of pH problems. This is one of the primary reasons that "waterculture" hydroponic methods are gaining popularity over "media-based" hydroponics. The less medium you use, the fewer problems you will encounter with pH instability, and salt accumulation. Plus, the water-culture systems require less water and nutrient than media-based methods, due to higher efficiency and reduced evaporation.

Time for a change?


How often should you change your nutrient solution? That's one of the most common questions asked, and one of the most difficult to answer. Many people have tried to come up with a simple, easy-to-follow rule - once a week, every two weeks - but they're all wrong! They're wrong because there is no simple answer. It all depends on the species, the number and size of your plants. the capacity of the reservoir, the kind and quality of nutrient you use, water quality, environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, and the type of hydroponic system used. Instead of a simple answer, what we need is a procedure that takes many of these variables into account and is responsive to changing conditions. It sounds complicated, but it's actually quite simple. All it takes is a little monitoring and some basic record keeping. Start with a fresh reservoir of nutrient and make note of the date, pH, and EC or PPM of the solution. As you run the system, the level will drop in the reservoir. Note the EC/PPM level, then top-up the reservoir with fresh water. Test again for nutrient concentration. If the nutrient strength has dropped significantly, add a bit of nutrient to bring it back up to specs.


Be sure to record how much water you added to top-up the reservoir. Repeat the procedure every time you top up the system, carefully recording the amount of water added. When the total amount of water added equals the capacity of your reservoir. it is time to drain and replace all of the nutrient solution.


For example, imagine a hydroponic system in a cool, spring greenhouse with 24 strawberry plants and a nutrient capacity of 20 gallons. Typically, such a system would require about 5 gallons of added water each week, After four weeks the plants will have transpired 20 gallons - the capacity of the reservoir. You need to completely drain and replace the nutrient every four weeks in this example.

The problem of pathogens or disease in the nutrient solution can be a serious one. It is not uncommon for this to be a regional and seasonal problem.  Keep your growing area clean.  

If you see evidence of disease in a single plant, remove and destroy it quickly before the disease spreads. Watch the crop closely and destroy any other plants that show signs of disease. It is better to lose a few sick plants than to risk an entire crop. If you do encounter a disease problem, it is a good idea to completely drain and renew your nutrient after removing the sick plants. Flush the system by running fresh water without nutrient for a day. Then drain and refill with fresh nutrient. Flushing between every three or four nutrient changes can help maintain cleanliness in the root zone and in the hydroponic system. Periodic flushing is especially helpful to remove salt accumulation in the medium.

It is possible to produce a hydroponic garden that will out-perform any soil garden by simply following the manufacture's instructions on system operation and nutrient changes, and paying attention to the condition of your plants. But even the most casual grower can benefit from an understanding of a few basic concepts.

Quality tap water is a great advantage, poor water is a challenge.

Most common fertilizers offer your plants poor and incomplete nutrition, cause pH drift, and sometimes contain impurities that can become toxic to hydroponic plants.  Healthy plants grow faster, generate higher yields and are resistant to disease and insect infestation. When you mix fresh nutrient always measure carefully.