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Hydroponic Gardening-the Ultimate guide, has taken me from 1985 until now to complete my experiments and understand how it works.     I started my experimenting with hydroponics  in 1980.

The  thing I like about hydroponics (hydro=water and ponos=labor) is that the water does the work for me, to a certain extent.  Hydroponic gardening  technology has improved greatly since then and is now becoming very popular.

Single Plant Hydroponic garden

Hydroponic Gardening a Short History

In 1937, Time Magazine shared this story about hydroponics!

Last week a new science was given a new name. Hydroponics, by its foremost U. S. practitioner, Dr. William Frederick Gericke of the University of California. Set out in row’s at the University’s plant experiment station in Berkeley are a number of shallow tanks made of wood, concrete, metal. From some of these tanks grow thick, towering clumps of tomato plants bearing rich red clusters of fruit. From other tanks and in an equal state of vigor grow potatoes, tobacco, gladioli, begonias. The roots of the plants are not in soil but in chemically…

Hydroponic Gardening is not new,  from Ancient Babylon to the Aztecs in what we call Mexico, there have been hanging gardens.  Beautiful examples of how beloved and useful water is.  The Chinese also have many examples of hydroponic gardens. Dr. Gericke from the university of  But even in the last five decades, there has been some tremendous innovations and understanding of how to succeed using hydroponics. The United States Government studied hydroponics even in space on board the first space station.  They also studied how to grow hemp, yes, marijuana for both fiber and for increasing the potency of the drug effectiveness of the pot plant.  All of these tests used and refined hydroponic gardening.

You do not need soil

Without the restriction of having to grow in soil, hydroponics can produce a higher yield, as well as use less water.  This makes the dependency on rain and massive irrigation resources, or lack of irrigation, less of a problem.  Without having to worry about drought, the ability to live a sustainable life is greatly increased.  Especially where the soil in the area is either very poor or contaminated by pollution or purposeful destruction.   The need for massive doses of pesticides or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is eliminated.  Most pests live in the soil.  This creates a our water, soil and food cleaner, while conserving HUGE amounts of Water.   And you may have heard about the water shortages that the large corporations and the news is starting to talk about.   Water is life.  If WE do not start managing our water useage, do we really want our governments to manage it for us?  They have done such a great job of keeping the rivers, lakes and land free from pesticides and other contaminants like mercury, PCB’s, etc….

Hydroponic gardening is becoming very popular with commercial growers as well.  There is a US Military Veteran who has a hydroponic garden/farm in southern California.  It is called Archie’s Acres, they are growing naturally healthy food using hydroponics.  At the same time they are also helping other veterans and college students to become self sufficient and learn a business.  A lot of our food, especially in the cold winter months comes from greenhouses growing hydroponically.


What can be grown hydroponically?

Most vegetables can be grown hydroponically.  Pretty much most of what you grow in your soil garden can be grown in a hydroponic garden.  Here is a small list of some of the vegetables that can be grown:

  • Tomatoes
  • Zuchinni
  • radishes
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • melons
  • carrots
  • onions
  • peppers
  • herbs
  • spices
  • And the list goes on.

You are limited only by your desire to experiment and ask for help from others.  Remember in school when you had a test?  If you asked someone else for help, you would get in trouble.  In Real Life, if you do not ask for help, you might get into trouble.  Either your plants will fail or you could end up spending a lot more money learning the hard way.

Homemade Hydroponics

If you are limited by finances to get started, ask for some help.  my first hydroponic system cost me $6 to make out of 2 buckets and some rope.   We got about $50 worth of tomatoes out of the plant!   We also grew some hydroponic strawberries.

Hydroponic gardeners are excited to help and the ones that I have met, have a passion for helping others.  Life is an open source, ask for help, it makes for a more enjoyable journey.  I know for myself, the more I share what I know and as I ask for help, the better I become at growing our food.


6 Different Types of Hydroponic Systems

I know of 6 different types of hydroponic systems.  That is if you count the drip systems as one, as there is drip system-recovery and drip system-non-recovery.  So I guess you could say 7 different types that I know of.  Are there other systems?  Possibly, but I am only going to share what I know.  If you know of more please share!

Here they are, then I will go into more detail about them.

  1. Wick System
  2. Water Culture System
  3. Flood and Drain (aka-Ebb and Flow)
  4. Drip System (Recover and Non-recovery, yes, I am talking about recovering the water)
  5. NFT System (Nutrient Film Technique)
  6. Aeroponic System (is it really a hydroponic system?  Yes)


Wick System is  easiest and most inexpensive hydroponic system to build.  It uses wicking material, like cotton rope or other non-polluting fibrous material.  The material shout be absorbent, and will be used to move the nutrient solution from the reservoir into the soil.   My first experiment I used two (2) buckets.  One bucket to grow my tomato plants, and the other to hold the nutrient solution with the wicks floating in the solution.  It was easy to build, and cost me about 6 dollars total including the soil, seeds and buckets.  I made my own nutrient solution using compost.  Our water supply was not treated with chemicals so I did not filter the water.


Water Culture System, or as I like to call it, the Floating garden.  It is made up of a tank, of nutrient solution, an air pump that supplies air to an airstone (add air back into the water) and a float to hold the plant containers so that they will float on top of the nutrient solution.  This system works great for growing lettuce ans other product that are fast growing and take larger amounts of water.  Popeye must have had a floating hydroponic garden with all of the spinach he ate.

Flood and Drain (Ebb and Flow) System.  This system works by flooding the grow tank with nutrient solution, but only temporarily. Then the nutrient solution drains back into the tank.  It requires a submersible pump, and you now have two tanks.  One for growing the plant, and one for the solution.  In addition, there is an overflow drain from the grow tank back into the nutrient solution tank.  If you do not have the overflow, if the pump fails to stop working, you would then have a mess.

Drip System (recovery and non-recovery)  The drip system is one of the most used types of hydroponic gardening  systems in the world!  There is a grow tray, that has a pump to deliver the nutrient solution.  For the drip recovery system, there is a drain from the grow tray to recover the solution, as well as an air pump and an air stone to add air back to  the nutrient tank.   The non-recovery drip system will just pump nutrient solution to the plants at a specific rate.  This can be more difficult if you live in a hot climate or if you have problems with your automation of adding water and nutrients to you plants.  However, if you are present all of the time, some of the drip systems are very simple.   Take a watering container to the plants and drip the nutrients to the base of each plant you are growing!  Low tech but it works great!

NFT System.  The NFT system (Nutrient Film Technique)  and no, I am not talking about hollywood or homemade films.  The NFT system is actually a continuous flow system.  the plants and their grow pots are placed into a long pipe or channel.  the nutrient solution is continually circulated but in a very shallow stream of water.  This water, also called the nutrient solution, flows past the bare roots of the plants.  But the root mat develops in the bottom of the channel.  The upper surface of the root, will be moist, but will be in the air to make sure that there is an abundant supply of oxygen to the roots.

Can there be problems for the plants if there is too much solution in the channels?  Yes, so getting your flow right and keeping it clean and working properly is very important.


Aeroponic System is the  most high-tech type of hydroponic gardening that I know of.   The growing medium is mostly air.  So  instead of flooding the channel, the roots hang in the air and are misted with the nutrient solution.  The roots are misted every few minutes, or as needed to ensure that they receive the food they need to grow healthy.  Since the roots are “hanging out to dry” so to speak, if the spraying cycle is shut off by loss of power or other challenge, the plants could die .   It is a great system, and I have see a couple of them.  Majestic Hydrogardening has one that he has created.  I am impressed with his ingenuity!

Hydroponic Gardening: grow you way to health

So I have taken you through the basics of Hydroponic gardening.  This really seems simple, and in practice it can be, as long as you understand the plants, flowers included, that you want to grow.  There is a lot more to learn.  The more you learn and grow your own food, your health will continue to improve.   Every journey starts with the first step.  I hope that I have inspired you to take that first step to growing your own food and flowers using a hydroponic system.

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Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on