3 Ways You Can Use Hydroponic Gardening This Spring

Have you heard of hydroponics yet? Are you at all curious about this popular new way of growing a garden?

Well, then, I have something exciting to share with you today! Chris Wimmer is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard, and extend the short growing season in Chicago, where he lives.

Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at CaptainHydroponics.com and on facebook.

Chris has written a guest post for me today, all about this popular new gardening method. It’s pretty cool stuff, Gentle Reader, and I know that you’re going to enjoy learning a bit more about it. Be sure to note, at the end of this post, a most generous and fascinating FREEBIE that Chris has offered to you!

I’ll be quiet now, and turn this space over to Chris:

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponic gardening is a great and fun way to grow your vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in a more controlled way.

The easiest way for me to explain hydroponics to people is to say that it is gardening without dirt. This usually gets their attention right away and gives them a puzzled look. An inert ‘medium’ such as rockwool, coco coir, or clay pellets are used in place of soil. The medium provides a place for the roots to form and grip but does not give of any nutrients to the plants.

The plants instead gets their nutrients from a nutrient-rich water solution which the roots either sit in, or is pumped over the roots. Below is a simple deep water culture or lettuce raft:

Infographic of deep water culture

What are the Benefits of Hydroponics?

I have seen well over twenty benefits listed for hydroponic growing but here are my personal top 5:

  1. I can grow more plants per square foot of space.
  2. Systems can be automated. (For example, I feel very comfortable checking my plants just once a week if necessary.)
  3. My kids seem to be more interested in helping me with hydroponics than my dirt garden.
  4. I can grow inside during the Chicago winter.
  5. Hydroponics gives me something cool to talk about that many people are really intrigued by.

Hydroponicly produced tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, etc.

3 Ways to Use Hydroponics (without going all-in!)

So just in case you aren’t ready to completely redo your spring gardening plans and build a full scale hydroponic garden, here are 3 ways you can benefit from hydroponics without going all-in.

Baby steps are cool, right?

1) Improve your watering system

Gardening with hydroponics doesn’t have exclusive rights to dripper systems. In fact, most dripper systems are used in traditional soil gardens. A hydroponic water supply is kept in a reservoir and pumped over the plants. However, a really simple way to water a standard garden is dedicating a faucet in your yard as your water source for your dripper. Adjusting the drippers and adding a simple water timer will let you optimize your watering. Once it’s set you can actually take a summer vacation without relying on your brown thumb neighbor to watch your garden!

2) pH soil testing

One of the biggest realizations I had once I started hydroponics was the impact of the pH levels on the health of my plants. When was the last time you tested the pH of your soil?

My answer was never.

I learned in hydroponics that no matter how well you managed your liquid fertilizer, it could all be undone by pH issues. Plants need many types of nutrients even beyond the Macro nutrients of Potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), and Nitrogen (N). However, if pH is outside of 5.5 to 6.5, the nutrients might as well not even be there. Plants simply can’t utilize it when the pH is out of whack.

Testing kits like the one below for soil or hydroponics cost between $10 and $20 and are a great investment.

3) Trick your kids into gardening!

If you have kids, the educational value of showing them true garden to table is amazing! So many rich teaching points that can last them a lifetime are available through gardening. However, some kids just aren’t interested. Last year, this was the case with my oldest.

I still planted a mixed garden of soil and hydroponics as I enjoy both forms. I noticed that my daughter would help build, plant, and tend the hydroponic garden but would completely ignore the rest.

When I asked her why she gave me two reasons: First, my little princess didn’t want to get ‘dirty’ in the traditional garden. Second, she said the hydroponic watering system was like a ‘cool science experiment’.

Whatever it takes, right?

While your kids might be different, it’s great to provide them different ways to get interested and hooked on gardening.

One more way to get into hydroponics!

Spring is always a time for renewal and new projects. So if you are interested in jumping into hydroponics, I just completed a spring hydroponic growing guide and would like to offer it to everyone at vomitingchicken.com for free (that’s you, my Gentle Readers!). It covers all the basics of hydroponics, what questions you should answer before you start, and even a couple easy-to-build systems that will support herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and other leafy greens.

If you’d like free access to this Spring Hydroponic Growing Guide, just click here.


Thanks again to Chris, er, that is Captain Hydroponics, for this guest post and for this Spring Planting Guide. I’m intrigued by hydroponics and I’m loving learning more about it!

Hey, I think it would be awesome to show Chris a little appreciation by liking his Facebook page and checking out his website. Thanks again, Chris!

Don’t forget to enter this awesome giveaway for the copy of the signed New Artisan Bread in 5 Cookbook that I’ve got going . . . remember that you can enter every day, to increase your chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As is my wont, I’m popping in to Jill’s fun event over at The Prairie Homestead, and linking this post up with her barn hop. Come on over, ya’all!

16 thoughts on “3 Ways You Can Use Hydroponic Gardening This Spring

  1. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Pinned. This is something I’ve thought about but never have taken the plunge. At least one local farm here in the Binghamton, New York area, Lone Maple Farms, grows several veggies hydroponically and sells them commercially.

  2. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Amy – I click on the link and I only get a jpeg. Am I missing something ? I can get this on his website but I Have to provide my email address – I would rather not (yes, you see, no good deed goes unpunished).

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks so much for letting me know, Alana. I was having trouble with some elements of that post, and my IT guy sat down with me last night and helped me fix it. It all should be working fine now. Please let me know if it isn’t, okay?

  3. Jeanne Melanson

    I love this post. Believe it or not, my husband and I great cucumbers and tomatoes with hydroponics – in an upstairs bedroom – ta da! – 28 years ago! And, we had a friend who sold his hydroponic lettuce to the local grocery store chain. That was fun to do, by the way. Go upstairs to pick a big, juicy red tomato. Yum. Have fun!

  4. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    Actually, using hydroponics means there is NO season. You can grow what you want when you want. I’ve been doing so from some 50 years now. Growing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, spices. (Obviously, growing root vegetables takes a bit more ingenuity…)

  5. Kayla Rogers

    This seems like a good way to test out the use of hydroponics, and see if you like the watering systems. I like the idea of using a dripping systems. It seems like it would help you have more control over where the water goes, and even save water in the long run because not a lot of the water is being dissipated!

  6. Lucy

    The hydroponic system is the most economical way to produce more in the small area. All necessary nutrients which are absorbed from soil are now given with the help of water. It also saves lots of water.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lucy, maybe so, but from my experience recently, I wonder if hydroponic veg taste as good as veg that are raised in mineral-rich soil.

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