Hydroponic Gardening


Using a Hydroponics system such as this allows me to grow plants in the "off season" and aids in keeping pests at bay.
Using a Hydroponics system such as this allows me to grow plants in the “off season” and aids in keeping pests at bay.

Whenever a group of gardeners get together at least one in the group will, more than likely, bring up hydroponics.  This gardener will be glad to go on about how high-tech, efficient, and easy the system is, making it sound like it is the nicest thing since the shovel.  I’ve been there, standing with barely the understanding of the word hydroponic, skeptical but unable to challenge his claims.  Now, after building and using a system myself, now I see that while he might have stretched the truth a bit, hydroponic gardening does present many advantages to the gardener.

Hydroponic translates into “work by water”; it does just that.  Hydroponic systems require no dirt to grow plants, merely water.  Plants receive nutrients through fertilizers dissolved in the water and grow normally, just much faster.  Hydroponics, though not a new idea, has only recently been utilized on a commercial scale.  I remember when I first saw a head of lettuce with the roots still attached and the big letters ‘HYDROPONIC’ across the top for sale at the market; I bought it as a curiosity.  Environmentalists talk up hydroponic methods due to its inherent reduced use of water and pesticides. Others buy the produce because of the ease of washing (very little dirt, if you know what I mean).  Growers see the demand and have, in turn, developed a supply.

Though growing hydroponically can be expensive, particularly the setup cost, several advantages the hydroponic system offers is a tribute to the system for even surviving and being economically feasible.

First, hydroponics generally grows plant much faster than conventionally grown produce.  Growing by hydroponics allows more oxygen to the plants roots, stimulating the roots growth and offering more nutrient uptake.  Plants get their nutrients from the water flowing by them, the nutrients already broken down and requiring little energy to use.  All of the extra energy not used for digestion can now be spent on growth and production.

Stacy Lyn Harris using the hydroponics system that she and her family created.
Stacy Lyn Harris using the hydroponics system that she and her family created.

Second, since the system is off of the ground, insects theoretically do not have as many places to hide and complete their natural cycles, allowing for pest reduction.  I do find that some species of insects continue to feed on vegetables, even when grown hydroponically, but I am able to see, and therefore resolve, the problem more quickly with the plants clean and off the ground.

Third, hydroponics also offers a gardener that grows in a small space more options.  Since many systems grow plants vertically, a garden plot now grows plants several times over.  A setup could easily fill the neglected corner of a patio, or act as a tasty privacy barrier against your neighbor’s junk.

The hydroponic system we built, which technically uses the nutrient film technique, continuously pumps water from a reservoir to the plants and then allows it to flow through the system and return to the reservoir to be carried on another circuit.  We built this system using a wood frame with PVC spiraling around it, and it works very satisfactory.  It has already given us a crop of lettuce, strawberries, and herbs and is starting to produce summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Though my hydroponic system does not create a problem-free growing environment like my gardener friend boasted, it does have some perks.  I now have more growing space, mature plants quicker, and fewer pests using my hydroponic system.  Though it will never replace my traditional garden (especially growing potatoes!) it does offer a very helpful and pleasant supplement.

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  1. Stacy, I would love to have more of the particulars of your design. I have looked at several but yours interest me greatly. Specifically, your layout, materials, approximate cost, size of pump, etc. Would you be willing to share the info?

    1. Robert, I would not mind at all of getting the information to you. My family kind of makes things up as they go, but I will try to get it written down for you and either email you or send another message via my comments. I have a good bit going on the next few weeks, but will get to it as soon as possible.

  2. Great information! Where can I find the plans for the system you built? Can you please make your design known?

    1. John Scott says:

      Please also send to me when you get a chance. eac73@att.net I got a baby version for indoors and would like to start with seed indoors and transplant out. Can’t plant on the ground anymore,

  3. Scott Witherell says:

    Stacy, I am also very interested in the plans and/or parts list you used to build your system. I am planning to build something in my back yard. I have been looking at the Garden Tower, but it’s pretty expensive. By the way, I am new to your blog and this site and I love it! I will defiantly be coming back often! Thanks for all you have put into this great resource!

  4. Hi,
    I just discovered you and your website. I’m super excited to build your clay oven! I’d also like anymore info you have on your hydroponic system as well. Thnx!

    1. Great to hear from you, Jennifer. I will try to get the plants to the hydroponics as soon as I can.

  5. I love reading your blog. Also on my list is the clay oven. If not a problem, I’d also love the details of this system. Thanks!

    1. I’ll get the details as soon as I can Jennifer!!

  6. Hello Stacy, I found your site by mistake, but quickly found things very interesting and educational. Our space to grow is very limited so the idea of going with a Hydroponic Gardening system intrigues us. We have a nice sized deck that gets sun about 70% of the time.

    Would you happen to have any plans and or parts list for this configuration you set up here. It’s very creative and visually appealing, nice idea to paint the pipes. One concern I have is, and maybe I’m overthinking it, as I do with everything, but is the plastic safe to grow in, feed the plants water?

    I thinking maybe PBA fee / whatever else free is needed could be a way?


    But again perhaps you know something better or this is a non concern and in either case the conceptual idea is great. It seems super simple and I could reproduce it for our use, but a parts list and perhaps plans would make the chore a little easier.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    1. LAURIE BERUMEN says:

      I have the same concern as commented by Andy. Isn’t it counter-productive to raise a “healthy garden” in a plastic container? Doesn’t seem feasible to me.

  7. Ed Bratka says:

    I think that I can and would like to build a hydroponic setup like you showed on RFD, but I would love to have more of the particulars of your design. I have looked at several but yours interest me greatly. Specifically, your layout, materials, approximate cost, size of pump, etc. Would you be willing to share the info?

    1. I sure would give you the specifics. I don’t remember exactly, but will get back here and answer you in the next few days.

  8. David Trotter says:

    I just recently caught a re-broadcast of your show featuring this hydroponic set-up. I work with a high school that just recently built a greenhouse and I think they could incorporate this system in their facility. Please share the plan specifics. Thank You in advance

  9. Buck Cooper says:

    I would also like the info on your system. Love your channel and family.

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