5 Lessons Learned my First Year of Hydroponic Gardening

5 Lessons Learned my First Year of Hydroponic Gardening

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We have really enjoyed our DIY hydroponic garden adventure! But when taking on something new, you’re bound to learn a few lessons. If you’d like to skip some of the mistakes I made, here are five lessons I learned in my first year with hydroponics.

1: Start small. Don’t start a million seeds.

I know you want to start all the seeds for your hydroponic garden, but here’s the thing—you don’t have anywhere to put the extra starts. The first time I started hydroponic lettuce, I started way too many seeds. Our hydroponic garden set up has space for 24 plants. What was I thinking?

Most people starting out in hydroponic gardening are working with a much smaller system than their traditional garden. The “I’ll just find a random corner of the yard to stick this extra tomato plant” we so often resort to with a traditional dirt garden doesn’t carry over so easily with water based gardening.

It’s worth pointing out that some folks have said you can take a hydroponic start and successfully transplant it into a traditional dirt garden, but this isn’t something I’ve tried yet. Mostly because the frozen north has a very short growing season, and most times I have “extra hydroponic starts” is when my dirt garden is buried under snow.

2: Start your seeds on a rotating schedule.

Our biggest mistake when we started out was having a ton of lettuce or zero lettuce—and there was nothing in between. We were either drowning in veggies, or impatiently waiting on seeds to sprout.

It takes time, but eventually you will figure out a system that works for your household (depending on what you’re growing and how quickly you use it). The trick is remembering to stick to that system and keep it moving. I’ve found a calendar to be super helpful for this.

3: Choose simple vegetables to start with.

There are some folks who say you can grow anything hydroponically, even potatoes. And while this may be true in some set-ups, it’s not what you should start with.

Not everything grows well in hydroponics, especially for beginners. Things that are easier to grow in a hydroponic garden are leaf lettuce and other “greens”, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, and some herbs.

Start small. Start simple. You can always move on from there.

4: Take advice about hydroponic gardening with a grain of salt.

I was really worried that nothing would grow in our hydroponic garden because the best place we could set it up was in our basement, and our basement is chilly. But even at a constant cool 63 degrees, we have not had any issues at all with it being too cold to grow stuff.

So, with that said, if you want to try hydroponics, try it. Even if the eXperTs oN thE inTErnEt say your set up won’t work… try it anyway. See for yourself.

5: Make sure your system remains accessible.

Although our DIY hydroponic garden system is pretty “set it and forget it” at this point, make sure that your hydroponic garden doesn’t become out of sight, out of mind.

If it’s a struggle to get to what you’re growing—because, for instance, someone blocks your hydroponic shelf with a maze of boxes and basement BS—you’re going to forget (or not want to to) check on/harvest your lettuce friends.

Learn from my experiences. Now… go grow things! Check out my other posts on hydroponic gardening.

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