How To Get Started In Hydroponics: 7 Essential Steps

Are you ready to embark on a journey into the world of hydroponic gardening? Whether you have limited outdoor space, want to grow plants faster, or simply enjoy the thrill of nurturing plants in a soil-less environment, you’re going to need some basic equipment to get started. In this article we’ll cover the necessary items needed to get started and give some inexpensive alternatives. Don’t forget to think outside of the box when you’re making your garden, you’ll find hydroponic ideas everywhere!

1. Choosing the Right Plants and Starting Seeds

The first step in setting up a hydroponic garden is to decide which plants you want to grow. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and kale are excellent choices for beginners. Herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, and mint are also well-suited for hydroponic cultivation. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try growing fruiting plants like tomatoes, strawberries, and hot peppers.

To ensure successful germination, there are many different options you can choose, rockwool, jiffy cubes, coconut coir or even just solo cups with some soil to get the seeds going. Using a heat mat to maintain the ideal temperature will further enhance germination rates.

Choose the right Seeds

2. Choosing the Right Hydroponic System

Once you have selected your plants, the next step is to choose the right hydroponic system. Several types of hydroponic systems are suitable for beginners, including the wick system, water culture system, and ebb and flow system. These systems are relatively simple to set up and maintain, making them perfect for novice gardeners.

  • The Kratky Method is the most straightforward and least expensive option. It uses the plant’s natural habit to draw water from the reservoir as needed.
  • In a water culture system, plants are grown directly in a nutrient solution with their roots submerged.
  • The ebb and flow system involves periodically flooding the growing medium with nutrient solution and then draining it away.

Take into consideration factors such as available space, the type of plants you are growing, your budget, and the desired yield when choosing the most suitable system. It is advisable to start small and gradually expand your hydroponic garden as you gain experience.

3. Providing Adequate Lighting

Proper lighting is essential for the success of your hydroponic garden, especially if you are not relying on natural sunlight. When choosing a grow light, consider factors such as cost, light intensity, light spectrum, and coverage area.

There are different types of grow lights available, each with its advantages and disadvantages. For beginners, a full spectrum LED grow light is a recommended option. Not only are LED lights relatively inexpensive and energy-efficient, but they also provide the necessary light spectrum for both vegetative growth and flowering stages.

4. Selecting the Right Grow Medium

In hydroponics, the grow medium replaces traditional soil and provides support for the plants’ roots. The choice of grow medium depends on the plants you are growing and the type of hydroponic system you have selected.

There are several types of grow mediums available, each with its advantages and suitability for specific plants and systems. Hydroton expanded clay pebbles are a versatile option that works well for many plant varieties and hydroponic systems. They provide excellent drainage, aeration, and pH stability.

5. Understanding Hydroponic Nutrients and Supplements

One of the key advantages of hydroponic gardening is precise control over nutrient levels, leading to healthier and more productive plants. Hydroponic nutrient solutions come in different formulations, including 1-part, 2-part, and 3-part systems. For beginners, a 1-part nutrient solution like Dyna-Gro Grow for vegetative growth and Dyna-Gro flowering & blooming is a good starting point. Advanced gardeners can explore the Flora series by General Hydroponics, which offers a comprehensive 3-part nutrient solution.

In addition to nutrients, supplements can enhance the growth, size, flavor, and disease resistance of your plants. Regularly monitoring and adjusting nutrient levels is crucial to ensure optimal plant health.

General Hydroponics Nutrients

6. Monitoring pH and Adjusting Nutrient Solutions

Maintaining the correct pH level of your nutrient solution is crucial for nutrient uptake by plants. Regularly testing the pH using a pH meter is essential to ensure optimal plant growth. Various options are available for measuring pH, including liquid kits, test strips, and electronic meters. Electronic meters are often preferred for their convenience and accuracy.

To adjust the pH of your nutrient solution, you will need pH up and pH down solutions. It is advisable to start with small quantities of each and gradually adjust the pH as needed. Regular monitoring and adjustment of pH will prevent nutrient lockout and ensure that your plants can absorb essential nutrients efficiently.

7. Building Your Hydroponic System and Starting the Garden

Now that you have gathered all the necessary components and knowledge, it’s time to put everything together and start your hydroponic garden. Begin by setting up your hydroponic system and ensuring that all the components are functioning correctly. It is essential to check for any leaks or malfunctions before proceeding.

Once your system is up and running smoothly, it’s time to mix your nutrient solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After mixing, wait for about 15 minutes and test the pH of the solution. Adjust the pH as necessary to ensure it falls within the optimal range for your plants. Finally, add your plants to the system, set the timer for your growth lights based on the plants’ light requirements, and watch your hydroponic garden come to life.


Starting your own hydroponic garden is an exciting and rewarding endeavor. With careful planning, proper equipment, and knowledge of the key principles, you can create a thriving garden that produces healthy and bountiful crops. Remember to choose the right plants, select the appropriate hydroponic system, provide adequate lighting, use the suitable grow medium, and monitor nutrient levels and pH. By following these steps and continuously learning and experimenting, you will become a successful hydroponic gardener. Happy growing!


Located in Portland, Oregon, Tim started gardening in his 20's and after a couple of decades felt like he had some things to share.

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