How to set up your indoor hydroponic garden

hydroponic garden

There are two basic types of hydroponics systems: active and passive. This article will explain how to set up these simple hydroponic systems, as well as the mediums best suited for each.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and all factors (what watering and soil moisture retention needs do your plant have) must be considered when deciding on the system that would be best for your plants.

Active hydroponics systems work by actively passing a nutrient solution over your plant’s roots. They usually involve a large size planting medium such as pea gravel, vermiculite, and perlite. To make a simple, active, hydroponic system, for one plant.

You will need the following materials:

1 one gallon planting pot with drainage holes

1 two gallon bucket-no drainage holes, (used for nutrient solution reservoir)

1 small aquarium water pump (to pump nutrient solution to your plant)

1 small bag of vermiculite, perlite, or pea gravel(enough to fill your planting pot with)

1 small table with a whole in the top, large enough to place your planting pot in without it being able to fall all the way through

2 small plasic tubes, long enough to reach from the nutrient solution to the water pump and from the water pump to the planting pot

2 clothes pins, to attach your plasic tubes to the top of your containers

1 on/off timer, to attach to the water pump to control the amount of water

supplied to your plants


Place your planting container, the one with drainage holes, in the hole in the top of the table. With the hole being larger than the pot it should fit into position securely with little or no movement. Fill your planting pot with your selected medium, up to about one-two inches from the top of the container.

Set the two-gallon bucket(reservoir) directly underneath the drainage holes of your growing container, so it will catch all water draining out of the one-gallon pot. Set your water pump on the floor beside your reservoir. Attach one of your plastic tubes to the water intake on your water pump and place the other end into your reservoir, making sure the bottom of the tube is at the lowest point in the bucket without being placed too close to the bottom of the container, preventing water from being drawn in.

Attach the tube to the rim of the reservoir, being careful not to cut off water flow to the water pump, using the clothespin. Connect your other plastic tube to the top of the growing container, with the other clothespin, placing the end right at the top of the medium, so it flows across the top of the “soil” line. The other end should be connected to the outflow spout on your water pump.

Plug your water pump into the timer, and we are ready to test your active hydroponic system out. Fill the reservoir about half way up with water, making sure the water line is above the intake of your tube. Plug your timer into an appropriate electrical socket, and place the timer in the “on” position. The water pump should begin a lite humming noise, and after a few seconds(water pumps can take a few seconds to prime themselves up) the water should begin to flow up the tube and out the reservoir.

The water should continue it’s the course through the plastic tube, into the water pump, out into the other plastic tube, and up into the growing container. After the water has begun to sink through the medium in your container, it should begin to drain out into the reservoir, that is placed below it. Check carefully for any leaking that may occur, and fix as needed.

It may not be prebuilt by a manufacturer, but it will accomplish the same purpose. Just add a plant to your container and the proper nutrient solution(specifically for the type of plant you choose to grow) into the reservoir and voila, you have an active hydroponic system, which supplies nutrients, and oxygen needed to process them, to your plant’s roots.

An inactive hydroponic system is a system that provides your plant with nutrients through a capillary or wick system. Working like a kerosene lamp, the wick draws the nutrient solution from the reservoir, up to the plant’s medium and root system. This method is the least used of the two, using mainly sand, sawdust, or peat moss as a growing medium. It involves no moving parts and is easy to setup.

All you need are the following materials:

1 one-gallon planting cotainer, with drainage holes

1 hydroponic absorbtion wick, found at local garden supply centers

1 table with a hole in the center, slightly smaller than the one gallon planting container, allowing the container to sit in the hole, but not fall through one small bag(enough to fill the growing container up) of medium, i.e. sawdust, sand or peatmoss

1 one-gallon bucket, with no drainage holes, to use as a reservoir


Setup of the wick system is a very simple and easy to accomplish task. First you place your hydroponic wick into your growing container, following it’s usage directions for your specific container. When inserted, it should line the wall of the container and protrude from the bottom, through the drainage holes. The wick has to be long enough to reach the reservoir, but your container should be no more than about 6-8 inches above your reservoir to allow proper absorbtion into the growing container.

Next, fill your growing container, up to about 2 inches below the rim, with your desired medium; sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Place your growing container, placing the wick through first, into the hole in your prepared table. It should slide halfway into the hole and then become stuck, giving rigid placement to the container. Place the two-gallon reservoir under the table, directly below the growing container. Place the wick inside the reservoir, making sure the wick will be fully submerged by the water it will contain, and you’re ready to test your inactive hydroponic wick system.

Simply fill the reservoir under the table with water, filling it to within approximately 2 inches from the top. Within about thirty minutes to an hour, you should be able to touch your medium and feel the moisture in the soil or see it beginning to dampen. Add a plant and some nutrient solution(specifically for your type of plant) and your growth in a nonactive hydroponic system that’s easy to maintain, and supplies nutrients constantly.

Hydroponic gardening can take a little bit to get used to, but once you have learned how to use it, it can be a very efficient way to grow any kind of plant. Beginning with these simpler versions you can develop the skills and experience needed to grow hydroponically without the expensive setups. Good luck growing with your inactive, as well as active hydroponic systems.

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