Growing vegetables hydroponically can be both economical and rewarding. It’s easy to get started by using empty soda bottles that you can repurpose for the plants. There are several designs you can make, and the one you choose should depend on the space you want to use and the number of plants you’d like to grow.
Hydroponic growing means growing without soil in nutrient rich water. The bonus is that the system is very water efficient and it’s possible to grow a plant, for instance a leafy spinach on as little as one liter of water, far less than you’d need if you grew it using traditional methods. Another bonus is that once you’ve set up the system you don’t need to remember to water the plant - the wick(string) does this job for you. The only thing you have to do is change the water every fourteen days during the lifetime of the plant.
The basic design
seed for planting
substrate (small pebbles, vermiculite or perlite)
string (that will allow capillary action (get wet, incrementally, when the tip is dipped in water)
hydroponic fertilizer ( links below to make your own)
Cut the soda bottle below the neck leaving 2/3rds of the bottle for the root and water. Pop the top into the bottom with the neck facing downwards. Line the neck edge with tissue paper. Make a hole in the paper and thread the string from top to bottom, secure the area with a wad of tissue paper. Put two or three seeds into a “sleeve” of tissue paper, water this wad of paper to initiate germination. Place your substrate onto the tissue paper in the bottle and place the seed (still in the paper) on top, add a little more substrate. Water the seed and substrate from the top. The plant does not need to be “fed” until you see germination take place (for spinach it’s usually 4-6 days). Once the plant is growing, change the nutrient rich water every 10-14 days.
Your local garden center should supply hydroponic nutrients and all you need to do is follow the instructions on the package as regards the amount to use (it’s minute amounts, so it’s very inexpensive)
There are many other innovative methods of using soda bottles for growing hydroponically, especially for vertical growing that will allow you to grow ten or more plants in the space you could only use for one. See images below of the set up I built to grow against a sunny widow in my kitchen. (Great for fancy lettuce and herbs)
Design of a vertical interlocking growing stem with central watering pipe (my design)
Design of a vertical interlocking growing tray system (my design)
Comparison between soil and hydroponic growing
All images are my own