Okay, you bought all the stuff. You sawed and glued and drilled and cussed.
Three trips to Home Depot. But you did it! Your beautiful shiny new hydroponics
unit is ready to start growing!
Now what? How do you get some good healthy plants for your setup? First,
we'll tell you the cheapest and best way to start plants for your new garden (hydroponic
seeds). Later, we let you in on a secret method to quick-start your garden. [But there are drawbacks to doing this, as you
We advocate starting from hydroponic seeds. Why? Much more variety, NO bugs or viruses brought in with the plants, and the pride factor and skills learned by starting from scratch. We recommend that you at least try the seed route first. If you try it and find it is too much work, then at least you tried... and learned.
Most vegetables do best sprouted in tiny starter pots or flats prior to transplanting to the planting bed. This is especially true for hydroponics, because you cannot plant little bitty seeds directly in place into the coarse hydro planting media. Hydroponic seeds get lost, wash away with the nutrient solution, or they fail to get enough moisture to sprout.
So hydroponics seeds need a protected little nursery in order to sprout from a safely rooted base.
With hydroponics, it is best to start your seeds in cubes of inorganic material, not soil. When they are ready, you just place the entire plug into the hydroponic media bed. The roots grow right on through.
We recommend that you choose one of these three starter plugs, which can be ordered from any hydroponics supplier or use our links:
Other good hydroponic seed plugs:
"Oasis Horticubes" are small 1" x 1" cubes suitable for starting lettuce or herbs.
You will want to create a little "seed nursery" in a warm, brightly lit spot. A bright kitchen window or warm space under an inexpensive fluorescent gro-light would be good. But you don't want to bake them in direct sunlight or hot lamps. Seeds will not sprout unless it's at least 65 degrees (70-80 is ideal).
If you want to get fancy and indulge your new hydro habit, they sell little domed starter systems and warming "seed mats". Convenient and fun, but not absolutely necessary; a tupperware tray would suffice. They are not very expensive, here they are if you want to investigate: Domed propagation trays & warming seedling mats.
Planting Hydroponic seeds
Once your babies are ready to graduate to the big hydroponic unit, it helps to gradually get them used to the new climate. "Harden them off" if they are going outside or to a greenhouse, to stronger light and cooler temps. If you want to "keep it simple", just skip this step, your plants should still survive.
But if you are transplanting to an indoor hydro setup, you must break them in to the warmer temp and new intense light system or you will burn them up.
Start by keeping the lamps way up high at first, then every few days you can lower it 'til you are about 18-24" above the crops. If you start the tender babies directly under the hot lights, they will shrivel up and die. I know cause I've done it.
Transplant the cubes directly into the hydro unit. You do not remove from the starter plugs. Just dig a little hole in the hydro medium and plug in the cube. It's great, you don't disturb the roots, they grow right on through.
first transplant to the hydro unit, top water them daily the first week with
nutrient solution. This guarantees they won't dry out before the roots get a
chance to reach down toward the juice. A turkey baster works great for this.
So, does starting your own plants from hydroponic seeds sound like a lot of
work? Well, it is, but worth it for the wide variety of old heirloom and new
hybrid varieties. More on seed varieties here: Vegetable Garden Seeds.
Still not convinced? Click here for our secret method of jumpstarting your
Seedlings for Hydroponics
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