Hydroponic herbs, greens, berries and other produce can be grown in just a couple square feet of space. In densely-populated cities like San Francisco, where space is at an absolute premium, you can grow a vegetable or herb garden with just a few square feet of space inside a small area of your home or apartment using artificial lighting, or place your garden on your balcony or patio.
What is hydroponics?
You could easily get confused trying to learn about hydroponics. Some experts prefer to over-complicate their descriptions, when there’s nothing terribly scientific that you need to know in order to get started.
Quite simply, hydroponics is growing your plants in non-soil ‘media’ that allows your plants to receive the right balance of nutrition, oxygen, and light. Examples of ‘media’ include:
- Rockwool, peat moss, perlite, coco coir, sand, vermiculite, woven fiber, and gravel.
Plants are rooted in one of the above-mentioned media and fed by a simple watering system, or slightly more complex (timer and pump) setup that delivers the plant’s building blocks (i.e., water, fertilizer, oxygen) to the root system at a constant steady pace. Artificial or natural light supplies the light spectrums that the garden needs to grow.
If you are interested in a deeper overview of the six most common hydroponic setups and how they work: Hydroponic Systems.
Key benefits to hydroponic growing:
- Larger yields from a smaller area.
- More nutritious foods. Especially growing microgreens!
- Ability to use little or no chemical pesticides.
- No climate restrictions as you can move inside in the winter.
- Growing local reduces pollution from transportation.
- Faster transition from seedling, to vegetation growth, to flowering.
Doing More with Less:
Water restrictions and lack of space make even modest hydroponic setups a real resource-saver. An automated system in your home will use 90% less water than a similar garden using soil. Not to mention only 25% of the normal amount of fertilizer is required to produce large crops in a small space.
Challenge to Gardening in San Francisco
Quite simply there are two main challenges: water restrictions and available space!
Yes. Even San Francisco is expected to start water restrictions soon. These two variables make a hydroponic garden the only smart solution if you want to grow your own healthy vegetables, fruit and herb gardens. The feeding solution in a hydroponic system is used ultra-efficiently with very little H20 being wasted!
Additionally, space is very hard to come by here. The term “Micro Apartment” was coined to describe the ultra-small spaces cropping up all over the city to accommodate the ever-growing population. Even the smallest apartment space can accommodate a modest hydroponic garden.
“Micro Apartment” Friendly Herb Garden Setup
If you are interested in creating a simple and versatile microgarden, I would suggest making this DIY hydroponic system. You can grow lettuce, herbs, spinach, and other leafy greens this way. Another benefit is that it’s very portable so if you want to move this indoors in the winter it’s a snap. If want to grow inside and lack enough natural light, you can make the homemade grow light that costs $10 at Home Depot.
Good luck and good growing!
About the Author: Chris is an urban hydroponic hobbyist who uses hydroponics to maximize his 400 square foot yard and extend the short Chicago growing season. Chris blogs about his hydroponic experiences at CaptainHydroponics.com.