Having a backyard garden is a wonderful way to get fresh vegetables all summer long. But what about the rest of the year? Indoor hydroponic systems can deliver the goods 365 days a year. Like outdoor systems, indoor hydroponic systems take up little space. There are several different methods of indoor hydroponics, and plants are grown in an inert growing material or water. The growing material may consist of vermiculite, gravel, or one of many other types of inert substances that permit water to flow through. Nutrients dissolved in water flow throughout the growing area, delivering the necessary nutrients to the roots of the plant.
Standard fertilizer is not used in indoor hydroponic systems; a specially designed fertilizer is required. Indoor hydroponic systems can be very simple to build, although the sky is the limit as to how sophisticated you want it to be. Most indoor hydroponic systems consist of a growing tray or tube, reservoir to hold the nutrient-rich water, a timer, and a pump. A source of light is also necessary. If your indoor system is not located by a direct source of sunlight, ideally in a sun room or greenhouse, you will also need to have special growing lights. Several kits are available for purchase from hydroponics companies, although some people prefer to design and build their own.
You can grow virtually anything in indoor hydroponic systems, including green vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms and more. The simplest type of system simply uses a tray or large bucket filled with sand, which you hand-water with nutrient-rich water periodically. Another popular type of indoor system is a water culture system, which you can build out of an old aquarium. In this type of system, your plants grow out of paper cups with holes punched in the bottom, which contain the inert growing medium. The cups are suspended in a piece of styrofoam or other material on top of the nutrient-rich water. An air pump oxygenates the water.
There is very little difference between indoor hydroponic systems and outdoor systems, although indoor hydroponic systems are sometimes short on space; a stacked system of multiple layers can be a solution. This is a space-saving design that works well indoors, where the nutrient-rich water flows from the top, down through several additional layers of trays to a reservoir on the bottom. The water is constantly re-circulated with a pump. Regardless of how you choose to create your indoor hydroponic system, it will be easy to maintain, and provide a constant source of produce year-round.