Dipping Your Toes in the Water: Tips for Starting Hydroponics

Like many hobbies, hydroponics can be intimidating to beginners.  There's a lot to learn, and a lot of information to process; it can be difficult to know what to prioritise as a new starter and what can be left to discover later.  However, you shouldn't feel discouraged.  This is the kind of hobby that is easily picked up once you know where to begin, and you'll soon find that it's engaging and rewarding as you learn more about it.  As such, here's just a few tips and guidelines to help nudge you in the right direction.

Manage Your Expectations

Just as you shouldn't aim to learn everything at once, you shouldn't aim to grow everything at once either!  Start with just one plant, and don't expect to be running a massive multicultural garden within the space of a few weeks.  Mixing the wrong kinds of plants together beside one another can affect the balance of nutrients both receive, and they may require different pH levels to thrive, so you could be setting yourself up for a bad result simply by choosing a difficult combination.  Keep it simple, and gradually expand out.

Practicality First

You may want to choose your plant first and set everything else up to accommodate it, but this is actually not the best idea.  What you should be deciding first is the amount of space you can dedicate to hydroponics.  There's no use purchasing one specific plant only to discover that it will soon outgrow you and struggle with it, after all.  You should also be careful not to choose a plant which will require a lot of expensive maintenance.  To begin, you're going to want a fairly passive system that can largely manage itself.  This way, you can learn at the right pace instead of jumping in at the deep end.

Be Decisive

There are lots of hydroponic methods you can read about and implement, but you should be careful not to mix and match quickly with these.  It's much better to set up one method—such as a wick system—and follow it through, observing how it works and learning what you like and dislike about it as you go.  You can always set up your next plant with a completely different method that interests you.

In short, making a good start in hydroponics is largely about doing your research and planning ahead.  Making an instinctive, quick purchase may be fun, but that level of spontaneity may not always net the best results, and it'd be a shame to discourage yourself from such a great hobby without giving it a full, proper shot.  Good luck!