What Kind of Setup Do You Need for an Indoor Hydroponic Garden?

Although hydroponic gardening has been around for generations, interest in growing indoors has accelerated in recent years. In fact, this versatile, soil-less farming technique is now enjoying unprecedented popularity across the board, from city dwellers to educators to conservationists and countless others.  

Unlike traditional gardening, hydroponic systems allow plants to grow in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution, bypassing the need for soil altogether. Not only does this method save space and water, but it also paves the way for year-round growing, since itis totally independent of the weather and climate conditions. Plus, the emergence of new technology, along with greater education on the subject, has made hydroponics more accessible than ever before.  

So, what does it take to set up your own indoor hydroponic garden? First and foremost, it requires some thoughtful planning and careful consideration of factors like the type of plants you want to grow, the budget you’re working with, and of course, your available space and the scope of your operation. Ultimately, the success of your indoor garden will depend on having the right setup in place, so it is important to take the time to research and determine the best approach for your specific needs.

Choice of Crops For Your Hydroponic Setup

Before deciding on a setup, consider the type of crops you want to grow in your hydroponic garden. Some plants, like leafy greens and herbs, are well-suited for smaller systems and easy to grow, while others that may require more intensive care and specific conditions tend to thrive in larger setups. For example, different varieties of lettuce (butterhead, looseleaf, romaine, etc.), spinach, bok choy, and chard, and herbs like basil, mint, and cilantro are popular choices for small-scale farms due to their compact size and rapid growth rates. At the other end of the spectrum, cucumbers, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes often perform well in larger hydroponic gardens that can provide ample light and warmth, as well as some extra space. Whether you go big or small, just make sure to choose plants that are compatible with hydroponic growing techniques and will thrive in an indoor environment.

Hydroponic Garden System Basics

In terms of a setup, you will need to consider the space available for your hydroponic garden. Indoor systems can range from small countertop or balcony units to larger-scale operations that require dedicated space. Make sure to measure the area where you plan to set up your hydroponic garden and choose a system that will fit comfortably within that space.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

One of the great things about hydroponic gardening is the handful of different systems you can choose from. Each type has its own unique features and benefits: 

  • In Deep Water Culture (DWC), plants hang in a water solution full of nutrients with their roots underwater. Air stones or diffusers provide oxygen to the roots so they can grow.
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is when a thin layer of nutrient-rich water flows over the roots of the plants, giving them a constant supply of nutrients. This system usually requires a sloping channel or gutter to keep the water moving.
  • The Drip System is a flexible hydroponic setup where a slow drip of nutrient solution feeds the plant roots. This system can be automated and works for many different types of plants.
  • The Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain) system floods the plant containers with nutrient solution and then drains it back into a reservoir. This cycle helps the roots get both nutrients and oxygen.
  • Aeroponics is like hydroponics, but the roots of the plants are suspended in the air and sprayed with a nutrient solution. This system gives the roots lots of oxygen, helping the plants grow quickly and absorb nutrients efficiently.

Space Considerations For Your Hydroponic Setup

Suppose you’re interested in starting out small. In that case, a basic hydroponic setup can be established in a relatively compact space like a kitchen counter, balcony, basement, spare room, or adequately sized closet. In a school setting, that could include the corner of a classroom or cafeteria, or even an unused utility closet. A number of hydroponic systems have fairly small footprints, and many of those can be stacked vertically, allowing you to grow multiple layers of crops at the same time.

For larger operations, more space will be needed to accommodate the additional growing units, as well as nutrient reservoirs, the pumps, pipes, and sensors that make up your nutrient delivery system, additional grow lights, and (recommended) filtration systems to ensure your water supply is free of impurities and contamination. Suitable sites for these setups could include any large unused space like an, empty classroom, clean basement or even a warehouse or storefront at a strip mall.

What Are The Resource Requirements For Your Hydroponic Setup?

Once you’ve decided on the right type of system for your garden and where to house it, you’ll want to consider some basic infrastructure requirements needed to make the operation a success. 

As noted in the aforementioned system options, water is a crucial element of hydroponic gardening. The amount of water that is required will vary depending on the size of the garden and the types of plants being grown. What is certain, however, is that hydroponic gardens use significantly less water than soil-based farming. Because water in these systems is recirculated and recycled, any runoff that isn’t absorbed by the plants is recaptured; studies show that some hydroponic setups can save up to 10 times the amount of water used in traditional agriculture. For more sizable operations, a reliable irrigation system will be able to deliver the nutrient solution to your plants efficiently. This may involve installing drip lines, overhead sprinklers, or automated irrigation controllers for consistent watering.

Since indoor hydroponic gardens typically lack natural sunlight, artificial lighting is generally required to stimulate plant growth. LED lights are popular choices for both smaller and large-scale operations due to their versatility, energy efficiency, and ability to provide the full spectrum of light needed for photosynthesis. Most plants grow best when receiving 12-18 hours of light per day, depending on the type and what stage of development they’re in, so it may be worthwhile to invest in a timer, especially for larger setups. It’s also important to position the grow lights at the right distance from your plants–placing them too close or too far away can impede your crops’ development.

Ventilation is another key resource for any hydroponic garden, as it helps to regulate temperature and humidity levels, and prevent heat and moisture buildup that can lead to the formation of mold and mildew. Exhaust fans and air circulation systems are often used to ensure proper airflow. To maximize productivity in larger-scale setups, climate control systems like heaters, evaporative coolers, and dehumidifiers will help create an ideal growing environment for plants.

Additional requirements include nutrient delivery–since plants grown in these systems aren’t able to access essential elements from the soil, a nutrient solution must be added to the water to provide the nutrition they need to grow. pH balancing equipment will also be needed to adjust the water in your system, and requires testing kits and pH corrector to monitor and maintain ideal pH levels. EC Meters, which measure the electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution, are recommended for some setups as well.

End-to-End Hydroponic Solutions

Setting up an indoor hydroponic garden requires careful planning and consideration of several key factors. By choosing the right plants, system, space, and infrastructure, you can create a successful indoor farm that will provide you with fresh, healthy produce year-round. 

Whether you're planning a small-scale hydroponic garden in your home or setting out on a large-scale commercial enterprise, Fork Farms offers innovative solutions for all operations. The Flex Farm is perfect for those starting out–a compact, efficient, and easy-to-maintain system that only requires a standard electrical outlet and less than 10-square-feet of space. For the more ambitious, the Flex Acre scales up your operation without sacrificing simplicity. And, when it comes to versatility, the Flex Connect system allows you to customize and expand your garden however you’d like.

To learn more about these systems and how Fork Farms can accompany you on your hydroponic growing journey, including everything you need to know about setting up a thriving indoor garden, reach out to one of our expert team members today!

Introducing the Flex Farm

Fork Farms offers the most efficient, scalable, and transformative indoor, vertical hydroponic technology on the planet.

How To Get Started?

Our most popular product, the Flex Farm is available for purchase directly from our website. 

  • The Flex Farm is $4,995 and can be used in spaces from classrooms, food pantries, lunchrooms, businesses, non-profits, homes, and beyond! 
  • Talk to a Team Member: If you are looking for more information, connect with one of our team members using the form and they will be in touch to talk all things Fork Farms.  
  • Buy Online: You can purchase a Flex Farm, which includes three months of growing supplies, curriculum, growing resources, community and more.