Condo Blues: How to Plant an Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden the Easy Way!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

How to Plant an Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden the Easy Way!

I have more time to grow a garden during the winter and spring than during the summer. Unfortunately it is way too cold outside and I just don’t get enough sunlight inside of my house to grow even a tiny herb garden. Trust me. We tried. 

Also there is the whole I forget plants need water to grow thing. The only reason I can keep a succulent alive is that they thrive on low light and neglect.

I’ve been interested in hydroponic gardening (growing plants in water instead of soil) ever since my husband and I saw an exhibit on aquaponic gardening (similar to hydroponics except fish in a tank fertilize the plants.) I looked at several of them off and on but most of them needed preparatory (and spendy) seed pods that weren’t always what we were interested in growing or eating. Fortunately, on Christmas morning my husband unwrapped our gift and learned that you can use your own seeds to grow whatever you like in an AeroGarden.

how to set up and troubleshoot an AeroGarden indoor hydroponic herb garden
Save this tutorial and troubleshooting tips to your Pinterest boards for later! Share it with your friends!

We set up our indoor hydroponic herb garden and have been enjoying cooking with fresh herbs all winter which feels decadent because up until now, that as been a summer only thing.

How to Set Up an AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden

This isn’t a sponsored post because AeroGarden doesn’t know I exist. Aerogarden just happens to be type of indoor hydroponic garden we got as a Christmas present. Most of these tips will work for other brands of indoor hydroponic gardens you can find here but the tutorial will focus on the AeroGarden Harvest (you can learn about it here) because that is the type of garden we have. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience)

You will need:

AeroGarden Hydroponic Garden – you can explore the different types of AeroGardens here

AeroGarden vegetable seeds – you can buy AeroGarden seed pods here or buy this AeroGarden Grow Anything Seed Kit that gives you the grow pods that allow you to use your own herb and vegetable seeds

Liquid plant food – you must use liquid plant food made for hydroponic gardens like this kind since your plant won’t get nutrients from the soil

Tap water

How to Plant a Hydroponic Garden

How to Plant a Hydroponic Garden
I cut an empty paper towel tube to act as a trellis for the dill until the stalks were strong enough to stand up on their own. I also took advantage of the grow light to grow some sprouts!

1. Plug in the cord to the Aerogarden water pump. Mine already came plugged in.

2. Remove the top (this is also called the Grow Deck) and pour enough tap water into the Grow Bowl until the water reaches the Fill to Here indicator. 

3. Pour two capfuls of the included liquid plant into the water in the grow bowl and swish it around with a spoon. Replace the top of the Grow Deck.

Tip 1: If brown patches appear on the leaves after your plants start growing it could be that 2 capfuls of plant food is too much for what you are growing and/or that a concentrated bit of liquid plant food is burning the plant’s roots . If this might be the case, try using only 1 capful of liquid plant food instead of two. You may also try watering and feeding your garden at the same time by mixing a cap full of liquid plant food into a cup of water and using that solution to feed and water the plants. 
Tip 2: The root of the plants in your hydroponic garden can develop slim mold more easily than traditional soil potted plants. You can try to prevent this by adding a capful of hydrogen peroxide to the water in the grow bowl after the plants have started growing (don’t add too much because you don’t want to kill all of the liquid plant food goodness in the water in the grow bowl.)
Tip 3: Aerogarden recommends you to drain the water from the grow bowl and clean it once a month. This is a good time to check the roots of the plants in your water garden to see if they are developing mold or are growing too large and are in need of a trim. If the plant roots are too long they may clog the water pump.

4. Put the seed pods into the openings of the Grow Deck and top them with the plastic grow domes. Set the height of the grow light as low as it will go (generally somewhere in between 4 and 6 inches from the top of the plant) and be as close to the seed pods as possible.
Tip: As the plants start to grow, you will need to raise the height of the grow light above them. I wait until the majority of my plants grow tall enough to reach the current height of the grow light before raising it a notch higher. Different plants in your garden may grow at different speeds and that’s normal. You will have to use your best judgment on this. If the higher light isn’t working for the smaller plants, you can always lower the grow light until they grow larger.

5. Plug in the Aerogardn and SET THE GARDEN SETTINGS.   Aerogardens generally control the plant food indicator, water pump, and lighting with timers which is why it is extremely important to check the instructions that came with your hydroponic garden and set them. You might have a 50/50 shot of the garden growing just fine by winging it and just plugging it in. I’ve also had plant pods fail because the water pump didn’t turn on as it should because I winged it and just plugged it in.

There are several types of AeroGardens and almost all of them have slightly different ways to set the timers. This isn’t difficult just one of those instances where you have to read the manual (which is more like a flyer) for your garden to figure out if you set the timer with a fancy digital screen or a blinky button like mine.

To set the an Aerogarden Harvest Slim (because this the type of AeroGarden I have)
1. The first time you plug the Aerogarden power cord into the wall socket, the grow light will automatically turn on and set this time as the garden’s Lights On time. The grow light will stay on for 15 hours, turn off automatically, and turn back on the next day at the same time. It uses an LED grow light bulb and very little electricity to run. I don’t notice a difference on my electric bill even though my garden is on all the time.
2. Set the water pump and plant food timer by pushing and holding the Plant Food button (it is the button with the picture of a leaf on it) until the button flashes three times to confirm you have set it. The water pump is now set to turn on for 5 minutes and turn off for 25 minutes The times on other models may vary from this. which again, is why it is so important to set the timer when you plant your garden.

6. Impatiently wait for your plants to grow. Remove the plastic grow dome (which basically acts as a mini greenhouse to start your seeds) when the seedling grows to reach the top of the dome. Save the grow domes for the next time you want to grow new plants.

How to Set Up and Troubleshooting an AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Herb Garden
An example of what a hydroponic basil plant and roots look like 

7. Move the grow light up a notch as the plants grow tall enough to reach it.

8. When the Aerogarden needs plant food the Leaf light will blink red. When the Aerogarden needs more water the Water Drop button will blink red.  After you have taken care of the blinking light alert, touch the button to stop it from blinking and to reset the timer.

Once your plants have grown, eat and repeat!

If you are looking for more easy indoor hydroponic gardening ideas check out the following options – and more! – below!

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Meditations in Motion said...

Wow! I love this. I think I am going to give it a try!

Reidland Family said...

This is very interesting. I have planted herbs on the windowsill but have never tried growing them this way.

Tarahlynn said...

I'm featuring you this week! Thanks for sharing with us at the To Grandma's house we go link party!

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