If you are in the mood for trying something different when it comes to growing basil indoors, then how about hydroponics? In the strictest sense of the word, hydroponics refers to any kind of growing medium for plants and seeds that do not actually involve soil. Now, there are various methods out there that could be worth a shot, but how do you actually successfully grow basil using this approach? In actual fact, is it even something that is workable?
Why Both Using Hydroponics?
Let us begin by first of all answering the question as to why on earth you would want to use hydroponics? You must remember that this is going to involve using nutrient filled water mixed in with oxygen to the roots and it has been shown to be extremely effective when it comes to growing a number of different plants.
However, there are a number of clear advantages of using this approach and it is useful to look at them to really kick things off.
1. It is less messy.
The first reason why so many people are at least considering changing to hydroponics when growing things indoors is because of the fact that it is going to be less messy than soil. It only involves water and it can be carefully controlled so you are not exactly going to be hit by all of this dirt and soil going all over your floors. You have to admit that this in itself is a wonderful reason for taking this approach although it is not the only one.
2. It allows herbs to grow faster.
It has been shown on a number of occasions that growing herbs via hydroponics is going to result in you having faster results. You have to remember that the roots are getting all of their nutrients sent directly to them and the blast of oxygen is also going to prove to be rather beneficial in a number of ways so it is no surprise that you are going to ultimately have better results. If you think that something is going to be as beneficial as this, then clearly it is going to be worth giving it a go.
3. You are supplied with herbs throughout the year.
As there is a constant supply of nutrient filled water, it does mean that the plants are being constantly fed the correct minerals that they need in order to grow. However, as it is so controlled then there is no need for you to worry about them being overfed at any point. This does then mean that when you add in grow lights alongside it then you completely change the usual growing season for the herb. As a result, you are able to get a supply of herbs that you are able to harvest throughout the entire year which is a huge bonus.
4. There is less maintenance with it.
Looking after herbs that are growing in soil does require you to keep an eye on things and not everybody has the time or inclination to do that. However, this is not a huge problem when it comes to hydroponics as it does effectively run itself especially as the systems are set up so that the water is recycled on a constant basis. You just need to be aware of topping up the nutrients and making sure that the equipment is running smoothly so there really is minimal amounts of maintenance.
Step 1: Understanding the Outdoor Raft System.
Now, we said that there are a number of important steps and here is the first one, getting to grips with what is known as the outdoor raft system.
As you may have expected, this raft system is outdoors so it does mean that it can often be larger and also some people prefer to have it powered by solar power rather than anything else. You do need to consider the natural environment of the basil if you are using this method. However, there are problems.
The problem is that you need to protect the plants especially when they are young from the UV light and this involves using reflective or insulating materials. The problem here is that there is a need to be aware of the natural conditions and how they can have an impact on the way in which plants grow in containers as those same issues still affect those in an outdoor hydroponic system.
Step 2: Understanding the Indoor Raft System.
The outdoor raft system is not the only option that is available to you as there is also what is known as the indoor raft system and we also have to look at what is included in that to help you get a better understanding of the next step that you have to take.
With the indoor raft system there is a real need for you to create nature and this means that you have to use LED grow lights to mimic the effects of natural light on the plants. You may be giving them the different nutrients via their roots, but they still need light to grow and develop and if you will be less able to move the plants around thanks to the system so that is not even going to be an option. By using these special lights (which do work very well indeed with hydroponics and basil) you are making life so much easier. Some people also then go slightly further and use a fan on the plants from time to time to copy the weather but this is entirely up to you. Apart from trying to recreate outside conditions indoors, there is no other real difference between indoor and outdoor raft systems.
Step 3: Getting Yourself Started on Hydroponics.
So, we have looked at both the indoor and outdoor raft system so it is now important for us to guide you through how to get started with hydroponics as most people will have virtually no idea about where to even begin. Thankfully, it is not as complicated as you perhaps fear and anybody can get this up and running in a relatively short period of time.
In this step we are going to look primarily at the equipment that you are going to need and even though it does appear to be a rather extensive list it is not as bad as it looks. Anyway, the shopping list that you need includes the following:
- Plastic tote
- Air pump
- Airline tubing
- Airline tubing holders
- pH testing kit
- Hydroponic nutrients
- Hydroponic growing media
- Basil seeds
- Hole saw with bit although this is optional.
Now, we can guess that there are a number of things in that list that you would not be expecting but this is a hydroponics system that anybody is going to be able to construct. Next, we will even look at the construction phase because even that will be so much easier than you had initially thought.
Step 4: The Construction Phase.
After getting over the relative shock of the various bits and pieces that make up a hydroponics system, we have to study how it is going to be put together because this is clearly going to be a very important step in the grand scheme of things.
However, even for an absolute beginner, this is something that is going to be achievable simply because it does not require a DIY master to get through these different parts of the construction phase.
Now, to create a basic hydroponic system you should be looking at doing the following things.
1. Wash and tape the reservoir.
The first thing is to deal with the reservoir. Wash it and then make a mark on the tote where the bottom of the reservoir is going to sit. This will be your water mark so you have to do this accurately if you want to achieve the best growth.
2. Spray paint the tote.
It is important that you spray paint the tote to restrict the amount of light that can get into the nutrient filled water. Light is going to encourage algae to grow and that is something that has to be avoided. You might need to give it more than one coat of paint.
3. Cut the holes.
Take the cover of the tote and mark out where the net pots are going to go. Space them out, draw around them, and then drill out
4. Install the system and add water.
Squeeze the airline through the hole in the side of the tote and then add the airstone to the inside of the tote. Connect the airline tubing to the airstone and then add water to the container. Make sure that you note down exactly how much water is in the reservoir as this is important for the nutrients.
5. Adding nutrients and checking the pH.
Tap water is too high for basil to grow as it needs to have a pH around 6.0 rather than the 7.0 of tap water. Use pH down and you only require a few drops. Look at the nutrient mix and see how much you need to mix into the water and that is why you have to know the volume before you get to this point.
6. Adding the plants.
Finally, you have to add the plants and their growing medium. Get your net pots and place your young basil plants in each pot along with the growing medium that you have chosen to use. It is then a case of just plugging in the airline and getting the airstone to work and you have the perfect hydroponics system for basil just remember to add lights to make sure that the plants grow.
Step 5: Planting the Basil after Construction.
The next step is to go ahead and actually plant the basil and this is going to be the easiest bit of all for most people. Now, we do recommend that you just use seedlings for this as it does cut so many corners and that is always going to make life so much easier as a result.
At first, you should use plugs to help you as they are designed to really encourage that initial root growth that is all so important. Make sure that there is one basil plant to each plug and even though you are still using hydroponics, focus on having them spaced out and getting the nutrients that they deserve.
Step 6: Transplanting the Basil.
If you have indeed started things off by seed and you are noticing that your seedlings have started to sprout, then you need to think about transplanting your basil and that is going to include some very specific requirements on your part. Now, this is going to be just slightly different to how you would transplant things with soil simply because the growing medium is different, but once again there is no need for you to actually be afraid of this.
Transplanting the basil is a lot easier than you think. Take out the seed plug that you started things off in and simply place it in the new pot complete the with roots as they are. Now, the pot you have moved them into is going to be larger and this should be the pot where the plant is going to stay for its lifetime. Transplanting a plant is a stressful time for it so reduce the number of times where it happens simply because the more stressed a plant is then the less likely it is to grow.
Step 7: Taking Care of the Basil.
The final step is going to focus on actually just taking care of the basil because there are several key things that you need to do on a regular basis just to make sure that you get the best out of the basil and do not just see it going to waste. Once again, this is not going to involve anything special or too complex so even if you are a relative beginner then that is not a major concern.
With this part, there are three things that you need to be aware of even when you are growing basil using hydroponics. The three components that we are going to look at are water, lighting, and the harvesting of the plant.
Now, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is no point in watering the plant as it is growing in water, but that is simply because you are thinking about the old way of doing things with soil. Instead, what we are talking about is making sure that the water level in the hydroponics system mixed in with the nutrients that have to flow through the water, is at the correct levels or else the plants are just going to struggle and not grow to their fullest extent.
In addition, you are also going to have to think carefully regarding the lighting aspect because that is the only way in which you will be able to grow basil that is worthy of being harvested. What we recommend is to make sure that you use LED grow lights and that they are left to hover just a few inches above the top of the plants at any given time. This will provide the light intensity that is required in order to get the plants to grow and it will also provide a certain amount of heat which, as you will be aware, is another important requirement.
Basil requires an extensive amount of light on a daily basis and as you are growing the herb indoors it is going to really limit the length of time and the quality of natural light that you would be able to provide. By using lights, you remove that issue immediately and that applies even if you are growing basil in winter.
Finally, there is the harvesting and this is something that you should do on a regular basis in order to further encourage extra growth of the herb. Once it grows to contain at least six branches of leaves then remove branches back to the first few leaves. Also, do not allow it to flower and snip them off before they are given the chance to become established and you will be able to extend the growing season of your herb in an instant.
So, as you can see using hydroponics is a lot easier than you think when it comes to growing basil and you can perhaps now feel confident enough to go ahead and give it a go. Remember, it does take some getting used to but by the end of it all there is no reason why you cannot go ahead and be successful if you just have some patience.