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Hydroponics: microgreens on a budget

The principles of hydroponics date back to the Greek and Roman empires. In fact, hydroponics translated from Greek or Latin means “working water”, because it was in constant motion.  A modern way to explain hydroponics is to say it’s gardening without soil, which is replaced with an inert medium such as rock wool, clay pellets or perlite. The job of the medium is to provide root stability and keep it moist but not soaked with a nutrient rich water solution.

Benefits of hydroponics include:
- Uses up to 90% less water vs. a traditional garden
- Less labor - no weeding and the watering is automated
- Grow year round. Many people use small indoor hydroponic systems in the winter to provide microgreens, herbs or a favorite vegetable.  (Need a light? I made this homemade grow light for $10)
- Less fertilizer. A hydroponic garden uses 75% less fertilizer/nutrients as it can be recycled in the closed system
- Grow in small spaces - perfect for a vertical garden along an unused wall

DIY Impress your family and friends while doing so on the cheap. Microgreens are a perfect match for hydroponics and saving money. Microgreens are those tiny light versions of spinach, chard and other greens, packed with flavor and nutrition. Unfortunately they are also expensive and often difficult to find.

Why use hydroponics to grow micro greens?
- Save money.  Microgreens – aka mini versions of our fav greens - can cost $5 for just a few ounces in a specialty store
- Hydroponic systems are compact - grow a pound of greens in a 2’ by 2’ space
- Fast growing cycle. Micro greens are harvested just 2 weeks after planting

How to grow hydroponic microgreens: While you can purchase an expensive micro green kit on Amazon, I actually learned to grow hydroponic micro greens with this simple DIY hack. Here’s what you need:

- 2 cookie trays
- Perlite and peat moss
- spray bottle
- seeds of your choice

The beauty of growing microgreens is that you do not need to provide any additional nutrients to the seeds and you can expect to harvest in just two weeks. Better get planning that dinner party!

About the author: Chris lives in downtown Chicago and uses hydroponics in his small urban yard.


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