Hydroponics: Gardening Without Soil

Credit: Kennedy Space Center, NASA

Soil isn’t always necessary to garden. Hydroponics needs just nutrient-rich water to grow a plant. There are multiple ways to set up hydroponic growing; here we will focus on the wick method.

Materials needed

1. 1⁄2 US gal. (1.9 L) bottle
2. A pair of scissors (use under adult supervision)
3. Twine or wick
4. Water
5. Nutrient mix
6. Growing medium (perlite, coconut coir, etc.)


1. Cut the top 4 in (10 cm) off the plastic bottle.

2. Poke a quarter inch (0.64 cm)-wide hole through the center of the cap of the bottle.

3. Cut a piece of twine with a pair of scissors so it’s about 12 in (30 cm) long. Pass the twine through the top of the bottle cap until you have about 6 in (15 cm) on each side. Once the twine is through the cap, screw it back onto the bottle.

4. Fill the bottom of the bottle with about a quarter of a gallon (950 ml) of tap water. Follow the directions on your nutrient solution to find the amount you need to stir into your water. You can buy nutrient solution for hydroponics from a local gardening store.

5. Place the top of the bottle upside-down so that the twine is mostly submerged into the nutrient solution. Make sure there is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of twine between the bottle cap and the top of the solution.

6. Add two handfuls of a growing medium, like perlite, coconut coir, or vermiculite, to the top of the bottle, and press it down. Plant three seeds to maximize the chances of growing a healthy plant.

Hydroponics is both an easy and cheap way to garden in limited space. With hydroponics, small herbs and shrubs can be grown at home, and with fewer nutritional needs.


Copyright @smorescience. All rights reserved. Do not copy, cite, publish, or distribute this content without permission.

Join 20,000+ parents and educators
To get the FREE science newsletter in your inbox!