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How to Build a Hydroponic Garden

Hydroponics is a specialized type of gardening that grows plants in soil-free nutrient solutions. An economical, environmentally friendly, and sustainable way to produce food, hydroponic gardens are grown in a controlled environment; therefore hydroponic gardeners only need basic agriculture skills. Try recycling a Styrofoam box into a low-cost hydroponic garden to produce fresh and healthy vegetables!


  • Black plastic heavy-duty receptacle liner bag
  • Styrofoam ice chest with deep lid cover
  • 6 Styrofoam cups
  • 6 gallons distilled water
  • Marker
  • Craft knife
  • Perlite
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Lettuce seedlings or enough lettuce seeds for six plants
  • Plant nutrient mix


1. Line Styrofoam ice chest with black liner bag. Fill with distilled water.

2. Using the top of Styrofoam cups as a template, trace 6 evenly spaced circles on Styrofoam chest’s deep lid cover. With a craft knife, cut out circles ¼ inch smaller than Styrofoam cup lid circles.

3. Using craft knife, cut small hole in the bottom of Styrofoam cups. Place Sphagnum moss in cups and top with perlite, filling to just under rim of cup.

4. Insert lettuce seedling into perlite, and fill in perlite around seedling.

5. Place lid upside-down on chest. Place cups in holes of lid.

6. Water seedlings each day with nutrient mix, making sure that the water level in the container is not too high. There should be about an inch of room between water line and bottom of the Styrofoam cups. After a week to 10 days, roots from seedlings should begin entering the container.

7. As the plants grow, pick leaves as desired, always being careful not to overharvest.

Note: Hydroponic seed starters, perlite, moss, and specialty nutrient mixes are available at most garden shops.

To learn more about the plant production, or to explore upcoming online educational courses, visit