Natalie is doing a small green MLB about hydroponics exclusively (we are doing our Farming & Gardening block indoors in the Winter this way). He built a platform/table in the garage using some discarded pieces from a friend's dismantled swingset/play structure. We have one grow light, which I gave Adam for his birthday, and are buying another. We had tried to start seeds in order to have them ready for transplanting into the straw bale cold frame, before the weather changed, but the seeds were slow slow. We got the grow light and moved the seedlings under it. In just a week, the lettuces had tripled in size. We are a believer in the red and blue lights. It's amazing.
So we are starting our hydroponics pretty simply. Beginning with the tomato plants from the garden that still have flowers, and which we want to keep going. These will be in a deep water culture -- one of the methods -- in 5 gallon buckets. These buckets and lids are only a few dollars from the store. Using bins we already owned, there will be a large Rubbermaid tote which we want to plant asparagus in, and two shallow plastic bins for lettuces and herbs. We are also putting the celery which Leah started into a hydroponics net pot. We have different sizes of net pots and we also have clay leca balls which we salvaged. Ask your local law enforcement about this... if possible... because often they seize and dismantle hydroponics set ups. Yes! This happens all the time because people use it to grow an illegal plant. Our jail had huge totes full of this substrate material and so we got it at no charge.
My husband is totally into this as a project and it has been so much fun.
Even if you are doing F&G in the usual way, you can start your seedlings in the late winter, transfer them to hydroponics to grow healthy and strong and large, and then transplant outside. You could do the same in the fall to get things ready for the straw bales and extend your growing season like that too. This could also make for an excellent Botany block, if you wanted to do it that way, because you have to learn so much about plants; for example, you have to hand-pollinate your tomatoes because they are growing indoors in the winter with no pollinators around. To do that, you need to know the parts of the flower and how plants reproduce. You could also do this topic for Chemistry, what with testing TDS and pH of your water, and changing the nutrient solution when necessary. The pH value of your different substrates even needs to be taken into account when choosing them.
All in all, it's definitely a worthwhile use of a corner of the garage, a spare bedroom, or even an extra closet.
In case this helps anyone, here are our supplies and costs from my notes. And he has promised to share our pictures with me, so I can post those as well.
Rural King - two buckets, four lids (we already had two more 5 gallon buckets), grow light shade (like for a chicken brooder lamp)
Josh, the friend who already does hydroponics - three 6 inch net pots
Petco - air pump, four way connector, black tubing, airstones (one 4 inch, four 1 inch)
(I wouldn't use Petco again, they were way too expensive)
Walmart - black spray paint (this goes on our clear shallow bins, to keep algae growth down)
Jail - substrate - clay leca balls
Josh - litmus paper, eight 2 inch net pots
we already owned:
two shallow bins, one large deep bin, already purchased plants and seeds, baking powder and vinegar (to regulate pH), epsom salts
Some of Natalie's notes: