Book Review: Home Hydroponics by Tyler Baras


Book Review: Home Hydroponics by Tyler Baras. Small Space DIY Growing Solutions.

I am a big fan of hydroponics and have been enjoying home grown vegetables for quite some time. Having fresh and organic types of lettuce salads available right from our own kitchen counter is awesome! Recently, while chatting about how to learn and grow other vegetables at the dinner table, a new amazing book came my way. 

"Home Hydroponics. Small DIY Growing Systems by Tyler Baras. You can learn how to build your own. Tyler will guide you through the whole process and inspire you with fourteen hydroponic garden designs! These projects are artful, creative and functional. 

One of the most important things about indoor gardening is light. We need to learn about growing lights, how to select them and place them for best results. Section 2 is all about that plus all need to know about nutrients, fertilizer and plant selection.

Section 3 is where Tyler's shows off his creativity! You will be surprised and delighted by the variety of hydroponic gardens he designed. Without giving much away, you could decorate your home with many of these gardens. Take a look at the book cover for some hints!

I really enjoyed the hydroponic systems build guides on Section 3. It has simple graphics, easy to follow step by step tutorials with beautiful photography that illustrates processes, detailed materials lists, suggestions and tips. 

Although hydroponic gardens could be expensive, Tyler also uses repurposed materials and tools that we might already have around the house before buying anything. 

As an avid gardener one of the most rewarding things is to be able to propagate my plants. This process can be tricky as many factors come into play. Section 4 will teach you all you need to know for your hydroponic gardens. This section will also teach you about fertilizer and plant heath, maintenance and system cleaning, pest management, common problems and troubleshooting. 

I invited Tyler Baras to answer a few hydroponic questions for you:

What inspired you to write a book about small-space DIY growing systems?

My personal living space has greatly influenced the systems that I build. When I wrote my first book, DIY Hydroponic Gardens, I had a 10,000 sq ft (930 sq m) greenhouse in my backyard so there was virtually no limit on the size of my growing systems. I also didn't put too much attention on the aesthetics of the systems as they were located in a commercial greenhouse. A few years ago, I moved to San Francisco and faced a significant downsize on my living space. I no longer had the greenhouse and my plant projects had to move indoors. At the same time, my girlfriend moved in with me and was not a fan of turning our home into a maze of PVC pipes growing plants. So, I started designing gardens that were equal parts function and aesthetics. The gardens started looking more like functional furniture, or little farms hiding in furniture, instead of just a structure built to grow plants.

What vegetables grow best in a kitchen hydroponic garden?

My favorite vegetables for a kitchen garden are herbs and Asian greens. Basil, watercress, mint, parsley and salad burnet grow really well in hydroponic gardens. Herbs are typically only needed in small quantities, well within the yield expectations of a small kitchen hydroponic garden. I really like Asian greens like bok choy, tatsoi and mizuna because they are some of the fastest-growing highest-yielding hydroponic crops and can be super flavorful.

Is it better to start plants directly in the garden or transplant seedlings?

Growing a healthy seedling can be one of the biggest challenges for beginner and even experienced growers. A healthy transplant can make even a bad growing system look good but most home gardeners do not have a growing system catered to growing great seedlings and unfortunately most seedlings available in garden centers are not ideal for hydroponic systems. If starting plants directly in the garden is an option, I'd recommended doing it! In Home Hydroponics there is information on which systems are capable of starting their own seedlings and best techniques for starting them.

Would a plant’s root system be a concern in hydroponic gardens?

A plant's root system should be a concern in any garden but unfortunately in a traditional garden it is nearly impossible to monitor root health without digging up and killing the crop. Depending on the specific design, it may be possible to lift a plant out of a hydroponic garden to monitor root health and potentially detect issues early before they progress into issues visible in the plant's canopy. Maintaining a stable root zone environment can be much easier in a hydroponic garden compared to a traditional soil garden. A hydroponic gardener can easily measure temperature, fertilizer concentration and pH in the irrigation water and quickly adjust as needed.

Should we use dry or liquid fertilizer and why?

Most liquid fertilizers are made from dry fertilizers. The manufacturer simply adds the dry fertilizer to water and sells at a marked-up price. Typically, dry fertilizers are best cost-wise but they are not as user-friendly as liquid fertilizers which can be easier to measure and handle. Dry fertilizers also usually have a longer shelf-life. It is not uncommon for components in a liquid fertilizer to precipitate, or turn into a solid salt, and accumulate at the bottom of the bottle. I almost always recommend hydroponic gardeners use a dry fertilizer made from hydroponics unless they are working with kids, in which case I recommend a liquid fertilizer as they are easier to handle and don't require pre-mixing into a liquid to ensure they evenly dissolve.

Why are light intensity and quality so important in a hydroponic garden?

A successfully hydroponic garden depends on many factors including fertilizer, seed selection, climate and lighting. Having an amazing grow light doesn't help much if a garden has a horrible climate. Light intensity and quality are no more important in a hydroponic garden than they are in a traditional garden. There is so much attention on lighting in hydroponic gardening because it is one of the factors that a gardener can manipulate and see huge responses in the crop. Another reason it gets a lot of attention is that hydroponic gardeners are already trying to optimize some aspects of the growing environment, like fertilizer levels and aeration, so the gardener then wants to optimize every aspect of the growing environment (including light) to take full advantage of the hydroponic garden.

What is your favorite project from the book and why?

That is a tough question, I have many favorites haha. The Bathroom Flower Garden is very unique and surprisingly practical with its use of a bidet as an irrigation hose. The Lift-Top Coffee Table is so much fun to reveal when I have guests over, I simply lift the hinged top up and bam, there's a whole garden in the living room! The Salad Bowl is one of the easiest, prettiest and most affordable of the garden designs. It is one of my favorites because it makes it so easy to start growing hydroponically.

Happy gardening!

P.S. Thank you so much to The Quarto Group for the book and Tyler Baras, the author for answering these hydroponic garden questions!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The Quarto Group but have not been financially compensated in any way. I was not required to write a positive review. My opinions are my own.