Hydroponic Gardening


Hydroponic Gardening Project Overview

KPPC has been an Advocate Member of the KY EXCEL program since its inaugural year in 2006.

KY EXCEL is a free, voluntary program that encourages members to complete projects that improve the environment at home, within an organization, or in a community. It provides a forum for individuals, businesses and organizations looking to improve Kentucky’s environment.

There are various levels of tiered membership for participants that include for non-regulatory members – Farm and Advocate, and regulated members – Partner, Leader and Master.  Visit the KY EXCEL website to find out more about being a voluntary member.

In keeping with KPPC’s ongoing KY EXCEL Advocate membership, a sustainability project is identified annually that can improve the Center’s day-to-day operations and serve as a demonstration of the different ways to consider sustainable practices in the workplace for our clients.

KPPC selected hydroponic gardening for this year’s sustainability project.  A hydroponic garden is a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to encourage and demonstrate a commitment to environmental and social sustainability.

What is hydroponic gardening?

Plants have a series of basic needs to survive and thrive, all of which can be satisfied with many materials found around the office and a few online purchases. A hydroponic garden does not use soil, require sunlight, or require a large footprint. Because of this, a hydroponic garden provides an alternative and sustainable approach for a workplace where a traditional garden would not be practical.

A hydroponic garden is a great way to bring fresh herbs and vegetables into an office setting by using an affordable setup with minimal maintenance. The garden can be as simple or as extensive as desired to fit the purpose, whether for display, education or simply producing herbs for use by employees.

How does a hydroponic garden work?

There are several different types of hydroponic gardens. A deep-water-culture system is recommended for indoor use such as an office setting. This garden system is confined to a single container, without the water pumps and leak-risks of more complex systems.

There are only a few basic components needed to setup a deep-water-culture system:

Container: A paint bucket, a plastic tub, anything that is watertight and a lid. This will contain the nutrient-rich water and air stone. This also houses the plants through the lid.

Air pump and air stone: at the bottom of every container will be an air stone fed by an air pump. This aerates the roots resulting in significantly faster growing than soil.

Grow light: Placed above the system, an LED grow light emits red and blue light to satisfy the photosynthetic process of the plants. Because of this, natural light is not necessarily needed for an office hydroponic garden.

Net pots and clay pebbles: On top of the container are net pots submerged through the lid with clay pebbles. When adult plants are transferred into the net pots, their roots grow down into the nutrient-rich, aerated water.

How much does a garden cost?

Cost is of course directly related to the materials needed to achieve the intended design along with related maintenance and testing materials. The KPPC hydroponic gardening setup was comprised of four deep-water-culture systems that included: 5 gallon buckets, pumps, timers, a grow light, liquid nutrients and a pH testing kit at a cost of around $200.

The cost of this setup was minimized through project engagement and support by KPPC employees who donated the 5 gallon buckets, a tripod to hold the grow light and soil used for seedling development of the herbs. Purchased items included the air pumps, a grow light, net pots, clay pebbles, seeds, nutrients and a pH test kit.  To purchase all of the components of the entire setup new, the cost would have been around $250.

How much maintenance is required?

Maintenance requirements will depend on the hydroponic gardening setup. KPPC deployed four deep-water culture gardens.  PH and nutrient levels were checked regularly on an every other week schedule requiring about ten to thirty minutes of time depending on the experience of the person doing the testing.

Additionally, the herbs were harvested around the same time to prevent overgrowth and provide KPPC employees with a regular supply to use at home or share with others.

Mature herb plants can be added directly to the hydroponic system without growing them from seed first to achieve quicker startup and get to harvesting sooner. To grow the herbs from seed requires an additional phase to the startup process with planting in soil (in cups around the office), watering, and tending until the roots are mature enough for transfer to the hydroponic system.

Download the one-page hydroponic maintenance guide created for this project.

What are the benefits of a hydroponic garden in the workplace?

Engaging Sustainability: A hydroponic garden immediately brings a “What is that?!” factor into any office setting, lunch room, exhibit booth, recruiting event or anywhere it can be seen. This can provide a way to leverage a sustainability initiative for positive exposure and engagement with employees, visitors and clients.

Staff Benefits: Gardening has several consistent health benefits throughout any workplace, especially in offices.  It can contribute to creating a healthier, more environmentally aware and engaged workplace. Read more about the rise of company gardens in this New York Times article.

Sustainable Culture: A hydroponic gardening project can be a key step towards bringing sustainability into the workplace. It is relatively easy to implement and maintain, can be low in cost, it raises awareness about sustainable practices, it is engaging and productive. All of which are key ingredients for establishing and encouraging a culture that can lead to other beneficial sustainability initiatives. Hydroponic gardens convey a creative and environmentally proactive culture of sustainability for any business or organization.

Technical Assistance

KPPC can assist with gathering resources and advising to support your efforts with bringing hydroponic gardening to your workplace.

Contact KPPC for assistance with implementing your hydroponic gardening project.



View this video on the KPPC YouTube channel


Hydroponic Gardening Presentation

This PowerPoint presentation provides a detailed overview with pictures of the hydroponic gardening project.


View this presentation on SlideShare.


Additional Resources

KY EXCEL Program

Deep Water Culture System Construction Guide [PDF]

Hydroponic Garden Maintenance Guide [PDF]

Gardening in the Workplace Article (NY Times)

Sustainable Gardening Info (UofL)


KPPC Technical Services

Find out how KPPC’s confidential and non-regulatory technical services can help your business lower operating costs and become a sustainability leader in your community.

To get started, and learn more about opportunities available for your Kentucky-based business, contact KPPC at (502) 852-0965 or online.

KPPC General Information BrochureView or print KPPC’s brochure of programs and services [PDF].