Course CodeAHT107
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Hydroponics can be used by gardeners to produce vegetables and herbs in small spaces such as balconies and apartments as well as in greenhouses for out-of-season production of certain crops.

Instead of soil, plants are grown in a sterile medium, such as rockwool, perlite or sand. The medium provides a means of support only and does not add to the plants’ nutrient requirements. All the nutrients taken up by the plants in this system are added artificially through a nutrient solution. Solutions vary according to the type of crop grown.

This course is a good starting point for those who have little experience in horticulture or hydroponics and whose main interest is in growing at home. Unlike our other courses, this course is NOT intended for commercial growing in any way.

You will learn the theory behind hydroponic culture, as well as receive first hand practical experience as you set up your own basic hydroponic system.

  • Learn to grow plants in hydroponics
  • Learn about the equipment and materials used
  • Discover the nature and scope of this growing technique
  • Start any time, work at your own pace, grow anything from vegetables and berries, to cult flowers and herbs.
  • Course Duration: 100 hours of self paced study

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Basic Chemistry and Plant Nutrition - atoms, elements, nutrient deficiency symptoms
  2. Nutrient Solutions - calculating formulae, hydroponic nutrition, preparing nutrient solutions
  3. Types of Systems A - classification of hydroponic systems, ingredients of hydroponic systems, rockwool.
  4. Types of Systems B - what makes up a system, 16 hydroponic ideas, NFT, solution dispensation.
  5. plant Problems in Hydroponics - pests and diseases, nutritional and environmental problems, water and plant relationships, pH.
  6. How a Plant Grows - growth, nutrient solutions, preparing a solution, mechanisms of nutrient uptake, photosynthesis.
  7. Plant Culture - controlling environmental features, post harvest storage.
  8. Hydroponic Vegetable Production - how to grow vegetables hydroponically.
  9. Hydroponic Cut Flower Production - growing flowers in hydroponics, carnations.
  10. Soil Media vs Nutrient Film - berries, indoor plants, types of media, NFT.
  11. Greenhouse Operation & Management - solar energy applications in horticulture, greenhouse management.
  12. Special Assignment - a report on how to improve your present hydroponic venture, or a report on planning a new hydroponic venture.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the nature and scope of hydroponicS as a hobby
  • Explain plant nutrition for hydroponic situations.
  • Differentiate between a different fertilisers and hydroponic nutrient solutions
  • Recomment how nutrients might be appropriately used in a hydroponic garden.
  • Compare different growing media and systems, appropriate to a home hydroponic situation.
  • Design a hydroponic system suited to a particular home situation
  • Diagnose common ailments in a hydroponic system, make suggest treatments.
  • Describe general hydroponic crop in a home situation.
  • Differentiate between solid media and nutrient film hydroponic techniques, and the way in which plants may be treated differently in each.
  • Plan production of a sequence of crops in hydroponic production.
  • Determine methods for hydroponic cut flower production.

How Easy is it to Get Started?
There are lots of options of how you can grow hydroponically.  It does not need to be complex at all to get started; but if you want it to be, it can become increasingly complex as you learn more about hydroponics.

Choosing the Category of System
The first choice is whether to use water culture, aggregate culture or rockwool. All three are viable and used successfully with a large variety of crops in many different parts of the world.

Your choice should take into consideration the following:

  • What is the cost of each and how readily available are materials in your area?
  • Is rockwool made/sold locally? If not, what freight charges are involved in having it delivered?
  • Is there a local source of sand or gravel which can be used, or do you need to pay high cartage costs?
  • What types of plants will you grow?
  • Some plants require better aeration than others. Some systems provide better aeration than others, for example NFT systems.

Choosing Media to Grow in 

There are three main groups of hydroponic media, based on their origins:

  1. Media derived from rock or stone
  2. Media derived from synthetics
  3. Organic media

General Characteristics 

Media is the term given to the solid material(s) used to replace soil in aggregate culture and rockwool culture. 

Hydroponic media must fulfill the following criteria:

  • They must be chemically inert.
  • They must be chemically stable.
  • They must be clean.
  • They must drain sufficiently freely not to create water logging problems.
  • They must have adequate water-holding capacity.
  • They must have adequate air-holding capacity. 


  •  Buffer capacity should be good – this is the ability of the media to resist changes in pH.
  • It is preferable that cation exchange capacity is at least moderate to good.

Getting a Nutrient Solution 

Nutrient solutions for small hydroponic systems can often be adequately prepared by adding some additional components to a standard, general fertiliser (e.g. 5 parts gypsum and 1 part Epsom salts added to 6 parts of any powdered soluble plant food such as Thrive, Aquasol or Phostrogen). Sometimes it might be necessary to add a minute amount of micronutrient.

Larger scale hydroponic growers need a more accurate control of the components in a nutrient solution to achieve commercial success. A large number of different nutrient formulas have been developed for use in hydroponics. Some give better results than others, however there is no single formula that outshines all the others. The success of each formula depends on the conditions in which it is used and on which plants are being grown. 

To make a nutrient solution you need to know the relative amounts of the different nutrients in a plant requires. The requirement is different for different types of plants. You need to know what proportion of each chemical ingredient you are using is actually the nutrient (e.g. one chemical might contain 20% nitrogen and another chemical 45% nitrogen; you need less than half as much of the second chemical to supply the same amount of nitrogen). 

  • You also need to know how soluble the chemicals you use are.
    Some chemicals need more water or more mixing than others. Be aware of potential interactions between the chemicals you use.
  • Some chemicals cannot be mixed with others, because they react together and become something new. This can be something you might not want in the solution, or something inert that can’t be used by the plants you are growing. In most cases, an amateur grower is better to purchase pre made nutrients, rather than try to make their own. It is nevertheless still important to understand how nutrient mixes are constructed, in order to make informed decisions about what to use and how to use it.

Where this Course Can Lead

Your ability to understand and practice hydroponics effectively will grow as you move through this course. You will interact with leading experts as your tutors, and learn more from the feedback they give you; and as this all develops, your awareness of what is possible will grow. The course will give you the opportunity to  explore new ideas, try out new ways of growing plants, and connect with others who are involved with hydroponics.

Every graduate from this course will emerge with a different set of experiences, having explored the world of hydroponics in ways that are particular to their own interests and needs.

You may use what you learn to become more productive with the equipment you have already been using; or it may provide the knowledge and awareness you need to make better choices about setting up new systems.
New opportunities to utilise hydroponics will gradually become evident; and the stage will be set for you to continue growing your capacity to grow all sorts of things hydroponically.


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Meet some of our academics

Adriana Fraser Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves. In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certificate in horticulture and a few years later, completed a Advanced Diploma in Horticulture amongst other qualifications. Adriana has worked across a broad spectrum of the horticulture industry and has developed a strong network of contacts in horticulture around Australia and beyond. She has written and contributed to many books and magazine articles. She has a passion for plant knowledge and sustainability and a natural understanding of how people learn about horticulture and has taught in various institutions and organistions as well as ACS. Adriana has been a tutor with ACS since the mid 90's and based on the feedback from past students has been an overwhelming success in helping people develop their skills and further careers in horticulture.
Dr. Lynette Morgan Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs. Lyn has worked on horticultural projects in countries from the middle east to the Americas and New Zealand to the Phillippines. Lyn has been a tutor with ACS since 2003 and has contributed to the development of a range of hydroponic courses.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.

Check out our eBooks

Capsicums and ChilliesWith 71 pages of fantastic information on Capsicums and Chillies, this ebook is ideal for any gardener, home cook, horticulture student or capsicum enthusiast to get to know more about this great fruit.
Commercial HydroponicsLearn how to grow vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs and other plants hydroponically. This classic is now re-published with new images, a new layout and revised text. A must have resource for anyone who wants to grow hydroponically.
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
Growing and Knowing Dianthus and CarnationsThis ebook will explain the ideal growing conditions that dianthus need and everything you need to know about caring for the plants. Then you will discover the different species and cultivars of dianthus and carnations. Identifying different cultivars and species has never been so easy- with this ebook on your ipad or tablet, that you can take anywhere with you. With 72 pages of wonderful colourful pictures and information, this ebook is a must have for any professional or hobby gardener, or even someone who is looking to produce these plants commercially.



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