Clemson Extension School and Community Garden Program

STEM-Based Learning Through Hydroponics

Before learning we would be spending the next few weeks at home, our office was experimenting with growing vegetables and herbs using hydroponics.

The Farm Stand by Lettuce Grow is made from over seventy recycled milk jugs, and all packaging is made from recycled products.

Hydroponics is a growing method that uses mineral nutrients in the water to grow plants either horizontally or vertically.  We chose to learn about vertical hydroponics since it is compact and with proper lighting, can be done indoors, year-round.

Many companies offer vertical hydroponic gardening kits and supplies with various pros and cons to each system. Thanks to our colleagues at Oklahoma State University Extension service, you can even build your own vertical hydroponic tower using instructions found here:

The Tower Garden by Juice Plus with a  light kit allows for year-round indoor gardening.

There are many advantages to vertical hydroponics, particularly in the classroom.  Students can easily explore science, technology, engineering, and math concepts while growing food in a corner of their classroom.  While many families are homeschooling for the foreseeable future, hydroponic gardening offers parents and students an opportunity to grow together.

Vertical hydroponic tower gardening is a great way to produce a lot of food without a lot of space.  We were surprised at how easy it was to grow lettuce, herbs, vegetables, and even strawberries.

After moving the Farm Stand outdoors, it is time to harvest and replant with peas, strawberries and herbs.

So far, we have found that vertical hydroponic gardening has been low maintenance, requiring only a pH check and the addition of nutrients once per week.

Homeschool students enjoying fresh basil harvested from their tower garden.

Within three weeks of setting up the tower at left, we have harvested five heads of lettuce, lots of greens (Swiss chard, Bok Choy and kale), and used herbs such as basil and chives in several recipes (see below).

Green Smoothie

  • 1 head lettuce, freshly harvested
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ½ cucumber
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbs almond butter (or peanut butter)

Add all ingredients into a blender with some water, blend until smooth- Enjoy!

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (can substitute sunflower seeds)
  • 2/3 cup EVOO
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: ½ cup parmesan cheese

Blend all ingredients together in a blender.  Enjoy this tasty sauce for pasta, gnocchi, salads, tomato salads, or simply as a dip.  Pesto can also be frozen for future use.


Amy Dabbs, Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening Coordinator


Megan Shearer



Megan Shearer, Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening Program Assistant

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *