When it comes to fresh fruit and veggies, very few people grow with hydroponics at home. Most of us will visit our local store and stock up on what we need. The more adventurous among us will take the time to stroll around the weekly farmers’ market or even visit our nearest farm to purchase our fresh produce.
Using a hydroponics system to grow your own fresh, healthy produce is easy! There are many different hydroponics methods available to suit any size growing space. No growing or farming experience or expensive equipment is necessary to start growing plants the hydroponics way.
Most of us have dreamed about starting a small at-home, back-yard flower patch or veggie garden at some stage in our lives. We don’t grow our own produce because of the perception that a garden is too complicated and will take up too much of our time. Different growing systems like hydroponics are here to show us how easy growing your own produce can be!
Growing With Hydroponics Can Be Easy
Hydroponics puts nutrient-rich food within reach of anybody, no matter what space you have available or your lack of gardening skills!
Growing plants in soil using the traditional way is hard work and can be time-consuming! You need to provide the correct soil, fertilizers, compost, and nutrients for each different plant. They require adequate protection from the elements, but you also need to ensure that they have the proper amount of sunlight and water.
You have to keep bugs and pests away from them and weed regularly to give your plants room to grow. The traditional growing way is hard, but the hydroponic growing way can be a lot easier, no matter which method you use.
Hydroponics growing as a growing method can be as easy or as complicated as you need it to be. There are various hydroponic growing methods, from small-scale, window ledge growing systems, to large commercial growing systems.
What makes the hydroponics growing method so simple is the way that the plants are grown. The plants are not grown in the ground in soil but an enclosed nutrient-enriched water system.
Can Anybody Grow with Hydroponics?
The best part about starting a hydroponics system is that you do not need years of experience growing plants or gardening! You don’t need to be a farmer skilled in growing various crops, nor do you need to be a chemist, experienced in the different nutrient requirements of different plants.
Once you have set up the hydroponics system, it skillfully raises the plants you are growing without too much intervention from you!
While traditional growing and farming can be time-consuming, all the hydroponics system needs is a few hours of your time every week to top up the water and nutrients and perhaps trim back a plant or two before harvesting.
You don’t need to purchase any special or fancy equipment either – you can start a small growing system in your kitchen using old jars and water! The only capital outlay is buying the seedlings you would like to grow and the nutrients to add to the water.
More extensive systems might require a more considerable capital outlay, but any system runs itself once set up, making it easy to grow healthy plants without too much effort.
Another benefit of hydroponics growing is the location. You don’t need a large space to start your growing system. Each hydroponics system is scalable and depending on the method you choose, you can grow one or two plants in your kitchen or a few more on your balcony!
The beauty of hydroponics is that it is easy to start and easy to maintain without any significant capital outlay! Setting up the system is easy once you have decided on the correct growing method for you and your space.
Is Growing Plants Hydroponically Good For Beginners?
My favorite home hydroponic growing system is the Tower Garden vertical aeroponic system because it is so easy to use. There is no bending or weeding, it uses an automatic watering system and I can grow 20+ plants in the corner of my home office.
I like to use my Tower Garden outdoors in the spring and summer before moving it indoors for the fall and winter growing seasons. This simple system provides year-round fresh produce while using very little electricity and 90% less water than traditional growing. Check out my article on What is a Tower Garden for more information.
How Hard Is Growing Plants The Hydroponic Way?
Hydroponics systems are not difficult to use. The only considerations for installing a hydroponics system is space and your budget. There are five different methods that you can choose from to grow your produce in any area. We will provide a quick breakdown of each technique and how easy they are to use.
Bear in mind that most of these systems can be used in any sized space or environment. They can all start as small systems, but you can add to them as your budget and time allows.
The more experienced you become as a hydroponics grower, the easier the growing process will become, leading to growing more and different varieties of plants.
These are the hydroponics systems that we recommend:
A hydroponic wick system involves a reservoir for the water and nutrients, a grow tray and a growing medium like vermiculite, the wick (cotton rope), and an aeration system (air stone or pump). The air stone or pump must be placed into the water-filled reservoir.
The plants are placed in the growing tray, which is suspended over the reservoir. One wick end is placed into the growing medium and the other end into the water reservoir. The wick transports water and nutrients to the growing tray, and the plants absorb what they need.
Deep Water Culture (DWC) Systems
This is the quickest and easiest system to set up. A basic hydroponics DWC system involves using a reservoir with water and nutrients (a jar will do), and a tray over the water with a hole cut in to hold the plant. The roots of the plant should be half in and half out of the water. Add nutrients and top up the water when required.
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Ebb And Flow System
The Ebb and Flow hydroponic method is a recirculating system that periodically floods the plants in the growing tray. Excess water is gravity recycled back into the reservoir. You need a timer to pump the water out of the reservoir and into the growing container for this system to work.
Nutrient Film Technique( (NFT)
A Nutrient Film hydroponic system combines the DWC and ebb and flow systems. The plants are placed in growing net pots and suspended on a shelf over a reservoir containing the water and nutrients with their roots partially submerged in the water solution.
A separate reservoir container is placed under the growing reservoir. This water is pumped up into the growing reservoir to feed the plants through their roots. The excess water is recycled back into the main reservoir. This way, the plants can grow for a few days in the growing reservoir if the pump fails or the power is switched off.
Drip or Dutch Bucket Systems
A Dutch bucket or drip system is so easy to use and only needs a small space! All you need is a container, a growing medium, a reservoir, water and nutrients, a small pump, and an irrigation pipe with drip emitters.
Place the plants into the growing medium and securely place them into the container, suspended over the reservoir. Mix nutrients into the water in the reservoir. Place the pump into the reservoir to pump water up the irrigation pipe into the plant container.
The irrigation pipe should be placed over the top of the growing medium with drippers positioned next to each plant to distribute water. The plants use what they need, and any excess water flows out through the bottom of the growing container into the reservoir – a gravity-fed recycling system!
How Long Does It Take To Grow Plants The Hydroponic Way?
Growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich enclosed, protected system is almost like growing plants on steroids!
Studies show that there are benefits to growing plants in nutrient-enriched water instead of growing in the soil. Plants that were grown hydroponically grew 25% quicker than plants grown in soil. They also produce up to 30% more growth than soil-grown plants.
- Lettuce leaves are extremely fast growers and could be ready to harvest within three weeks.
- Iceberg and head lettuce take a little longer but could be ready for harvest within six weeks.
- Herbs will be ready for harvest as soon as leaves appear.
- Most leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, and watercress could be ready to harvest within four weeks of planting.
Easy Plants to Grow in a Hydroponics System?
When it comes to growing healthy, fresh plants in a hydroponics system, growing seasons are not a factor. In a controlled environment, you can grow your favorite vegetables all year round and have access to fresh produce no matter the season or the climate. This is why growing with hydroponics is great for beginners as well as experienced growers.
Plant a few veggies or herbs that you enjoy eating first before planting anything else. Eating a plant that you have grown quickly and easily will encourage you to continue.
Now that you know how easy hydroponics systems are to set up, here are the easiest plants to grow in any hydroponics system. Once you see how easy these plants are to grow, try your hand at growing any other vegetables that you enjoy eating.
These are the easiest types of plants to grow and will make you feel like an accomplished grower or farmer:
- Herbs are prolific growers, especially mint and basil. Harvest small amounts at a time, stimulating your plants to produce even more and extend your harvest.
- Leafy greens are a pleasure to grow. The more you harvest, the bigger and better they grow. Spinach and lettuce thrive in the water solution.
- Tomato plants produce a lot of tomatoes all the time! To have a constant, year-round supply, stager your plant planting times so that when one plant has finished producing (finally), another will be ready to produce fruit. Keep an eye on tomatoes as they love water and will suck it up very quickly.
- Cucumbers are also water-loving plants but will reward you with a ton of produce. Tomatoes and cucumbers are vining plants, so you will need to set up a trellis of some kind, but they will produce an abundance!
- Strawberries grow abundantly and quickly and produce better quality fruit.
Which Plants Are Hard to Grow an a Hydroponics System?
Before you decide which plants to grow, you should also research which plants will not grow well in a hydroponics system or will not grow at all.
You don’t want to become discouraged by growing plants not suitable for hydroponics systems after all the effort you have put into the researching and setting up of your hydroponics system.
Most hydroponics systems will grow any plant that will grow well above ground with a shallow root system.
These are the plants that you should never try to grow in a hydroponics system:
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes. Potatoes are best when grown in the soil as they have an extensive root system. Some hydroponics growers have had success growing potatoes in their systems, but these are experienced growers, not beginners!
- Any root vegetables. Turnips, beetroot, garlic, carrots, onions – these plants need plenty of soil and space to grow, so the soil is the best growing medium for most root vegetables.
- Corn. Although corn is delicious, tasty, and versatile, this is one of the worst crops to grow hydroponically as it requires a lot of growing space! Corn needs as much overhead space as it does root growing space, so unless you have a vast system, don’t grow corn!
- Melons. While melons will grow quite well in a hydroponics system, you will require a very sturdy trellis system to support them. Not a good choice for beginners, but great for more experienced growers.
If you are searching for a straightforward, simple, and easy way to grow your fresh produce at home, then a hydroponics system is one of the best and easiest methods to use. There are other growing methods, but hydroponics offers a unique, easy-to-use, quick-to-produce growing strategy.
The hydroponics way of growing produce allows you to eat what you like when you like, without paying high prices at the store for out-of-season produce.
The only limit to your hydroponics system is your budget and available space. Growing the hydroponics way means that you will have the time to become an experienced home produce grower!