The best hydroponic garden system
As supermarket produce prices and instances of food recalls rise, interest in at-home gardening systems has also increased. Hydroponic growing systems don't require soil and take up minimal room compared to traditional, soil-based garden beds and containers. While hydroponic growing isn't necessarily a wholesale substitute for the supermarket produce aisle, it's an easy and convenient way to grow additional greens in the comfort of your own home.
If your outdoor space is nonexistent or not suitable for growing your own food, consider taking your efforts indoors with a hydroponic gardening system, like our top choice, the AeroGarden Bounty Elite, which is quick and efficient and features an easy-to-use touchscreen. To learn more, keep reading.
Considerations when choosing hydroponic garden systems
A hydroponic system doesn't necessitate the same space sacrifice as other gardening methods, but you'll still need a dedicated spot for your new growing tool. Decide where you'll keep it and make sure that the system you choose will comfortably fit.
How many plants do you want to grow? Are you interested in cultivating a few herb plants for cooking purposes? Or are you keen on growing full-sized edibles, such as tomatoes and peppers? Certain systems accommodate more plants than others.
Start with easy-to-grow plants like lettuce, spinach, and other greens. Beginner growers should avoid root vegetables, as they require a significant amount of substrate for success.
For maximum convenience, select a hydroponic growing system with a built-in light. Otherwise, you'll need to place the system near a window that receives plenty of sunlight.
A device with a built-in light requires an outlet, so keep that in mind when considering placement. If you're interested in growing in the winter, we suggest choosing a system with a light since even the sunniest window may not provide enough sun. Cold-sensitive plants may also be vulnerable when placed next to a chilly window pane.
Individual plant needs vary, but the majority of plants like ambient temperatures to be between 65°F and 75°F. Tropical plants, however, require a minimum temperature of at least 80°F.
There are a variety of hydroponic gardening system designs on the market, from compact, tabletop, water-based growing vessels to slim, tube-like configurations. Vertical, wall-mounted systems save space, but not everyone has the room to accommodate these more substantial models.
An air pump prevents your plants from losing access to oxygen. A quality aeration system also keeps roots healthy and mixes nutrients inside the water reservoir. When considering placement of your gardening system, remember that an air pump may emit considerable noise. Opt for accessories rated at 45 decibels or less.
Plants in a hydroponic system don't have soil from which to absorb nutrients, so a nutrient mix is essential for your plant life to survive.
Choose a pre-mixed solution for added convenience or select a system that includes nutrient mix right in the package.
Intermediate and advanced growers may prefer to use their own dry fertilizers to create a DIY nutrient mix.
Certain plants need substrate material for optimum root growth and support. Tomatoes grown in straight water without substrate material may topple over, for example. Suitable substrates include peat moss, sponge, or clay pebbles.
Hydroponic gardening systems cost anywhere from $25 to over $100. Larger, more complex systems fall higher on the pricing scale.
Q. Do I need to test the pH of my nutrient solution?
A. The majority of edible plants require a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 for optimal growth. The wrong pH can throw the entire growing system out of whack, cutting off plant root access to nutrients. The best time to test the pH is after you add nutrients to your system.
Q. Do I need to clean my hydroponic garden system?
A. A quick wipe down to get rid of dust should be done regularly. You should also refill the nutrient solution about once a week.
Hydroponic garden systems we recommend
Best of the best: AeroGarden's Bounty Elite
Our take: A nifty, compact, hydroponic device for growing herbs and other edibles indoors.
What we like: Quick and efficient. Excellent customer service. Touchscreen is a joy to use.
What we dislike: Expensive.
Best bang for your buck: SavvyGrow's DWC Hydroponic System Growing Kit
Our take: An easy-to-use system that's ideal for beginners.
What we like: Contains all the hardware you'll need to start growing hydroponically. Easy-to-follow instructions. Includes substrate.
What we dislike: You'll need to buy nutrients and seeds separately. Some reports of leakage.
Our take: A non-electronic system for those who prefer to keep their gardening activities outdoors.
What we like: No electronic parts, so it's safe to use outdoors. User-friendly. Instructions are thorough.
What we dislike: No built-in light, so you'll need to put it in a spot that receives plenty of sun.
Steph Coelho is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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