10 Best Crops to Grow in a Small Home Hydroponic System: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in innovative and eco-friendly gardening methods, hydroponics might be on your radar. Let’s dive into understanding which plants thrive in this environment.zoe-schaeffer-tbiV-yc903g-unsplash

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1. Can All Plants Be Grown Hydroponically?

While in theory, every plant can be cultivated hydroponically, not all thrive. Some plants deeply rely on soil’s porous space and microbial activity, meaning they might not grow as robustly in a pure hydroponic setting as they do in soil.

2. Hydroponics vs. Soil Growing

Hydroponics: Bypass soil, feeding plants directly through nutrient solutions. It offers a stable environment with controlled hydration and nutrition, potentially accelerating growth.

Soil Planting: Provides not only nutrients but also a physical structure akin to the sponge in hydroponics. It’s teeming with microbial life essential for plant health.

Water-saving is a standout advantage of hydroponics. The system recycles water and minimizes evaporation, drastically reducing waste. In contrast, soil requires periodic watering, which can be tricky without soil moisture sensors, making hydroponics simpler in this regard.

3. Advantages of Hydroponic Growing

No Soil-borne Diseases: The absence of soil eliminates many diseases.

Nutrient Management: Precise control over nutrient type and amount.

Faster Growth: Direct nutrient absorption accelerates growth.

Space-Efficient: Compact systems suitable for urban environments.

Water Conservation: Recycling reduces waste.



4. 10 Plants Perfect for Hydroponic Growth and Their Cultivation Requirements

4.1. Lettuce

A favorite in hydroponics. It thrives in temperatures of 15-20°C with a pH range of 6.0-7.0. Lettuce doesn’t demand strong light – 10-12 hours daily will suffice.


4.2. Cilantro (Coriander)

Quick-growing and easy to manage, it prefers a slightly cooler environment with a pH of 6.5, and 10-12 hours of light.


4.3. Sweet Basil

Rich in aroma, it requires temperatures between 24-27°C and a pH range of 5.5-6.5. It’s advisable to provide 10-14 hours of light daily.


4.4. Strawberries

Although more demanding in care, strawberries grown hydroponically can be exceptionally sweet. They prefer temperatures between 18-22°C and a pH range of 5.5-6.5, ensuring 12-16 hours of daily light exposure.


4.5. Water Spinach (Kangkong)

A tropical plant, it requires temperatures of 25-30°C with a pH range of 6.0-6.5. It requires about 10-12 hours of light exposure.


4.6. Spinach

Nutrient-rich, it thrives in temperatures of 18-20°C with a pH between 6.0-7.0. Provide it with 10-12 hours of daily light exposure.


4.7. Mint

This herb enjoys temperatures between 16-24°C and a pH of 6.0-7.5. It requires about 10-12 hours of light daily.


4.8. Tomatoes

A large fruit-bearing plant, it requires temperatures between 20-25°C with a pH range of 6.0-6.8. Ensure at least 14-18 hours of light daily.


4.9. Chilies

Similar to tomatoes in preference, they enjoy temperatures of 20-25°C with a pH of 6.0-6.8 and need 14-18 hours of light exposure daily.


4.10. Cucumbers

Fast growers require temperatures between 20-25°C and a pH of 5.8-6.0. Ensure 14-16 hours of light exposure daily.


5. Common Indoor Hydroponic Systems and Their Features

5.1. Deep Water Culture (DWC) System

The simplest form of hydroponics is where plants are suspended directly over the nutrient solution with their roots fully submerged. An airstone is used to increase the oxygen in the water, ensuring adequate oxygen supply to the roots. Despite being the most affordable and simplest system, careful attention to water temperature and oxygen supply is vital to avoid root rot. Home hydroponic systems like the LetPot Hydroponics growing system and Aerogarden, Click & Grow, are based on the DWC principle.


5.2. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System

Suitable for smaller plants like lettuce and cilantro. In this system, the nutrient solution constantly flows over the roots of the plants. Its compact design is a significant advantage, but care is required to ensure roots are always covered in the liquid to avoid drying out.


5.3. Drip System

The nutrient solution is directly dripped onto each plant’s root system, suitable for larger plants requiring ample nutrients like tomatoes and cucumbers. The benefit of this system is the uniform nutrient supply for each plant. Still, its setup and maintenance can be slightly complicated, making it suitable for larger projects or indoor farms.

5.4. Top Feed Drip System

Similar to the conventional drip system, but the nutrient solution starts dripping from the top, allowing the roots time to absorb the flowing nutrient solution. Suitable for larger plants that require plenty of space.

6. Conclusion

Hydroponics offers a unique cultivation method, empowering us to grow healthy foods in a soil-less environment. From petite desktop cultivators to large-scale indoor farms, hydroponic systems open up new possibilities for us.

 Whether to save space, boost yields, or merely explore this fascinating cultivation method, hydroponics is worth a shot. Starting with a simple DWC setup, choosing lettuce or any of the above-mentioned veggies, you can achieve impressive results. 

For instance, lettuce in a home hydroponic system can be harvested in about 20-30 days, while soil cultivation might take over 30 days.

7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Further Insights about Hydroponics

Q: How can I ensure the water quality in my hydroponic system?

A: Utilize a pure water source, avoiding potential chlorine and fluorine in tap water. Regularly monitor the pH level and conductivity (EC) of your nutrient solution. If possible, use reverse osmosis water and refresh the nutrient solution every 1-2 weeks to maintain optimal plant health.

Q: Are hydroponic vegetables and fruits as nutritious as soil-grown produce?

A: Yes, when hydroponic systems are managed correctly, they can produce vegetables and fruits with equal or even better nutritional value than soil-grown plants. The controlled environment and tailored nutrient solutions allow plants to receive exactly what they need, which can optimize their growth and nutritional content.

Q: Is it expensive to start a hydroponic garden?

A: The initial setup can be more costly than traditional soil gardening. However, over time, hydroponic systems may become cost-effective due to higher yields, faster growth rates, and the ability to grow year-round. There are also DIY solutions that can reduce startup costs.

Q: Can any plant be grown hydroponically?

A: While many plants can be grown hydroponically, not all plants are suitable for all types of hydroponic systems. For instance, root vegetables like carrots might be challenging in systems like NFT, but they can thrive in other mediums such as hydro corn or coco coir.

Q: How do I deal with pests in a hydroponic system?

A: While hydroponics can reduce some soil-borne pests, it doesn’t eliminate all pest threats. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests. Introducing beneficial insects, using neem oil, and ensuring good ventilation can help prevent and manage pest issues.

8. Final Thoughts

Hydroponics represents the convergence of science and agriculture. The ability to grow food in controlled environments without soil can revolutionize urban farming and food production. 

As the world seeks sustainable solutions to feed its growing population, hydroponics stands out as a promising option. 

For enthusiasts, the joy of watching plants thrive in a self-made system is unparalleled. Whether you are a hobbyist or someone considering commercial production, the world of hydroponics is vast and full of potential. Dive in and explore its possibilities!