The world of hydroponics is fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. It traces from the ancient Aztec’s raft gardens to NASA’s life-supporting systems. It can cost $20 (like our bottle garden) or $2000… So what does it mean for your indoor garden? In this blog, we’ll help you understand when it makes sense for you and how to set up the simplest effective system. 

Which plants grow hydroponically?

From potatoes to bananas pretty much any plant can grow in hydroponics – though some need pretty serious equipment like high-pressure nozzles, UV sterilizers, and cation exchange filters to keep plants in balance and disease-free. Which plants can grow in a relatively simple system is another question… and a much shorter list. But we think the right question is: 

Which plants grow better in hydroponics vs. soil?

Basil and Lettuce. This is an emerging field, so expect us to update this blog as we continue our grow trials and read the latest research, but out of all the edible indoor plants only these two have significantly faster growth in hydroponics. It can really be worth it if you want lots of these leafy greens though – growth can be twice as fast as in soil.

Other reasons you might want hydroponics

While we recommend CSWP for nearly all plants in an indoor edible garden, but there are some reasons hydroponics might make sense if you’re a:

  • Mad Scientist: There are loads of tech gadgets and lively forums where people are experimenting, sharing, and pushing hydro systems forward. Maybe this is what you’re looking for! 
  • Clean Freak: While it’s not too hard to keep soil-based planters tidy, hydroponics is an undeniably less dirty process. Just water and nutrients when you start and everything can be washed down the drain. 
  • Commercial Grower: With economies of scale, hydroponics becomes cost-effective.  Further, when managing a large area the easy control of nutrients, disease, and waste is simpler than with soil.

What’s the best type of hydroponics for Lettuce and Basil?

The first experiment we ever did was testing the 4 most common types of hydroponics, and we were pretty impressed with the performance of the low-tech “Kratky” method – this is how our bottle garden works. However, if your goal is to churn out big harvests of Basil and Lettuce (which is why we’ve turned to hydroponics in the first place) then it makes sense to invest in something slightly more advanced. There are lots of options – but the important thing to look for is that there is something that agitates the water. Our favorite off the shelf system is the Aerogarden, used in conjunction with Urban Leaf replacement pods and liquid plant food, of course. 

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