So you’re thinking about starting your own hydroponic garden. At this point, you’ve probably brushed up on the benefits of growing veggies, fruits and herbs hydroponically, after which comes the next question: what should I grow?
While there are plenty of plants that do well in a hydroponic garden, it can be tough to narrow down which will work the best for you. That’s where we come in. We’ll go over some great (and not so great) hydroponic vegetable, fruit and herb choices to help make your decision a little easier.
And remember, we’re only covering home hydroponic systems, not large-scale installations used by restaurants or bigger businesses. Let’s keep it simple, shall we?
Best Vegetables to Grow Hydroponically
There are lots of vegetables that do really well in hydroponic gardens. Some grow fast, some flourish in warmer or cooler temps, and some love a lot of light. Here are some of the most common vegetables grown hydroponically.
Perfect for beginners, lettuce is one of the simplest vegetables to grow hydroponically. Not only does it do well in most types of hydroponic gardens, but it also grows incredibly fast, allowing you to reap the rewards of your efforts that much sooner. Lettuce does best in cooler temps and with higher levels of nitrogen.
Another vegetable that enjoys a cooler environment, spinach also likes light, so it may be a good option to utilize fluorescents for this leafy green. Pro tip: avoid bitter spinach by lowering the temperature a few days before you harvest. This will slow growth, but it results in a sweeter product
Though they require a bit more room to grow than some other hydroponically harvested vegetables (anywhere from 6-9 inches apart is recommended), if planted properly, peppers can certainly flourish. They love warmth and light, and it’s important to be able to adjust the height of your lighting source to avoid inhibiting growth.
Because they also love light and warmth, tomatoes do best in bright conditions and higher temps. Tomatoes are a more ambitious choice and are usually best suited for those who’ve tested the hydroponic waters with a few more forgiving vegetables first. You also may want to consider utilizing a trellis as your tomatoes grow taller and get heavier; and because their electrical conductivity (EC) level can go up to 5, it’s important to try to grow tomatoes with vegetables that can handle similar conditions.
Easy to grow and relatively low maintenance, radishes are an excellent choice for hydroponic gardens. They do best when grown from seeds and in cooler temperatures, and they do not need a lot of light.
A favorite for many home hydroponic gardeners, cucumber plants have the potential to produce a high number of crops. They love warmth, light and moisture. Pro tip: this vegetable will create vines, so trellises and a decent amount of space (if your home allows) are recommended.
Another leafy green that thrives in a hydroponic setting, kale does best when planted from seed. Because of its generous ideal temperature and EC ranges, kale can be planted with a variety of greens and herbs, making it an extremely versatile choice.
There are many different varieties of beans, and the good news is that most of them can be grown easily (and quickly!) in a hydroponic garden. Depending on the type of beans you choose (bush, pole, etc.), you’ll need to consider correct spacing and trellis options. For best results, warmer temperatures and lots of light are recommended, as well as a grow medium like a perlite mixture.
Best Fruits to Grow Hydroponically
Having fresh fruit at their fingertips all year long is the best, which is why many people turn to growing them hydroponically at home. Fruits that like water — such as strawberries, melon, blueberries and grapes — are generally the best choices for hydroponic gardens, but some people have seen success growing tree fruits like bananas and lemons as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular hydroponic fruit options.
An excellent choice for beginners, strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow hydroponically. They prefer a good amount of light, warmer temperatures and low humidity, and many people find that the day-neutral varieties do the best in a hydroponic setting. Plus, when planted and treated correctly, it’s possible to harvest strawberries all 12 months of the year.
While they typically take longer to grow than strawberries and do better when transplanted than when grown from seed, blueberries are an antioxidant-rich choice for hydroponic gardens. Since blueberries need higher acidic soil levels to grow properly, planting them hydroponically (where you can control the nutrient levels) allows them to flourish. They also like a warmer environment with a lot of light.
It may seem like a daunting choice, but watermelon is still a great fruit to grow hydroponically (as long as you utilize a system with added support that can handle their weight). Whether you choose clay or gravel, perlite or vermiculite, or something lighter like peat moss, a grow medium is definitely recommended for this fruit. They also thrive on lots of light and warmer conditions.
Another fruit that requires a little extra support of a trellis or wire as it grows, the grape can absolutely flourish under the right hydroponic conditions. Grapes prefer warmer temperatures, as well as a good amount of light and airflow. To avoid splitting, be sure to pull back on irrigation as they’re ripening.
Though they are typically a better choice for hydroponic gardeners with a little more experience, raspberries are great candidates if you’re looking for more of a challenge. Primocane (fall- or ever-bearing) types are recommended for hydroponic systems, and transplanting (as opposed to growing from seeds) will usually yield the best results. Raspberries love warmer temperatures and will need to be hand pollinated in order to thrive.
Best Herbs to Grow Hydroponically
Many people who want to get into hydroponic gardening start with herbs simply because they’re typically very low maintenance. Having fresh herbs on hand for various recipes can make all the difference in the kitchen. Plus, the most popular cooking herbs – basil, parsley, chives, etc. – are great options for hydroponic systems, which makes them the perfect starting point for your own home garden.
Basil is a common choice for hydroponic gardens because it grows well in all different types of systems. It can be grown by germinating the seeds or using plant cuttings, and it prefers warmer conditions and a good amount of light. Rockwool blocks are a recommended growing medium for basil, but peat moss, coco coir, perlite and vermiculite can also be used.
Because they don’t take up a lot of room and thrive in all sorts of conditions, including smaller in-home gardens, chives are an excellent hydroponic option. Transplanted chives do better than those grown from seed, and once they’re fully developed, they can be cut and harvested more than once with tons of regrowth.
Though cilantro can be a polarizing herb (most people either love it or hate it), it’s an excellent candidate for all types of hydroponic gardens. Because it tends to bolt if conditions are too warm, it’s important to maintain a cooler temperature for cilantro, from the germination stage and beyond. It also doesn’t require trimming, which makes it a low-maintenance option.
Many people love growing dill in their home hydroponic garden simply because of how much they use it in everyday cooking…that, and the fact that it does extremely well under hydroponic conditions. Dill can be easily grown in rockwool or coconut coir, and once matured, it can reach heights of 3 feet, which means you want to make sure you have enough space to accommodate this tall herb. Dill also prefers cooler temperatures and needs a fair amount of light.
Another frequently used herb, parsley is one that’s great to have in your kitchen. Much like chives, parsley can produce multiple harvests if cut down properly. It handles a range of temperatures well, making it an easy, excellent choice for novices and experts alike.
What Shouldn’t Be Grown Hydroponically
Whether it’s an issue of space, deep roots or the fact that soil is sometimes just a better choice for that particular fruit, veggie or herb, there are some plants that simply won’t do as well in a hydroponic environment. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, but it’s important to do your research before trying just any plant in a hydroponic system. To help you out, we’ve created a “don’t try this at home” list to give you a heads up on some of the plants that are potential no-grows.
- Root veggies
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruit/nut trees
- Larger tomatoes
No matter which plants you choose, hydroponic gardening can be an incredibly fun, fulfilling home hobby for anyone – whether you’re an avid grower or totally new to the gardening game. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get growing!