15 Best Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs for Hydroponics
The biggest focus for hydroponic gardens has been on large-scale agriculture to reduce water-waste and carbon emissions, but they are perfect for smaller spaces as well. These gardens are a perfect way to circumvent a grocery store or to help out your local farmer’s market, especially if you’re a vegetarian (though aquaponics is perfect if you’re a pescetarian like myself). So today let’s take a look at 15 things (in no particular order) that are both delightfully edible and great for growing hydroponically. And remember, these plants can be grown in any one of these systems, we just wanted to list the best system for each.
- Lettuce – Lettuce (and leafy vegetables in general) are a great base for salads and sandwiches. Lettuce heads grow rapidly in hydroponics, and are easy to care for using a nutrient film technique (NFT) system.
- Tomatoes – Useful for so many dishes, tomatoes are flavorful and nutritious. While actually a fruit, we’re leaving them in a colloquial listing as a vegetable. They’re vine plants so planting in a soilless planting mix with a trellis is ideal. Drip systems work really well for tomatoes.
- Radishes – Raw, grilled, or pickled, radishes have a snappy flavor that mixes well with other vegetables. They’re relatively easy to grow and are suited to a direct water culture (DWC) hydroponics system.
- Celery – A negative calorie food with great flavor and texture. Celery stalks respond well to an ebb-and-flow system, keeping them wet without drowning their shallow roots.
- Cucumbers – Tasty, perfect for many different dishes, and fairly simple to grow, cucumbers are best grown using a drip irrigation system.
Keep in mind that root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc) are more difficult to grow hydroponically but it can be done. Drip systems using coco-coir or another soilless potting-soil work well.
- Watermelon – While I’ve grown these in West Texas soil, watermelons do prefer more water. An ebb-and-flow system works great when you’re growing many melons, but you can also use a floating system (the planter floats on top of the water) with DWC if you’re growing a single plant. Don’t forget that Watermelons are a vine plant, so check regularly to make sure the fruit is well supported.
- Cantaloupe (Netted Melons) – Very similar to watermelons, netted melons (melons with a skin that looks like a hard net surface), are great for ebb-and-flow systems. The melons themselves should be supported using nets or other supports.
- Strawberries – Strawberries require fairly low humidity and are susceptible to root rot, so be cautious. They work best with an NFT system and require special consideration for the extra humidity, but you get delicious strawberries at any time of the year so it’s a fair trade.
- Blueberries – Bushes take longer (blueberries won’t see fruit until the 2nd year of growth) but they also last longer since they don’t need to be replanted each year. NFT systems are a good way to supply a blueberry bush with nutrients.
- Grapes – These vine fruits are very care-intensive and can be a bit tricky to grow, but they work well in a bucket system with a trellis to grow on. Watch for root rot and pH imbalances and be sure they get plenty of water.
Many people also enjoy growing more exotic fruits like pineapples or kiwi fruits. They’re more difficult (especially if you’re trying to grow something like a banana tree), but the fruits of your labor are well worth it.
- Chives – These fantastic flavor enhancing garnishes are perfect for baked potatoes and are also great for growing in an ebb-and-flow or drip system. They grow fairly quickly and are easy to maintain too.
- Oregano – Pizza, pasta, or paninis, oregano is one of those herbs that seems to go great with everything. Like most herbs, ebb-and-flow and drip systems work best. Oregano is simple to grow and is often used in all-in-one home hydro kits.
- Basil – NFT or drip systems work best for basil. It grows quickly and doesn’t take up much room so you can grow quite a lot of it along with your other herbs.
- Sage – With its savory, peppery flavor, it’s considered an essential herb for any chef, and it’s really easy to grow too. An NFT system suits it best but you can use other systems if you want to grow it alongside other herbs.
- Rosemary – Aromatic and pretty, rosemary adds a great deal of flavor to meats, but you’ll find it used extensively in bread-making as well. The fibrous roots of rosemary develop best in a drip system with a soilless potting mix.
Many herbs don’t take up much room which makes them perfect for a window-sill or kitchen-top garden. The closer they are to your kitchen, the fresher the ingredients, am I right? While it’s not best suited to all of the plants at once, all of these herbs can be grown together using an ebb-and-flow or DWC system to keep them in the same planter and save on space. As an added note, if you want to grow mint for tea or flavoring it should be grown separate, as its roots take up a lot of space.