Indoor hydroponic garden systems are gaining in popularity. They are great for experienced or hobby gardeners and those that are looking to grow their own food.
AeroGarden set the stage for personal hydroponic indoor gardening systems and they are by far one of the most popular personal hydroponic manufacturers, but is AeroGarden right for you? Let’s take a look at some different models and review the costs and features that you should consider before choosing your indoor hydroponic garden.
I actually own hydroponic gardens (you can tell that many review sites do not) and I’ve learned a thing or two that may help you in making your final choice. This is a bit of a lengthy post, but there are so many things you need to know about hydroponic garden systems before deciding which is the best hydroponic garden system for you.
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How much do hydroponic gardens cost?
Hydroponic gardens generally start at around $70 and can go up to thousands of dollars. The main differences in the systems are the number of plants you can grow at one time, the height of the grow light, the overall size of the machine itself, and technology that may be important to you, like Bluetooth capabilities or adjustable lights, just to name a few.
Ongoing costs are generally minimal. You’ll need to buy nutrients, replace growing sponges each time you plant new seeds, and you may need to replace a growing basket from time to time. Other than that, some models will require a replacement filter.
Hydroponic grow sponges are very inexpensive and if you’re super thrifty, you can harvest seeds from existing fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Seeds are inexpensive in general but you’ll need to buy them if you don’t harvest your own.
There are quite a few other brands on the market and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but many look identical. It seems that someone is creating a system and allowing new companies to private label them by adding their own brand.
I have two of the iDOO Hydroponic Growing Systems and I’ve been happy with them.
Why does the height of the grow light matter?
To put it simply, some plants will quickly outgrow the maximum height of the light. For example, I planted heirloom tomato seeds in my iDOO garden, and in just under 4 weeks, the plants were touching the light at the highest setting and the leaves started to burn. I moved these plants outdoors so it wasn’t a total loss.
More expensive models like the AeroGarden Farm 12XL leave you with much more room to grow taller plants but they also cost more. The AeroGarden Farm 24XL takes it a step further with two different lights that adjust independently.
This is a super cool feature because you can grow new or lower-growing plants on one side and move mature or taller plants to the other while having only one system and up to 36″ of growing height.
I ended up buying two of the iDOO garden systems for this exact reason. I’m always moving plants around and having two small units has been nice. These units only have 12″ for plants to grow.
How large of a tank do you need?
When you first put seeds in your hydroponic garden, they don’t use much water at all. In fact, when I put 12 sponges in my iDOO, I fully expected to have to jump up and add water by morning. The next morning, the tank was at the exact level as when I first filled it.
The magic starts to happen around week two. The roots start to grow through the sponge and feed on the nutrients in the water. The plants tend to shoot up, and you start having to add more water and nutrients.
Some models have larger water tanks than others, which will save you from adding water as frequently.
Since we’re talking about tanks, some systems have a see-through water level gauge so you can easily see how much water your garden has and some may not. Hydroponic gardens with Bluetooth capabilities like Click And Grow will send you alerts when your garden needs water or nutrients.
My gardens are on my kitchen counter, so I observe them daily and don’t find a need for this feature. If your system is in a garage, or somewhere out of sight, this may be a great feature so you don’t forget about it.
How many pods do you need for hydroponic gardening?
This is entirely dependent on what you want to grow in your hydroponic garden. My two iDOO garden systems have 12 pods each. I don’t actually grow food that I intend to pick right from the hydroponic garden so I am using all 24 pods regularly.
If you plan on growing bushy plants like tomatoes or basil, the 12-pod system has a good amount of overall space, but depending on the size of your plants, you may actually only be able to grow using a few of the spaces. Planting all 12 pods would overcrowd the plants.
If all you want to do is grow one type of plant, I’d say to plant them all in rotation so as older plants expire, new ones will be produced. I still doubt you could grow 12 full-sized plants in one unit.
What can you grow in hydroponic gardens?
You can grow so many things in hydroponics, but be sure to grow the variety that is suitable for the size garden you purchased. For example, Tiny Tims is a popular hydroponic tomato for AeroGardens or other small gardens. The heirloom tomato plants I first tried to grow that produce 1 lb. tomatoes were probably not a good choice. (duh)
Popular hydroponic plants are herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, and dill. Cherry tomatoes and lettuce are extremely popular. Lately, I’ve been growing all of my outdoor flowers by starting them in my indoor gardens.
If you are using your hydroponic garden to start plants that you intend to move outdoors, you can grow almost anything. I use my gardens this way and I’ve had success with growing the following: (I have a few articles linked and I’m in the process of writing articles about the others so be sure to bookmark this page so you can come back later.)
- heirloom tomatoes (here’s how I harvest heirloom tomato seeds)
- Dahlias from seed
- 6 different Daisy varieties
- bell peppers
- Johnny Jump Ups
- Black-Eyed Susans
My newest adventure is growing strawberries from fresh seeds. This has been a bit like watching paint dry but I’ll update you soon. It’s been 18 days and the first seed just sprouted. That’s the longest it’s taken for any of my seeds to sprout.
I had never harvested my own strawberry seeds, so maybe it’s something I did wrong. I have about 12 seeds spread out into three pods and so far only one seed has sprouted.
How often does an indoor hydroponic garden need to be cleaned?
I change the water and nutrients in mine about once every ten days. Once every couple of months I completely empty the system and sanitize it. I time a sanitization around when I’m going to replace the plants in the garden anyway.
I use a bleach and water solution to sanitize my systems. This is very easy and your particular model will have more information about what parts need to be cleaned.
Sanitizing is necessary to kill any mold or other diseases or pathogens that are floating around in the moist environment of the water tank.
How much space do you need for an indoor garden?
This will depend on the system you purchase. Very small ones that only have 3 pods take up about as much space as a coffee pot and the larger ones will need a designated amount of space suitable for the unit.
How long does it take for seeds to germinate in hydroponics?
I’ve had some seeds sprout in as little as 2 days. Everything I’ve grown has sprouted within one week with the exception of the strawberries and cilantro. I was impatient with cilantro and I need to try it again now that I’ve had some experience.
Do you save money with hydroponic gardens?
There’s an initial investment, but I would say, “Yes, you save money with hydroponic gardens”. I spent about $100 on my initial investment and I’ve already grown around 96 of my own plants in just three months. Plants at the garden center are so expensive right now and I guarantee that 96 plants would have cost hundreds of dollars.
I paid $10 for one Dahlia plant at the garden center. Now I order Dahlia seeds and start them in my hydroponic garden.
What do you need to get started with your new indoor hydroponic garden?
Some gardens come as a complete hydroponic garden kit, including seed starter sets. I purchased an herb starter kit and once they started to grow, I realized I wouldn’t use half of what I planted so I took most of them out. What is Summer Savory anyway?
I recommend you buy seeds that you will actually eat or flower seeds that you want to grow in your garden. If you want things to remain in your hydroponic garden and not plant them outdoors, look for dwarf varieties.
Where do you buy hydroponic seeds?
You can buy pre-seeded pods from some brands but it’s less expensive to just drop a couple of seeds in a pod by yourself. The benefit of the pre-seeded ones like the AeroGarden pods is that they come with a paper cover which helps inhibit the spread of mold.
I use aluminum foil for this because it’s readily available and practically free since you need such a small amount and I always have foil in my kitchen.
There are no such things as hydroponic seeds. Any seeds from the garden center or from your own plants will work as long as they are dried or fermented accordingly.
Did you have any other questions that I didn’t answer? Please ask in the comments below. I love helping people when I can and it will help me make this article better.
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