Many gardeners fall into a rut during the cold months, wishing that they could be outside in the garden. To beat off the green itch, you might usually pour over the seed catalogs that make their way to your mailbox or draw out a new garden plan, thinking about how you are going to rotate your crops or what new things you’re going to grow next spring. One thing that you could be exploring instead is indoor hydroponic gardening. This beginner article will give you some basic information on how to get started growing your favorite veggies, greens, or even flowers indoors any time of year.
What Can You Grow?
Since hydroponic systems come in a variety of sizes, ranging from large enough to take up a whole room to small enough to rest on your tabletop, you can grow pretty much anything that you want. Smaller systems can do very well with growing fresh lettuce and spinach to use year-round, and you’ll be able to harvest as they grow. Some of the smaller systems can even grow a few of the larger crops, like tomatoes or peppers, but you may only be able to have one or two plants growing at a time.
There are several basic components needed to set up an indoor hydroponic garden. You’ll need a deep enough container to hold the water and the nutrients for your plants. An air pump will also be necessary to help oxygenate the water, as well as something that can suspend your plants over the container. Since many plants need at least partial sun to grow, it should come to no surprise that you will need a lighting component of some sort, too.
Finally, you’ll need the plants! You can either start them as seeds or seedlings, but starting seeds can be your best bet, as you don’t have to worry about disrupting the roots to try to transfer them into your hydroponic system.
Local and Online Hydroponic Stores
There’s a good chance that your regular home improvement store will not carry specific equipment for an indoor hydroponic garden, or if they do, they may have a small selection. See if there’s a local hydroponic store in your area that you can go to instead. This can be a great place for beginners to start their foray into the realm of hydroponic growing. This type of store is going to have a nice variety of equipment for different sized setups that fit a range of budgets. The sales staff typically will have their own setups at home and will be knowledgeable about the products that they sell as well.
There are a few benefits to buying local, too. Besides keeping the money in your community, you’ll get to be more hands-on with making your decisions about what you’d like to purchase, you won’t have to worry about shipping, and you'll get the instant gratification of being able to go right home and set up your new system.
If there are no stores that carry what you want in your area, then look around for any websites that carry kits instead. Shopping online allows you to comparison shop to find the best price and see reviews of each system to find which one will give you the best product for the price. And, if you’re the type of person that gets flustered around experts when learning a new skill, online shopping can take the edge away.
What Kit Should You Pick?
There is one commercially available hydroponic gardening system that you can find in a wide variety of stores called the AeroGarden. This kit comes with just about everything you’ll need to start growing right out of the box, and it takes most of the guesswork out of growing indoors with a hydroponic system. It is self-contained as well; you just need to put a few things together, add water, and plug it in. This is an exceptional option for someone new to hydroponic gardening or a gardener who just wants to grow a small crop without expanding.
Not all such kits are all-inclusive, however. Other similar gardening systems like Emily’s Garden Hydroponic and the MegaGarden Hydroponic System do not provide a lighting sources, which, depending on your natural lighting in the winter months, can be a necessity. The key to evaluating a hydroponic kit is to read over the included items to make sure that you will have everything that you actually need and nothing that you don't.
Hydroponic indoor gardening is a great way to chase away your winter blues. You will get a chance to take up a new hobby that can keep you busy and provide produce to harvest during every season. As you begin to get more comfortable with hydroponic gardening, you can branch out into larger systems or even try your hand at aquaponics, which uses fish to add the necessary nutrients for your plants.