How to Start a Hydroponic Herb Garden in Your Own Kitchen
Do you dream of having access to fresh herbs for your home cooking, but don’t have the time, space, or energy for a real garden? A hydroponic herb garden could be the solution to your woes.
With quick set up, limited space, and little required maintenance, growing hydroponic herbs could be the solution to all of your problems. You can even start a hydroponic herb garden if you live in a small apartment or condo.
So what exactly is hydroponic gardening? And how do you start your very own herb garden in your own home?
An Introduction to Hydroponics
Hydroponics is an innovative growing method that uses fertilized water instead of soil. This growing method offers a variety of benefits, including:
- Healthier plants
- Faster growth
- Less required space
- Greater sustainability
But is it really possible to grow strong, healthy plants without any soil?
Technically, plants only rely on soil for structural support and to deliver nutrients. If you meet these two needs in another way, plants can survive (and even thrive) just fine without any soil at all.
Hydroponics uses specialty water-soluble fertilizer to deliver the essential nutrients that plants need. For support, there a variety of options. But the most popular is a tray fitted with net pots that hold the plants and their roots in place.
While hydroponic gardening has gained popularity in industrial farming, it’s also a great method for the home gardener. And, despite seeming rather complicated at first glance, creating your own hydroponic herb garden is incredibly easy.
Creating Your Own Hydroponic Herb Garden
In the world of hydroponics, there are four main system types: wicking, ebb and flow, deep water culture, and nutrient film technique.
Although you can definitely use any of these systems for an at-home hydroponic herb garden, we’re going to focus on wicking and deep water culture. These are the easiest to set up and maintain.
With a wicking system, you have two containers. One contains the plants and is filled with a sterile growing medium, like rocks or perlite, to provide support.
The other container contains the fertilized water. Between these two containers, a wick cord transfers the fertilized water from the second container into the container holding the plants.
In deep water culture, the plants’ roots are submerged directly in the water reservoir using net pots or a similar system. If you’ve ever kept a hyacinth, avocado, or similar plant suspended over a jar of water, this is technically a deep water culture hydroponics system.
Either of these two systems is a great choice for your own hydroponic herb garden. All you need are a few supplies and somewhere to keep it.
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When starting your hydroponic herb garden, you can either build your own system or buy a prepackaged kit. Although creating your own system is sometimes cheaper, buying a ready-made kit is far more convenient. Plus, some kits will come with starter seeds for your first herbs.
Creating your own hydroponic herb garden can be as simple as cutting a plastic soda bottle in half. When looking for hydroponic garden instruction, though, make sure to replace any soil with a sterile growing medium like rockwool or perlite.
One of the greatest things about a hydroponic herb garden is that you can keep it almost anywhere. If your kitchen has a window, then this is the best spot for your garden. If it does not, though, you do have a few options.
First, you can move your hydroponic herb garden outside of your kitchen to a sunnier spot. While this might not be as convenient, it will ensure that your plants get the light they need.
Second, you can invest in grow lights for your herb garden. Quality grow lights are surprisingly affordable and easy to use. In fact, many hydroponic kits come with supplementary lighting.
Wherever you end up placing your herbs, make sure they’re out of reach of curious pets or children. The last thing you want is to find all of your hard work scattered across your kitchen floor!
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Taking care of your hydroponic herb garden is easy enough that almost anyone can fit it into their schedule. Your garden’s exact maintenance needs will depend on your chosen system, but there are a few things all hydroponics gardens need to stay healthy.
Make sure that your garden always has enough water. Also, ensure that your fertilizer ratio stays at the correct level. Failing to give your herbs the right nutrients can result in bland flavors or sickly plants.
When it comes to harvesting your fresh herbs, you can grab what you need for any given dish right from the plant. With a hydroponic herb garden, you’re truly getting the freshest herbs possible.
The Best Plants for Your Hydroponic Herb Garden
With your hydroponic garden all set up and ready to use, it’s time to choose your first herbs. Fortunately, many of the most popular herbs are great candidates for a hydroponic garden.
While the herbs named below certainly aren’t the only herbs you can grow in your hydroponic system, they’re some of the easiest with which to start.
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When it comes to culinary herbs, basil is one of the most versatile plants to include in your hydroponic herb garden. Basil makes an excellent addition to Italian sauces, Caprese salads, chicken breast, and much more. Plus, you can choose from a wide variety of basil, including unique types like citrus or spicy basil.
To grow basil in your hydroponic herb garden, most gardeners choose a deep water culture system. However, you can technically use any system you prefer.
Starting out, your basil will do just fine with a basic lettuce or herb fertilizer. As it matures, though, you may need to supplement with extra potassium, calcium, nitrogen, and magnesium to get the most flavorful yield possible.
Some hydroponic enthusiasts consider basil one of the more difficult crops to grow. While this is true if you’re trying to produce enough basil to harvest and sell, for home gardeners basil it really no different than growing any other herb.
Chives are a type of allium closely related to garlic, leek, shallots, and scallions. While often mistaken for green onion, chives are actually a completely different species. Despite this, chives share many of the same flavors as green onions, in addition to those of garlic.
We suggest planting chives in a wicking system. While chives prefer wet conditions, deep water culture doesn’t always provide the best growing conditions for this herb.
If you can find an allium-specific hydroponics fertilizer, this is the best option for your chives. However, you can also use a basic blend while keeping an eye on your sulfur and nitrogen levels to ensure good flavor.
When you harvest your chives, wait until the leaves are at least six inches tall. To keep the plant as healthy as possible, use an extremely sharp knife or pair of scissors to cut away the top of the leaves.
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If you love Asian or Mexican cuisine, cilantro is one of the best plants you can add to your hydroponic herb garden. Cilantro, also known as coriander, comes in many varieties. However, only a few varieties work well in a hydroponic garden.
For hydroponics, we suggest going for Santo, Calypso, or Marino. These varieties can be harvested multiple times before they must be replaced. Other cilantro varieties will go to seed too quickly, preventing you from getting the most out of your harvest.
For cilantro, the best option is a wicking system with a sterile, supportive growing medium. This method offers optimal support to the plants’ large taproot system.
Dill is super easy to grow hydroponically. So easy, in fact, that you can practically stick this herb in a jar of water and call it a day. However, dill is particularly needy when it comes to sunlight, so it can be a challenge if you don’t have great light availability.
If you want to grow dill from seed, we recommend using a wicking system. That will allow you to easily transfer the dill to the hydroponic garden after germination. But mature dill will also do quite well in a deep water culture system.
In your kitchen, dill is a great herb for all types of dishes. You can even use your homegrown dill to make your own pickles.
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Parsley is another extremely popular and versatile Italian herb that thrives in hydroponic growing conditions. Since parsley is cold hardy and tolerates all types of water salinity, it is a great starter herb for new gardeners.
Parsely generally does best in wicking systems. You might have success in a deep water culture system, but parsley tends to prefer drier conditions.
Like chives, you can harvest parsley several times throughout the plant’s life. That makes it a great choice for your hydroponic herb garden at home. Make sure you use a sharp knife or pair of scissors for harvesting and wait to complete your first harvest until the plant is several inches tall.
Grow Your Own Culinary Herbs Minus the Soil
No matter what types of culinary herbs you choose to include in your new hydroponic herb garden, this growing method is a great way to experience these fresh flavors without the mess or hassle of a traditional garden. Plus, with a footprint of only a few square feet at most, a hydroponic garden will take up very little space in your home or apartment.
Starting your own hydroponic garden system might seem daunting. But with countless resources here and across the rest of the internet, you’ll quickly find out that it’s a piece of cake.
Once you conquer the challenge of starting your own hydroponic herb garden, perhaps you’ll find yourself looking toward bigger projects like hydroponic lettuce or tomatoes. Or, maybe, you’ll be satisfied with growing and enjoying your basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, and every other herb you choose to grow.
Do you have any other tips for our readers? Share them in the comments!