In this article, you will be able to learn about hydroponic herb gardens and their advantages over the traditional ways of growing herbs.
Are you short on space for an herb garden? There’s a chance you’re hesitant about growing an herb garden because you might not have access to soil or any of the other conditions you need to grow herbs traditionally.
Here’s where the idea of a hydroponic herb garden comes in. There are many reasons why you should consider starting a hydroponic herb garden.
Moreover, many benefits come along with growing a hydroponic herb garden. But the highlight is that it should do all that a regular garden can do and more. It might even do some things better than a typical herb garden.
Using a hydroponic garden, you can get fresh homegrown herbs for yourself easily. So, you may not have to pay for the most expensive plant per pound in the supermarket.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of a hydroponic herb garden and how to grow one.
Benefits of Hydroponic Herb Gardening
Hydroponic gardening has tons of benefits, but let’s explore top 4 benefits to growing your herbs hydroponically.
- No Messy Soil and Pests – Hydroponic
As the name suggests, you will be replacing soil with an aqueous solution, so you can avoid the mess of having a traditional indoor garden.
Even if you are outside, a hydroponic herb garden can be much easier to deal with than a soil garden. This is because, besides being messier, soil can get infested with germs or pests.
Since hydroponic herbs are grown in a sterile environment, they can avoid the usual pathogens that soil is prone to.
However, you will still need to ensure that pests, insects, snails, etc., do not creep up and infest your herbs. You can do this by making sure the setup is correct, and the upkeep is focused upon.
- No space? No problem
Lack of space is a significant hindrance to urban gardening. Hydroponics helps you get around this problem.
By skipping pots and soil, you can do a lot more with a little space. You can have your hydroponic herb garden dispersed in different totes or containers.
These can be placed on shelves or your roof. So, you do not have to worry about space or having direct sunlight where you put the garden.
- Faster Growth
We know of cases where people have doubled the growth rate of their basil plants after switching to hydroponics. Since hydroponic herb gardens use an aqueous nutrient solution, they can grow more quickly.
By ditching the traditional soil gardening system, the process becomes more efficient. This is because dispersion in the soil can be slower than in a hydroponic solution. And since the roots pick up the nutrients slowly, they also grow slowly in the soil.
On the other hand, nutrients can move about more freely in an aqueous solution. This increases the rate of nutrient diffusion and, therefore, the rate of growth.
- Less Maintenance
Once you have set up your hydroponic herb garden, it may not need much upkeep. Ordinarily, you will have to replenish the nutrients in the solution once in a while, besides checking its pH.
As we mentioned above, germ infestation should not be a problem with hydroponics if you set it up correctly. And if your herbs have ample space to grow, you should not be too worried about their maintenance.
Setting up Your Hydroponic Herb Garden
There are two ways to set up your hydroponic herb garden. One is getting all the apparatus and doing it yourself. And the second is buying a hydroponic garden kit/machines and setting it up.
If you a beginner then I highly recommend grabbing a hydroponic device, like an aerogarden. This was my introduction hydroponics and grew to love it.
First, we will look at some of the best hydroponic herb gardening machines on the market.
3 of the Best Hydroponic Herb Garden Kits
1. AeroGarden Black Harvest Indoor Hydroponic Garden
The AeroGarden Harvest range of hydroponic kits seems pretty popular on the market.
It is simple, elegant, and easy to use. It takes up little space and can be placed on a shelf easily.
This kit comes with six herb seed pods, including Genovese Basil, Curly Parsley, Dill, Thyme, Thai Basil, and Mint. The kit also includes a 3 oz bottle of AeroGarden’s patented, all-natural plant nutrients.
This is a six-pod kit so that you can grow six herbs at a time. Growing herbs with this kit should be super simple. Once you set up the pods, you need to add some nutrients once a week and maintain the water level.
The 20W full spectrum LED grow lights turn on and off automatically, so you do not have to worry about that one. Just make sure the lights are not all up in your herbs. The herbs should only be allowed to grow 12 inches vertically.
Your herbs should be tall enough to prune and harvest in 3 weeks. And as they continue to grow, the only problem might be having too many of them.
If you plan on having a more extensive garden, you can get a couple of these kits. And once the given nutrient solution is finished, you can also use any hydroponic nutrient solution you like.
2. Hydrofarm MGSYS Hydroponic Megagarden
If you are looking for something bigger than the AeroGarden, this might be better suited for you.
Your herbs can grow bigger and better with this open ebb-and-flow system.
It can fit fifteen five-inch pots. The growing media included in the kit are fired-clay pebbles. In addition, the kit comprises Rockwool starter cubes, 16 oz of Hydrofarm’s all-purpose nutrients, and a pH testing kit.
So, your herbs will be watered periodically, and this should ensure healthy roots and optimal moisture. Like the AeroGarden, the speed of growth with this kit should be great.
You can set up the timer included in this system for 12 floods a day. If you use the included Hydroton pebbles as the growth medium, we recommend setting the timer for at least four floods per day. This can go up to ten times per day as your herbs grow.
On the other hand, if you use Rockwool cubes, you may only have to flood the system once or twice a day. This is because different media retain water differently.
Such a flood and drain system is excellent for healthy herb growth because it drains stale oxygen and makes room for fresh circulation.
3. AeroGarden Bounty Elite
This is a high-capacity, super-smart hydroponic garden from AeroGarden. It is not very big and can fit on any kitchen counter.
The body is stainless steel, and the overall look is relatively modern and elegant. This is a model I have in my kitchen and LOVE it. I also have a bounty basic. It works just as good but it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like the elite.
It can hold up to nine pods and comes with the same number of pods. The herbs included are Thai basil, curly parsley, Italian parsley, thyme, chives, dill, mint, and finally, two Genovese basil herbs. The kit also includes plant food and liquid nutrients to sweeten the deal.
We say this is a super-smart garden because it can connect to your Wi-Fi, and you can control it through Alexa and monitor it via the AeroGarden app.
It has a color touchscreen and a menu button on the side for you to program it. You should also be able to specify when you want the lights to turn on each day. Furthermore, you should see the number of days planted and the number of days till the next nutrient refreshment.
It also has a vacation mode, which should take care of your herbs while you are gone. This kit does come with a premium price tag, but it is well worth the price with these features.
Setting up a DIY Hydroponic Herb Garden
Now that we have discussed some of the kits you can use to set up your hydroponic herb garden, let us look at how you can set one up without a kit.
- What You Will Need
First off, you are going to need a container. The size can vary depending on how many herbs you plan to plant. When you decide on the size, the two things you should keep in mind are the diameter of the pots and how crowded they might get in the tote.
If you get a transparent container, you will also need to buy some paint. You want your container to be dark in color. This prevents sunlight from coming in and causing mold and algae to grow in the container.
You will also need an air supply system. This may include an air pump, an air stone, some tubing, and suction cup holders. If you plan on a more extensive garden, you can use a custom PVC framework to supply the air. Similarly, you can use a tape that works underwater to hold the tubing in place.
If you are doing your hydroponic herb garden outdoors or in a sunroom you will not have to worry about grow lights. If you are doing them indoors with poor to little light then you will need to invest in grow lights. These are not your typical lights, but specifically for plants.
The next thing you will need is a growth medium. You can do this with hydroton pebbles, Rockwool, and coco, among others. A growth medium is supposed to be a substitute for soil. However, unlike soil, it does not hold any nutrients. That is what the hydroponic solution is for.
Speaking of nutrition, you will also need a hydroponic fertilizer. There is a large variety of hydroponic nutrients out there. You can also use some micronutrient fertilizers depending on the needs of your particular herb. This is especially true if you want to grow tomatoes.
Here are some of my favorite hydroponic fertilizers that I have used and enjoyed. I found that they made my herbs grow quickly and super flavorful. Also, it’s important to note that these fertilizers have trace minerals which are important for us humans.
It’s important to remember that a hydroponic system can experience pH drifts. This is when the acidity or basicity of the system goes too far in either direction. Plants grow best at a certain pH, and that is why you should also get a pH testing kit.
Finally, for the fun part! You will need some net pots and some herb seeds or seedlings to plant.
Now that you know what you need, let’s take a look at the actual process.
Assembling a DIY Hydroponic Herb Garden
Step 1. Prepare the Container
Firstly, you have to cut the holes for the net pots. Be sure to measure the exact point where the net pots will meet the water. This is the point up to which you will spray the container and no higher.
Secondly, you have to wash the tote, and if it is transparent, you should paint a couple of coats on it to make it as opaque as possible. Again, this is to avoid algae growth.
Lastly, you should drill the holes for the air pipe tubing to come in.
Step 2. Install the Air Supply System
Thread the airline through the hole. You can use suction cups to fix the tubing alongside the container. Setting it this way should help ensure that it stays in one place and does not start floating around when you turn it on.
Step 3. Fill it up
Once you have prepared the tote and installed the air supply system, you can fill it up. Then, as a test run, you can turn the air pump on to see if it works.
Remember to fill up the container only to the point where the water will barely meet the bottom of the net pots.
Step 4. Plant the Herbs
Once you have filled up the container, you can place the net pots in the holes. So, if you have the herb seeds, put them in the growth medium (Hydroton pebbles, or Rockwool, etc.), sprinkle water on top of them, and place them in the tote.
You can cover the seeds with plastic domes or cups to retain moisture. Once the seed sprouts, you can remove the dome to allow the seedling to grow. And hopefully, in around three weeks or so, your herbs should be ready for harvesting.
But there is some work to be done between now and harvesting. So, let’s briefly go over some of the things you will need to keep in mind.
Maintaining your Hydroponic Herb Garden
- Optimal Temperature
Like in traditional gardening, your plants will grow best at a particular temperature in a hydroponic garden. However, you can maintain a constant temperature in a hydroponic herb garden more efficiently by using grow lights and heating equipment.
Most herbs will thrive at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, not all herbs are the same. Some are a little less tolerant than others.
So, for herbs like basil, for example, you might want to avoid any chances of low temperatures. Similarly, some herbs will prefer temperatures over 70° to stay extra warm.
- Optimum Sunlight
Most herbs should do well with at least 4 hours of sunlight a day. But the sunlight should be direct. Hence, windows with UV coating or colored windows are not preferable.
You can also use grow lights to enhance the sun time your herbs get. However, it would be best if you did not go overboard with these. So, try and keep it south of 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.
Again, some herbs will have different preferences than others. Be sure to know the specifics of the particular herb you are growing.
- Optimum pH Level
You will need to make sure the hydroponic solution doesn’t get too basic or too acidic. Too much swaying in either direction might cause your herbs to die. To avoid making such a mistake, you should frequently use a pH kit to monitor the pH of the solution.
Typically, herbs should do well between 6.0 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic to neutral. However, specific herbs like basil might grow better in a solution that is a tad more acidic. And the same principle goes for every other herb. So again, being more specific is better.
Once you have set up your herb garden, you will not have to water it often. You just need to replace the solution once in a while. We suggest replacing the solution once a week, or at least once a month.
However, if you notice any murkiness or algae growth, you should drain the water immediately. Then, clean the tote thoroughly before you use it again.
- Harvesting and Pruning
You should harvest and prune your herbs regularly. When you need the herbs immediately, you can pluck them straight off the branches. Besides that, periodic pruning or pinching of your herbs is also suitable for promoting growth.
When your herbs grow tall enough, you should cut them right above the second leaf node from the stem. Generally, you should prune your herbs when they have grown to a height of six inches. This should signal bushier growth. Just make sure you do not take off more than a third of the herb.
Similarly, it would help if you also pruned the roots of your herbs. Because, as your herbs grow, their roots can become interconnected. This will develop into a clump and could also potentially mess with the air pump. So, detangle any developing clumps and make sure all the roots are a certain length.
Final Thoughts On Herbs Grown Hydroponically
Having a hydroponic herb garden has many benefits over the traditional way of growing herbs. It takes up less space, and it makes less of a mess. You can also use a gardening kit to make setting up your herb garden a lot easier.
Hydroponic gardens need less maintenance than soil gardens. Plus, you can enjoy a supply of fresh herbs all year long!
We advise you to learn as much as you can about them and get to know the exact growing conditions of your herbs. Soon enough, you will be able to enjoy the herbs of your efficient hydroponic garden.
I do want to note that I have grown herbs in the traditional manor (dirt) and hydroponic. And by far the taste of herbs done hydroponic were superior.