Want to learn how to grow produce year round from your apartment counter top? Hydroponic systems are creating a lot of buzz in the gardening industry, and there’s a ton of options for those looking to get started.
Today, we’re covering some of the basics of hydroponics, and the best systems for newbies who are just starting to try out hydroponics (without investing a ton).
Table of Contents
What is hydroponics?
The shortest explanation is a hydroponic system is a method of growing that does not require soil. Instead, nutrients are delivered via water (there are several methods of doing so for this).
Hydroponics can be something done on a very large scale (think full farms of hydroponic plants), or can be done in a very small system indoors. These small systems are ideal for small spaces and for people looking to grow plants year round without worrying about weather variation.
Benefits of Hydroponics
Hydroponics has several huge benefits that are creating some buzz throughout the gardening industry. Growing this way allows for a quicker harvest time, is more efficient and produces crops using less water than traditional methods, and can be grown indoors (with proper lighting).
If using hydroponic methods, you can have indoor gardens that produce fruits and vegetables year round! Interested in getting started? Keep reading to determine which hydroponic grow system is the best for you!
Interested in a more detailed explanation on hydroponics? Check out our latest post on How Does a Hydroponic System Work.
Top Picks for Hydroponic Grow Systems
Lets jump right into our top picks for hydroponic grow systems.
Best Option for Complete Beginners: Aerogarden Harvest
For complete beginners, you can’t go wrong with an Aerogarden model. Aerogarden makes it super easy for beginners by providing easy to use seed pods. All you have to do is purchase a pack of pods and pop them into your grow system. Aerogarden also has a plethora of resources on their website and customer support to help with any questions, or issues that you run into while growing.
The Aerogarden Harvest’s major benefit is its a reputable brand at a lower price tag than other grow systems. This one is right around $100 on Amazon, making it a great option for beginners to start with, without a huge investment right upfront.
This system also comes with grow lights built in, making it convenient for rooms without large amounts of natural light.
The biggest con with this system is its on the smaller side. This means that this system can grow herbs and small plants adequately, but there isn’t enough room to grow larger plants like tomatoes or other vegetables.
Best Premium Option: Aerogarden Hydroponic Bounty Basic
Aerogarden is known in the hydroponic industry for a reason. As we covered in our first beginner pick, they’re pro’s at making the process super easy for beginners, and providing high quality hydroponic systems that consistently yield good results.
We love the Bounty Basic model from Aerogarden as a premium hydroponic option for a number of reasons. They of course come with built in grow lights, which is great for spaces with limited natural light.
This model in particular comes with “vacation mode”, meaning you can set the system to take care of your plants even when you’re away for extended periods of time. A new touch screen is also part of this model, which is a nice feature that makes it easy to navigate these new settings.
This model of the Aerogarden hydroponic systems can accomodate 9 plants, and each can grow up to 24 inches tall. This is a bit more than other options making it great for someone looking to have a plethora of herbs and vegetables year round.
This kit also comes with a complete herb garden set so you can get started with your hydroponic garden right out of the box!
The biggest con with the Bounty Basic model from Aerogarden is that its a little steeper in price than the other models. Right now, the model in black will run you $300 from Amazon, with other colors running a bit higher.
Aerogarden does offer a number of smaller units as well for a more affordable price, but you’ll be trading off space for plants and several features for the money savings.
Best Option for Experienced Gardeners: Ivation Herb Indoor Garden
The Ivation hydroponic system is our top overall pick for a system that is balanced between features, functionality, and price. While this does not have all the flashy bells and whistles like the aerogarden models, it does offer a solid system for growing hydroponic plants for the affordable price of $129.99.
The Ivation hydroponic system comes with grow lights as part of the system, making it great for low light spaces. This system also has 11 pod spaces, meaning you can grow 11 different plants at one time. The system is also large enough to grow both herbs and fruits and vegetables.
The largest pro is that you can get this system for $129.99, which is less than half of the equivalent options from more prevalent brands like Aerogarden.
Ivation’s hydroponic system is an affordable option that really packs a punch in terms of space for plants and the ability to grow vegetables. However, by giving up the higher price tag you’re losing some of the bells and whistles like a touch screen or connecting the system to an app for easy monitoring.
The reason we’re recommending this option for experienced gardeners is that it lacks the customer support that some other options do. Companies like Aerogrow make it super easy for beginners and have a ton of resources on how to work with their grow systems to yield the best results.
This system is certainly still usable, even for beginners if you like the appeal of the lower price tag. Just be aware that it will take more leg work on your part to research the hydroponic methods for this particular system that will work best for you.
Best Budget Option: Klarstein GrowIt Flex Hydroponic System
If you’re just dipping your toe into hydroponics, or are only interested in a hydroponic herb garden, the Klarstein hydroponic system could be a good option for you! This is our top pick for those on a budget, with the 15 slot system coming in at $74.99 on Amazon.
The largest pro is this is one of the best budget systems available. It comes with built in grow lights, making it great for those with limited natural light options. It also has 15 slots for plants, meaning you can have a variety of plants growing at one time.
And of course, as our top pick for those on a budget, the price is lower than other similar models so you’re saving some money with this model.
The biggest con with this hydroponic system is that due to the size of the system, it only allows for growing herbs in the system. Additionally, by saving some money on this system you’re giving up some of the bells and whistles like a touch screen or Bluetooth connection that you get on higher priced options.
Most Versatile Option: Miracle Grow Indoor Grow Side Table
One hydroponic system that we had to include on our list is the Miracle Grow Side Table hydroponic system. This system is particularly good for small spaces (or spaces with limited counter space) because it doubles as a side table.
The fact that this system doubles as a side table is the most unique benefit. Aside from that, this system also includes grow lights, making it good for limited natural light spaces. This system also connects to bluetooth, and you can control the settings on the system and monitor from your phone using the Miracle Gro app (although some users have reported bugs with the app).
The main con with this hydroponic option is that it only has 4 plant pod slots, which means you’ll most likely have to pick between your favorite plants. Additionally, given the size of this system, you’ll most likely only be able to grow herbs, flowers, and leafy greens. So if you plan on growing larger plants you’ll want to go with a different system.
The Miracle Gro indoor grow side table is available on Amazon right now for $199, making it a mid-range option in terms of price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Hydroponics Beginner Friendly?
It can be! Those diving into hydroponics have likely done some “typical” gardening (meaning with soil) prior to trying hydroponics. However, if you have not, that doesnt mean you cant start with hydroponics!
If you are brand new to all types of gardening, its worth considering buying a system from a well known brand like Aerogrow, which offers the Aerogarden systems. They specialize in making it super approachable for beginners and have a good customer support team to answer a lot of questions for newbies.
Do You Need to Buy a Hydroponic System?
Short answer – no. A hydroponic system is something that you can make yourself – stay tuned for blogposts on how! However, for beginners, we do recommend buying a hydroponic system to help eliminate some of the guess work.
Hydroponics can be a process of trial and error in the early learning stages, so by buying a system that is already set up you eliminate some of the questions of “if I set this up correctly”. This allows you to focus on the growing and how to tweak the processes for each plant you’re trying to grow successfully.
Have you tried hydroponics? What are some of your top tips? Let us know in the comments below!