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Tag: hydroponic systems
Hydroponic gardening can be tricky. One of the areas often overlooked by new hydroponic gardeners is the pH levels in their water. An improper pH level will hinder your plant’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the water. In this article, we’re covering how to…
If you’re new to hydroponics, the grow systems and entire process can be rather intimidating. However, hydroponics can be a really good way to start growing your food at home. One of the first questions most growers have when starting hydroponic gardening is: what do you feed hydroponic plants?
We’re covering this question, and the pro’s of hydroponic growing today!
If you’re looking for our full collection of resources for hydroponic growing, check out our hydroponic section for more info!
What Do You Feed Your Hydroponic Plants?
In short, hydroponic plants need a fertilizer solution to thrive in their grow systems. Think about it – hydroponics means you’re growing in water, and water by itself has essentially no nutrients present.
This means you’ll need to add a fertilizer solution for your plants to thrive. Hydroponic fertilizers are pretty easy to use and affordable, and adding those extra nutrients will help boost your plant’s growth and flowering.
Top Overall Pick: General Hydroponics Flora Grow Set
If you’re looking to do a deep dive on hydroponic fertilizers and which one might be best for you, check out our post on the best hydroponic fertilizers. However, if you’re looking to make a quick decision, our top overall pick is the General Hydroponics Flora Grow set.
This set of fertilizers comes with three different options, with each one intended for a specific growth cycle for the plant. This allows you to customize your fertilizing to exactly what your plant needs. For a fertilizing schedule, you can refer to General Hydroponics website for a full guide.
Types of Fertilizer – Liquid Vs. Powder
When selecting your fertilizer you’ll notice there are two main types of hydroponic fertilizer – liquid and powder.
For beginners just getting started with hydroponic growing, we recommend starting with a liquid solution. This is simply because it takes out an additional step of mixing and dissolving the powder prior to putting the fertilizer in your grow system. With liquid fertilizer, you simply pour the correct amount (noted on the instructions that comes with the fertilizer) into the system.
Pro’s of Hydroponic Growing
There are many perks to hydroponic growing, and there’s a reason why its a trending niche in the gardening industry!
Year Round Grow Cycles
First, with hydroponic growing, you’re not subject to the typical weather cycles or outside conditions that you are with traditional growing. This means you can grow fruits and vegetables year round instead of just a few months out of the year.
Second perk – you can start hydroponic growing in a relatively small area – most home systems can fit on a countertop or tabletop within your home! Many hydroponic grow systems are made specifically to fit into small areas, so they’re perfect for small spaces.
More resource efficient
The third perk we’re going to cover in this post – did you know hydroponic growing is actually more efficient with water than traditional soil growing? This might feel counter-intuitive since you’re solely using water to grow your plants.
With hydroponic growing there’s zero waste of water, and everything is continuously cycled through the system. This means you don’t lose any water sitting at the bottom of a pot (or into the ground) like you might with normal soil gardening.
You’ve got your hydroponic grow system picked out – what next? Aside from your seeds and grow medium, you’ll probably also need some hydroponic fertilizer. Today we’re covering our top picks for hydroponic fertilizer (especially ones that are beginner friendly!), how to use them, and…
Today, we’re covering how to use rockwool in hydroponics. Rockwool is a growing medium that you “plant” your seeds in. Its different than a traditional soil, and is used in hydroponic growing systems very frequently to support the seeds growth and prevent it from falling…
One of the biggest negatives to hydroponic gardening is the upfront cost to purchase a system and your seeds or pods. This begs the question – is a hydroponic garden cost effective? How long will it take for you to get a return on your initial investment?
Today, we’re covering a cost analysis of hydroponic gardening, and if it can save you money in the long run.
Our Cost Assumptions
For this exercise, we’re making a few assumptions that you might need to tweak or change based on your personal situation. We’ve tried to use a standard price for each item, or what could be considered “average” in each category. However, with hydroponic systems, there’s a wide range of costs that you can pay.
You can easily take a cheaper or more expensive route than we have in these scenarios. If you feel discouraged by the initial price – know that you have plenty of options to tweak as needed. For more options on different grow systems available – check out our guide on The Best Hydroponic Grow Systems for Beginners.
Don’t worry though we’ll include links for each item should you want to purchase or reference these items for your own cost analysis!
Assumption 1 – The Aerogarden Indoor Hydroponic Grow System
We selected the Aerogarden Indoor System for this analysis because this unit is a mid-range system in terms of price. You can purchase this unit for right around $260 on Amazon (as of 1/4/2020).
This is by no means the cheapest system out there, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t afford it. However high quality hydroponic grow systems can range from $100 to upwards of $500, it all depends on what features and sizes you want. For our purposes, we wanted something mid-range to estimate as fairly as possible.
Assumption 2 – Aerogarden Salsa Garden Seed Pods
Keeping with the Aerogarden theme, for estimating costs for seed pods we’re using an Aerogarden Salsa kit. This pod is priced at $17.95 currently and comes with a mix of tomatoes and peppers.
For this exercise we’re estimating that in a year the average user will go through 3 pod packs per year (meaning you’ll re-plant every 4 months). Many reviewers of hydroponic systems report much longer grow seasons so this estimate is probably above what you’ll actually need.
We’re breaking it down into two separate scenarios, so you can see how quickly you’ll break even from your initial investment (i.e. buying the hydroponic grow system and your 3 packs of seed pods).
Scenario 1 – You Use Produce Weekly
In scenario 1 – we’re assuming that you use a packet of herbs and a carton of tomatoes weekly.
As mentioned earlier, we’re assuming you’re purchasing a $260 Aerogarden unit and 3 seed pod packs per year. This makes your total investment for 1 year $313.85.
|Pods – 1 pack at $17.95
Produce money saved for 1 year:
We’re using a rough estimate of $3.99 for a pack of fresh herbs (thinking basil, thyme, etc., whatever you use most of!). We’re also assuming $4.99 for a carton of tomatoes. Obviously there’s some room for variance here, you can sub out the numbers for whatever your local supermarket offers.
Assuming a pack of herbs and a carton of tomatoes is NOT bought, because you’re growing them from your Aerogarden, you’ll save a total of $466.96.
|Cost of Produce
|x 52 weeks
|x 52 weeks
In scenario 1, assuming that you use 1 carton of tomatoes consistently per week and 1 packet of fresh herbs, you’ll more than cover your costs within the first year. In fact – you’ll end up saving roughly $153.11!
The Aerogarden model we’re using in this analysis has space for 9 seed pods, so you could easily grow more than just 2 types of plants. However, keep in mind some varieties (particularly vegetables) take up extra room. This means that you may not be able to fill all 9 pods with tomato plants.
This scenario is great for those that eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, if you know you wont need that much fresh produce and herbs, check out scenario 2!
Scenario 2 – You Use Produce Bi-weekly
In scenario 2 our upfront costs are the same as scenario 1. You’re initial investment is $260 for the unit and $53.85 for the seed pods.
|Pods – 1 pack at $17.95
Produce Money Saved from 1 Year:
For this scenario, we’re assuming that you’ll consume produce and herbs at half the rate as scenario 1. This means that every other week you’ll be purchasing a pack of herbs and tomatoes. This is noted in the frequency column at 26 weeks per year to calculate the total savings.
In Scenario 2 our produce savings comes out to $233.48.
|Cost of Produce
|x 26 weeks
|x 26 weeks
As you can see, in this scenario you do not break even from your initial investment. By the end of the year you’d still be down $80.37 compared to what you had to invest.
That being said, you still have the unit at the end of year 1 and can of course keep utilizing it the following year, where you’d break even very quickly.
So, is a Hydroponic Garden cost effective?
So – tying it back to our original question – is a hydroponic garden cost effective? It depends on how much produce and fresh herbs you’ll use, and how quickly you need a return on your initial investment.
As we mentioned, there’s definitely multiple ways to this differently. Our goal of this exercise was just to show a couple of scenarios that allow you to assess if a hydroponic grow system could be a good investment for you.
For more information on hydroponic grow systems, check out our Buyer’s guide to hydroponic grow systems for beginners! Or, check out our latest article on how a hydroponic system works.
For beginners, attempting to grow basil hydroponically can be intimidating. However, we’re here to help! Growing hydroponically can be a great way to grow plants year round. Basil is a very beginner friendly plant to start your hydroponic garden with – keep reading to learn…
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…