Growing your own produce by hydroponics is a burgeoning trend among cooking enthusiasts and home gardeners alike. After all, who doesn’t like the idyllic image of snipping off some basil from your own pot by the window, and placing it on top of a perfectly cooked, Instagram-worthy dish? Before investing in your own hydroponics garden, though, there are several factors to consider. We’ve whittled them down to five.
1. The type of produce you’re growing
Herbs are one of the easiest to grow, and useful to boot, because you can simply snip off what you need without having to harvest the whole plant. Thai basil, sweet basil, and mint are some examples of good herbs to grow, because these are relatively low-maintenance and are used in plenty of dishes.
Apart from herbs, you can also grow leafy vegetables. “Asian leafy vegetables, like cai xin and bak choy, are easy to grow,” says Darren Tan, an urban farmer with rooftop farm Comcrop. Each individual variety has its own preferences for light, heat, and water, though, so it’s best to seek care advice when purchasing the seeds. For example, while kale is also another increasingly popular option among DIY gardeners, it requires a cool environment to flourish.
2. The costs of setting up and running the system
Home growing systems, while compact, may not come cheap – especially if they are sophisticated systems. Simple ones can cost $20 to $30, while the more expensive ones can cost up to $700 – it depends on factors like how many plants they can take, how large the systems are, and how much automation there is. If you’d like a smart system that can measure out nutrients and switch on its lights at regular cycles, for instance, costs will fall on the higher end of the spectrum.
3. The regularity of maintenance needed
Regardless of how sophisticated your system is, some level of hands-on maintenance will be required. All gardeners get their hands dirty, and hydroponic systems are no exception. When deciding on a system, it helps to think about how much time you can allocate to essential maintenance such changing the water, cleaning the pipes, and checking regularly to prevent mosquitos from breeding.
4. The sources you purchase from
Liquid nutrients are essential to hydroponic systems, as they provide the necessary minerals for growth that are usually found in soil. When sourcing your nutrients, though, purchase them from a safe source. “Getting nutrients from a reliable source is crucial,” says Darren. “These plants are meant for your consumption, so you have to ensure what they are consuming is not harmful.” He advises purchasing nutrients from an established plant nursery, or any reputable retailer who can verify where the nutrients are sourced, instead of getting them online.
5. The placement of the plants
While most people purchase seeds or plants first, and then look for a suitable place to house them, it should be the other way round, Darren says. “Look around your home and find a suitable place, then gauge the amount of sunlight and heat that reaches the area.” Subsequently, you can look for plants that are suitable for the conditions – sun-loving plants will thrive in a bright, sunny area such as the common corridor, while those that prefer a cooler environment without much sunlight can do well in a shaded place like the living room.
Images: Comcrop and Unsplash