Best Vegetables for Hydroponics

11 Best Vegetables for Hydroponics

Initially, hydroponic gardening was equated to growing prolific amounts of weeds in your home. 

Back then, most people lacked the knowledge to do hydroculture successfully. Others simply felt that growing food out of a test tube was losing touch with nature. 

Luckily, hydroponics has come a long way since. It’s now considered one of the most sustainable methods of farming. 

So much so that it’s the go-to gardening technique for any individual who finds themselves constrained by space, soil quality, or temperature. 

Feeling intimidated by the thought of creating a hydroponic system from scratch? You shouldn’t because there are tons of pre-made kits to help you get started. 

The only bit you need to figure out is the specific crop to grow. This is where we come in. 

Below, we’ve provided a list of vegetables that fare well when grown hydroponically. 

Which Vegetables are Best for Hydroponics?

  1. Lettuce
  2. Spinach
  3. Cucumber
  4. Celery
  5. Green pepper
  6. Bok Choy
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Onions
  9. Basil
  10. Cilantro
  11. Garlic

1. Lettuce

Lettuce, and the majority of other leafy vegetables, ought to be the first plants you think about when you’re starting a hydroponic garden. 

Its fairly shallow root system corresponds to its tiny height above-ground. This eliminates the need for tying stakes and setting up guides for the plant, making it perfect for a hydroponic system. 

Once you’ve picked the variety of lettuce you wish to plant, look for a suitable growing medium. 

I prefer rockwool to other options because of its sterile and porous traits. However, you can also use grow-rock, which is particularly liked for its reusability.

Next, look for a container deep enough to provide room for the roots’ growth. 

You will also need to find a floating platform. This is necessary to help your lettuce stay above the water with its root system underneath. 

Now all that’s left is to fill the reservoir with the right combination of hydroponic nutrients and water, and you’re good to go. Be sure to follow your nutrient kit’s instructions to the letter. 

As for the conditions necessary for growth, lettuce thrives in well-lit areas with temperatures ranging from 65° to 80°F (18 to 27°C). 

Well-lit means exposing your plant to fluorescent light for at least 10 hours. 

A quick tip: if using grow lights, ensure every corner of your tank is getting illuminated. 

2. Spinach

Did you know that spinach ranks highly in the list of commercially-grown fruits and vegetables that contain a high amount of pesticides? 

That’s right. It is why we recommend growing your own spinach at home, and doing so hydroponically if you want to save space.

To achieve this, start by choosing an appropriate growing medium. You can choose either rockwool or coconut coir. 

Should you opt for rockwool, be sure to balance its pH before sowing. Balance by soaking it in water (5.5 pH) for about 20 seconds. 

If you’re planning to plant your spinach in spring, start your spinach seeds indoors. This way, the seeds will be at least a month old by the time the spring frost date arrives. 

If planting in fall, you’ll need to expose the seedlings to indirect light. 

Apart from timing, another factor you should take into account is the combination of hydroponic nutrients you add to your system. 

Young spinach plants thrive when provided with ¼-strength hydroponic nutrients for at least two weeks. 

However, the nutrients should be rich in calcium and magnesium but not nitrogen. This vegetable is very sensitive to nitrogen so avoid adding too much of it. 

Other than that, expect to harvest your healthily-grown veggies as early as within 35 to 40 days. Many spinach varieties reach maturity after 40 to 50 days. 

3. Cucumber

If there’s one vegetable that you’ll always find in my house, it’s a cucumber. It’s such a versatile crop that its uses are endless. 

Whether you choose to eat it as a snack, add to salads, or stews, you’ll be getting a dozen health benefits. The best part is, it’s very easy to grow using hydroponics regardless of the variety you choose. 

Since cucumber seeds germinate very fast, it’s best to start this process from seed. 

Keep them in an area where the temperature won’t exceed 85°F (29°C), and within 3 to 10 days, they’ll have germinated. 

Now all that’s left is to transplant them to your hydroponic system. 

Given their adaptability, this vegetable fares well in any hydroponic system. But I have had the most success when using deep water culture. 

After transplanting, ensure you maintain the temperature in the range of 70 to 80°F during daytime or leave the grow lights on. 

If your system is located outdoors, then expose your vegetables to full sun for 12 to 15 hours every day.

Keep in mind that cukes require ample room for growth. So when setting up your hydroponic system, place them in patches as you would with a traditional garden. 

There should be a 2 to 6-feet distance between the patches. In addition, the water’s pH should be between 5.0 and 6.0. 

4. Celery

Apium graveolens, more popularly known as celery, is a type of aromatic plant belonging to the Apicaceae family. 

It’s grown mainly for its edible stalk and root, which make superb veggies. 

You might know this plant from its rhombus-shaped leaves, which tend to grow in rosettes. This crop also bears flowers in a creamy white color and they form an umbrella-like shape. 

Planning to add celery to your hydroponic garden? Well, you are not going to regret this decision because it fares very well under this structure. 

Your first step is to start your celery from seeds. Its seeds take a little longer to germinate, up to a fortnight. 

By the end of the second week, you’ll start seeing a few roots coming out at the base of your pot. As soon as the celery roots reach a certain height measurement, you can transplant them into a hydro system. 

Be sure to add a mineral supplement, preferably one containing calcium and magnesium minerals. I also recommend adding a tiny amount of humic acid to your hydroponic solution.

Calcium and magnesium lead to the growth of strong celery stalks whereas humic acid boosts the intake of nutrients. 

Also important to note is that celery thrives when provided with a ton of water. As such, the best hydroponic system to use is deep water culture. 

The renowned Emily’s Garden would be perfect for this application. 

It’s compact enough to place on a kitchen window sill or a tiny shelf, and it lets you grow celery without having to set up a gigantic hydroponic system. 

5. Green peppers

The benefits of green peppers go beyond their culinary applications. 

These medium-sized vegetables are chock full of antioxidants, dietary fibers, and phytonutrients. All of these nutrients play crucial roles in the human body.

Now capsicum can be grown using hydroponics. Hydroponics is highly beneficial if you’re planting at a time when the outdoor conditions aren’t favorable. 

You can virtually plant any time of the year if you have a hydroponic system indoors. 

The best place to start is by letting your pepper seeds germinate before transplanting them to a hydroponic setting. 

I like to use paper towel germination for my peppers. It entails folding seeds in a paper towel, then placing them inside a ziplock bag that helps with moisture retention. 

After about 10 days, transfer the seeds to soilless dirt, mist and expose them to plenty of sun. Then once the first few leaves start forming, transfer to your hydroponic substrate.

In terms of nutrients, you’ll want to ensure that the water has adequate amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to encourage growth. 

A pH of between 5.5 and 7 is also recommended. If the pH level is too low, you can increase it by adding a bit of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. 

Other factors necessary for healthy growth are temperature and lighting. 

You should expose your green peppers to artificial lighting for 12 to 16 hours. The temperature should be kept at 73 to 79°F (23 to 26°C).

One thing you should keep an eye on when growing green peppers hydroponically is their weight. If your plant is bearing good size peppers, provide support systems to prevent it from breaking or tipping. 

6. Bok Choy

Bok Choy, which is popularly referred to as the white Chinese cabbage, is classified in the pak choi family of brassicas originating from China. 

It’s easy to identify this vegetable due to its fleshy and crunchy stems, which bear light to dark-green leaves. 

Depending on the conditions it’s grown in, Bok Choy ranges in size from 4 to 12 inches in height. 

While not as popular as other cruciferous vegetables, it packs a ton of health benefits including mitigating the risk of developing cancer. To crown it all, all its parts are edible!

If you want to enjoy these advantages, consider growing this vegetable in your hydroponic garden. 

As with most veggies that are grown hydroponically, you’ll have to grow the seeds in a suitable potting soil then transplant them to your hydroponic system later. 

For the best outcome, start by choosing premium-quality Bok Choy seeds. They should be highly adaptable and not overly sensitive to changes when you’re using a growing medium. 

Allow these seeds to germinate, maintaining temperatures of 50° to 72°F (10°C to 22°C). It’s also good to provide light for at least 6 hours per day. 

Once they’ve germinated – usually after a month- transplant to your hydroponic system. 

Here, the temperature of your nutrient solution should range between 55°F and 75°F (13°C to 24°C). 

Its pH should also be in the range of 5.5 to 6.5. Keep these conditions right, and your Bok Choy will be ready for harvesting in the next 6 weeks. 

7. Tomatoes

Explore any cuisine, and you’ll quickly learn that tomatoes are a staple item in the culinary world. 

This is not surprising given that it’s a nutrient-rich superfood. It contains lycopene, which has been linked to decreased risk of prostate cancer. 

It’s also chock full of vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium,  folate, and more. 

Now if you’ve always struggled to grow this staple vegetable in soil, you might want to try hydroponics. 

The latter is not only easier, but it’s also way cheaper, which is good news to those gardening on a budget.

Here’s how: The first step is to look for a reliable supplier who can offer quality tomato seeds, free of pests and diseases. 

We’re emphasizing the point of reliability because tomato is somewhat of a sensitive plant. Just a single bad seed can wreak havoc on an entire crop.

Once you get the seeds, place them in a container filled with a suitable growing medium to facilitate germination. I have found rockwool cubes work really well for this veggie.

Add water to the rockwool, preferably, with a pH of about 4.5. Next, look for a moist, damp area where you can store your seeds. 

The soil temperature should also range between 68°F and 77°F (20 – 25°C).

After the seeds germinate- which should happen in the next 2 weeks or so- you can transfer them to your hydroponic system.

8. Onions

In many parts of the world, the Allium fistulosum or green onion is grown as an annual vegetable in conventional soil-based garden beds. 

However, you’ll find some reasons that make this vegetable equally suited for hydroponic gardening. 

For one, onions are very small, and this makes them easy to grow in any type of hydroponic system. Their small size also means you can get a prolific yield even if you’re growing them on a small amount of space.

To get started, first pick an apt hydroponic system. Because I’m fairly new to the world of hydroponic gardening, I like to grow mine in deep water culture, which is a little forgiving.

Next, look for six 3-inch net pots (if they’re available), and fill them up with perlite. Net pots are perfect for this application because they contain holes on the base. 

This makes it easy for the onions’ root systems to absorb nutrients from the water. 

Now place your onions midway into this growing medium, then place the pots atop a raft or tray. Let the water fill it then add an air stone, to improve oxygen circulation in the system. 

Ensure you plant the bulbs at almost the same height. This will allow you to add water just enough to cover the roots but not to submerge the bulbs. 

All that’s left now is to keep a close eye on your hydroponic system, and your onions will be ready for harvesting in a month or so. 

9. Basil

A woody herb classified in the mint family, basil is in the same class as rosemary, thyme, and oregano. 

It’s one of the most versatile herbs I have ever encountered. It can be sweet, peppery, or savory, not to mention, it has such a pleasant aroma. 

This explains why basil features in various cuisines, especially Italian. Here it’s used to create the base of pesto or tossed in salads, pasta, or pizza to add freshness. 

Best of all, basil is a good example of a vegetable that can be grown hydroponically. It’s not fussy about the water or pH. All it needs is a bit of love in the pruning sector.

Start by looking for basil seeds, and planting them in a suitable medium to facilitate germination. 

The seeds should sprout within 7 to 10 days. For the best outcome, maintain the temperature in the range of 75°F (24°C). 

Once they’ve sprouted, you can transfer them to your hydroponic setting. The setup should contain water, enriched with a suitable nutrient solution. 

Two aspects you’ll need to check upon transplanting are lighting and humidity. 

Although basil doesn’t require very intense light, providing supplemental light is crucial if you’re growing the crop in winter or in a poorly lit area. 

On the plus side, the plant isn’t choosy so even T5 fluorescent grow lights will do. Leave them on for between 10 and 12 hours to boost production. 

As for humidity, keep it in the range of 40 to 60%. Basil leaves have a tendency of catching and retaining water, which is why you’ll need to control the condensation.

Humidity should never exceed 70%. With these two in check, your basil should be ready for harvesting in a month.

10. Cilantro

A member of the Apiaceae family, coriander or cilantro shares common characteristics with the likes of carrots, dill, and parsley. 

Like these veggies, it has a slim flower stalk and its flowers take a flat structure. It also self-seeds with ease, especially when grown horizontally.

But what’s even more intriguing than its appearance is the fact that it packs a ton of health benefits. 

It’s rich in an array of nutrients, including iron, magnesium, manganese, and dietary fiber. 

The best part is, it can be grown hydroponically, meaning you can grow it indoors all year long. And considering what a versatile ingredient it is, this really comes in handy. 

Growing cilantro hydroponically follows a fairly similar process as other vegetables. 

First, start your plant from seed. This will entail placing the seeds in a growing medium like rockwool and monitoring the germination closely.  

Within 7 to 10 days, the seeds should have germinated. It means it’s time to get your hydroponic system ready for the new plants. 

Fill your system with water and incorporate nutrients as instructed on the kit’s package. If using a liquid fertilizer, adding 3 tbsp per one gallon of water is the right balance. 

Remember to top up these nutrients any time you either refresh or add more water to the system.

Once your growing solution is ready, transfer the cilantro seedlings into the tank. Exercise caution as coriander’s taproot is delicate; hence, it doesn’t like to be disturbed. 

Next, add a lighting fixture and ensure your plant is exposed to it for at least 12 hours every day. As your plant grows taller, elevate the lighting fixture as well; it should be no less than 6 inches from the plant.

11. Garlic

Garlic is a root vegetable belonging to the Allium family. This puts it in the same classification as leeks, chives, onions, and shallots. 

Used in a variety of world cuisines, this ingredient not only adds flavor but also offers a dozen nutrients. 

This explains why it has and continues to be used in natural medicine both in its raw form and as a supplement. 

Like most flowering bulbs, garlic is usually planted around fall. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it the rest of the year. 

It’s possible to have a year-long supply of this flavorful, beneficial ingredient if you grow it hydroponically. 

The first step in hydroponic growing involves sprouting the cloves. Buy garlic bulbs from your local garden store. 

Separate the cloves, being careful to keep their papery white skin intact. Wrap them with a damp paper towel, then place them in a warm area. 

Within 48 hours, the cloves will have started sprouting. This makes it a good time to transfer your sprouted cloves to your hydroponic system. 

Upon transferring, place them in the new growing medium in such a way that the pointy, sprouted tips are facing up.

The water level should cover slightly less than half of the garlic sprout. You’ll also need to maintain the temperature in the range of 35 to 50°F (2°C to 10°C). 

Finally, ensure the cloves are receiving enough sunlight; 8 to 12 hours per day and they’ll be ready for harvesting in 45 to 60 days.

One thing I like about garlic is that it’s highly adaptable. Setting up a full-scale hydroponic system isn’t necessary. 

In fact, the first time I grew this vegetable hydroponically, I simply placed one clove inside a shot glass. If you have several cloves, a drinking glass or jar will suffice. 

Follow the same procedure of maintaining the correct temperature and providing sunlight, and your garlic plant will turn out well.

Conclusion

Recently, hydroponic gardening has become immensely popular and it’s easy to see why. The fact that it doesn’t use soil eliminates the risk of pests and diseases. 

In some cases, it also leads to higher yields and faster growth. 

Let’s also not forget the flexibility it offers when it comes to planting seasons and conditions.

That said, some vegetables do better in hydroponics more than others. 

So if you’re considering this gardening approach, examples of suitable vegetables to grow are spinach, lettuce, garlic, bok choy, celery, green pepper, cilantro among others.

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