Short on growing space outside? Not sure if your growing season will be warm enough? An indoor hydroponic system can give you more control over what you grow.
Indoor hydroponic system: You can grow fresh produce inside your own home with an indoor hydroponic system. There are many setups to choose from but all use a nutrient solution to support plant health instead of soil.
What is a hydroponic system?
While traditional gardening uses soil for plants, hydroponic systems only use water to grow plants. Plants still get the nutrients they need but the source is a water solution, not soil.
You can create a small hydroponic system to grow herbs or a large hydroponic system to grow commercial produce.
Can you do hydroponics inside?
Yes, you can create a hydroponic system inside your home. In fact, most hydroponic systems thrive indoors as you can better control the growing conditions.
Space will always be a factor for a hydroponic system, however. While the setup allows for vertical growing, which cuts down on the total footprint, you will still need enough room for the apparatus.
Advantages of indoor hydroponics systems
Longer growing season
Depending on where you live, your growing season might be pretty short. Even in warmer climates, you still won’t be able to grow much in the winter.
By creating an artificial environment with an indoor hydroponics system, you can lengthen your growing season. You can even grow warmer climate crops, such as peppers, and not worry about early frost setting in.
Once your plants are ready to harvest, you should notice a much larger yield. In some cases, your vegetables and fruit will be even larger than if they were grown outside.
Indoor hydroponics systems prevent pests and diseases from getting to your plants. The controlled elements also mean your plants won’t suffer from unexpected temperature variations or a lack of water.
More access to plants
There are some hydroponic systems that are large and some that are small. Basically, no matter what type of space you are working with, you can find a system that will fit.
If you have a corner of a basement or a spare room, you can set up an indoor hydroponic system. This allows you more access to your plants and is especially beneficial if you have a small garden or none at all.
It seems counterintuitive but hydroponic systems actually use less water than traditional gardening. This is because the water goes directly to plant roots and isn’t filtered through the soil.
The water is also more contained, so it immediately reaches plant roots without evaporating. Furthermore, water is cycled through your hydroponic system a few times with the aim of allowing the plants to fully absorb the nutrients in the water before it is discarded.
You will need a ready water hookup, however, so this should be something to consider. If not, you can bring water in but this can create more work for you.
Gardening can be hard on your back, especially when it is time to harvest. All that bending over can be quite the strain, especially if you have mobility issues.
The benefit of a hydroponic system is that your fresh produce is at a raised level. You can bring a stool over to tend to your crops or harvest them.
Disadvantages of indoor hydroponics systems
Indoor hydroponic systems are thankfully becoming more affordable but there is still an initial cost you may not be prepared for. This includes the hydroponic frame, lighting apparatus, and the nutrient solution used to grow your plants.
You can cut some costs by looking for used equipment, especially grow lights. However, it is better to start with a new system so you don’t have to worry about anything breaking right away.
While you don’t have to worry about soil making a mess under your hydroponic system, there is still a potential for a large mess. This includes water and plant matter.
The water that cycles through your hydroponic systems should be contained but accidents can happen. Pipes could break or water could accidentally spray, resulting in water damage and a massive cleanup.
Plant matter can also be a hindrance to keeping the area clean. As you trim your plants or harvest them, you will need to create a system that keeps everything tidy or else it will end up on the ground.
Having an indoor hydroponic system means your plants are entirely reliant on you for their lighting needs. This means you need to install a lighting system that is powerful enough to provide at least eight hours of light.
If you want your plants to grow faster, you can increase the light hours but this will mean more money spent on electricity. There’s a fine balance between the amount of money you invest in your system and the produce you can harvest.
Pest and Disease problems
Even though an advantage of an indoor hydroponic system includes a smaller threat from pests and diseases, there is still the possibility that these can infect your plants. What’s more, if there is an issue, it becomes a more quickly spreading one.
When plants are in the ground, diseases can’t spread as quickly thanks to the soil. Even pests can be distracted by soil or other plants.
However, in a hydroponic system, there are only your plants to feast on. Diseases will attack roots quickly and if you aren’t vigilant, you can have entire crops destroyed.
More time monitoring
An indoor hydroponics setup is a delicate balance so you need to pay attention to water levels, nutrient amounts, and lighting. You can’t rely on Mother Nature to help you out in your garden.
When you’re first starting out, the whole process can be overwhelming. You will need to test the water levels, adjust the temperature and lighting, and constantly check in on your plants.
Although the process does get easier the more you practice, it is still a lot of effort if you want a solid harvest at the end.
Are indoor hydroponics worth it?
The initial cost of an indoor hydroponics system can be large but if you are eager to harvest beyond the natural growing season and have more control over what you can grow, then they are worth it.
Outdoor gardens are great but the elements are unpredictable. You can spend months growing your favorite crops only to have a disease wipe them out or have deer come by and munch on them.
The first year will probably see you spending more on the equipment than the value of your produce. However, if you stick with your hydroponic system, the costs will become less and you will have the benefit of fresh produce for longer periods of the year.
What is the best indoor hydroponic system?
When choosing the right hydroponic system for your indoor space, you should think about how much room you have, what you want to grow, and how active you want to be in the process.
Here are some of the most popular indoor hydroponic systems you can choose from.
Nutrient Film Technique
This hydroponic system is easy to maintain. It is also easy to create a small system or scale up to a larger system.
It works by having a tray for your plants that is at an angle so the nutrient water can run through the roots. Then, the water goes into a larger bottom tray that is then cycled back up to the plant tray.
Deep Water Culture
For a more streamlined system, you can consider this hydroponic model. Instead of different trays, the plants all rest in one tray with a nutrient solution at the bottom.
To keep the water circulated, an air pump creates bubbles that circulate the water and add important oxygen to the plant roots.
Another simple setup, the Wick System does not use any pumps or electricity, so it will theoretically cut down on some of the operating costs. It works by placing your plants in a growing medium, such as vermiculture, coco coir, or perlite.
Then, a nylon string, or wick, runs down from the growing medium into a tray that houses the nutrient solution. The wicks absorb the nutrients from the water and transport them to the plants.
Finally, a drip system may look a little complicated but it is still easy to use in your indoor setup. The plants are housed in a top tray with the nutrient water solution in the bottom tray.
Then, a water pump transfers the nutrients to the plants via a small tube, which then drips the water into the roots. The top tray captures any extra water and then feeds it to the bottom tray to repeat the cycle.
An indoor hydroponic system could be the solution you are looking for. You can control the growing conditions of your plants, including light, water, and nutrients, all from your own home.