Fresh herbs add extra flavor and zest to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. However, they can be expensive to buy, so growing your own is always an excellent option. A Hydroponic herb garden can be a great alternative to traditional herb gardens if you’re looking to experiment.
This guide covers how to grow your own hydroponic herb garden. We discuss everything from the necessary setup to suitable hydroponic systems. We also explain which are the best herbs to grow hydroponically.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Hydroponic Herb Gardens?
There are a few pros and cons to growing herbs hydroponically as opposed to in soil systems.
- You do not need soil. If you live in an apartment or have a small garden, you may not have access to enough soil for growing herbs. With hydroponics, you can grow your herb garden inside and with water.
- You don’t need sunlight. If you have a grow light, you can create artificial conditions for your herbs. This is ideal if you have limited sunlight in your location.
- The system is self-contained. Especially if you use a hydroponic system with a pump, it more or less runs itself. You will just need to occasionally check and change nutrient solutions, pH, and EC levels.
- The herbs may taste better. Many people argue that hydroponic herbs have a more robust and fresher flavor than their soil-grown counterparts.
- The costs are higher. It can be much more expensive to set up and maintain a hydroponic herb garden. If you are on a strict budget, it may not be the best option.
Which Plants Grow Well in a Hydroponic Herb Garden?
Various herb varieties grow well in a hydroponic herb garden:
However, many of these herbs need different setups and growing conditions. Therefore, you might like to choose your preferred herbs and focus on just a couple, to begin with.
Which Herbs Are Not Suitable for Hydroponic Systems?
Lemongrass makes a poor candidate for hydroponic growing because it grows so tall. Therefore, it needs extra support from standard soil systems.
Bulb-based herbs and spices also do not grow well in hydroponic systems. Beginners should avoid trying to grow ginger, garlic, or turmeric.
How to Grow a Hydroponic Herb Garden
Not all herbs all the same, so they need slightly different growing conditions. However, there are some guidelines and exceptions that you can pay attention to.
- pH level: Most herbs grow well at a pH between 5 and 6.5. However, oregano grows better at a higher pH of 6.0 to 8.0. Similarly, you should keep a higher pH for cilantro, with 6.7 providing the ideal growing conditions.
- Temperature: Most herbs perform well in temperate climates. If you choose to set up your hydroponics system indoors, you should emulate that natural temperature fluctuation. A maximum daytime temperature of 70℉ (21℃) is ideal for most herb varieties. You may also like to have a fan blowing across your hydroponic herb garden to keep air cool and circulating.
- EC level: Many herbs, like sage and basil, flourish with an electric conductivity level of 1.0 to 1.6. However, other varieties, like parsley, prefer a higher level of 1.8 to 2.1. If you will grow a few different herbs in the same hydroponic system, make sure that their ideal EC level overlaps.
You can use a few different hydroponic systems for growing herb gardens:
- Ebb and flow: This hydroponic system is one of the easiest and most common options for herb gardens. It floods and drains the herbs’ roots regularly, often several times a day. This system allows roots to receive ample nutrients, expel gases, and receive enough oxygen.
- Nutrient film technique: This system has constantly flowing, low levels of water and nutrients. Because it is best suited to light and fast-growing crops, it can be an excellent option for herbs.
- Deep flow technique: It is another hydroponic system that suits quick-growing crops with shorter roots. It is particularly suitable for herbs like cilantro and basil because the water movement distributes essential nutrients.
- Drip system: It is another popular option for growing a hydroponic herb garden. Because it emulates how you usually water a plant in soil systems, it is suitable for most crops.
- Aeroponic system: This less common hydroponic system is gaining popularity for growing herbs. It can massively increase yield, reduce water consumption, prevent diseases, and be overall more efficient.
Many hydroponic gardeners set up their herbs in root cubes, which could be made of peat, cellulose, or vermiculite. If you try to grow herbs directly in your solution, they may not have enough support to flourish properly.
You can choose from pre-made nutrient mixes, with some specifically designed for growing herbs. However, you can also make your own that are optimized for hydroponic herb gardens.
For commercial quantities of the nutrient mix, you will need the following nutrients:
- 5 ounces (14.8g) of potassium phosphate
- 3 ounces (88.7g) of calcium nitrate
- 2 ounces (59.1g) of potassium nitrate
- 5 ounces (44.3g) of magnesium sulfate
- 5 pints (236ml) of iron sulfate
- 5 pints (236ml) of manganese chloride
- 5 pints (236ml) of boric acid
- 5 teaspoons (2.5ml) of copper sulfate
- 5 teaspoons (2.5ml) of zinc sulfate
- 25 gallons (94.6L) of warm water
Because this makes such a large quantity, you may want to adjust the amounts accordingly for a smaller hydroponic herb garden.
Most hydroponic herbs need exposure to the entire light spectrum to grow correctly. If you grow inside, you should use a grow light to provide this light source. LEDs with the whole color range, including blue light, are the best option for herbs.
In conclusion, hydroponic herb gardens are an excellent setup to grow delicious additions to your favorite meals. Most herb varieties grow wonderfully in hydroponic systems, as long as you optimize the growing conditions.