Having a Hydroponic Herb Garden is the best way to grow your favorite herbs when you don’t have enough space or ground. And maintaining it is not as complicated as it seems. With enough basic knowledge, you’ll be surprised how easy it will be.
Besides, you will be saving a lot when you grow your own herb, especially the expensive kind when you buy them in some grocery stores.
What is Hydroponic
Hydroponics is a method or process of growing plants without soil. Plants are grown in water with nutrient-rich solutions. Their roots are exposed in the liquid, or supported by other mediums such as perlite, gravel, coco coir, wood fiber, and a lot more.
The nutrients used in this system can come from fish excrement, duck manure, chemical fertilizers, artificial nutrient solutions, and many more. Although plants are known to need sunlight, lights are not allowed to penetrate the containers to prevent the growth of algae and fungus.
It was also proven that the plants grow faster and larger in this method. It is because the plants are essentially being force-fed the nutrients they need, while they only require less energy to grow.
Types of Hydroponic System
There are several ways of growing plants using a hydroponic system. These were used depending on their investment, the place available, the environment, and the complexity.
Most beginners would try the easiest and simplest ones. However, there are also beginners who would like to start with more complex ones.
There are about a hundred of these techniques, but most of them are modifications from a few basic ones.
Here are 7 of them:
1. Wick system
This method is thought to be the simplest, easiest, and cost-efficient. In this arrangement, plants are nestled in a growing media that is on a tray placed atop a reservoir that contains water with dissolved nutrients. The plants and the reservoir are connected by a wick. The solution from the reservoir will travel through the wick and saturate the growing media that are around the root system. It will slowly feed the plants over time.
The wicks are mostly made in cotton and usually in a form of string or rope. This system doesn’t require any mechanical parts such as pumps. This also means it doesn’t require electricity (unless the plants need to grow light).
2. Deep Water Culture System
Also called the DWC and Reservoir Method, this is another easy method where the roots are directly submerged in the aerated nutrient solution. Proper water oxygenation is important in this process to avoid plants being “drowned” in the solution. The growers add an airstone connected to an air pump that is submerged at the bottom. The bubbles from the airstone help circulate the nutrient solution and supply oxygenation to the whole system.
The cheapest way to create this system is by using a bucket or old aquarium to hold the solution, about ⅓ filled. Then a floating surface like styrofoam to place the net pots steadily with the growing plant in it. Note that no other parts of the plants should be in the solution except the roots. The roots can also be allowed to suspend about 1-2 inches above the waterline. The bubbles from the air stone pop out of the surface and splash on the exposed roots, hence, they will not be at risk of drying out.
3. Ebb and Flow System
Also called Flood and Drain System, it is important that the submersible pump used here has a timer. In this method, the plants are not always exposed to water.
A tray filled with the medium is placed above the reservoir where the plants are placed (in a pot or placed directly). The container is also equipped with an overflow tube that will ensure that the flooding will not go past a certain level which could damage the stalks and fruits of the plants.
In this process, the pump fills the grow bed (the tray) with water and nutrients as soon as the timer starts. Then, the gravity drains the water slowly out of the grow bed and flushes it back into the reservoir when the timer stops. At this process, the roots dry out, and at the same time, will be oxygenated until the next flood.
The most common medium used here is hydroton grow rocks or expanded clay pebbles because these are lightweight, can be cleaned, hence, they are also reusable.
4. Drip System
In this hydroponic system, these hoses or tubes are used to drip the aerated and nutrient-dense reservoir into each plants’ root bases. An electric pump is used to move the water into the tube to flow to the top of the growing medium, then drips around the roots, and finally drains down to a container.
The drip system has two layouts: recovery and non-recovery.
- In the recovery drip system (also called recirculating), the water in the reservoir that was drained from the grow bed is recirculated or reused on the next drip cycle. However, the nutrient content of the solution and the pH balance depletes every time the water recirculates. Thus, it is important the grower should monitor and adjust the solution. The growing media should also be washed and changed regularly because they became oversaturated with the nutrients.
- In the non-recovery drip system (also called non-recirculating), the excess water is discharged once it drains out of the growing media. It may sound uneconomical, but the growers keep the waste to the lowest amount by applying a meticulously accurate amount of solution enough to dampen the growing media.
5. Nutrient Film Technology (NFT) Hydroponic System
NFT for short, this hydroponic system is a type of recovery or recirculating dip system. But the roots of the growing plant are not immersed in water.
The growing plants are suspended above the channels and the end of the roots are draping into the flowing water below it. This thin layer of water that passes through and around the plants’ roots is called the film. Then it goes down the growing channel and is collected at the bottom. This collected water in the reservoir is aerated by the airstone that is attached to the submersible pump. This water is cycled back up again.
The channels holding the plants are slanted so that the water will pass down the length of the grow tray before draining back to the reservoir. The end of the roots will only touch the stream passing underneath them.
A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) NFT System builder would use rain gutters as the pre-built channels.
6. Aeroponics System
This type of hydroponic system is growing your herbs by suspending their roots in the air and misting them with the nutrient solution. High-pressure sprayers are used that break nutrient into small particles and saturate the roots. These roots are kept in a humid environment with minimal grow media, while the levels of oxygen in the water are kept high with the use of a high-pressure pump.
The roots of these plants are held in a soilless growing medium like the coco coir and then leaving the roots to dangle in the air as they grow.
7. Kratky System
This hydroponic method is a combination of the Wick System and the Deep Water Culture System. However, it doesn’t use an air pump, airstone, or tubing. It is a passive, non-circulating type or non-recovery type. The reservoir that is used here can be a container with a tight-fitting lid that holds the nutrient solution.
In this system, a net pot with a growing medium is used to hold the plant. The pot is fitted into a cut-out hole of the lid. In the beginning, the roots are submerged in the solution with only a small air gap between the inside of the lid and the solution. As the plants and roots grow, the water level drops, and the air space increases. Hence, the plants continue to receive food and get enough oxygen.
The Kratky system is best in growing small leaf herbs but not suited for large-scale growing.
Here are the other benefits of having a hydroponic herb garden
- Growing herbs this way is very economical and compact, especially if you live in an urban area with no fields for gardening. You can grow quality herbs in a small space in or around your house effectively and make them available all year round.
- Herbs taste better than the ones from the garden beds. Plants grown hydroponically get what they need when they need it and without stress, thus, the herbs always grow healthier.
- If you are into water conservation, you will definitely save water in this method. A typical hydroponic herb garden only needs 10% water for growth. While the herbs only absorb what they need, the excess water is sent back to the system and then reused. Unlike plants grown in traditional fields and garden beds, these plants need up to 80%.
- The growth of the herbs can be maximized to their fullest potential because you can easily control the environment. This makes the plant grow 30-50% faster, healthier, and bigger than the plants in soil.
- The risk of animal pests like groundhogs and gophers, and the threat of soil-based diseases like the Phytophthora, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia will be reduced because there is no soil. And besides, there’s no messy soil!
Herbs to Grow Easily using Hydroponic
Hydroponic herb gardening also allows you to grow different varieties of herbs. You can even grow hard to come by and imported varieties, too. Not only you will enjoy having your special dish complete with fresh herbs and getting them all year round, but enjoy having lesser grocery costs.
Here are some easy-to-grow herbs in a hydroponic way.
A very popular aromatic herb that suits many dishes like meat, pasta, soup, and salad dishes. One of the easiest to grow and well qualified to be in your hydroponic herb garden. Some gardeners enjoy growing different varieties of basil.
- Method – Any method. But most growers use Kratky, Deep Water Culture, and Nutrient Film Technology
- Medium – Rockwool blocks, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss.
- Nutrients – Hydroponic regimen high in Nitrogen. However, using a particular nutrient mix for leafy greens and herbs is highly recommended.
- Light – 14 – 16 hours of light per day.
- Care – Basil grows best in warm conditions. The ideal temperature would be 65-80°F. Pruning or cutting their tips regularly keeps them short but lush as more new shoots will grow on their sides.
One of the easiest to grow hydroponically. They germinate easily and need to maintain in constant moisture with media that has a high water holding capacity.
- Method – Any method, but many gardeners use the ebb and tide system, and drip system. The deepwater culture system is also popular. Kratky is also great if growing only a few chives.
- Medium – Can hold water longer like coco coir, vermiculite, and Rockwool.
- Nutrients – A general purpose fertilizer can be given, however, they also need the right balance of fertilizer. For the purpose of production of oil and aromatics, a good amount of sulfur is required.
- Light – 12-14 hours per day
- Care – Grow best in warm conditions. The ideal temperature would be 65-80°F. When harvesting, the leaves should not be cut all at the same time. Leaves should be cut at about 5 cm from the base to continue photosynthesis and be able to regenerate the leaves.
Another very easy to grow hydroponically and can be started with seed in a
- Method – Ebb and Flow and Kratky systems are popular for beginner gardeners or growing a few herbs only. Other gardeners use Ebb and Flow, and Drip system
- Medium – They grow best on Rockwool especially when starting from seeds. Expanded clay pellets are a popular medium, too.
- Nutrients – Ready to use hydroponic nutrient solution. Some gardeners suggested choosing a product with enough nitrogen and phosphorus ratio,
- Light – They like full sun, and 5-6 hours each day is good enough. They can also grow well under artificial lighting. Some gardeners say high-intensity lights produce better dill.
- Care – When starting from seed, sow them after the threat of frost or flooding passes. When harvesting, sharp pruning shears or scissors should be used to cut the leaf foliage or the whole stem. Dills have a better flavor when they just began to flower, while dill seeds get their best flavor when dried.
A very popular herb used worldwide in many different dishes. Any gardener would love to grow it themselves. And growing the herb using hydroponics is very easy.
- Method – Any method can be used. However, most gardeners use deep water culture, wick, and Kratky systems. The Drips system is popular commercially. For more experienced growers, usually choose ebb and flow, and nutrient-based techniques.
- Medium – Rockwool is best to use, especially if germinating the parsley from seed. (Germination usually takes 1-3 weeks). Hydroponic growing can also be done in cuttings which is faster.
- Nutrients – A regular or ready to use hydroponic nutrient solution with a pH of 5.5 – 6.5
- Light – 10-12 sunlight or grow light per day.
- Care – It can be harvested when the herb reached at least 6 inches tall. It can be pruned 2-3 inches from the growing medium. Like basil, it will grow back and will have more shots at the side.
A popular herb for tea lovers, growing chamomile hydroponically is not tough at all. Many gardeners start growing this herb from seeds. This herb can also propagate itself through runners making it economical, too.
- Method – Kratky system is the most popular to grow chamomile. However, they can be grown in any method.
- Medium – It is advised to use Rockwell especially when germinating chamomile from seed. Other mediums that can be used are coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite.
- Nutrients – this herb does not require intensive fertilization, and any standard nutrient solution can be used.n
- Light – Some gardeners advised 16 hours daily can make chamomile grow healthier. However, just like any other herbs, they can thrive at 12-14 hours of light.
- Care – Chamomile grown in the hydroponic method can be ready to harvest after about 8 weeks. Cut the flowers 3 inches of the stem, and then dry them on a piece of clean cloth under a shady place. Keep some flowers uncut if you wish to harvest their seed for replanting.
One of the most abundant herbs, a favorite in the kitchen and garden because of its many uses. It is very easy to grow, and they grow fast, too. Growing any type of mint from seeds, seedlings, or cuttings using the hydroponic method is very easy.
- Method – depending on how much you plan to grow mint, any hydroponic methods can be used. However, gardeners’ favorite choices are Ebb and flow, Nutrient Film Techniques, and the Kratky system.
- Medium – When germinating seeds, rapid rooter plugs are recommended. It has micronutrients for rapid root growth and supports fast-growing plants like the mint. Once enough roots are grown, the seedling can be transplanted to another medium.
If growing from seedlings, cuttings, or rootstocks, media that allows air circulation is best, like the expanded clay pellets, perlite, pumice or grow stones. Rockwool is also great to grow roots from stem cuttings.
- Nutrients – To grow the mint hydroponically, the nutrient needed should have high in nitrogen since there’s no need for it to flower. An example is the Dyna-Gro Foliage Pro.
- Light – Unobstructed bright sunlight for 12-16 hours a day is needed. A standard fluorescent light can be used as extra supplementation. However, LED grow light is more effective.
- Care – While mint is still growing and establishing roots, the humidity of 70-85% should be maintained. The ideal temperature should be 55-75℉. Above 85℉ may affect the growth of mint. Mint can be harvested in 3 to 4 weeks as it is a very fast-growing herb. Once trimmed, it encourages new foliage growth in just a few days.
Plan what you would like to grow hydroponically. Consider the environment, the best place to set up, and the type of hydroponic method you will use.
Besides the herbs I mentioned above, there are still many herbs you can try to grow, like cilantro, thyme, lemon balm, sage, and oregano.
There you go! Which herb would you like to grow first? Do you already have the hydroponic method in mind?