A compact and efficient hydroponic system offers unique opportunities to grow a variety of plants. When investing time and money to build a hydroponic garden, you’ll want to know which plants grow best in your new system. Assuming similar fertilizers are used, there are three factors that determine how well matched your grow system is to a particular crop: root zone area, light intensity, and air temperature. Considering these three things will help you grow crops best suited to your grow system and the environment it operates in.
Compact horticulture systems intuitively work best with shorter crops that have shallow root systems such as spinach, lettuce, onions, and most herbs. The root-zone is the volume of space below the surface of the planting area where a plants roots grow to absorb water and nutrients. Some plants grow narrow and deep roots while others grow a shallow root mass over a wider area. Efficient horticulture systems offer a variety of containers to optimize this crop characteristic, each having a shape that benefits the type of plant it grows. Plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsnips, grow best with deeper root-zones thus are not well suited for compact horticulture systems.
The amount of light available in a horticulture system is a primary factor of resulting food quality. Good gardeners will match their crops to the intensity and duration of light their systems provide. Although plants do a great job adapting to most environments, robust growth requires different light intensities for different crops. Generally speaking, you need strong light if you’re growing a plant for its fruit. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant all benefit from full sunlight. Anything grown for its leaves can manage, and perhaps grow better, in partial sunlight or shade. Salad greens and herbs are prime candidates for areas that don’t get full sun all day. When growing indoors, crops that require less light energy will cost less to grow to maturity.
Finally, it’s important to pick a crop that is well suited to ambient temperatures. Efficient horticulture systems rely on the surrounding environment to maintain adequate temperatures for optimal growth. It’s possible to artificially heat or cool a system but this requires greater cost in terms of system components and energy consumed. Vegetables that grow best in mild climates, such as a garage in the winter, include spinach, kale, and arugula. If your system resides in a warmer climate, perhaps a loft or attic area in the summer, consider peppers, beans, or zucchini. If you plan to grow in a compact hydroponic system consider matching its presumed environment to the type of plant you’re willing to grow.
Germination temp: 55°-75° F
Grow temp: 55°-70° F
Mature plant spacing: 6-12″
Edible Yield density: 1.2 lb/sqft
Days to maturity: 45-65 days
Germination temp: 60°-80° F
Grow temp: 50°-75° F
Mature plant spacing: 10-12”
Edible Yield density: 12 oz/sqft
Days to maturity: 40-60 days
Germination temp: 55°-65° F
Grow temp: 45°-85° F
Mature plant spacing: 4-8”
Edible Yield density: 1 lb/sqft
Days to maturity: 35-55 days
Germination temp: 50°-70°F
Grow temp: 40°-70° F
Mature plant spacing: 6-10″
Edible Yield density: 6 oz/sqft
Days to maturity: 30-50 days