We are looking at the exciting growing opportunities when you use hydroponic systems for growing vegetables. Here we take a look at exactly what you can grow.
Hydroponic Gardening– Choosing Crops for your Indoor Garden
What plants should you grow in your indoor garden? Firstly, grow what you like to eat and grow it in the quantities you need. One of the beauties of hydroponic systems is that you can easily grow just one or two plants – chili peppers for example – rather than the whole row you might have put outdoors – where most of it may easily go to waste. Because there is limited space when you are hydroponic gardening you will find yourself naturally more disciplined, and therefore more efficient, in deciding what and how much you want to grow.
Although you can buy young vegetable seedlings and plant those into your hydroponic system, it is far better to start with seeds and produce your own plants. There are several reasons:
- You can grow exactly the variety you want for color, flavor and growing time.
- You can have plants available all year round.
- Most important of all, plants from seed are free of pests and diseases when they begin to grow. Young plants you buy almost always have a few pest eggs or disease spores on them. These pests will increase and spread to your other plants and they can be very hard to get rid of. If you have made a clean start by growing from seed you will probably not see pest problems developing.
What Grows Best In Hydroponic Systems?
Fast growing crops like lettuce in all its varieties and other leafy greens are an easy way to start using your hydroponic system. They are also great plants for the lettuce rafts we will describe in the last part of this blog series. Swiss Chard, Spinach, Sorrel and Kale are all good leaf producers for salads and cooked dishes. A great benefit with leaf crops is that you can harvest a few leaves as you need them and leave the plants to continue growing. This will extent the harvest period and reduce waste and the frequency you need to replant.
Herbs are one of the very best crops for hydroponic gardening – they are easily grown and since you don’t need large quantities a few plants will supply all your needs. The many wonderful varieties of Basil, as well as Parsley, Chives, Summer Savory and Oregano all taste best when picked fresh. Don’t forget more exotic herbs like Coriander that can only be used fresh.
Root crops can be difficult in hydroponic systems as the roots need a lot of space, but gourmet-style Baby Beets are an easy choice since the root of round varieties is mostly above the surface.
If you have room, larger plants like peppers, okra and tomatoes will do well in your indoor garden. When choosing tomatoes, the small determinate varieties (also called ‘bush tomatoes’) are best unless you have a lot of height available.
Bush Beans are a good choice too, but Peas and Pole Beans take up too much room and as they climb they will shade your other crops.
Larger plants like corn, squash and potatoes may grow well but are space hogs, and are not a good idea unless your available space is very large.
You really do have lots of choices when it comes to choosing what vegetables to grow.