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Good, Better, Best: Indoor hydroponic systems

Have you ever wanted to build your very own hydroponics system for your plants but never had the time to figure out the technicalities involved? Hydroponics has been around for literal millennia as an alternative to soil gardening. Since hydroponic setups don’t require much space, they’re becoming increasingly popular in apartments and other small living spaces. If you’ve ever wanted to try out hydroponics, there are definitely great options out there that don’t require too much legwork on your part. Ahead, we break down the benefits of hydroponics and apply a good, better, best ranking to popular, ready-made systems that you can buy right now.

What is hydroponics, and why would you want a hydroponic system?

Hydroponics is essentially a form of plant growing that doesn’t use any soil. Instead, you support your plant roots with a net pot over a basin filled with a nutrient solution. Hydroponics is not only (typically) faster than soil gardening, but it also sidesteps issues such as root rot and weeds—bacteria and other plants won’t have the soil they need for growth. And, of course, hydroponics can be very space-efficient if you don’t have room for a full garden bed. But building your very own indoor hydroponic system at home can become time intensive and very technical, so that’s why many plant enthusiasts have opted for ready-to-go hydroponic kits. So what are the best ones out there? Keep reading ahead to learn more.

Good: Environet Hydroponic Herb Growing Kit

This kit is a good setup for showing how simple hydroponics can get. If you want to try growing herbs and vegetables without soil, using a hydroponic wick system is the most straightforward and inexpensive way to go about it. The Environet Hydroponic Herb Growing Kit includes a net pot with a wick, preseeded grow plug, and Mason jar. The idea with this system is that a wick will deliver water and nutrients to your plant roots. It’s fairly low maintenance—all you have to do is pour water into the jar and leave the wick in the jar to draw up water for your plant. When you start to see seedlings in a week or so, remove the plug so that your plant can grow. The drawback with this specific product is that you need to buy liquid plant food separately to feed your plants.

The growing kit retails on Amazon for between $21 to $22 for one jar. If you want something with better value, you can always get the kit with three jars for between $46 to $48 instead. Select from herbs such as basil, chamomile, chive, lavender, dill, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, Thai basil, and thyme.

Better: AeroGarden Harvest Indoor Hydroponic Garden

The AeroGarden Harvest Indoor Hydroponic Garden is a better option if you want to invest in a kit that’s sleeker and higher tech. This kit comes with 20-watt full-spectrum LED lights and a deep water culture hydroponic setup that requires no soil. Need a reminder to keep your plants happy? The AeroGarden’s control panel will let you know when you need to add water and plant food. Plus, the lights automatically turn on and off, so you won’t need to worry about giving your herbs and veggies too little or too much light. With this system, you can grow up to six plants at heights of up to 12 inches tall. You’ll receive a variety of pods when you pick up your AeroGarden: Genovese basil, curl parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint. Keep in mind that this model of the Aerogarden is pricey, starting at $95.

Best: iDOO Hydroponic Growing System

The iDOO Hydroponic Growing System is the best hydroponic kit that you can get at a competitive price, coming with thoughtful little details that make it easy to use for a variety of different plants. It comes with a setup that has a height-adjustable grow light, automatic timer, and germination kit with an air system. It automatically waters your plants with a water-pump circulation system, and its low-noise fan helps with airflow and pollination. It also has different light settings for fruits and flowers versus vegetables so you can give your plant the lighting that it needs to thrive. Along with the hydroponic machine itself, you get 12 containers, 12 grow domes, 24 sponges, and two nutrient bottles.

At $80, it’s also more economical than the AeroGarden kit, and you’ll often be able to apply Amazon coupons (some for up to $20) on it as well. The only thing you may want to consider is that it doesn’t come with seeds, but this shouldn’t be too much of a deterrent since you can easily order inexpensive seeds online or pick them up at your local garden center.

Getting into the world of hydroponics can be incredibly intimidating. But if you don’t want to go through the whole process of DIY-ing a system, you can kick things off with a hydroponic kit. You’ll have plenty of options out there—choose between a simple wick system or a machine with lights and control panels. With easy, ready-to-go setups, you’ll be able to grow your favorite herbs and veggies before you know it.

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Stacey Nguyen
Stacey's work has appeared on sites such as POPSUGAR, HelloGiggles, Buzzfeed, The Balance, TripSavvy, and more. When she's…
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