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hydroponic system for beginners

Top 5 Hydroponic Kits and Indoor Gardens for Beginners

When it comes to finding the best hydroponic kits for beginners, there are actually two options:

  • make a small and simple hydroponic system all on your own
  • or go the commercial route and buy an indoor garden hydroponic system that, ideally, has everything a beginner needs to explore growing plants using just water and nutrient solution

Hydroponic Kits for Beginners: 5 Best Indoor Gardens

hydroponic system for beginners

These 5 indoor gardens as hydroponic kits for beginners are really awesome. I will review only systems that will truly make things easy for a complete beginner in growing plants hydroponically.

However,

In order to review some of the cheapest hydroponic systems, I also included one hydroponic kit for home use that will require extra expenditure and a bit more time spent looking for some other crucial components. It all sounds enigmatic but you’ll realize what I’m talking about when you read that review.

1. iDoo Hydroponics Growing System 7 Pods – My Top Recommendation

What makes the iDoo Hydroponics Growing System my top recommendation when it comes to choosing hydroponic kits for beginners? There are quite a lot of features that are impressive and I’ll review them immediately but I want to mention one thing first: if you’re looking for a hydroponic kit for home use that’s pretty affordable, check this one first.

The price is really great. And what it offers is just as great. That’s what makes this model one of the best hydroponic systems for beginners.

You just add water and nutrients into the reservoir, add the seeds to the growing medium (held by baskets), put on the domes, insert the baskets into the pods, turn the lights on and adjust them, and press Power. That’s about all you need to do with the indoor garden from iDoo.

Components

  • reservoir where water and the nutrient solution is added – it has a 5 L capacity
  • pods – there are 7 pods, 7 plants that can be grown at the same time, which doesn’t make it the largest hydroponic indoor garden but it still has a nice capacity
  • 50pcs growth sponges (growing medium) – it’s made of biology peat (peat moss), which is a good growing medium
  • the grow sponges will be fitted into baskets that also have domes for the germination period (the domes are kept on until leaves start to appear)
  • grow lights
  • water pump – this is an awesome feature and a main reason for which the iDoo is one of the best hydroponic kits for beginners
  • there’s an alarm to let you know when the water is low – when you add the needed water the alarm will turn off
  • nutrient solution included but no seeds (at least they’re cheap)

Main features

The first thing that I noticed is that it comes with its own nutrient solution. There are actually two bottles, named A and B. The nutrient solution is solid, you have to mix it with water to make it liquid so that you can add it to the reservoir. There are instructions for all that.

It’s really nice that you have the needed nutrient-rich solution for your first crop. You will have to buy extra for your next crop.

The water pump circulation system ensures that you don’t have to change the water weekly. You can keep the same water for the whole crop but you still need to make sure that they have enough nutrients.

The water pump can be switched off at night for 12 hours but you should keep it on if you’re not bothered by the noise. It runs for 5 minutes and turns off for 30 mins.

The grow lights are pretty powerful, quite impressively so. They’re 24 watts LED lights, that’s really good. Also, it’s an extendable light post. You can lower it down to ensure maximum lighting and then lift it off as the plants grow.

There are also 3 modes for lighting: normal mode (on 14hrs/day), grow mode (on 12hrs/day), enjoy mode (on 16hrs/day).

Last but not least, it looks really nice. The black design is really pretty and it will fit in anywhere – whether you want to place it on your kitchen counter or in your bedroom or anywhere else.

On their website they also have two more color options: red and white. I prefer the black but I must admit that the white model is quite pretty.

Cons

There’s really not much to complain about the iDoo Hydroponics Growing System.

There are no seeds included in the package but that’s not something unique to the iDoo, there are quite a few hydroponic kits for beginners that don’t come with seeds. AeroGarden is the exception but they only offer seeds for various herbs, no vegetables there either.

Well,

The seeds problem can be easily solved and it doesn’t involved a high extra-cost. It’s a pretty small con. You can buy seeds for lettuce, herbs, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, spinach, flowers etc. It’s best to start off with herbs and lettuce.

All in all, the iDoo Hydroponics Growing System is as great as we can get in this price range and it would also make a great gift. If you want more alternatives, check out the rest of the hydroponic kits for beginners that I review below.

2. AeroGarden Harvest Elite – One of the Best Indoor Gardens

AeroGarden is probably the most famous manufacturer of hydroponic kits for beginners. They work great for everyone, it’s just that they’re quite expensive. The AeroGarden Harvest Elite is one of their most affordable indoor gardens.

Components

  • reservoir for the water and liquid nutrient solution
  • 6 pods – one of the smallest AeroGarden systems but you can still grow 6 plants at the same time
  • grow sponges (growing medium) – held by grow baskets with domes for covering the seeds during germination
  • the grow sponges also include the seeds for 6 herbs (a mini herb seed kit): Genovese basil, Thai basil, parsley, dill, thyme, and mint
  • the plants can grow up to 12 inches tall
  • alarms for water and nutrient solution
  • adjustable full spectrum grow lights
  • nutrient solution included (the very good Miracle Gro Plant Food)

Once you’re done with the herbs included in the package, you can experiment with other vegetables.

Doing that is very easy because AeroGarden has come with the solution: you can buy Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Seed Pods Kits. These kits are for tomatoes, peppers, herbs, salads, and flowers. They also come with their own Liquid Plant Food. You just need to insert these seed pods into the pods of the system and that’s it.

Another option that works with any model from AeroGarden is buying the AeroGarden Grow Anything Seed Pod Kit, which includes: grow sponges, grow domes, grow baskets, pod labels, liquid nutrient solution and a growing guide. The advantage is that you choose the seeds for the plants that you want to grow in your hydroponic kit for home use.

Top features

AeroGarden is pretty much the manufacturer that has thought of everything. Well, for their prices, they’d better be close to perfect.

These are some of the best hydroponic kits for beginners because they have thought of everything and they have used technology to make everything effortless for anyone who doesn’t have a clue about hydroponics.

The first very helpful feature is that the system lets you know when to add water. But, unlike other more affordable best hydroponic kits for beginners, this one also lets you know when it’s time to replenish the nutrient solution, too.

It includes a full spectrum 20 watt LED high efficiency grow lighting system. It’s pretty powerful, it will definitely makes plants grow faster. Also, the lights will automatically turn on and off.

It also has a vacation mode so that your crop doesn’t waste away when you’re away from home.

For even more insight and guidelines, you should visit their website. They promise to include product guides and advice.

3. AeroGarden Bounty – Expensive & Impressive

These are the differences between the above Harvest Elite and this Bounty model, which is considerably more expensive:

  • the manufacturer states that this system has the largest water bowl capacity in countertop garden models
  • 9 pods instead of 6 – you can grow 9 plants at the same time so, this is the bigger system of the two
  • it comes with 9 seed pod kits: basil (2), Thai basil, curly parsley, Italian parsley, thyme, chives, dill, and mint (I really like the addition of chives, this herb doesn’t get the same attention as the others)
  • the plants can also grow up to 24 inches in height instead of 12 inches for the Harvest Elite
  • much more powerful grow lights – 40 watts full spectrum LEDs
  • full color high resolution touchscreen
  • a button for Garden Tips (over 140 useful tips)
  • another button called Quick Plant that is actually a very helpful step-by-step guide to set up a new garden

Is it worth the expensive price? I would say that the AeroGarden Bounty is worth the price as long as you can afford it without making any sacrifices.

4. Ezorkas 12 Pods Hydroponic Growing System – Large Capacity Kit for At Home Use

If all of the above hydroponic kits for beginners seem to small for you in regards to the number of plants that you can grow at the same time, then you should read this review for the Ezorkas 12 Pods Hydroponic Growing System.

As its name states, it has 12 pods for growing 12 plants (different or the same) at the same time. It’s one of the biggest hydroponic kits for home use and it doesn’t even cost that much. All in all, it’s a really great choice with a nice price tag so, let’s analyze what it offers.

Components

  • reservoir for water and nutrient solution – surprisingly, it’s not the biggest water tank, it has a 3.5-4L capacity
  • 12 grow media with their 12 baskets and domes
  • it has a water circulation system – that’s very important and one of its best features
  • nutrients – A&B solid nutrients that will be made liquid according to the instructions
  • you can grow big plants, up to 21 inches in height
  • grow lights – 80 full spectrum LEDs that are really powerful, 36 watts power and are adjustable for different growth stages
  • the control panel indicates when it’s time to replenish the nutrient solution – very helpful for those just starting with their indoor gardens
  • water level observation window – you can see through it when the water level is low (there’s no alarm to indicate that)
  • no seeds – you can buy whatever type of seeds you want to start off with, they’re cheap so it’s not a big con

Top features

The water circulation system is a very much needed feature that will oxygenate the water and deliver all the needed oxygen to the roots so that plants can grow faster and plentiful.

It’s one of the main reasons for which I really like the Ezorkas 12 Pods Hydroponic Growing System. It makes sense that I regard it as one of the best hydroponic kits for beginners.

I also love the fact that it’s so big, 12 pods is more than enough for what an indoor garden should be capable of doing.

Moreover, the inclusion of the nutrient solution for the first crop and the indication for when it’s time to add more nutrients to the water are all very nice features.

The awesome grow lights are another top feature, as I’ve mentioned above these are powerful full-spectrum LEDs.
There are also two modes: veg mode (full spectrum) and flower mode (emits more red light). You can automate the lights to be 16 hrs on and 8 hrs off.

5. Scottish Boy Intelligent Hydroponic Indoor Garden – the Affordable Hydroponic Kit

This is one of the cheapest hydroponic kits for beginners. It’s also really good if you want to set up a small indoor garden without spending too much money on a hydroponic system.

But it also lacks quite a few things and that’s why I decide to recommend it as the last model.

Cons

Let’s get the negative out of the way. If we do that, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

What mostly disappoints me is that it doesn’t come with a nutrient solution.

I don’t mind the lack of seeds because they’re cheap and the buyer can choose whatever it desires but the inclusion of a nutrient solution, sufficient for a first crop, is a must from my point of view.

Another thing that you must be aware of is that there it no water pump, no water circulation system, like some of the other indoor gardens have (iDoo and Ezorkas).

The Scottish Boy Intelligent Hydroponic Indoor Garden still manages to be an awesome choice, one of the best indoor gardens to buy, because it can grow satisfactory plants and that’s what we’re looking to achieve.

You will just have to change the water once every two weeks. If you get used to that, it will be awesome.

The grow light is also not the strongest.

Components

  • nice white design, small enough that it will fit absolutely anywhere
  • reservoir for water and nutrient solution
  • 9 pods for growing 9 plants at the same time (it includes the growing medium) – it’s on the larger side when it comes to hydroponic kits for home use, it’s more than enough
  • the growing medium used by Scottish Boy is vermiculite and you can buy a bag of vermiculite and replace it any time you want
  • it lets you know when it’s time to replenish the water and the nutrient solution – that’s a really helpful feature and I’m glad this system has it
  • the grow light is not the most impressive – it only has 8 watts power and the LED lights look more like a narrow desk lamp, one of the weakest on this list for the best hydroponic kits for beginners
  • not the strongest grow lights but they are full spectrum LEDs
  • the lights run automatically for 16 hrs and they turn off for 8 hrs

How to Build the Easiest Hydroponic Kit for Beginners at Home

DIY beginners hydroponic system

This picture actually depict the Kratky method, which uses mason jars as containers for the water and nutrient solution. It’s one of the easiest-to-build hydroponics kits for beginners.

I wrote a post dedicated to the Kratky method with mason jars and you can read all about it there but I want to tell you about an even cheaper and more easier to build hydroponic system that absolutely anyone can do without needing to buy that much things. I find this set-up perfect for absolute beginners.

One of the most simple best hydroponics kits for beginners is growing a plant in a cut plastic water bottle.

For the most basic hydroponic kit for home use you’ll need:

  • large plastic water bottle or any other container like jars and buckets – you can get as many plastic bottles as you want, as long as you have the space for them
  • check out this YouTube video for a visual guide on how to make a wick hydroponic system from a plastic bottle
  • nutrient solution for hydroponics – you can buy the nutrient rich solution or you can make your own, the nutrient solution is what makes plants grow and they grow faster and healthier than soil crops
  • growing medium (expanded clay aggregate is the best option in this case) – since the plant will float on water it needs something to sustain and support it during its growth, the growing medium replaces the role of the soil (rockwool, coconut fiber, peat moss, expanded clay, compost bark etc.)
  • a wick that delivers the nutrients to the roots – these are actually felt or cotton wicking strips, they can even be made from old t-shirts
  • rockwool cubes to germinate the seeds – I talk about how to germinate seeds in rockwool cubes in this post on the best growing medium for hydroponics
  • you can skip germination entirely if you decide to grow herbs from cuttings, which speeds up the process quite a lot but it only works with herbs, for lettuce you need to germinate the seeds

Cut the bottle in two with a sharp knife or a cutter.

In the bottom half, place the water with the nutrient solution. Follow the instructions written on the packaging of the nutrient solution. Most will have you mixing a powder in a gallon of water so, it’s very easy to use.

Turn the upper half upside down and first place the wick. The wick must be a long strip so it almost reaches the bottom of the bottle.

Still holding the upper half of cut bottle upside down, put a few clay pebbles to hold the wick in place. Then, add the rockwool cubes together with the sprouts. Add some more clay pebbles to surround the rockwool cube with the sprout.

Now, you can insert the nozzle in the cut bottom half of the bottle, where the water and nutrients are held.

How it works

The water travels up the wick, which delivers the nutrients to the roots and that’s how leafy greens, herbs, and even small vegetables can grow in a rudimentary container. This is why it’s called a wick hydroponic system.

You should place it near the window to receive natural sunlight. Ideally, a grow light would be perfect to increase the yield and ensure faster growth rate.

The disadvantage with this method is that even though it’s pretty easy to execute, it’s also very restrictive. I mean restrictive in the sense that you can only grow one plant per bottle or jar. If you plan to grow plants exclusively indoor, this basic wick hydroponic system will lead to you spreading out a lot of bottles in your living space.

The major advantage is the cheap price because you only have to buy the growing medium and the nutrient solution. You can also make your own nutrient solution if you want to save even more money.

What is Hydroponics?

hydroponics illustration

I’m pretty sure that you know already that hydroponics is the method of growing plants into water with nutrient-rich solution, instead of growing them in soil. This is the alternative agriculture for those who don’t access to an outside garden or a greenhouse.

It’s absolutely perfect for those who live in apartments, any of the above hydroponic kits for beginners will fit in a small space – on the kitchen counter, on a chair, on the floor, they’re not big systems.

Plus, we can grow vegetables, lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and even flowers all year round. A temperature of 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), on average, and the grow lights that each system has will make sure that it’s possible to grow plants year-round.

Moreover, plants grow faster and more plentiful. That’s definitely a clear advantage for hydroponics.

Now,

To understand how important hydroponics has become on the industrial scale, just look at Singapore. You can read more about this city at permaculturenews.org. Because Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, they have turned to vertical farming to feed the population. The vertical farms there look absolutely impressive and they continue to innovate green high-tech farming.

Comparing industrial hydroponics to agriculture, you will discover that hydroponics consumes less water (as much as 10 times less water than soil crops), has higher yields, is very good for the environment, there’s a reduced need for pesticides, and it’s an alternative to places with degraded soil.

Types of Hydroponics Systems

I already reviewed some of the best hydroponic kits for beginners and then I introduced you to one of the simplest types of hydroponics systems. You can just stick to reading about those and then choose the best hydroponic system for you from my above recommendations.

But if you want to know even more about hydroponics, read on about the different types of hydroponics systems. This will lead you to discovering a whole new world, maybe a world where you will want to attempt to build your own hydroponic system. Some are a lot easier to build than others, that’s for sure.

1. Deep water culture (DWC)

If you’re looking to build your own hydroponics system instead of buying an indoor garden, you should consider the deep water culture system first.

The DWC consists of: reservoir (it can be an aquarium tank or a large plastic container or a DWC system of buckets), air pump (a cheap one works), air stone (to further add oxygen and circulate nutrition), tubing (air pump-air stone connection), growing medium (expanded clay aggregate works well), net pots, polystyrene raft/the lid of the container with holes for the net pots.

It’s one of the cheapest systems to make at home and the most basic of them all.

The way it works is also simple: the roots of the plants together with their growing medium are submerged in water. The growing medium absorbs the water with the nutrient solution and that’s how the plants grow.

It works for smaller lighter plants, growing hydroponic lettuce is the perfect choice. Growing hydroponic basil or other herbs will work just as nicely.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a lot of variety but it depends on the way it’s built.

2. Wicks

Another easy-to-build hydroponics system is the wicks one. The wick is the component that absorbs the nutrient solution and water and delivers it to the roots encased in the growing medium.

It works well for small plants, larger ones might consume the nutrients faster than the wick can deliver.

In the beginning of this article, I’ve introduced you to how you can make a wick system from a plastic bottle. If you want to know how the expanded form of a wick system looks like, check out this video.

3. Nutrient film technique (NFT)

The NFT gets a bit more complicated but it’s definitely a favorite among more experienced users. It’s actually a predominant hydroponics system.

The components needed are: reservoir, air pump, air stone, airline tubing, water pump and tubing, channel where the plants are placed.

It works like this: water containing nutrient solution is pumped into the channel where the plants and their growing medium are, the channel is in a slope so that the water with nutrients returns to the reservoir.

The water and the nutrient solution are not wasted in this continuous flow and the growing medium (rockwool, expanded clay aggregate, coconut coir) doesn’t need to be replaced for each crop.

4. Ebb and flow (flood and drains)

This where we veer off into industrial hydroponic systems. There are some people who build these kind of systems at home but they’re not the kind searching for the best hydroponic kits for beginners.

The ebb and flow can be compared with the above NFT. The exception is that the grow tray is not in a slope. The excess water and nutrient solution that are pumped up in the growing bed are return to the reservoir through a second plastic tubing, the second one has the draining role.

So, water is pumped up into the grow tray and excess water is returned into the reservoir through a draining tube.

The second difference is that a timer is needed for activating the pump and for shutting it off in order to allow the draining part of the process. The grower needs to determine the timing, depending on the crop.

5. Drips

Just as the name suggests, water and nutrients are dripped off from above onto the plants. Instead of water being delivered to the roots from below, it is delivered from above from the drip line.

It’s a preferred system among commercial growers because it allows them to grow larger plants as well (pumpkins, onions, radishes etc.). The addition is the drip line. This one also requires a timer.

6. Aeroponics

This is definitely a favorite for industrial users.

But it’s quite different from the above hydroponics systems because the air is the growing medium. Hence, the name.

Plants are suspended in air, the roots are not immersed in water and nutrient solution at all.

The water and the nutrients are delivered through very frequent mist sprays. It sounds complicated and it definitely is, more so than the others, in my opinion.

Hydroponically Grown Plants

hydroponically grown indoor herbs

The main plants that are the focus of the hydroponic kits for beginners that I’ve reviewed in this article are:

  • herbs – absolutely everything you desire from different varieties of basil to mint, tarragon, chives, and so on
  • leafy greens – next to herbs, leafy greens are another favorite and you can experiment with lettuce varieties, spinach, watercress, kale, bok choy etc.
  • vegetables – tomatoes, cherry tomatoes especially, peppers, chili, are the most frequently grown vegetables in these models
  • strawberries are another favorite to be grown hydroponically but you must be prepared to pollinate them by hand
  • flowers

If you build a bigger system you can experiment with other vegetables, like cucumbers, eggplants, and even onions, radishes, carrots, and other more adventurous choices for those more experienced in hydroponics.

It’s not as easy to grow plants that grow underneath the soil. Vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions are not something that you should consider. Even after you get more accustomed to your indoor garden.

Hypothetically, you could also grow onions, like actual bulb onions but it’s not that straightforward. I’ve wrote an article on how to grow hydroponic onions, check it out if you want to know more. My opinion is that you should stick to chives and maybe green onions and all the other plants that I mentioned.

All in all,

I hope my reviews for the best hydroponic kits for beginners will give you a nice idea on where you need to start off with growing indoor gardens all year round.

Beginners Hydroponic Kits FAQs

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions, maybe I have missed mentioning some things in my post on hydroponic kits for beginners

Q. Is hydroponics good for beginners?

Hydroponics is great because vegetables can grow 40-50% faster and can produce 30% more yield compared to soil crops. Another awesome reason for going into hydroponics is that you can use hydroponic kits for beginners, like the indoor gardens I mentioned above, and grow all kinds of plants and flowers without knowing much about hydroponics. You can grow leafy greens, lettuce, cherry tomatoes etc. all year round, even if outside is snowing.

Q. What do I need for a DIY hydroponic system?

The easiest hydroponics system to start with is the DWC (deep water culture). You will need the following components: reservoir (an old aquarium with a polystyrene for a raft, a collection of 5 gal buckets, a plastic storage box with a lid), air pump, air stone, tubing, growing medium (hydroton, pea gravel), nutrient solution, grow lights, seeds and rockwool cubes for germination. Another easier option is the Kratky method.

Q. What is the best hydroponic system for beginners?

Among the best hydroponic kits for beginners we have: hydroponic indoor gardens that come equipped with everything we need, hydroponic mason jars, the wick system with plastic water bottles.