Growing vegetables hydroponically opens the door for anyone to grow healthy, nutritious food at home. For those new to hydroponics growing, you may not know the best vegetables to grow in these systems. Not all vegetables are suitable for all types of hydroponic systems.
The best hydroponic vegetables depend on the hydroponic system implemented and the size of your system. Shallow root vegetables are best grown in NFT hydroponics. Deep-rooted vegetables are suited to DWC hydroponics. You can use Dutch buckets to grow all vegetables, larger plants, and root crops.
Choosing the best hydroponic vegetables to grow in your soil-less systems improves the odds of your success in growing these plants. The vegetables that grow best in hydroponics depend on the type of hydroponics system you implement.
What Are the Best Vegetables to Grow in Hydroponics?
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Hydroponics is a fantastic way to begin growing healthy and nutritious vegetables and avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides on your food.
Growing hydroponic vegetables at home puts you in control of the growing environment, nutrients delivered to the plant, pest control measures, and plant disease controls.
Hydroponics has been proven to grow healthier, larger, more nutrient-dense, higher-yielding vegetables due to the controlled environment in these systems.
Hydroponic systems are also scalable, making it possible to grow top-quality vegetables in small systems in relatively small spaces.
I have an article dedicated to The Best Small Hydroponic Systems detailing how to implement small-scale hydroponics to grow vegetables.
Regardless of if you use hydroponics commercially or to grow food in an urban apartment, the best vegetables to grow hydroponically in these systems remain the same.
The Best Vegetables for NFT Hydroponics
NFT hydroponics uses channels made from PVC as the grow chamber for the plants or vegetables in the system.
The channels are not very deep, and the nutrient flow is a shallow stream that flows along the bottom of the channel. This system design restricts NFT hydroponics to growing vegetables with relatively shallow root systems.
Hydroponics grown using the NFT method often grow vertically. This can limit the size of the vegetables you grow with this technique.
What vegetables can you grow hydroponically in NFT systems? The following is a list of vegetables that perform the best in NFT hydroponics.
Growing Greens Using NFT Hydroponics
Spinach and Swiss Chard. These vegetables are excellent for NFT systems, but some varieties can become quite large. If you have a small hydroponics system, select a smaller variety to grow in your system.
Lettuce is probably the most popular hydroponic vegetable crop. The best lettuce for NFT hydroponic systems is the loose-leaf and frilly lettuce varieties rather than the head-producing varieties.
Kale is a nutritious plant that grows well in hydroponics and is an easy-maintenance, nutrient-dense vegetable.
Growing Onions and Tomatoes Using NFT Hydroponics
Spring onions do not develop large bulbous roots like standard onions, making them ideal for NFT hydroponics. You can harvest the green stalks to add a delicate onion flavor to salads and other dishes.
You can grow tomatoes using NFT hydroponics as long as you support them. Vine tomatoes are a good choice if the vines can spill over the side of the system. For small hydroponic systems, cherry tomatoes and vine tomatoes work the best.
Growing Strawberries using NFT Hydroponics
Although not classified as a vegetable, strawberries grow well in NFT systems, but their sprawling nature makes them unsuitable for small hydroponic systems.
Growing Herbs Using NFT Hydroponics
Herbs such as thyme, chives, mint and basil are all suitable for growing in NFT systems of any size.
Best Vegetables for DWC Hydroponics
Deep Water Culture hydroponics, or DWC, uses a different technique that involves growing the vegetables directly in the nutrient mixture.
Pro Tip: Learn more about hydroponic nutrients in my article, The 3 Best Hydroponic Nutrients for Indoor Vegetable Gardening.
This hydroponic method caters to vegetables that require more space for their root systems. You can make the container as deep as necessary to accommodate plants with larger, deep root systems.
You can use DWC hydroponics for the shallow-root vegetables suitable for the NFT hydroponics system and deeper rooting vegetables. DWC is unsuitable for root crops but can sustain larger plants than the NFT system.
In addition to the plants you can grow on NFT systems, the DWC method can support growing the following vegetables hydroponically.
Growing Beans and Peas in DWC Systems
DWC systems are generally horizontal systems that allow for space for trellising beans and peas to grow in this system.
Growing Peppers in a DWC System
Chilies and sweet peppers are ideal for DWC hydroponics. Dwarf varieties are best for small hydroponic systems, or you can prune the bushes to limit their size.
Growing Greens and Herbs in a DWC System
You can grow herbs and greens such as arugula, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and basil in DWC hydroponics.
Best Vegetables to Grow in Dutch Bucket Hydroponics
Dutch bucket hydroponics can be implemented using ebb and flow techniques or drip systems. While the Dutch bucket does not use soil, it uses a growing medium such as vermiculite, perlite, hydroton clay pellets, or a combination of these materials.
You can use Dutch bucket hydroponics to grow shallow and deep-rooted vegetables with the added advantage of being able to grow root crops as well.
Many hydroponic growers use Dutch buckets to grow plants other than vegetables, such as fruit trees and bushy plants such as blueberries. However, these crops require more advanced skills.
Regarding vegetables growing, Dutch buckets expand the variety of plants you can grow hydroponically to include root crops that you cannot grow in other hydroponic systems.
Vegetables you can grow hydroponically in Dutch buckets include the following.
Growing Root Vegetables in Dutch Buckets
Carrots are a root crop you can easily grow in Dutch bucket hydroponic systems.
Beets are a favored crop for Dutch buckets for both the leafy greens you can harvest and the ability for the root to develop well in the growing medium.
Turnips are a nutritious root crop that grows well in this hydroponic system.
Growing Head Lettuce and Cabbage in Dutch Buckets
Head-producing lettuce can become quite large and require deeper root systems, making other hydroponic systems unsuitable for this crop. If you only have a small Dutch bucket system, you may not want to plant head lettuce, as it uses a lot of growing space.
Cabbage is another favorite vegetable that thrives in Dutch bucket hydroponics but is not suitable for small hydroponic systems due to the size of these plants.
Growing Broccoli in Dutch Buckets
Broccoli is another good performer in ebb and flow or drip hydroponics implementations such as the Dutch bucket system.
Use Dutch Bucket Hydroponics Sparingly in Small Spaces
The Dutch bucket hydroponic system expands the type of vegetables you can grow, but the system can take up a fair bit of space to grow the complete spectrum of vegetables.
For this reason, many people only use Dutch buckets to grow vegetables that cannot grow in other systems.
The Best Vegetables to Grow in an AeroGarden
AeroGarden is my favorite way to grow vegetables hydroponically. There are definitely limitations when it comes to growing food in an AeroGarden, however, the ease of use makes up for the limitations.
Here are the specific types of AeroGardens I have:
All of the above are available on Amazon.
Here are some of the vegetables that I’ve successfully grown in my AeroGarden along with a few notes about the best AeroGarden to use for the particular vegetable.
Growing Greens in an AeroGarden
All different varieties of leaf lettuce. I grow lettuce in either an AeroGarden Sprout or Harvest.
Kale grows well in an AeroGarden, but some varieties grow pretty large. However, that works okay since you simply harvest it when it’s smaller. I’ve grown kale in my AeroGarden Harvest.
Spinach is a bit tricky to grow in general. I find it best to germinate the seeds in a wet paper towel and once germinated, put them into the AeroGarden pod.
Swiss chard grows well in an AeroGarden. I’ve grown it successfully in an AeroGarden Harvest, but since it grows pretty large, a Harvest XL or Bounty is better.
Baby Bok choy grows well in an AeroGarden Sprout or Harvest, since it’s so small. When I grow it in a Sprout, I harvest it after about 3 weeks because it seems to decline after that point.
Growing Herbs in an AeroGarden
Herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, parsley, cilantro grow well in all AeroGardens including a Sprout, but I prefer using a Harvest for my herbs.
Growing Tomatoes and Peppers in an AeroGarden
Cherry tomatoes grow well in any AeroGarden, but get a dwarf variety such as Red Robin (Amazon) if growing in a small AeroGarden such as a Sprout or Harvest.
Peppers grow well in anything from a Harvest and up. You might want to try a dwarf variety such as Pot-a-Peno peppers (Amazon) for a Harvest and go with regular varieties if you’re growing in an AeroGarden Bounty or Farm.
Ground Cherries grow really well in an AeroGarden, but they are huge, so use a Bounty or Farm model.
Growing Microgreens in an AeroGarden
Microgreens grow in both AeroGarden Harvests and Bounties, using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.
Pro tip: Check out my article, The Ultimate Guide to Growing Microgreens in an AeroGarden for more information on how to grow microgreens using the AeroGarden Microgreens Kit.
You can grow a wide range of vegetables hydroponically. I would go as far as to say that you can grow any vegetable in hydroponics with a little imagination and adaptation.
Most hydroponic growers utilize more than one hydroponic system to give the ability to grow a wider variety of vegetable crops.
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