Just because it’s not the right season or you have limited space, it doesn’t mean that your gardening must be put on hold. A hydroponic system allows you to continue your gardening activities all year round. These smaller systems are ideal for indoor use, like a countertop kitchen garden, on a window ledge or on a shelf. They can even be a great conversation starter on your desk at work.
A hydroponics starter kit is a great way to grow herbs and small vegetables without soil. Hydroponic gardening is an emerging trend and it’s very convenient because you can grow plants indoors all year round without worrying about weeds and pests.
We’ve reviewed several models that are affordable with low maintenance requirements. This is a perfect way to always have organic, fresh herb and vegetables available. These kits are also a great way to experiment with growing unfamiliar plants or germinating seeds before moving them in your outdoor garden.
Here are some features to look for when shopping for hydroponic kits, especially an indoor hydroponic garden kit. Also, remember the systems we have reviewed may qualify as “cheap” hydroponics kits, but that just means they are relatively inexpensive, not low quality.
Most of the hydroponic garden kits we review use a grow system called deep water culture. This grow system replaces the soil with an alternative growing medium and provides nutrients to plant roots by directly exposing the root system to water. One system we review is an aquaponic system that combines the hydroponic grow system with an aquarium. The fish byproducts provide nutrients for the plants. The plants, in turn, remove toxic materials from the water, cleaning the water for the fish. These aquaponic kits are especially good for educational purposes since they teach children about how ecosystems work.
Indoor hydroponic kits typically have an integrated LED lighting system. Almost all the kits we review have one. If the kit you choose does not have an integrated light, you’ll need to invest in an energy-efficient, full-spectrum LED grow light.
Adjustable light height is useful when growing plants of different sizes. By adjusting the light height, you can be sure the plant will get the optimal lighting.
A basic LED growing light is typically a full spectrum of pink light which will provide the most beneficial light frequencies for growing plants. Some systems have selectable light spectrums (light colors) that can be used for different purposes. For example, white light can be used as a reading light and pink light for plant growth.
Automated lighting control is another great feature. You can program how long and how often you want the lighting to be active. Some lighting controls allow more fine-grain adjustment to the lighting schedules than others. Some people even use the lighting control as a light-based alarm clock that will gently wake them up when the plant light schedule begins.
A control panel can be very useful for controlling lights, watering and other functions of the hydroponic grow kit. It also provides a convenient way to monitor the current status of the system and can remind you when to change the water, add nutrients and perform other maintenance activities.
A white noise generator can help to mask the sounds of water pumps in a hydroponic herb kit. This may be important if you are going to have the kit in a bedroom where someone is sleeping. As an added benefit, the white noise can cover up other noises (pets, neighbors, etc.) that might otherwise disturb your sleep.
Some kits come with growing media, seed pods and nutrients. However, many do not. Read the description carefully. If the kit you choose does not include seeds and nutrients, they are easy to find online.
Keep in mind how much space you have for your indoor garden. Are you going to place your kit on a bookshelf or create a kitchen garden on a countertop? Our hydroponic garden kit reviews include information about sizes and weights so you can be sure they will fit your specific needs. And don’t forget fashion! Everybody has different tastes and the garden kits we’ve reviewed have a variety of designs. Some of the kits are also available in a range of colors.
An important accessory that is typically not included in an herb kit is a pH tester. It’s important to test the hydroponic nutrient solution to ensure proper pH levels. Fortunately, pH meters are available online for very reasonable prices.
Now, on to the reviews!
Aerogarden is the market leader in affordable hydroponic systems. The Aerogarden Harvest with Gourmet Herb Kit is one of the most complete ready-to-go kits and is great for beginners although more advanced models are also available. Some creative uses for this product include using the automated lighting control as an alarm clock (waking up when the grow lights are activated) and using the soothing white noise as a way to mask abrupt noises that can interrupt sleep.
Price: $245.95 Buy on Amazon
The iRSE Indoor Hydroponic System has a grow light with a timer and selectable white or pink lighting. The white light is good as a reading light and the pink light is optimal for plant growth (simulates sunlight). This is a relatively small product so it would be good for an apartment or where space is limited. The product is well-built and the sleek modern design looks great on a countertop or a deep window seat.
The Click & Grow Smart Garden 3 is a compact indoor hydroponic system that was inspired by how NASA grows plants in space and was funded as a Kickstarter project. It’s very easy to use and the modern design is easy on the eyes and will enhance any decor.
Price: $99.00 Buy on Amazon
The Back to the Roots Water Garden has a unique and exciting design that integrates a 3-gallon fish tank. The combination of the plants and the fish tank allows it to be a self-cleaning ecosystem. This means there are no weekly water changes required, which is great for children. It can also be a perfect gift or classroom project to teach about DIY aquaponics & ecosystems. A free downloadable online curriculum for kids about the science behind aquaponics is available.
Price: $77.99 Buy on Amazon
The EcoPro Tools HP2025L LED Indoor Hydroponic System kit has a high power, high efficiency LED lighting system with adjustable height. The powerful lighting can be controlled by an LCD panel with both automatic and manual lighting controls.
This is a medium-sized product that is a bit more affordable than some of the other indoor hydroponic systems. However, although the system comes with seed pod containers and grow sponges, there are no seeds included so these will need to be purchased separately.
The Root Farm Indoor Hydroponic System is an affordable system for larger plants. For example, you could have one large plant like a tomato or pepper plant, two medium plants like eggplants or small pepper varieties, or four small plants like leafy greens and herbs. The pump is very quiet, it makes a very calming sound of running water.
In order to get this up and growing, you will need 2 kinds of fertilizer, a grow light, growing medium to go in the baskets, and seeds. You will also probably need a ph testing meter or strips, as explained in the video below, to test the waters’ PH and adjust to a range between 5.5 – 6.5.
Price: $109.99 Buy on Amazon
The 123WeGrow Indoor Hydroponic System is a great-looking, stylish product that would be a colorful addition to any kitchen countertop or window seat. The high performance, full-spectrum LED grow lights are adjustable to almost 2 feet in height. It has timers to control light cycles and nutrient delivery.
The low price makes this a good choice for a starter system or a gift.
Price: Price not available Buy on Amazon