After years of growing herbs, spices, berries, and even fruits hydroponically I’ve realized that there are really only two basic approaches one can take with hydroponics:
The rewarding yet tedious path, or the easy path.
What do I mean?
You see, the rewarding yet tedious approach to hydroponics involves building a system from scratch or purchasing a pre-made system. I consider this the traditional approach to hydroponics. Sounds exciting, right?
It is, but you have to remember that this path involves checking your system’s pH levels daily, checking your water levels daily, and even recycling your water on a weekly basis depending on the type of hydroponic system you’re using. This approach takes time. It’s a craft that one must take seriously.
On the other hand, we have the easy approach. This involves buying an automated hydroponics kit – usually an aeroponics system – which is largely hands-off.
Best System Overall:
The AeroGarden Bounty is our favorite hydroponic system for growing vegetables. It’s inexpensive, efficient, and portable.
Let me make this clear: there is nothing wrong with going the easy route. I can say with certainty that I’m a huge fan of my automated hydroponic systems. They’re great for growing spices, herbs, and vegetables without any hassle.
So, in this article, we’re going to look at the 10 best systems for growing vegetables hydroponically. The first 5 selections will be the easy to use automated systems, the latter 5 will be the more rewarding yet tedious pre-built systems.
Let’s get into it.
The following table list the 10 best hydroponic systems for growing vegetables:
|System||Ease of Use||Score|
|Click and Grow Smart Garden 9||Easy||94%|
|AeroGarden Farm XL||Easy||99%|
|iDOO Hydroponic Growing System||Easy||90%|
|Click and Grow Smart Garden 3||Easy||85%|
|PowerGrow Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bucket Kit||Intermediate||92%|
|LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit||Difficult||80%|
|The Atwater HydroPod||Intermediate||92%|
|Mr. Stacky DWC Hydroponic System Kit||Intermediate||90%|
|Emsco Group 2370 Hydropickers Compact||Intermediate||78%|
1. AeroGarden Bounty
The Bounty is by far my favorite automated hydroponic growing kit. It looks fantastic – and is available in three different sleek styles (the Basic, Elite, and Elite Artisan) – it’s very easy to operate thanks to the LCD control panel, and it’s small enough to be portable while simultaneously being an expeditious propagator of herbs, spices, and vegetables.
The following table shows the AeroGarden bounty’s rate of plant growth from the initial input of the seed pods to harvest compared to the other AeroGarden offerings.
My first impression of the AeroGarden Bounty – back in 2016 – was that it was simply too small to effectively grow anything larger than basic herbs. This impression was entirely wrong. The Bounty is great for growing lettuce, salad greens, cherry tomatoes, peppers… the list goes on and on.
You can check out the AeroGarden seed pod offerings to see their entire catalog. AeroGarden also offers a ‘grow anything seed pod’ for cultivating just about any vegetable you can get your hands on.
Have some fun with the Bounty and try growing some exotic vegetables and peppers.
2. Click and Grow Smart Garden 9
The Smart Garden 9 is the Bounty’s main competitor – an impressive hydroponic kit with 9 planting pods.
Just like AeroGarden, Click and Grow offers pre-planted seed pods along with their ‘experimental’ pods.
I actually like Click and Grow’s seed pod offerings more than AeroGarden’s. Their Asian Cuisine Mix – which is a combination of Pak Choi, Red Kale, and Mibuna – is equal parts unique and delicious.
The biggest difference between the Bounty and the Smart Garden 9 is the grow light. Click and Grow offers an inline unit with white, red, and blue LEDs. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this design, but I do like the Bounty’s lamp design slightly more.
And of course, just like AeroGarden, Click and Grow offers an automatic growing and watering feature.
The Smart Garden 9 is another top of the line, set it, and forget it automated hydroponics system.
3. AeroGarden Farm
Alright, so the Farm is AeroGarden’s top of the line offering… and it’s a BEAST!
Weighing in at 22 pounds, with 24 grow pods, two 60-watt LED grow lights, and an easy to use LCD control panel, you simply won’t have problems growing any variety of herbs, vegetables, or peppers.
Now, this unit is by far the most expensive option on this list but if you’re looking for an automated hydroponic system that will grow A LOT of vegetables very quickly – i.e. you eat a lot of vegetables and want a year-round supply – the Farm will certainly get you your fix.
We decided to put the Farm #3 on this list simply because of the price point – it’s a bit too expensive for most people. With that being said, it is the best automated hydroponic system for vegetables as far as pure performance, growing speed, and features.
Oh, also the Farm is about 24″ tall with adjustable lighting. It’s a fantastic unit, give it a shot.
4. iDOO Hydroponic Growing System
iDOO is the new kid on the block, at least when it comes to hydroponic kits.
This new unit looks promising. It’s inexpensive, has a sleek design, a 24-watt adjustable LED grow light which seems to function well – it’s worth mentioning that the full iDOO comprehensive report will be coming soon but so far the LEDs are notably good and have three different light options: automatic illumination for 14 hours, automatic illumination for 12 hours, and automatic illumination for 16 hours.
It also has two water circulation features, one where the pump runs for 5 minutes then shuts off for 30 and a sleep pump mode.
Look, so far I’m really impressed with this unit, especially considering the price point. It’s worth a shot for those of you who are looking for an inexpensive automated hydroponics kit.
5. Click and Grow Smart Garden 3
The Smart Garden 3 is simply a scaled down model of the Smart Garden 9 listed above.
It’s considerably less expensive and offers 3 planting pods as opposed to the 9 that the Smart Garden 9 offers.
Once again, it’s a great kit for those who want a hands-off, relatively inexpensive hydroponics system.
6. PowerGrow Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bucket Kit
We’re moving away from automated hydroponic kits and into the pre-built, more difficult to operate systems.
This PowerGrove Deep Water Culture (DWC) system is an excellent option for first-time hydroponic growers.
Deep Water Culture is a style of hydroponics where plant roots are submerged in an oxygenated nutrient solution reservoir. Now, with a system like this, nutrient solution needs to be constantly circulating to plant roots – there are many low tech hydroponic techniques that simply submerge roots in a nutrient solution without any circulation, but I generally find those techniques fairly useless – this is why an air pump is so important.
As you can see from the diagram above, the 5-gallon bucket is used as a reservoir, those little rocks at the top are air-stones which are used as a growing media to hold plant roots in place.
Your vegetable seeds should be placed into the Rockwool plugs that come with this kit and you should fill the bucket up with your desired nutrient solution – if you’re wanting to know what the best nutrient solutions are for DWC hydropnoics, we have a guide here.
This kit also has a 44 GPH air pump with air tubing so you can get growing right away.
7. LAPOND Hydroponic Grow Kit
These PVC pipe hydroponic kits are excellent for growing leafy vegetables.
Now, with that being said these kits are slightly more annoying to set up than the DWC bucket systems. However, this kit is available with a helpful instruction guide.
KEEP IN MIND: You need a 15 – 20 L nutrient reservoir tank which is not included and you also, of course, need a power supply along with nutrient solution.
It’s worth pointing out that this kit does come with a submersible water pump which should remain submerged at all times; the pump will circulate solution throughout the PVC pipe providing plant roots with a continuous flow of water and nutrients for optimal growth.
8. The Atwater HydroPod
So, this DWC bucket is about twice the price of the previous one but is loaded up with more goodies.
It’s actually a hybrid design, combining the best of DWC hydroponics with drip hydroponics. The drip ring provides additional aeration to plant roots while the air pump recirculates the nutrient solution from the reservoir.
This unit also comes with the tubing for the air pump, air stone, powdered nutrients, a pH testing kit, a 6 pack of seed starting cubes, and a comprehensive instruction manual with a check-off list.
9. Mr. Stacky DWC Hydroponic System Kit
This is the most expensive DWC kit on this list.
It’s available with 4, 16 gallon grow buckets, 1 nutrient reservoir bucket (positioned in the middle on the image above), 2 bottles of nutrient solution, an air pump, air tube, air stones, and rock wool starter cubes.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money for a little more quality, this kit may very well be worth it.
10. Emsco Group 2370 Hydropickers Compact
And that brings us to our final pick of the article.
This wheeled grow kit is a little out of left field. It uses grow boxes to shield nutrient water from sunlight, protecting plant roots from mildew.
Now, this system is very low-tech. it does not use an air pump, instead, plant roots are simply submerged in nutrient water.
It comes with coconut coir growth media, growth nutrients, and a pH testing kit along with instructions.
Check it out and let us know what you think.