Whether you are looking for a small table-top hydroponic system, or something larger, all hydroponic systems can be evaluated with similar criteria. The primary factors include maintenance, ease of cleaning, and ultimately, the output and production to meet your needs. With all the various hydroponic system solutions on the market, it is good to understand how to evaluate and choose the system that best meets your expectations. Home hydroponics is becoming more prevalent globally and more consumers are exploring the various options available to them. We see a future where every home will have a hydroponic system due to factors such as sustainability, food safety, and food security, especially as costs of systems get lower and availability increases. Whether you are looking to build your own DIY hydroponic system, or get something off the shelf, we hope this will help you better evaluate hydroponic systems to meet your needs.
All hydroponic systems require maintenance. Even with a soil garden, organic matter and nutrients need to be maintained, as well as pH balances. Hydroponic systems are similar, but with a slightly different tool set required. Nutrients need to be measured and added when required, and pH levels also need to be measured and corrected. Therefore, the ability to measure nutrients and pH levels easily is highly important. This is done using EC and pH meters/pens. So, access to the water reservoir is very important. In addition, we need to consider how easy it is to refill the reservoir when needed. Hydroponics use 90% less water than soil gardens, but this does not mean that you will not have to add water on a regular basis. Large water reservoirs require less-frequent refilling. But you also need to consider how easy it is to add water to the system, and how to determine when you need to top up the water.
Cleanliness of your system is important for you to grow a successful hydroponic garden and to keep it free of pests, diseases and pathogens. Any system where water, nutrients, light and air are involved, will need to be regularly cleaned. Therefore, it is good to know how to clean the system before making a purchase. Ask yourself how easy it is to deconstruct the system to clean all interior parts, and how often you need to do this. An indoor hydroponic system should be cleaned annually at a minimum; and an outdoor hydroponic system should be cleaned biannually at a minimum, as it is exposed to the elements. As you will own this system for years to come it is good to know how you keep the system clean and in great working order.
Productivity is somewhat subjective as it will mean different things to different growers. A small table-top garden may be enough for you to cut herbs and microgreens for your daily needs. However, if you are looking to feed your family and supplement your grocery bill, then you will need to consider how productive your hydroponic system will be. Consider factors such as how big the plants can grow and if there are any limiting factors. Particularly this includes grow lights for indoor growing. When growing indoors, the only light the plants have access to are the grow lights. If the plants outgrow the lights, then it will limit the size potential of the plants. If you want to grow biennial or perennial plants, as opposed to annual plants, this could be an issue as you will need to keep them small by cutting them back. Ultimately, you will define what you want to grow, and what your desired productivity and output will be, so this is an important factor in your consideration.
When evaluating either your first, or next, home hydroponic system, consider factors such as maintenance, ease of cleaning, and estimating your expected productivity. Home hydroponics is the future of food production, and it is likely you will consider many types and sizes. Consider these factors to make a more informed decision, and you’ll be on your way to living a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle.