Are you thinking about trying a hydroponic grow kit? Not quite sure what you actually need?
I understand – it can get confusing. But don’t worry, I have been through it and am here to help you.
The short answer? If you are a beginner, go for a countertop hydroponic grow kit. Think of a grow kit as the IKEA furniture of hydroponics – everything is bundled and ready to assemble. My favorites are the Click and Grow Smart Gardens and the iDOO hydroponic grow systems.
I have learned a lot about hydroponics over the years. And taking courses and reading books is, of course, helpful. But this article is written from the perspective of an actual hydroponic grower, and I am assuming you are starting from scratch.
So, grab a drink, and let’s get our hands wet!
- Is Hydroponics For Me?
- What is the Best Hydroponic Kit for Beginners?
- Choosing a hydroponic growing system
- The Design of Indoor Hydroponics Systems
- Is Hydroponics Cheaper than Buying Produce at the Store?
- But are savings the main thing here?
- How Much Does a Hydroponic System Cost?
- What Grows Best in a Hydroponic System?
- Which is best: iDOO Grow System or Click and Grow Smart Garden 9?
- Do I Need To Buy A Grow Tent?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Important Things to Remember
Is Hydroponics For Me?
Hydroponics is the easiest way to grow fresh herbs and vegetables indoors. It is clean, and you do not need a lot of space.
There is no need for any gardening experience or insider knowledge.
It is not magic. Plants need nutrients to grow but do not care if you use soil or water as a delivery system. As promised, I will keep this guide simple and to the point. The aim is to help you break down how to pick your first hydroponic grow kit.
Looking for more information about hydroponics as a method? Refer to our guide: DIY Hydroponics for beginners
So whether you are just getting started with indoor gardening or would rather not have a windowsill full of pots, here’s what I have learned.
What is the Best Hydroponic Kit for Beginners?
First things first, let’s talk basics.
Your hydroponic kit should have all the essential components built-in and ready to use.
I have built several DIY systems, and there are many moving parts. Think reservoir, pumps, grow lights, net pots, pH measuring kits, nutrients, growing mediums, and all the tubes and connectors that make it all fit together.
You do not need that when you are starting.
Look for simplicity.
Let’s put it like this: A hydroponic grow kit should be like the IKEA furniture of hydroponics – everything should come bundled and ready to assemble and use.
The DIY method is not necessarily difficult, but it is more like the LEGO sets of hydroponics. You get to the all the pieces, but need to put them together yourself.
Choosing a hydroponic growing system
There are six factors you should consider when choosing the best hydroponics kit for your home
- Ease of use: The best systems for beginners don’t require a degree in plant science to operate. Look for complete systems with easy-to-follow setup and operation.
- Easy maintenance: Is it easy to clean and maintain? Go for a low-maintenance system; the fewer moving parts, the better.
- Size matters: Consider your space. Don’t go overboard and get a monster kit if you’re working with limited room space – it’s about finding the right match. Whether you have a spacious basement or just a cozy corner in your apartment, there are hydroponic kits that fit.
- Budget: Hydroponic kits do not have to cost an arm and a leg. There are good options for most budgets. But here’s the kicker – you want the sweet spot between affordable and quality. Avoid low-quality cheap kits from unknown companies. It is more hassle than it’s worth if you ever need replacement parts or new supplies.
- What do you want to grow?: Different kits work better for different crops. I recommend beginners to start with leafy vegetables, herbs, mini-tomatoes, and maybe strawberries if you are looking for a challenge.
- Supplies and spare parts: Do you know who to contact if you need spare parts or if something breaks? Stick to companies that have a presence and reputation to uphold.
Both systems maintain an ideal growing environment; you do not have to worry about monitoring nutrient or pH levels.
And that is a big thing.
The Design of Indoor Hydroponics Systems
I run one Smart Garden 9 and one 10-pod iDOO Hydroponics Grow System. And trust me, they are both impressive conversation starters.
While this may not be a reason to buy, I think it is an often overlooked factor.
I have been informed that my DIY builds “look messy.”
But the iDOO and the Smart Garden 9 are beautifully designed and fit right in. For me, this is a big deal. And it could be important to you too.
And as you may have figured out by now, it is one main reason I do not only run my DIY hydroponics setups.
The other main reason is easy access. My DIY setups would not fit in our kitchen and I do love the luxury of having easy access to fresh herbs when I am cooking.
Is Hydroponics Cheaper than Buying Produce at the Store?
But will I save money? The one burning question on many minds: “Is hydroponics cheaper than buying my herbs and veggies at the store?”
You can answer “yes” or “no,” depending on your perspective. Are we looking to compare over one year? Five years? Or maybe even ten years?
But the short answer is “no,” at least not for the first few years.
There is no escaping the first initial investment. And even if you only spend 50-100 dollars/euros/pounds, that money can buy you a lot of basil and lettuce.
However, once your system is up and running, you can absolutely save money. The recurring costs of growing hydroponically tend to be lower than continuously buying fresh produce.
But are savings the main thing here?
For me, the main benefits of hydroponics are
- Fresh: I can grow fresh and pesticide-free herbs and vegetables year-round.
- Tasty: The taste is, without a doubt, so much better than store-bought produce.
- Access: I do not have to rely on the store to stock the fresh herbs and veggies I want to cook with.
- Fun: For me, it is a hobby and a way of living and providing for my family.
- Yield: Hydroponic systems create optimal conditions for plant growth, resulting in faster and more abundant harvests.
And let’s not forget about space. Hydroponics allows you to grow your own food in limited spaces indoors. There is no need for a big backyard or a sunny plot; a small corner or a spare room can become your indoor garden.
And when you grow your own herbs and vegetables, there are no transportation costs associated with getting produce from farm to store to your kitchen.
How Much Does a Hydroponic System Cost?
Hydroponic grow systems come in various shapes and sizes.
The systems I use and recommend for beginners are ideal for easy countertop growing. They are complete systems and start at about $80/ EUR75/ 65 Pound sterling.
But there are, of course, alternatives. Let’s go through your options if you are feeling a bit more ambitious.
These DIY setups can cost you as little as $50 / EUR 45 / 40 Pound sterling, making them an attractive entry point for budget-conscious beginners. But they often only support one plant and do not include the grow lights you need to grow indoors.
Learn how to build a DIY hydroponic grow bucket.
Moving up the ladder, mid-range nutrient film technique (NFT) and deep water culture (DWC) systems typically cost from $200 to $500 (EUR 190-470/ 160-400 Pound sterling). These systems are more suitable for ambitious beginners who are not worried about a bit of DIY.
Now, for the big leagues. High-end systems like aeroponics or sophisticated drip systems can set you back anywhere from $500 and upwards (EUR 470/ 400 Pound sterling).
These setups are perfect for more advanced users and offer advanced features and precision control. And as always in life — high performance comes with a price tag to match.
But we cannot forget about the ongoing costs. You must take into account the cost of seeds, nutrient solutions, and electricity expenses to keep those grow lights and pumps humming. While these costs aren't exclusive to hydroponics, they contribute to the overall financial picture.
To summarize, the cost of a hydroponic system is a spectrum. It’s about finding the sweet spot between your budget and gardening ambitions. Whether you’re starting small or dreaming big, there is a hydroponic setup that can grow with you.
What Grows Best in a Hydroponic System?
Herbs and leafy greens are the champions of hydroponics. But you can also do more.
Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, arugula, pak choi, and lettuce flourish in hydroponic environments. The controlled growing conditions allow these greens to reach their full, nutritious potential faster than traditional soil-based methods.
Check out our article covering the 12 Best Indoor Hydroponic Plants by Category.
Herbs also thrive in hydroponic setups. Basil, cilantro (coriander), mint, parsley, and the list goes on – they all love the nutrient-rich water. And be prepared to be amazed – the flavors are more robust and aromatic than their soil-grown counterparts.
But you can also grow strawberries, mini-tomatoes, and smaller peppers like piri-piri chilies.
Stay clear of anything known for downward growth in the beginning. I am talking about root crops like carrots, beets, radishes, and potatoes. It’s not that it is impossible, but it does require a bit more finesse.
Which is best: iDOO Grow System or Click and Grow Smart Garden 9?
I can honestly say that the 10-pod iDOO Grow System and the Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 are the two best systems I have tested.
Both systems are complete systems with everything you need to grow plants indoors. Setup is easy, and you can expect excellent results with minimum effort.
Operation and maintenance are straightforward, and adding nutrients once a month to the iDOO Grow System is no big deal.
But three things set them apart:
- Seeds vs. plant pods: Click and Grow uses pre-fertilized plant pods; iDOO works with regular seeds
- Background noise: Both systems are silent, but the Smart Garden is completely silent as it uses no pumps or fans.
- Cost: This is often a big one, and the iDOO Grow System offers more space for plants at a lower cost.
I think you would be happy with either, and please refer to my reviews for more in-depth details on each system.
Do I Need To Buy A Grow Tent?
Firstly, grow tents are great, but no – it is not a must-have when you start.
Why even consider having a grow tent?
Control is the name of the game. A grow tent provides a controlled growing environment for your plants, protecting them from variations in temperature and humidity.
Light management is another perk. Grow tents are designed with reflective interiors to help put every bit of light emitted by your grow lights to good use.
But when you first start, it is an unnecessary expense. Quality grow tents can be an investment. Buying cheap and low-quality will often lead to light leaks, poor construction, and a generally poor experience. Yup, I have made that mistake.
And frankly, the Click and Grow Smart Gardens and the iDOO systems work great without a tent. Plus, they are attractive and look nice in any home. At least, I think they do. Mine are displayed in the kitchen (Smart Garden) and living room (iDOO).
Frequently Asked Questions
Hydroponic Grow Kit vs Hydroponic Growing Systems?
The terms are often used interchangeably. But for me, a hydroponic grow kit is the IKEA furniture of hydroponics – complete systems where everything is bundled and ready to assemble.
A hydroponic growing system is more like the LEGO sets of hydroponics. You get to choose how to piece it all together.
Do I need a grow light for my hydroponic system?
Yes, get a system with a full spectrum grow light. Your setup will look nicer if the LED grow light is built in. You can buy LED lights separately, but you lose the visually appealing design.
What about the DreamJoy kit?
The DreamJoy kit is a real space saver, but it is still a big multi-level system with space for more than a hundred plants.
Why do I need a water pump?
Not all systems require a water pump. But when needed, they help circulate the nutrients in the reservoir.
Important Things to Remember
- Start with a beginner-friendly system: Consider ease of use, available space, and what you want to grow.
- Get a complete system: Look for kits with all the essential components, including growing mediums, nutrient solutions, net pots, full spectrum grow lights, pumps, and fittings.
- Consider more than the cost: Hydroponics may require an upfront investment, but the return is fresh homegrown herbs and vegetables for many years.
- Consider specialized systems: The iDOO hydroponic system and Click and Grow Smart Gardens bring unique features to hydroponics growing.
- Invest in a quality system: Buy from a company with a brand and reputation to uphold.