Growing Herbs Hydroponically – Farming Practices

Growing Herbs Hydroponically – Farming Practices

Growing Herbs Hydroponically

Hello hydroponic lovers, we are here with a new topic of growing herbs hydroponically or without soil. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil and the plants grown in nutrient-enriched water. In most systems, the plant roots are directly suspended in nutrient-rich and perfectly pH-level balanced water. There are a wide variety of herb plants that work wonderfully in hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic systems are a great method to grow herbs indoors. The basic principle is to grow your herbs in a container filled with water and nutrients. An air pump is used to keep the water oxygenated and circulating the herb root system. Then, the nutrients are in the water, they are absorbed directly through the herb’s roots. In this article we also discuss the below topics about growing herbs hydroponically;

  • The best hydroponic nutrients for herbs
  • What herbs grow well in hydroponics
  • How do you grow herbs hydroponically at home
  • Can you plant hydroponic herbs
  • What plants can grow in hydroponics
  • Best plants for indoor hydroponic gardens

A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Herbs Hydroponically

A hydroponic herb garden is efficient since the roots of the herbs get both water and nutrients simultaneously in a controlled environment which results in a fast-growing, very healthy herb plant. If you are growing herbs for culinary purposes or medicinal purposes, hydroponics is a great way to grow them. There are some benefits for doing so, and the first is that they grow faster. Commercial growers love using hydroponics since they can grow a large number of herbs in a small growing space. This maximizes their profitability. But home gardeners can enjoy the benefits of growing hydroponic herbs.

For growing herbs, hydroponics systems can be used either indoors or outdoors it all depends on where you live and the space you have available. An indoor hydroponic herb garden is a great way to easily grow your favorite culinary herbs without bringing the mess of the outdoors inside.

Conditions for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

Most herb plants like to be well watered but don’t like constantly wet feet so good drainage or exposure to oxygen is important.

Light – at least 8 – 10 hours a day – In hydroponic cultivation light is essential for plant growth. It is ideal when sunlight is available. If not, use powerful LED (light-emitting diode) lamps. There are special plant LEDs with optimum wavelength ranges available for this purpose. Especially in the case of some plants, you’ll need to either place your plants near a south-facing window or figure out some other way to get them much-needed light ideally at least 6 hours a day.

Oxygen O2 – The hydroponic plants need oxygen in their rhizomes for growth. And, the high content of dissolved oxygen in the water improves the absorption of fertilizers into the plant. If there is sufficient oxygen, the nutrient content can be reduced, but the plants grow quickly.

EC (Electrical Conductivity) – is a dissolved salts measurement in a solution. Too strong EC level and your plants will burn and ultimately be unable to absorb water and nutrients. Though, too weak EC level and then plants will struggle to develop due to a lack of nutrients. Most herbs perform well in a pH level of 5.5-6.5, and an EC level of 1.0-1.6, but these levels are also changed according to the selected plants.

Water and Nutrients for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

A good quality hydroponic nutrient formulation is very important for plant growth. Selecting the right nutrient solution is key to system health and production. If you are starting a hydroponic system for growing herbs, or switching nutrient solutions, you’ll want to consider several factors.

There are two types of nutrients you must use in a hydroponic system – base nutrients and additives. The best hydroponic nutrients have minerals and vital elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that play crucial roles in plant life. These nutrients are necessary for your herb plants to grow and bloom. Different herb plants have different nutrient requirements in hydroponics.

Easy Herbs to Grow In Hydroponics

There are several herbs easy to grow in hydroponics. Some of the hydroponically grown herbs are Basil, Chamomile, Rosemary, Oregano, Cilantro, Anise, Dill, and Catnip. Growing herbs using hydroponics helps you to keep yielding herbs no matter the season or the weather conditions. The hydroponic system takes up less space and reduces water consumption. While all herbs can be easy to grow, here are the most important herbs to grow in a hydroponic system.

Parsley

Ideal conditions for growing hydroponic parsley are;

  • The best nutrient solution pH level for parsley is 5.5–6.0.
  • Parsley comes as an affordable seed and germinates within 3 to 4 weeks with good moisture. Parsley seedlings are ready to transplant a few weeks later when they display their true leaves, and the first harvest typically happens 5 to 6 weeks after that. Before you can grow plants hydroponically, you do have to initially plant the seeds.
  • The electrical conductivity (EC) of the nutrient solution for growing parsley is best kept between 0.8 and 1.8 for parsley.
  • It’s not a demanding plant; just give it plenty of light and warm temperature level and it will grow healthy and happy
  • It requires temperature level 15–23ºC; very cold hardy
  • You can easily grow parsley from seed hydroponically; just soak some rock wool cubes in water, put them in a tray with a little water in it, plant 2 seeds per square inch, and then push them into the rock wool. Then place the tray in a sandwich bag or similar and then wait for the little plants to germinate.

Lavender

  • Lavender can be a great crop to growing using hydroponics. Growing Lavender using hydroponics has around 30% more growth rate compared to lavender grown in soil. It grows into fairly large shrubs, so, keep plants about 3 feet, or 1 meter apart. Also, this makes it unsuitable for indoor gardening; unless you choose a dwarf plant variety, but still make sure it gets plenty of fresh air.
  • The Lavender plant is suitable for a drip system, aeroponics or ebb and flow, but not for other systems. Also, do not over-irrigate your Lavender plants, as they prefer dry conditions.
  • Lavender plant needs a lot of light; at least 6 hours of full sunlight (or strong LED light) every day.
  • The nutrient solution pH level for lavender should be between 6.4 to 6.8.
  • Keep the air dry and well ventilated; humidity can be the main issue with the health of your lavender plants.
  • This is a simple and cost-effective method to grow lavender if you have the patience for it.  First, you want to select Rockwool or another dense type of growing medium like coco coir. Then, this allows the seeds a place to sit on to germinate and grow.
  • DWC system is another great method of hydroponics. The Lavender plants will sit on a floating raft and the entire root system will submerge in the nutrient solution.
  • Lavender works well under full spectrum grow lights. Keep this 100W grow light on for 18 hours a day and keep it between 12 to 18 inches from the plant to simulate sunlight.
  • The Lavender plant likes hot places; it will grow better at temperatures above 18°C.
  • Keep the EC level of the nutrient solution between 1.0 and 1.4.

Basil

  • Basil is a popular choice for the hydroponics system because this herb is ideal when used fresh to hold on to the aroma and flavor.
  • Basil can be planted in two ways, by germinating the seeds, or by planting cuttings, which form their roots within a week.
  • Rockwool blocks are the most common medium used with growing basil in a hydroponics system. Though, you can use peat moss, coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite, although these need sterilizing before use.
  • Because you will have transplanted indoors, you will be pleased to know basil doesn’t need intense light, and T5 fluorescent tubes will suffice. Though, if you are using LED or HID, these are also suitable as long as you are sure to have correct spacing from the tops of your plants.
  • Basil plant needs between 14 to 16 hours of light per day for the best growth.
  • It is one of the tastiest and prolific herbs that may be grown and is extremely popular for hydroponic growing. Once mature, Basil can be harvested and trimmed weekly.  It prefers a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5 so fits well with other herbs.
  • You can easily propagate bail by stem cuttings, even hydroponically, using rock wool as a growing medium for growing Basil.
  • The nutrient solution’s EC electrical conductivity for basil should be within the range of 1.0 to1.6.

Chamomile

  • If you’re a big fan of tea, you might like to know that you can grow your chamomile, indoors by using hydroponics. It has many amazing antioxidant properties that have been shown to lower the risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer. Also, they help with fighting insomnia and poor digestion issues.
  • Many will use a floating seed tray to help germinate chamomile seeds in hydroponics. After the seedlings grow to about 2 inches, you will want to get rid of the weakest ones so that there is only one strong seedling per cell in the tray.
  • Germination of chamomile seeds can take up to 1 to 2 weeks. It’s recommended that chamomile receives up to about 16 hours of light daily.

Rosemary

  • An NFT hydroponic system setup is the most ideal for growing Rosemary herb, and they should be exposed to temperatures ranging from 21 to 29°C max.
  • Keep the pH level between 5.5-7.0.
  • Humidity levels should remain average.
  • You can harvest Rosemary 2-3 times per sowing; this can also be done all year round.

Oregano

Oregano Herb 

  • Oregano is a part of the mint family and they have used this herb for thousands of years for cooking and medicinal purposes.
  • Growing Oregano Hydroponically will grow well in pH ranges between 6.0 and 9.0, for optimal results the range should fall between 6.0 and 8.0. It’s common to use Rockwool cubes to germinate the Oregano seeds. Some other common growing media are Oasis Root Cubes, Rapid Rooters, or Grodan Stonewool.
  • The best EC (electrical conductivity) range for oregano is between 1.5 and 2.0.
  • The temperature range oregano likes are between 13 to 21°C.
  • If you grow it outdoors, place it in full sun or part shade, Oregano likes plenty of light. If you have Oregano indoors, and you use LED grow lights, set them on a long light cycle, between 12 and 14 hours daily.

Chives

  • Chives are popular herb plants grown in hydroponics.
  • The best pH level for chives is just above 6. You could not be able to keep it perfectly steady, but aim for about 6.3 to 6.6, but anything between 6.1 and 6.8 will be fine.
  • Chives love light and make sure they get at least 12 hours of bright light every day.
  • Keep the EC (electric conductivity) of the nutrient solution between 1.8 and 2.4.
  • Chives are resistant to changes in temperature levels, even fairly sudden ones. Then, this makes them ideal for outdoor gardening as well. Still, the best temperature level is between 18 to 27°C.

Thyme

  • The thyme plant is another evergreen herb worthy of growing hydroponically.
  • It requires minimal fertilization when grown in hydroponics.
  • Thyme can be propagated easily using stem cuttings in hydroponics.
  • The ideal EC (electrical conductivity) for thyme is between 0.8 and 1.6.
  • The nutrient solution’s pH level should be between 5.5 and 7.0.
  • You can easily propagate Thyme with stem cuttings; it is a strong and resilient plant; just cut a stem during the vegetative phase and plant it in wet rock wool.
  • Do not harvest Thyme when it is in bloom; in this time, the leaves lose most of their flavor and properties. Thyme is a delicate and elegant ornamental plant.

Watercress

  • Propagating watercress hydroponically is an easy process. Just take a stem cutting, put the lower part of the cutting in the nutrient solution, and within days it will grow roots.
  • The ideal nutrient solution pH level is between and 6.5 and 6.8.
  • The best temperature for its growth is between 25 to 30°C, but it will stand temperatures outside this narrow range, especially below, down to 8°C.
  • Watercress plant requires a low EC of the nutrient solution, between 0.4 and 1.8.

Cilantro or Coriander

Hydroponic Coriander Farming

  • For growing Coriander or Cilantro in hydroponics, keep the pH range between 6.5 and 6.7.
  • From seed to harvest, you’re looking at about 50 to 55 days for cilantro when grown hydroponically. This herb choice is very low maintenances and doesn’t need trimming. They can be harvested partially or fully.
  • Cilantro can be harvested fully or partially, requiring little maintenance like trimming.

A few other herbs that do well hydroponically include Anise, Catnip, Chervil, Dill, Fennel, and Tarragon.

How to Make a Hydroponic Herb Garden

If you want to make a hydroponic herb garden, do your research because you’ll need a basic understanding of plant growth and how hydroponics systems work in general. Though, hydroponic window farms can be complex, involving a system of pumps, tubes, a timer, and growing containers. In this procedure, the water is pumped from a container at the base of the garden to the top, where it runs slowly down through the system, soaking the roots as it trickles. Supplemental light is required.

If you want to keep things simple while you learn about the hydroponics system, you can always make a hydroponic herb garden with a small kit. Then, the kits are ready to go and you need them for growing and caring for hydroponic herb plants. Nearly any type of herb plant is appropriate for this type of gardening system.

The herbs can be started by seed or you can purchase established plants. Start seeds like you would but use rock wool instead of soil. Thread the roots through the bottom of the net pot. Soak about 2 or 3 cubes of rock wool and gently place them on the bottom of the pot then anchor the plant with hydrotone clay pellets. The rock wool helps the pellets from falling through the bottom of the pot. It’s time for the nutrients. You may use any nutrient solution but make sure it is for the hydroponics system. Therefore, used a PPM/EC/cF (parts per million/electrical conductivity/conductivity factor) meter to monitor the nutrients for the herbs. The PPM number is used for hydroponics.

The pH/PPM/cF levels for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

PPM – Parts per million – It measures the concentration of solids dissolved in the water.

EC – Electrical conductivity – It measures the ability to conduct electricity. The EC meter measures how well the nutrients dissolved into the water.

cF – Conductivity factor. We use cF (conductivity Factor) to measure the strength of the nutrient and this measures the amount of electrical current that passes through the water.

Herbs

pH

cF

PPM

Basil

5.5-6.5

10-16

700-1120

Chicory

5.5-6.0

20-24

1400-1600

Chives

6.0-6.5

18-22

1260-1540

Lavender

6.4-6.8

10-14

700-980

Lemon Balm

5.5-6.5

10-16

700-1120

Mint

5.5-6.0

20-24

1400-1680

Parsley

5.5-6.0

8-18    

560-1260

Thyme

5.5-7.0

8-16

560-1120

Watercress

6.5-6.8

4-18

280-1260

Rosemary

5.5-6.0

10-16

700-1120

Types of Hydroponics Systems for Growing Herbs

There are a few different types of hydroponics systems that are used in the home environment for growing herbs. 

  1. Deep Water Systems for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

These are the most common types of hydroponics systems and well suited for beginners for growing herbs. The hydroponic herbs grow in a large reservoir of water which is kept fresh and oxygenated by a small air pump.

Growing herbs at home are becoming increasingly popular. Deep water culture hydroponics is a great way to get started with hydroponics. This growing process can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be and can be scaled up as you gain experience. DWC hydroponics provides an efficient and sustainable way to grow a large variety of plants that can be used for food in the kitchen or commercial production by food producers.

The water in deep water culture needs to be supplemented with nutrients required for plant growth, which would otherwise be absorbed via the soil. Adding the correct amounts of nutrients into the water solution makes sure the plants are well-nourished and also able to develop to their full potential.

  1. Ebb and Flow Systems for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

The ebb and flow hydroponic systems keep the main water tank separate from the growing herb pots. A pump is used to fill the pots with water and nutrients, and then drain it back into the main reservoir. Then, these units are operated on a timer that controls the pumping system.

Ebb and flow systems are also called a flood and drain system, rely on intermittent water delivery (flood) to a plant or series of plants held in an inert medium. The medium is mainly for stabilizing the plant and is not required to have any nutritional value. In a true hydroponic ebb and flow hydroponic system, all nutrition is provided by the nutrient solution.

The most common media used in ebb and flow hydroponic systems include hydroton (clay pebbles), stone wool, and rinsed gravel, but any inert medium that doesn’t float will suffice. It is one of the simplest hydroponic systems to set up and use. There are mainly two common ebb and flow configurations used by indoor horticulturists a tray and reservoir configuration (single pump system) or an individual module configuration (dual pump system).

  1. Drip Systems for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

Drip hydroponics systems keep the plant’s roots in a sterile medium.  The drip system will drip-feed the water and nutrients into the herb pots. A timer is used to keep the drip feed system on a schedule running for a few minutes each hour.

  1. Aeroponic Systems for Growing Herbs Hydroponically

Aeroponic systems use a misting spray to feed the roots. The roots get their water and nutrients from the mist while receiving oxygen directly from the air. Creating your own indoor hydroponic herb garden is another way to enjoy growing your culinary herbs. If you would like to start your indoor herb garden, but don’t want to bring the mess of the outdoors inside, then growing hydroponic herbs is a perfect solution.

Is it better to Grow Herbs Hydroponically?

Herb plants will benefit most from the ability to receive a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen through the watering system. Hydroponic growing systems give restaurants, supermarkets, and commercial growers the ability to produce fresh herbs for their customers, which allows for greater flavor and cost-efficiency.

Below are the benefits of growing herbs hydroponically;

You don’t need soil – While some may love the naturistic appeal of getting hands dirty with gardening out the sunshine, the fact of the matter is, some of us prefer not to have to go that route. Hydroponic growth requires water and some simple mediums. Lots of indoor gardening goes on in the kitchen and that’s not always the best place for dirty fingernails or empty herb pots. This is what makes hydroponic systems so nice when you want to grow your herbs indoors.

Hydroponic Herbs Grow Fast – Hydroponic herbs can grow anywhere from 25% to 50% faster than herbs grown in a soil garden. The plant roots get fed consistently from the nutrient solution in the water. You never have to worry about over or under-watering or having plants dry out. Since the growing conditions are much more consistent in a hydroponic system, this translates to your plants growing that much quicker. You will still need to provide a strong light source and constant temperature for hydroponic herbs to grow into healthy plants. This is true with all methods of growing herbs indoors. You’ll have larger crop yields and faster growths. Then, this faster growth means you can yield more in a smaller amount of time.

You will conserve more water – On average, Hydroponics systems only use up to 10% of the water that outdoor soil plants require. Then, the water gets filtered and reused continuously. Once you have your hydroponic herb garden setup, the only maintenance it should require is to change the nutrient solution every 7 to 14 days. You don’t want to constantly be checking to make sure your herbs aren’t drying out or growing too big for their pot. There must be plenty of room for the roots to grow in the water reservoirs.

Year-Round Supply – You can grow hydroponic plants any time of year. Since we are growing plants indoors, we don’t need to worry about the temperature fluctuations outside. Then, you can create your hydroponic herb garden at any time of the year. You can start seeds in January, and then enjoy a nice harvest of plants within two months. Imagine having fresh herbs in March.

You did not use herbicides and an insecticide that means you can keep your herbs 100% organic and free of harmful chemicals. You will save a significant amount of space using hydroponics. Systems can be customizable and even built vertically.

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