Hydroponics 101: What is it, how does it work, and what can you grow?

Hydroponics 101: What is it, how does it work, and what can you grow?

What is hydroponics?

Growing plants in water sounds like a strange science project doomed to fail, but it’s actually a quickly-growing (pun-intended, of course) gardening method more and more people are using to harvest their own produce, save money on groceries, and make a positive impact on the environment. This method of gardening uses fresh water and finely-targeted nutrients instead of soil, so you can grow fresh, healthy food in any space (even if you live in an apartment or have a small backyard).

With hydroponics, you can grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers all year round and regardless of where you live. Thanks to the specialized nutrients getting sent right to the roots, your plants will be healthier and more productive than ever before. You'll even save money on your grocery bill.

In-home hydroponic gardens are becoming more and more common. There are tons of companies and systems out there from totally done-for-you options like our GrowBlock to DIY systems you piece together on Amazon. For most people, an in-home hydroponic system is a great option to grow your own produce, experiment with growing different plants, learn more about gardening, and even start to turn around that belief constantly whispering to you that you have a black thumb (good news - hydroponics is perfect for self-proclaimed plant-killers).

How does hydroponics work?

As an incredibly general overview, hydroponic systems work by taking water that has nutrients in it and circulating that water to the roots of your plants. The nutrient-rich water is able to nourish the plants directly, leading to lush, beautiful, tasty food.

You'd think growing in water would lead to watery-tasting food, but it's actually the opposite. The water delivering the nutrients directly to the plant roots means more of the nutrients make it into the plants themselves instead of getting lost in soil. Since nutrients are where flavor comes from, there's more of it in plants grown hydroponically! 

How the actual mechanism of delivering water to the roots works depends on the system, but here's a peek behind the curtain of the process for GrowBlocks. There are magnetic panels on the back of the towers you can remove to see exactly what's going on: the pump takes water from our 4-gallon reservoir every 15 minutes and sends it up the tubing to the top of the tower. From there, the water and nutrients trickle down the pods where the roots are, saturating them with all that life-giving goodness. The result? Happy plants with next to zero work.

How much food can you grow hydroponically?

This is another question that is going to vary based on the system. There are hydroponic gardens out there ranging from tiny ones designed to grow a few herbs to larger systems that are intended to replace the entire "fresh produce" section of your grocery list (GrowBlocks fall into the last category, FYI). How much you can grow in a hydroponic garden is limited only to how much you want to grow - another great part of hydroponics is that it's extremely space-efficient, meaning you can have a garden even if you live in a tiny space.

GrowBlocks have 38 plant pods in them (ahem, not to toot our own horn, but this is the highest capacity on the market ... toot toot). You can grow enough produce to feed a household of 4 adults for $129 a month flat. You can feed 2 adults for $99 a month. Curious and want to learn more? Click here.

What kinds of plants can you grow in a hydroponic garden and what kinds of plants don't work well?

As with most things in life, some plants are better fits for growing in a hydroponic garden than others. The good news is that you can grow just about anything hydroponically with a little effort and imagination. 

When it comes to the kinds of plants that grow well this way, the list is pretty much endless. From herbs to flowers and nearly everything in between, there's probably a good way to grow it in a hydroponic garden. To name just a few, we've got multiple types of basil, multiple types of tomatoes, multiple types of peppers, garlic chives, mini eggplants, mini bellpeppers, we're working on blueberries ... alright, it'll just be easier to send you to our plant catalog.

We're always updating our plant catalog with the fresh (yes, another pun) new varieties Greg's working on and our options continue to grow just as fast as hydroponically-grown basil (which, if you haven't tried it, is life-changing).

There's a bit of debate in the hydroponic community about what makes a poor candidate for this gardening method, but here at Produce'd, we prefer to take the "we're going to make it happen one way or another" approach. While many say vining plants like cucumbers or tomatoes aren't great for growing indoors, we've found a way to do it simply and easily. A few that simply aren't possible to grow well hydroponically are root veggies like carrots and potatoes and über-heavy fruits like melons. If anybody can figure it out it's Greg, but no promises on that one.

Oh, and if you've got a favorite plant or two (or twelve) that you'd like but that isn't in our catalog yet, drop us a line here and request it

How much work is a hydroponic garden?

You're probably sick of hearing this, but (say it with me!) it depends on the system itself. Some hydroponic gardens are complex, require a lot of upkeep, and need regular attention to keep functioning properly. Others are pretty hands-off. Most models on the market require you to order supplies like seeds or seedlings and nutrients (sometimes pre-mixed, sometimes mix-your-own) and grow the plants yourself. The system that's going to be best for you simply depends on your needs and how much effort you'd like to put in.

As far as GrowBlocks, we've designed them to be as independent as possible. All they require is fresh water every 3-5 days (we send text reminders for this and have a little indicator light that turns on when the water is low), a new bottle of pre-mixed GrowUp nutrient solution every other week (we send text reminders for this too), and a quick-and-easy cleaning 4 times a year (you guessed it - we'll remind you about this too).

We also send fully-mature, almost-ready-to-harvest plants on a schedule along with pre-mixed GrowUp nutrient solution. Oh, and we'll send it all to you on autopilot. All you do is pick what plants you'd like and we'll handle the rest. We'll send fresh plants when it's time to replace the old ones so you're constantly growing exactly what you want. You can switch it up and pick new plants for your next shipment any time.

Ready to give GrowBlocks a try? We're ready for you! Click here for your next steps. You can always chat with our super-helpful team (it's just Greg and Rachel over here). We're happy to get on a call or chat thread with you to answer your questions and help you decide if a GrowBlock is right for you.

What questions do you have about hydroponics?

Click the chatbot there in the right hand corner of the page to be connected to the team (it's probably Rachel. Almost definitely Rachel. Also, this is Rachel writing this post right now. Hi!). We're here for you and we love questions!

Back to blog

Are you on the list yet?