Growing your own hydroponic herb garden is an awesome way to keep your kitchen in fresh herbs. You can grow basil, parsley, sage, thyme, and many other sweet and savory herbs. And you don’t have to restrict your hydroponic herb garden to culinary herbs either, flowers like calendula can also be grown in hydroponic systems.
Hydroponic gardening is an awesome way to grow greens, fruits, and herbs indoors. You’re not restricted by the yearly seasons, and you can harvest exactly what you need for dinner, lunch, or a snack, at any time. I love hydroponic gardening since I can keep perennial veggies growing, and enjoy fresh peppers, basil, sage, and more in January when my garden is covered by 3 foot plus of snow.
Growing herbs is an awesome way to get started with an indoor garden. It’s also a safe, tasty, and fun way to start growing your own plants, in general.
Hydroponic systems work off of a few standard pieces. They have a reservoir to hold nutrients and water for the plant, but no soil. They have a net basket with a sponge, clay pellets, or coconut coir to hold the plant seed, and later it’s roots. Finally, they may have an circulation pump or an airstone, in active hydroponic systems. Passive hydroponic growing does not have a pump, or require electricity, except for a grow light.
Here at Joybilee, we love using a passive hydroponic method called The Kratky system. We’ve talked a lot about it here, and here, especially for lettuce, peppers, basil, and tomatoes. It’s great to have these plants available as an indoor garden all year around.
For the Kratky method all you need are a few wide-mouthed, pint, mason jars, net baskets, coconut coir, seeds, hydroponic nutrients, and full spectrum led lights. Most grow lights are now LED, so that makes it easier.
Kratky Hydroponic Herb Garden
A Kratky hydroponic herb garden can be grown on your countertop, or on a small side-table. I find that this is the simplest of hydroponics methods, and is versatile and flexible. Use one pint jar per herb type that you want to grow.
The pint jar acts as a water tank, holding the roots of the herb plant and to hold the nutrient solution. Now, a kratky hydroponic herb garden is not a smart garden, unless you add a timer to your grow light.
Set up your Kratky jars with water, and follow the directions on your hydroponic plant food. Different brands of liquid plant food will have different instructions, some require mixing in specific orders, some can be used directly from the bottle. Read your instructions for your specific brand.
Add your net baskets, filled with coconut coir or hydroponic clay pellets, or whatever root holding medium you are using. I like the coconut coir because it’s fully biodegradable, and can simply be composted once the plant is spent. It also makes it easier to transplant fully grown herb plants from the hydroponic system, to the garden, or to pots, if so desired.
Lastly, cover the outside of your jars with aluminum foil or black construction paper and secure it in place. This helps prevent algae bloom in the nutrient medium. In active hydroponic systems, they have covers for the plant openings and other techniques to reduce algae growth too. Avoid having uncovered jars in direct sunlight, as the light and water refraction can cook the plant roots.
Place your prepared and planted jars under your grow lights. You can use a sunny windowsill for germination, and most herbs can grow on just a window’s worth of sunlight. However, they can grow better with up to sixteen hours of light each day, from a grow light.
As the water in your jars decreases, as the plants grow, you’ll need to top it up. Use plain water for most of your jar top-ups. There’s no need to add more nutrients, at least not weekly. Most active hydroponics recommend adding fresh nutrients once every 2 weeks. With the Kratky method you can add fresh nutrients about once per month, especially for leafy herbs.
Herbs have a stronger flavor if they grow a bit slower, so excess nutrients are not necessary. Just fresh water on a regular basis, to keep the roots happy.
I Don’t Have Seeds:
Maybe you don’t want to buy a pack of basil just to start a single plant. Or you want marjoram, parsley, dill, mint, oregano, and all the herbs at once, and all those seed packs are just too many. You don’t necessarily need seeds to start a kratky hydroponic jar.
Instead, use cuttings from the grocery stores fresh herb section. You can get a whole plant from some grocery stores, or you can get those little clamshell refrigerated packs of fresh herbs. They’re already cut as sprigs, and are actually perfect for rooting for your Kratky hydroponic setup.
Make sure the water in your jar touches the bottom of your net basket, and if using coconut coir, that your grow medium is soaked through. Sponges may work slightly better for holding sprigs of herbs to root.
Trim the sprig to be the depth of the hydroponic basket, plus about 2 inches. Remove leaves from all but the top two inches, and plant in your basket, and secure the basket in your Kratky jar. Place under your grow light. After about a week, new growth should start and roots should start poking out from your hydroponic basket.
You can let these rooted herbs grow, and simply pinch off or harvest what you need for a meal. I’d start harvesting once they get at least 6 inches tall, and gain a few branches.
You can start cilantro, lemon balm, rosemary, and any semi-wooded or soft stemmed herbs this way. Just skip the seeds, and start from cuttings! I do prefer starting chives from seed though, but you can grow green onions this way instead.
Active Hydroponic Herb Garden:
Active hydroponics requires more electricity than passive, and a few more pieces to the puzzle. However, it has one benefit. There are many pre-fabricated active hydroponic systems out there, like the Aerogarden. These systems have built in management, for lights, pumps, and even let you select light timing and nutrient feeding timing, based on what you’re growing.
Now, I do have an Aerogarden and I enjoy the convenience of it. However, the small water tank size, flimsy plastic net pots, and taking it apart to scrub between growing sessions can be more work than a Kratky jar. It’s hard to reuse the aeorgarden’s net pots, and when plants get too big, the water tank has to be refilled daily.
Now, the built in air pump, water circulation, and adjustable led grow light are awesome. And, if you’re new to indoor herb gardens, this is an awesome starting machine. It’s way better to start with a small aero garden, rather than a full sized tower garden, for example.
I actually use my aerogarden to give extra grow light affects to my seedling starting area, and to my winter microgreens. It helps avoid dark spots on my grow-table. While also enjoying growing various plants in the aerogarden itself. I especially like growing greens and herbs, but have done strawberries and tomatoes with success as well.
Also, aerogardens come as fully functional indoor herb garden kits, or sometimes salad garden kits. You can get unique indoor garden kits for tomatoes, lettuce salads, herbs, and other fruits, for the aerogarden. However, you can also get the sponges and net pots and make your own seed pods too.
I actually like making my own seed pods, as it gives me a chance to try out new varieties of herbs, lettuces, micro tomatoes, and other plants, in the winter! And I love that I can grow indoors, either in a Kratky jar, or the hydroponic garden, all year round. Especially when it’s actively snowing outside as I work on this post, brrr!
What’s the Best Hydroponic Method?
Honestly, the best hydroponic method depends on your goals, and the plants you like growing. I love the Kratky method for growing peppers as perennials. They give a better yield when they’re over a year old, but I wouldn’t keep a pepper plant in an Aerogarden for a full year. The Kratky method has also been tested with root crops, like ginger, and worked. So it gives a bit more flexibility and some super creative options, I’ve been semi tempted to try some radish seeds, though I might stick to making sprouts with them.
I love my Aerogarden for winter salads. The six pod size is just big enough to give me two full salads per week, once the lettuces get going. If I have microgreens, or sprouts, growing at the same time, I can get up to three or four salads, and some extra sandwich toppings. And in summer, it’s awesome for indoor herbs, or just experimenting on a small scale with unusual herbs like tulsi basil, alpine strawberries, and even lavender.
So, the best hydroponic method is going to be the one you use, and find easy to keep going. Try both, or try just one, and see what happens. And, if you don’t want to take the jump into hydroponic herb gardening just yet, try some microgreens or sprouts to get started with growing your own food, indoors, even in midwinter.
New to growing food and vegetables indoors?
Check out the Fill Your Salad Bowl workshop and learn how to use 3 different growing methods, at home, so you can fill your salad bowl with super food, nutrient dense, greens every single day. These are greens you can use in your salad bowl, greens you can add to soups, stews, and pasta dishes, and even greens you can use in a stir fry.
In this mini workshop you will learn how to fill a salad bowl every day with food you grow yourself.
- Even if you don’t have any land.
- Even if there is 3 feet of snow covering your garden
- Even if you’ve killed house plants in the past.
- Even if you think you have a black thumb.
Have a look at what’s covered in this workshop and see if its a good fit for you, by clicking/tapping the blue button below.