Growing Vegetables Hydroponically – Nutrients, pH

Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Hello friends, Today we are here to cover the topic of growing vegetables hydroponically. Growing hydroponic vegetables means the plants are grown without using soil and growing with the use of water and essential nutrients. It is a popular method of growing plants and vegetables. A hydroponic system can grow vegetable plants faster than growing outdoors in soil and hydroponic systems can be used year-round. Growing plants hydroponically often yield more, require less space, and use less water than with conventional gardening. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants at home that is challenging, fun, and very rewarding. In this article we also covered the below topics about hydroponic vegetables;

  • The best and easiest vegetable plants can be grown in hydroponics
  • How hydroponics can help you to grow vegetables
  • Tips for growing vegetables hydroponically indoors
  • How much time it takes to grow hydroponic vegetables
  • Tips for growing vegetables hydroponically   
  • Successfully grown vegetable crops through hydroponics in India
  • What to grow in your hydroponic garden
  • Best grow lights for growing vegetables hydroponically
  • How to maintain the hydroponic systems pH levels

Now, let us get into the detailed information of growing vegetables hydroponically or without soil.

A Step by Step Guide to Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Hydroponic Lettuce
Guide to Growing Vegetables Hydroponically (Image credit: pixabay)

A hydroponic system is a fun way to grow several vegetable plants. In hydroponics, use nutrient-enriched water instead of soil, and has existed for thousands of years. Hydroponics is a sustainable method that brings optimal growing conditions and oxygen to vegetable plants so they grow steadily when provided with proper nutrients and light.

Hydroponics is growing plants without soil and the limitations of space and climate. The amount of time to grow vegetables hydroponically is determined by different factors like the vegetable being grown, the exact variety of that vegetable growing, and the growing conditions. Growing vegetables hydroponically under optimum conditions produce food more quickly than vegetables grown under the best conditions outdoors.

The pH and EC (Electrical Conductivity) Levels for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Importance of pH in Hydroponic Systems – The right pH level is important in hydroponics because it affects nutrient availability for your growing plants. In hydroponics, a pH level that is too high or alkaline can prevent nutrient uptake and lead to deficiencies. In hydroponics, iron deficiency causes pale or yellow color leaves in young plants. While leaf cupping and tip burn are telltale signs of calcium deficiency in hydroponic plants. Also, calcium can form salts that leave white deposits or scale on reservoir walls and equipment.

Hydroponically grown vegetable plants need different pH levels than plants grown in soil. Without soil, vegetable plants do not benefit from microorganisms, organic matter, and interactions between water and minerals that regulate pH levels. The hydroponic system must constantly monitor and adjust pH levels. To obtain the best yield and healthiest plants, you’ll want to give vegetables the optimal growing environment. A pH level of 5.5-6.5 is suitable for most vegetable plants.

EC (Electrical Conductivity) level is a measurement of dissolved salts in a solution. As a hydroponic gardener, EC level measures how strong your hydroponic solution is. Too strong and your vegetable plants will burn and ultimately be unable to absorb water and nutrients. Too weak and your vegetable plants will struggle to develop due to a lack of nutrients.

Light Requirements for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Just because a vegetable plant is grown in water doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t still need sunlight. Especially in the case of vegetables like tomatoes, you’ll need to either place your plants near a south-facing window. Unfortunately, this can be complicated due to various spectrums of light, intensity, and power, not to mention the different needs of different plants.

Some vegetable plants like Spinach, Lettuce, Wheat, Potatoes, and Turnips require as much as 18 hours of sunlight. So, these vegetable plants are like plants that bear flowers in summer. In a hydroponic system, these vegetable plants need to give a huge amount of light. The majority of the vegetable plants need lighting for about 14 to 18 hours each day.

You will need a good lighting system and a timer for your hydroponic system. A fluorescent light fixture purchased at the hardware store that can hold 2 tube light bulbs supplies plenty of light for a hydroponic garden. Then, add a timer to the system so the lights go on and off automatically.

Water and Nutrients Requirements for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Plain old tap water is fine for your hydroponic vegetable garden. For plant food for vegetables, purchase a liquid 15-15-15 fertilizer or a 15-20-15 fertilizer. Wait until the vegetable plants have roots to add fertilizer to the soil. Clear, odorless, and tasteless water is good for hydroponic vegetables. That mainly depends on where it comes from. Tap water contains chemicals used to purify it, and well water might have natural minerals that change it in ways you can’t see.

Any good Hydroponic nutrient must contain all of these elements; Nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), Phosphorous (P), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulphur (S), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Molybdenum (Mo), Boron (B), Chlorine (Cl). The nutrients are dissolved in water which uptake the water with minerals toward different parts of the plant in the hydroponics system.

Temperature Requirement for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

In hydroponics, most vegetable plants prefer a temperature between 20-21°C, it’s important to keep an eye on how hot or cold it gets around a hydroponic garden. Sometimes you’ll want to protect it from the heat generated by grow lamps. Other times you’ll want to protect them from falling temperatures in the winter season, even though they’re indoors.

Media for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Instead of soil, vegetable plants grow in a soilless medium. Such growing mediums can incorporate Rockwool, coconut fiber, or other comparative choices. Just like the soil medium, the growing medium used in hydroponics vegetables provides a sort of anchorage or substrate for the roots. Specifically, use Rockwool, which is inert/non-reactive and helps support the vegetable plant throughout its growth, without affecting the growing environment. For growing hydroponic vegetables, the most widely used growing media are Rockwool; Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate is called Grow Rock, Coconut Fiber, and Perlite or Vermiculite.

Advantages of Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Some of the benefits of using a hydroponic system to grow vegetable plants;

  • Hydroponic plants are grown mainly on water and in a limited space.
  • The best advantage is that you can grow numerous plants at a time.
  • You do not have to search for weeds to make the vegetable plants grow.
  • You get pest-free vegetable plants. The reason is no soil is used in the process of growing hydroponic plants and no pesticides are required.
  • Pluck your choice of vegetable plants quickly, as the hydroponic plants grow at a faster speed.
  • There is no specific season of harvesting hydroponic vegetable plants, as they can be harvested throughout the year.
  • You can pick an indoor zone or outdoor zone for growing vegetables that are grown in a hydroponic system.
  • Hydroponic vegetable plants grow faster than those grown in soil.
  • The crop yields are often greater than those grown in soil.
  • You don’t need a garden space or much space at all to grow hydroponic plants.
  • Hydroponic vegetable plants generally attract fewer pests and diseases.
  • There are no weeds to pull and hydroponic gardening saves water.
  • Hydroponic plants are year-round growing, meaning you can grow, harvest, and eat vegetables locally beyond the normal growing season.
  • Using space efficiently, including growing vertically and in compact areas like urban apartments.
  • Hydroponic plants are healthier and taste better.
  • All vegetable plants grow faster and bigger, e.g. the same variety of tomato plants grown in soil is only 1/3 the size of one grown hydroponic system, even when the seeds come from the same packet.
  • If grown hydroponic plants indoors and kept clean, there are few issues with pests and disease.

Growing Vegetables Hydroponically – List of Veggies

The easiest plants to start with are vegetable greens like Lettuce, Spinach, Tomatoes, Swiss chard, and Kale; and fruiting plants like Tomatoes, Strawberries, and Hot Peppers.

Some of the easy to grow hydroponic vegetables are given below;


Hydroponic Lettuce
Hydroponic Lettuce (Image source: pixabay)

Favorable temperature – Cool and pH level 6.0 – 7.0

Lettuces can be grown in any Hydroponics system like the NFT, Aeroponics, Ebb, and Flow, etc. This vegetable is no doubt a great plant if you just start with a hydroponics system. The Lettuce plant requires cool temperatures and the pH level should be between 6 to 7. In most instances, the plants will grow within 30 days or less.

The leaf lettuce plant makes an outstanding option for hydroponic cultivation. This plant grows in the simplest systems and requires minimal attention. You can harvest the external leaves from lettuce, meaning you will end with a prolonged crop of fresh, crunchy lettuce. As the plant leaves are cut, the internal leaves will grow rapidly to take their place. There are several varieties to choose from, and most of them are suitable for growing this way. The more common types of Lettuce for hydroponics are Tom Thumb, Boston, Iceberg, New York, and Romaine, Buttercrunch Bibb, Simpson, and Waldman’s Dark Green.


Favorable temperature – Hot and pH level 5.5 – 6.5

Many types of tomatoes like traditional and cherry ones have been grown widely by Hydroponic hobbyists and commercial growers. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, but most people whether sellers or consumers consider it as vegetable plants. One thing to keep in mind is that tomato plants require much light. So be prepared to purchase some grow lights if you want to grow Tomatoes indoors. When growers move on to tomato plants, it shows they understand their system and wish to go on to the next level.

In case if you miss this: Growing Carrots In Greenhouse.

Hydroponic Tomatoes
Hydroponic Tomatoes (pic source: pixabay)

Tomatoes are a warm-weather plant and like the temperatures like cucumbers. They prefer an EC level that begins at 2 and goes up to 5, so any system will want to be separated to allow tomatoes to grow on their own. The ideal pH level is between 5.5 and 6.5 and the temperature is between 14 and 26°C. The upper end of the range more preferable. They need a growing medium for plant support, a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5 and require more sunlight. A wick system or Ebb and flow hydroponic systems work excellent for tomato production.


Favorable temperature – Cool and pH level 6.0 – 7.0

Radishes are another vegetable plant that makes a good flavoring mix with other vegetables. Radishes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in soil or hydroponics. It’s better to start from seeds, and you can see seedlings within 3 to 7 days. Radish plants thrive in cool temperatures and do not need any lights. Radish plants are easy to grow and one of the very best hydroponic vegetables. Make sure that you plant them in an area with cool temperature levels away from any light.


Favorable temperature – Cool to warm and pH – 5.5 – 6.5

Kale is a nutritious and delicious-flavored plant for home and restaurant dishes. It is a great vegetable for a healthy person with proven health advantages. The Kale plant is one of the top vegetables that are grown because of its health benefits and its delicious flavor. Kale plant can be germinated from seeds and once it begins growing, it can handle a wide range of temperatures from 7 to 29°C.


Beets can be successfully grown hydroponically. Like most vegetable plants, beets will thrive in indoor situations like hydroponic gardens, though they do require some specific considerations. If you want to grow hydroponic beets, make sure that the hydroponic garden is large enough, and provides the right lighting, temperature, and nutrition requirements.

Set up your hydroponic system in a well-lit place if you plan to grow them outside. Beets do best in temperatures between 15 and 18°C with 6 to 8 hours of light each day. In cooler climate conditions, it’s best to use a greenhouse or other enclosed area to maintain a constant temperature. Many varieties of beets do well. They thrive in cool temperatures and plant around a few inches apart.


Favorable temperature – Hot and pH level 5.5 – 6.0

Water-loving vegetables make a good choice for your hydroponic garden. Given enough space and support cucumber plants will grow abundantly. These are rich in micro-elements iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Cucumbers are a common vining plant that is grown at hydroponics successfully. They enjoy rapid growth under sufficient conditions and hence give high yields. There are several types and sizes of cucumbers like the thick-skinned American slicers, long thin-skinned seedless European, and the smooth-skinned Lebanese cucumbers. All can grow well in the Hydroponics system. It is a warm plant so be sure to supply it with enough light and temperature.

Growing cucumber in hydroponics can be so rewarding and easy growing plant. These vegetable plants love the conditions they are given. Warmth, nutrients, and lots of moisture are perfect for growing hydroponic Cucumbers. Cucumber is one of the highest-yielding vegetables you can grow in hydroponics. The ideal temperatures for optimal growth are range from 15 to 27°C. The Cucumber plant likes a pH of 5.8 with an EC level between 1.8 and 2.


Favorable temperature – Cool to warm pH – 6.0 – 7.0

Spinach is a cool plant, so it does not need too much light. Being another cool weather crop, Spinach is perfect to grow along with lettuce and kale. Any temperature level over 23°C will see the plant suffer. It can be grown from seeds and many hydroponic growers will place their seeds in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks before planting. This makes a plant that is hardier and thus a healthier plant.

Spinach is another fast-growing plant that can be a suitable fit for the hydroponics system. While the plants thrive well in almost all types of hydroponics systems, the NFT hydroponic works best. As with every other form of Hydroponics Farming, with Spinach, you will need significantly less water when compared to the home garden. Also, you can grow them from scratch right when they are seeds. In most instances, it is known to grow within one month or 40 days. Make sure the pH level is between 6.0 to 7.0 and the temperature is duly regulated.


Favorable temperature – warm – pH level – 6.0

Beans can grow winter or summer, indoors or outdoors in hydroponics. In winters, grow bush beans indoors. During summers, grow pole beans outdoors. Pole bean varieties could be tied up and grown vertically. Bush beans tend to just take more places. Beans need less oxygen than other plants demand considerable amounts of potassium, phosphorus, and sulfur.

You can select the types of beans you can grow in hydroponics like Green Beans, Pole Beans, Pinto Beans, and Lima Beans. You will need a trellis or something to support the plants if plant pole beans. Seed germination takes 3 to 8 days. Harvesting begins after 6 to 8 weeks.


Carrots can be grown indoors hydroponically all year round and require some tips. Gourmet Carrots are better to develop than the ordinary Carrot varieties because of the depth of the growing medium. Potassium and phosphorus are very important. The optimal temperature for carrot germination is around 29°C. Depending on conditions and carrot variety, they must begin to germinate in 6 to 10 days. They will germinate at slightly lower temperature levels, but not as well. Feed hydroponic carrots lightly with a nutrient solution at least once a week. Then, the carrot plants will draw the bulk of their nutrients from the reservoir below.

In hydroponics, Carrots grow best with a solution pH level of about 6.0 to 6.5. Maturing Carrots need nutrient solution strength of 1150 to 1350 ppm.


You can grow cauliflower hydroponically much cheaper than using soil gardening. If you’re growing cauliflower with another type of plant, it is better to develop it together with plants with moderately cool requirements. Nitrogen, iron, and phosphorus are required in larger quantities for growing cauliflower.

Bell Peppers or Capsicum

Bell peppers are an excellent plant for your Hydroponic garden. While growing Bell peppers at home, you need to strictly ensure that they do not achieve their full height. To avoid this, make sure the plant is pruned and pinched at about 7 or 8 inches. Then, this will spur their growth and also make way for bigger and fuller vegetables. Try the Deep Water Culture and Ebb and Flow hydroponic techniques for growing Bell Peppers.

Most Bell Peppers take around 90 days for achieving full growth and their ideal pH ranges from 6.0 to 6.5. Also, you can raise the light rack as your bell peppers start growing. While regulating the light also it is at a distance from 6 inches from the light. Pepper plants grow similarly to tomatoes with warmth and lots of light.

Edible Herbs

Mint, Coriander/Cilnatro and other herbs can be grown easily in hydroponics.

Hydroponic Coriander
Hydroponic Coriander (Cilantro) (pic source: pixabay)

Best Systems for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

The best hydroponic systems provide the perfect amount of nutrients to your vegetable garden with the least amount of effort. Also, they can help to care for your plants with less work from you.

Hydroponic systems for growing vegetables are;

Wick System – This is the simplest method of growing plants hydroponically. It doesn’t need a fancy set-up. Then, there are no pumps or expensive equipment and no need for electricity. With this system, a string or ‘wick’ is looped between a reservoir of nutrient-rich water and the plant. The wick soaks up the water and then transfers it to the plant to feed the roots. The wick system is the simplest hydroponic system mechanically, as there are no moving parts or electrical components. This system works best for microgreens, and peppers.

Ebb and Flow System – An ebb and flow hydroponic system is also called the flood and drain system, is slightly more complex in design but is extremely versatile. This is one of the popular hydroponic systems for growing vegetables. This hydroponic system works by flooding the growing medium with a water-nutrient solution, then it drains back into the reservoir.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) – This is a little more complex to set up. The vegetables are put in grow net pots with their roots dangling free and then placed in channels or gullies. Water is continuously pumped down the channels to provide the roots with nutrients. The build has to be exact, so the water flows correctly, and also it requires pumps and frequent monitoring. The NFT is excellent for large operations growing Tomatoes, and Peppers. A nutrient film technique works best with fast-growing, shallow-rooted plants such as Lettuce, Spinach, and Radishes.

Deep Water Culture (DWC) – It is another extremely popular hydroponic system because of the simplicity of set-up. Then, their roots are immersed in the water reservoir below. No water pump is required to move the nutrient solution to the plants as they sit in it continuously. An air pump is required to provide the roots with oxygen. Deepwater culture is best for lettuce, greens, radishes, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.

Drip System – Drip system is the most common around the world. It is a basic hydroponic set-up but does require electricity to run a submersible pump. An electric pump sends water with a nutrient solution to the growing vegetable plants. Then, a second pump aerates the water to provide oxygen to the plant roots. Then, the pumped water is recycled back to the reservoir and reused for weeks until the nutrients are depleted. Drip system best for Peppers, Peas, Radishes, Zucchini, Pumpkins, Squash, and Beans. Also, large vegetables grow well with this method.

Aeroponics – Instead of being constantly immersed in water, the plant roots are exposed more to air. The water reservoir is below the plant roots, and a small sprinkler system in the tank mists the roots from below. This system provides faster harvests and more abundance of crops. It should be monitored and maintained carefully, though, because if the sprinkler ever stops working, the roots will die quite quickly. It is an excellent hydroponic system for lettuce and other plants.

Nutrients Requirement for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Nutrients are important components of any hydroponic system. For a fertilizer to be incorporated into a hydroponic system it should be soluble in water. There are over 20 elements that are needed for a plant to grow in hydroponics. Generally, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are absorbed from the air and water.

Fertilizer needs are calculated before planting and the vegetable plants automatically receive precise dozing at regular pre-established intervals. Vegetable plants use nutrients efficiently and no waste takes place in the process. Constant intake of nutrients can be observed from the health and vigor of vegetable plants.

Problems with Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

Growing vegetables hydroponically (without soil) will reduce the stress of battling pests and diseases. The problems incurred with hydroponics can be prevented by the way the system is set up. Here are some;

Insects – Keep the vegetable plants fertilized so they stay healthy. Insects are attracted to weak and sick vegetable plants.

Weak light – Nearly all plants need plenty of light. Windows don’t provide enough, then be sure to supplement with plant grow lights.

Plants drying out – Make sure water is getting to all containers. You have to dig another hole or two in the top tray on whichever side isn’t getting enough.

Hydroponics System Leaks – Hydroponic system leaks can occur for a whole variety of reasons. Leaks can occur at any joins or valves in the hydroponic system. The solution is testing your system before planting anything. Tighten any valves and make sure all connections are tight and then secure.

Generally, hydroponic plants are less susceptible to disease than plants grown in soil. Without soil, bacteria and fungi have less opportunity to start themselves. However, certain conditions, such as excess humidity, high temperatures, and lack of direct sunlight can greatly increase the risk of plants developing diseases that can threaten your entire crop. Various features of the system can also cause excess stress to your plants which can make them more susceptible to disease.

Monitor the pH level and concentration of your nutrient solution. Ensure that nutrient solution contains all of the essential macro and micronutrients that your plants require for growth. Monitor your vegetable plants frequently for any signs of disease. If you notice a problem, try to identify the cause and then treat it as quickly as possible.

Tips and Tricks for Growing Vegetables Hydroponically

  • Hydroponics is popular for growers looking for an easy way to deliver nutrients directly to their crops resulting in bigger crop yields each season.
  • Most vegetable plants require at least 6 hours of sunlight each day; 12 to 16 hours is better. Make sure to put the lighting system on a timer, so the lights turn on and off at the same time each day.
  • When growing hydroponically, nutrients are also a key factor. So, it is imperative to have a system to properly measure out and monitor nutrients.
  • Temperature is an important variable to focus on when growing hydroponic plants.
  • Keeping water at the proper temperature for your crops is vital as it can help keep the water oxygenated to prevent the fungus from forming in the tanks.
  • Ideal temperatures are between 20 and 21°C. High-temperature levels cause plants to become stunted, and if the water temperature gets too high, it can lead to root rot.
  • The ideal humidity level for a hydroponic grows room is from 40 to 60% relative humidity. Higher humidity levels especially in rooms with poor air circulation can lead to powdery mildew disease and other fungal problems. Consider a humidifier or dehumidifier to adjust the relative humidity in a hydroponic system.
  • Your grow room should have an ample supply of carbon dioxide; your plants will grow faster. The best way to get carbon dioxide to plants is to make sure the room has a constant flow of air. Invest in a fan or air circulation equipment to improve the airflow if necessary.



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