Hydroponics is the branch of agriculture, which has advanced considerably quickly in the past few decades. Last year, Canada had set up hundreds of acres of large-scale commercial hydroponic greenhouses, producing peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Growing herbs using hydroponics is a viable choice for most institutions too. For instance, the Golden Rose Restaurant in Mason, Michigan is a French restaurant uses only a 3 by 3-foot square hydroponic herb garden with a 400-watt metal halide lamp to produce enough basil to supply all of the restaurant’s needs.
Many gourmets, fine dining restaurants are already reaping the benefits of hydroponically growing herbs. Additionally, according to research performed at the University of Minnesota, it is now well established that herbs grown hydroponically have twenty to forty percent more aromatic oils than field grown. And hence, a relatively small hydroponic herb garden can provide a continuous harvest of gourmet-quality produce. The rise in a number of hydroponic garden kits available in the market is also proof of the popularity of hydroponic home gardens. But besides purchasing the top garden kits, one must also have the handy guide to grow herbs at home hydroponically.
Many different styles of hydroponic systems with various growing mediums have been used successfully for herb production. For instance, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is excellent for growing the best quality basil in commercial greenhouses, drip systems using Rockwool is capable of producing six foot hedges of rosemary, aeroponic systems are excellent for growing herbs like Echinacea and other medicinal root crops, and flood-and-drain systems with expanded clay pellets are extremely versatile for producing a wide variety of popular herbs. However, for a home garden, one might opt for hydroponic garden kits or simply go with the tried and tested small-ebb-and-flow system, which is quite easy to maintain.
Light plays an important part in photosynthesis and thus the growth of plants too. Many kinds of herbs which are grown indoors react well to full spectrum light, and especially the blue end of the spectrum. Metal halide lights or T-5 high-output fluorescent fixtures which have 6500K tubes are excellent choices for a hydroponic herb garden. One might also want to keep the area of the plot in mind while selecting the light system.
A 400 watt HID grow light system (MH/HPS) or a new 315-watt ceramic metal halide grow light system (CMH) is enough to cover about a 4 X 4-foot square area. A 1000 watt HID grow light system (MH/HPS) can easily cover up to 6 X 6 feet square. Keeping the light about a foot to a foot and a half above the growing tips and raising the lamp as the plants grow is also a handy tip for yielding best results. High output fluorescent lamps, like the T-5, run cooler as in comparison to the others. Placing it closer to the plants, usually, about 6 to 12 above helps in growing the tips.
An oscillating fan which provides good air movement can be a good additive. It will keep the plants cool while also delivering a constant supply of fresh carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Good drainage is also essential for most herbs. Too hot and dry indoor conditions are not suitable for the plants either. Lack of moisture might result in spider mites, whitefly, or aphid damage. You might want to do your homework on the hydroponic nutrients as there are many varieties available in the market.
Herbs such as basil, watercress, anise, thyme, chamomile, oregano, chives, coriander, and lemon balm grow best with hydroponics at home.