What gardener does not want to keep growing food all year round? Maybe you thought this was not possible in the zone 3 gardening climate, but think again!
I purchased a hydroponic grow system 2.5 years ago now, and continue to love it so much! Before growing hydroponically, I had tried to grow lettuce and herbs indoors in soil through the winter a few years in a row, but every time I ran into problems. Aphids that kept re-appearing, fungus gnats, plants growing slowly, forgetting to water... It never did seem to work well for me so I decided to go ahead and invest in a quality hydroponic growing system and haven't looked back since! I couldn't be more please with how easy it is and how little time growing food in my hydroponic tower requires.
Hydroponic Grow Systems by Juice Plus
After doing a fair bit of research, I ended up purchasing the Home model hydroponic grow tower from Juice Plus. The monthly payment option is amazing! You pay the exact same price in the end as it is offered interest free.
There are 2 different models of tower gardens sold by Juice Plus. The main difference is the number of growing cells available. The Flex tower has 20 growing cells and the Home model 32 cells, with 16 of the cells being much closer together and meant for small plants like herbs or mini greens.
Indoor Growing Lights
When you shop these towers you will notice that the lights are sold separately, unless you are in the US and purchasing the Flex Tower Garden package. In Canada the lights are sold separately for the Flex model. I have found the lights to be of remarkable quality. When I ran out of room under my grow lights for my seedlings last April, I took my tower garden apart and used the lights over my seedlings by extending them over a table.
How Much Does a Hydroponic Tower Garden Cost to Run?
Each hydroponic tower garden comes with a pump. The pump has two settings. "I" for Indoor and "O" for Outdoor. When set on the indoor setting, the pump runs for 5 minutes every 45 minutes. The grow lights come with a timer. You will want to set your lights to be on for about 14 hours a day. Between the LED lights and the pump, the hydroponic grow tower cost me on average $6 or $8/month to run.
I have my grow tower in the basement and when the lights are on, we don't need to turn other lights on. So I feel like the cost evens out and probably ends up with no extra cost to run.
(*Note - I refer to my tower as "hydroponic" but technically it is an "aeroponic" growing system because the plant roots do not sit in water, rather water runs through the roots intermitantly. I will continue to use the term hydroponic as that is a more commonly used and understood term.)
How Much Time Does a Hydroponic Grow Tower Require?
You will be very pleased to find out that your hydroponic grow tower requires very little time to maintain. You can go away for 2 weeks and come back to find your plants grew by leaps and bounds while you were gone - without any care whatsoever! Once everything has been set up, the only thing I have to do is add water along with the hydroponic nutrient solution every 2 to 5 weeks.
You can test and adjust your pH more often, but I find it works best not to worry about that unless you see browning at the edges of some of the leaves, or feel like something is off.
Here are how much time you can expect to spend in total:
Setting up your hydroponic tower garden - 1 hour
Planting your seeds - 30 minutes
Initial fill for your tower garden - 10 minutes
Placing plants into the tower - 10 minutes
Topping off water at 2 to 5 weeks - 10 minutes (when the plants are first placed, my tower goes 5 weeks, once they are fully mature I add water about every 2 or 3 weeks)
Doing a full clean of the tower - 2 to 3 hours (I highly recommend soaking parts in citric acid in your bathtub overnight. Once soaked the parts are easy to wipe clean and look brand new again.)
I love how easy it is to maintain my hydroponic tower garden compared to growing in my outdoor dirt garden! I do miss the time spent outdoors, but I get to enjoy the satisfaction of watching plants grow and eating fresh produce with minimal effort all winter long.
What Can Grow Hydroponically?
There are over 200 different plants that can be grown in your tower garden! My personal favorite plants to grow hydroponically include greens like:
Along with herbs such as:
An easy way to grow herbs that take a little longer, like rosemary and thyme, is to buy the hydroponic herb in the grocery store and pop it right into your tower!
Greens and herbs are certainly not the only things you can grow though. You can grow so many things including:
Pretty much, use your imagination. For some of the larger plants like tomatoes and peppers you may want to look into purchasing the support cage that Juice Plus has available.
Plants that do NOT grow well in hydroponics are mostly the root vegetable plants. There is simply not room for these to grow in most hydroponic designs. Plants that do not grow well hydroponically include:
full size onions
I have found spinach does not love my tower garden because spinach is a cool loving plant and our house is too warm. I was able to get spinach to germinate by placing the seed tray in the fridge. Even so, I found it grew slowly and decided to replace it with romaine. Plant spinach early in spring for an April/May harvest or late in August for fall spinach. You can also find more tips on growing spinach outdoors here.
Consider Providing Air Movement for Your Hydroponic Tower
If you are growing any plants prone to powdery mildew, such as tomatoes, cucumbers or squash, providing air movement can be very helpful for keeping leaves dry. A fan can also help with pollination when plants are in bloom. Keep in mind most blossoming/fruiting plants will need to be hand pollinated.
Does Everything You Need Come Included in the Home and Flex Tower Options?
2 gallons of hydroponic solution (this has lasted me 3 years of winter running)
seeds (although I use my regular garden seeds as well)
rock wool (I did purchase extra of this along with my initial purchase and received 10% off)
pH testing/adjusting equipment
water depth monitor
If you have any questions I didn't address here, feel free to email me at zone3vegetablegardening.com. I am happy to hear from you.
How Much Does a Hydroponic Growing System Cost?
*Note - these prices are subject to change. I will try to keep this blog post updated but prices may vary slightly from the last update
When you pay $52 CAN to sign up as a juice plus partner for a year (I promise you, there are absolutely no hidden obligations or pressures to order again) you will receive $187 CAN ($155 USD) back on the Flex model (even when you pay monthly) and $202 Can ($167 USD) back on the Home model.
The Flex Modle growing system is currently $810 CAN (or $67.50/month) and the Home Modle growing system $870 CAN (or $72.50/month). The light kit (if you live in Alberta where daylight is short in the winter I hightly suggest purchasing this, but it IS also possible to use light from windows) is $416 CAN.
As mentioned, there is an amazing 12 month, interest free, payment option. I say it is amazing because when you do it this way it doesn't cost any extra in the end and you can budget into your monthly grocery bill! Before you know it you will be saving money on groceries, rather than paying a bit extra each month.
Small Hydroponic Growing System Options
If you have never grown hydroponically/aeroponically and want to start out smaller, there are many options. You will find most do not have nearly as much room for plants to grow compared to the Home Juice Plus model, but experimenting with a smaller unit might be a good way to begin. Here is one good option available from Amazon.
Disclosure: This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.ca. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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