Many hobbies are nothing short of money pits. You spend a lot of time and investment without the prospect of monetary benefits. But hydroponics can help you save some cash throughout the year.
A far more economical alternative to shopping for groceries is growing your own produce. If you have the space for it, an outdoor garden or greenhouse can supply your kitchen with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs. If you live in an urban area and have no access to open plots of land, hydroponic gardening can be a cost saving option.
Outdoor agriculture is at the mercy of climates and weather patterns and in many places produce can only be grown during the spring and summer. Supermarkets offer imported produce even out of season, but the catch is steep prices. Hydroponics removes climate and seasons from the equation. You can grow your fruits and vegetables throughout the year, even in winters.
Even a small hydroponic system offers several cost saving advantages.
The water and nutrients are recirculated, improving the efficiency of the system. This is in stark contrast to outdoor gardening, which can be very water intensive and wasteful. The same principle is also applicable to the nutrients. You have complete control over the nutrients delivered to each plant. With proper planning, you can produce more with fewer inputs, in comparison to outdoor gardens.
Indoor hydroponic gardens are incredibly productive but realistically they cannot completely replace grocery store shopping. But they can still save money but strategically augmenting your grocery supplies. You can accomplish this by identifying the most expensive fruits and vegetables on your regular shopping list. If they can be grown indoors using hydroponics, you are in luck. Pound for pound, fresh herbs can be some of the most expensive products in a grocery store and yet they are among the easiest plants that can be grown indoors, even without a complex system. An herb garden is a great way for a hydroponic gardener to get started.
Leafy greens like kale, lettuce and chard are also rather expensive when purchased at a store. After herbs, these salad greens are the most popular hydroponic vegetable options. Tomatoes and strawberries are also ideal for year-round cultivation using indoor hydroponics. These fruit plants require higher nutrient and water inputs and a little more care than greens and are best suited for hydroponic growers that are moving out of the beginner stage.
There are several hydroponic gardening kits available for purchase for several hundred dollars per kit. But a homemade DIY system can normally be made for less than $100. If one of your goals is saving money then a DIY system is the best option. The less advanced hydroponics systems are best for the DIY projects. These any Deep Water Culture setup, and the simple NFT, wicking and drip designs. Many of the required components can be found in your home and garage. Or all the parts can be purchased at local garden center. A beginner passive hydroponic system can be built for less than $50.
Max is the author of a gardening blog dedicated to providing in-depth tips about hydroponics and indoor gardening. You can visit it at GreenAndVibrant.com.