How Long Does It Take to Grow Hydroponic Vegetables?
Growing vegetables hydroponically has many benefits, including time to harvest. Learn more about hydroponics, the benefits and what to expect.
The flavor and satisfaction of growing your own vegetables can't be beat, but sometimes, the wait for a homegrown tomato or pepper to ripen is excruciating. Does growing hydroponically alleviate some of that wait time?
As with most things in gardening, it depends.
The amount of time it will take to grow vegetables hydroponically is determined by many factors, including the vegetable being grown, the exact variety of that vegetable growing, and the growing conditions. Overall, though, vegetables grown using hydroponic systems under optimum conditions should produce food more quickly than vegetables grown under best conditions outdoors.
What Is Hydroponic Gardening?
Growing hydroponically may seem like a new and complicated invention, but it’s actually a rather simple, time-tested practice that recent technologies have only advanced and made more widespread.
In essence, hydroponic gardening is the practice of growing plants in water instead of soil. There are many methods, some low-tech and some high-tech, but the essentials are the same: Plant roots develop in water, nutrients are added to the water to feed plants via the roots, and a light source (sometimes it’s natural light, but usually it’s artificial) stimulates growth through photosynthesis in the plant leaves.
Many edible plants can be grown hydroponically, including:
- Herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and more
Benefits of Hydroponics
Interest in hydroponic gardening has grown in recent years for many reasons, including its value for both home gardeners and urban farmers, as well as the availability of smaller systems for home gardeners living in small spaces.
Whatever your situation, the advantages of growing hydroponically include:
- Year-round growing, meaning you can grow, harvest and eat vegetables locally beyond the normal growing season; for example, you can grow tomatoes in winter.
- Constant, ideal conditions for growing in terms of light, nutrients and temperature, as compared with growing outdoors, where conditions are determined by Mother Nature.
- Using space efficiently, including growing vertically and in compact areas such as urban apartments.
- A gardening option for those without access to outdoor space, including in high-density urban areas.
- A shorter growing period to harvest, which increases total yields over time whether you’re a hobby gardener or producing for profit.
For any serious gardener really looking to get a lot of bang for their buck, the idea that hydroponic gardening can shorten growing times and increase overall yields is a major draw. For example, a head of lettuce can be harvested in as little as 35 days, which is half or even less than half (depending on the variety) of the normal time it would take to grow a head of lettuce outdoors. There won’t be as much of a discrepancy between time it takes to grow fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, but it will likely be faster growing them hydroponically than growing them outdoors in a regular garden, provided they’re being grown hydroponically under ideal conditions.
Downsides of Hydroponics
While hydroponic gardening is a great solution for gardeners of all stripes, especially those in small spaces and urban areas without good access to outdoor garden space, there are some drawbacks.
These disadvantages may include:
- The initial cost of setup, which varies based on the method and scope but can be expensive.
- Missing out on the physical and psychological benefits of gardening outdoors.
- Possible diminishment of flavor, as many eaters report that vegetables grown hydroponically don’t have the same flavor profiles as those grown outside under the sun.
- The possibility of system failure due to electricity outages and such; just be sure not to rely too much on systems and be engaged yourself as the gardener, too.
Looking to start growing vegetables hydroponically at home? We recommend this tabletop growing system.