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Kitchen Gear

I Tried Indoor Hydroponic Gardening and Things Got Out of Control

My kitchen countertop never looked so green

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If you live in an apartment like me, you might have garden envy. Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plant life without soil, something my living space has absolutely none of. Plants grown hydroponically are pumped with all the necessary nutrients they need, so root systems don’t have to expand to search for food. This results in a neat, tidy group of roots on the bottom and a crazy abundant plant on top. 

Step 1: Choose Your Hydroponic System

There are many good hydroponic systems to choose from when selecting what you’ll use to contain your countertop garden. I used the AeroGarden Hydroponic Growing System, but below are a few additional options. 

The AeroGarden system came with six pods of herb seeds, already nestled into soil. My selection included Genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint. Set-up is as easy as popping the herb pods into their spots, filling the system with water and plugging it in. Each system differs, but the AeroGarden has a timed 25W LED grow light that turns off and on as needed. 

Step 2: Feed and Prune

I was stunned when, in a week, my hydroponic garden had sprouts. I hadn’t done a thing! 

Well, at least not a whole lot. The system came with specially formulated liquid plant food that I used – get this – when AeroGarden told me to. It alerted me whenever it was time for a feeding. I also made sure to prune my herbs from the top once they grew about two inches. 

Step 3: Keep Calm and USE YOUR HERBS

I’ve read that hydroponic gardens can grow 40 to 50 percent faster than plants growing in ground soil. But I didn’t anticipate how quickly I suddenly had a luscious forest of herbs. I adjusted the light attachment on the system so that the plants could grow taller, and boy did they. My dill, especially, went absolutely bonkers. For weeks I was tossing dill in everything –  salad, seafood, vegetables, chicken – it was dill-icious. I will admit, I was almost overwhelmed by how quickly the herbs grew and found myself bringing little baggies to neighbors so nothing went to waste.

My Final Thoughts: Hydroponic Gardening is Sup-herb

My once sad, green-less apartment is now a hub for herbs. I’m the herb lady now, a title I happily accept. If I had to offer one piece of advice, it’s to be prepared with recipes that require plants you’re growing.

Additionally, become well-versed in storing herbs so you can extend their shelf life. I personally made the mistake of waiting a bit too long to start snipping and storing, so the tips of my basil shriveled. Cut, wash, and dry the plants to blot away any excess moisture. For hardy herbs, arrange lengthwise on a single layer of damp paper towel, roll them up, and transfer into a zipper-lock bag. For tender herbs, snip off the stem bases and transfer them to a large mason jar with an inch of water on the bottom. 

All in all, I’m having so much fun with the experience and recommend anyone who wants a minimal-effort indoor garden to try it, too. 

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Jones Valley Teaching Farm works to combat hunger in its community through food education. The nonprofit serves K through 12th grade students who might not have access to good, whole foods and want to learn more about farm-to-table meals.

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