Hydroponic gardening gets all the fanfare these days, but we shouldn’t overlook the exciting world of aeroponic gardening. As the name suggests, aeroponic gardening is a method of growing plants and vegetables in the air without the use of soil. In fact, NASA has been using and studying aeroponic growing methods for years. In an aeroponic system, a plant’s roots are typically suspended in a somewhat sealed container creating a humid environment perfect for roots to grow. Some aeroponic systems deliver their water and nutrient solution via a mist to the roots. Other types use a slow dripping or pouring method. Nearly all aeroponic systems have some kind of water pump and require electricity. Before we get to the best plants for aeroponic vegetable gardens, I want to highlight some of the benefits of using an aeroponic system.
First, a few frequently asked questions:
- How are the seeds started? It depends on the system, but there is usually some type of growing medium to start the seeds which can also just be water in a jar until they sprout.
- How are the plants fed? They are misted with a nutrient solution.
- Are the vegetables as nutritious as those grown in soil? Yes, and may even be more nutritionally dense because of the balanced nutrients they’re fed. There are also less ways for the food to get contaminated compared to soil.
Benefits of aeroponic vegetable gardening
- Faster yields: Aeroponic plants grow three times faster compared to soil-grown plants
- Year-round growing: When used with grow lights, aeroponic systems can yield crops year-round in various locations around your home.
- Uses less water: According to NASA scientists, aeroponic growing uses 98% less water than growing with soil.
- Less problem with pests and disease: Because aeroponic systems are somewhat sealed, the likelihood of diseases and fungi is reduced. If your aeroponic system is indoors, you’ll also have to deal with fewer pests chomping on leaves.
5 of the best plants for aeroponic vegetable gardens
Lettuce and leafy greens
Lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach and kale grow easily in aeroponic systems. Indoors is best for leafy greens since they are sensitive to temperature shifts. Take advantage of vertical aeroponic systems and grow more lettuce plants without sacrificing too much space.
Tomatoes are one of the best plants for aeroponic growing, especially the smaller cherry and grape varieties. Bigger varieties will do well, too, but you’ll need to build in some structures to hold up the taller plants. Depending on your aeroponic system, you can let the tomatoes hang downward to grow, as well. Growing different varieties is a great idea to stagger harvest times since each variety will mature at a different rate.
When looking for the best plants for aeroponic systems, cucumbers are a great addition. Like bigger varieties of tomatoes, you’ll need to provide a structure or trellis for cucumber vines to cling to as they grow. Or you can let them grow downward if your aeroponic system has space. Grow small and large varieties easily with an aeroponic system. And save some for pickling!
Like the cucumber, peppers will want to climb upward so you may need to add some supports especially for larger varieties of peppers. A tip with peppers is to snip off or pinch the first round of flowers. This will encourage more growth and a larger yield.
Root vegetables, like carrots, can’t be grown in hydroponic systems because their roots will rot. But when it comes to the best plants for aeroponic gardens, carrots and other root vegetables are totally doable. Single-level aeroponic systems are best for carrots so you can easily see when they’re ready for harvest. And don’t let them grow too big or you’ll have trouble getting them out of your aeroponic containers.
Just like hydroponic systems, there are different aeroponic systems to choose from. The start-up price for some systems can be hefty depending on how large a system you get. But once you have a system in place the cost is comparable if not a bit less expensive than outdoor soil gardening.
Have you tried aeroponic gardening? What do you think the best plants for aeroponic vegetable gardens are? Share your ideas in the comments!