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The Best Plants for Beginners

The Best Plants for Beginners

You’ve decided that growing your own vegetables is the path for you, but knowing what’s going to be feasible can be a challenge.  While we’ve previously written on some of the best plants for hydroponics, such a large starting list can be daunting.  For this article, I’d like to address some of the easiest plants to start growing and which plants are not a good initial investment.  With a springboard of starter crops, moving into more advanced plants or setting up a larger system will be much easier and far more cost-effective than struggling with a large-scale system right from the start.

Easy to Grow Plants

  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Beans

All three of these plants are fairly easy to grow and they’re also great staples of many different kinds of dishes.  Tomatoes are at the top of many hydroponics growers’ lists.  Hydroponic systems typically do not wet the leaves of taller plants. This lack of moisture can be problematic for plants which need regular rainfall to keep leaves watered, meaning repeated sprayings are necessary; however, this is not the case with tomatoes as they do not suffer any health issues from dry leaves.  Additionally, tomatoes thrive in warm conditions.  Being tolerant of warmer climates is especially beneficial if you’re using traditional HID lamps which emit a great deal of heat.  Be sure to keep your tomatoes supported with a stake or trellis, otherwise they won’t be able to support their own fruit.

For lettuce, each plant takes up less room than a tomato plant but you only get a single head per plant.  Then again, a single head of lettuce and a single tomato plant will work for multiple sandwiches, so it can even out.  While growing numerous lettuce plants will take up a lot of horizontal space, they are very simple to grow when it comes to lighting, which is why they are a good starter plant.  Lettuce doesn’t require fancy or expensive HID lighting since it can be grown under traditional fluorescent lamps.  The simple lighting necessary for these plants makes setting up a hydroponics rig much easier.  For large runs, a nutrient film technique (NFT System) works exceptionally well, while a small bucket system is great if you only want to grow one or two plants.

Because of the small size of legumes, a couple of bean poles or bushes are necessary to have enough for more than a few meals.  Otherwise, beans are a very simple plant to grow.  They require fewer nutrients than most plants and only need a stake or trellis if you’ve chosen pole beans over a bush plant.

Hydroponic Problem Plants

  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Summer squash
  • Melons

While you can grow all of these plants hydroponically (with roughly the same benefits as any other hydroponic crop), there’s one very specific problem with all of these plants:  Space, everything else (nutrients, temperature, lighting) can be controlled for.  Corn requires a very high ceiling, meaning a lot of vertical space is necessary.  The other plants are vining plants which spread out horizontally and require a large space for proper growth.  In fact, the number one issue with growing any plant hydroponically is the availability of space.  Always take into account just how much room you have for growing.  Short ceilings? Grow shorter plants such as leaf-greens.  Small closet?  Turn to more vertical plants that won’t exceed your grow lamp height (think tomatoes or pole beans).

If you’re just starting out with hydroponics, remember to keep things simple and scale up.  It’s always easier on both you and your budget to build out.  Starting with tomatoes or lettuce will never go wrong and if space is a concern then you can’t go wrong with a small cherry tomato plant.  What do you think?  Excited to try a hydroponics system for the first time?  Tell us about it or ask any questions you have in the comments below.  You should also follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusLinkedInPinterest, or Instagram for news, tips and DIYs!

Header image used courtesy of a CC Share-Alike license by Mark Mrwizard.

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Lighting in the News -September 2015

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