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Backyard Hydroponic Systems I Recommend

Grow plenty of healthy produce in your backyard. It’s easy when you choose from our top picks for the best home hydroponic system.

The truth is, a good system makes backyard gardening easy and fun. However, the wrong system might make you wish you had never tried.

On our small family farm, we tried many types of systems. Some worked well. Others created more work than planting in the ground. I’d like to save you the headaches and high costs of choosing the wrong system.

Read on for some very cost-effective choices for hydroponic gardening systems for beginners or pro-gardeners, alike. 


Gardening Trends

The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new and old trends alike appearing. People getting bored at home has become a widespread occurrence. One of the best trends that have come out is gardening, similar to the historic Victory Gardnes. A lot of people find happiness when in nature. Since people were told to stay indoors, they could only stretch their nurturing and creative selves to start gardens in their backyards. 

What’s more, the sweet smells from flowers or the smooth feeling of tomato skin is much more appealing when you know that you made them happen. More and more people have started planting something in their backyards. However, one of the main reasons why so many people are jumping in the trend is that gardening has been made easier through hydroponics.


Hydroponic Gardening

I have already made a relatively detailed article regarding the topic. However, hydroponic gardening simply stated, hydroponic gardening implies using water, with or without materials that are an alternative to soil, in growing plants.  Skipping the use of soil may sound foreign or weird to you, but many people have been doing this and perfecting it throughout the years. Although, way back, it was not as commercially available as now, and people who wanted to try it had to have the necessary technical skills.

With advancements in technology, everyone might easily search and buy the best home hydroponic system they can find on the internet. However, not many people have the luxury of browsing through countless websites and pages to look for what is best for them, especially if you are a beginner in hydroponic gardening. That is why this article focuses on the best hydroponic gardening systems for beginners.

  • Soil vs. Hydroponics

Both gardening options offer advantages and disadvantages. However, the important thing to focus on is not the advantages of soil or hydroponics use, but what you intend to plant and the situation or environment you are in. If you live in a condo or apartment where you don’t have much space for planting, then hydroponics provides a good solution. If you live in a house and have a backyard, a soil garden may better fit you. However, hydroponics offers the ability to grow more produce in less space and with less work involved.

In fact, many turn to hydroponics for its benefits. Even large commercial farms find it useful. However, for any size or placement, you need the best home hydroponic system available for best results.


best home hydroponic system

hydroponic lettuce grows faster than field grown


5 Recommended Kits, the Best Home Hydroponic Systems

A-frame 70 plant hydroponics kit  

This first product is a hydroponics kit that I recommend gives you room for 70 plants to grow at one time. It provides a good hydroponics kit for both beginners and people who have had some growing experience.

70 sites might seem overwhelming. But keep in mind that plants need several weeks to grow. Lettuce, for instance, might be a 5 to 7-week crop. If you start in the seed trays (see below) for two weeks, the plants, then grow on the A-frame for 3 to 5 weeks. Many plants take longer. Lettuce, spinach, and similar greens grow more quickly than other crops.

But, back to our numbers.

If you plant 6 lettuce, 3 spinach, and 4 other types each week, your system remains full. Plant just half that number and add in other crops and your system feeds you week after week. Alternatively, plant half with strawberry plants and use the remainder for greens.

This type of system offers many options. However, it lacks the ability to grow large tomatoes, peppers, and other vining crops. The roots on these plants clog the pipes and the weight overloads the system. More on vining crop systems in a minute.

I like the PVC pipe systems as they serve as clean systems. You use water and nutrient only. The baskets support the plants quite well with no need for any additional medium. Also, they clean easily when needed. In fact, we use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to flush the pipes occasionally. Not only is this safe for the plants, but it creates no danger to humans, either.

 The kit is an indoor or outdoor recirculated Deep Water Culture type and is 1.2” (DIA) x 1.7” (height). It is painted white, can hold up to 70 plants, and has 4 layers and 2 rows. The spacing between each plant is 8 cm apart from each other. The diameter of the hole where the plants are placed is 3.2 cm. 

Plant Choices for this best home hydroponic system

I like this kit for leafy vegetables, herbs, and even fruits such as strawberries. The kit uses non-toxic material and durable PVC-U pipes. PVC-U stands for unplasticized PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and is commonly used to transport drinking water because of how safe it is. Nearly complete, this kit includes sponges, hose and water pump, and small baskets/pots. You furnish a reservoir tank (think small storage bin or large bucket) and the plants!


Pros using this kit
  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The kit produces good quality and high-yielding crops.
  • It is easy to assemble and use.
  • The nutrient solution circulates, ensuring little to no waste.


Cons of using this kit
  • A separate reservoir tank is needed depending on the plants grown.
  • You need to provide your own power strip since the cord for the pump might be too short.
  • The kit does not provide a light source but needs to be placed in a good light source or sunlight-rich environment. 
  • It does not work well for larger vining crops such as tomatoes and peppers.


3 tier 108 plant hydroponic kit 

Similar to the A-frame shown above, the tier system uses PVC pipe and needs no additional medium beyond the net pots to hold the plants. The two systems grow similar plants. Like its A-frame counterpart, the tier system does not handle large tomatoes and peppers.

The Shade Factor

However, you will notice some slight differences in the yield of the tier system when you grow some types of plants. Unplanted, it appears to get enough light. And with smaller plants, it still is not an issue. But if the outer plants grow large, they shade the inner plants. This shading effect caused the inner plants to grow slower or more spindly as they struggle for light.

You have some solutions available to counter this shade factor. The easiest is to keep only shorter plants on the sides and top. Of course, this might limit what you grow. Alternatively, use an additional light source to bring enough light to the center. Another choice is to use multiple systems and move plants as they grow.

My recommendation remains to use smaller plants with this system. The tiers are placed far enough apart that lettuces and herbs work well, if you plant them accordingly.


More Details

This kit is another one that is extremely simple to assemble and use. It is a kit that does not necessarily need experience. But you still need to do a little to make it work effectively.  It works well for people who want relatively bigger gardens or want to plant more crops.

The kit is an indoor timed circulatory Nutrient Film System and has 3 layers with 4 rows of pipes in each layer. It is white, the overall dimensions are 52x51x42 cm, and it can hold up to 108 plants. The spacing for each plant is 8cm, with the diameter of the hole being 1.26 inches. 


Plant Choices for this best home hydroponic system

The kit is suitable for leafy vegetables, fruits, flowers, and plants of your choice. However, you should still mind the size since the holes are meant for small-sized plants. It uses the same durable, non-toxic PVC-U pipes.

Pros using this kit
  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The kit produces good quality and high-yielding crops.
  • It is easy to assemble and use.
  • The circulation mode can be set manually or automatically, saving electricity, water, and nutrient solution costs.
  • As with the A-frame, the system runs clean and recirculates to minimize waste.


Cons of using this kit
  • You may need a stronger pump and a universal adapter.
  • You need to provide your own good light source since it is only for indoors. 
  • The kit needs tube tape for the joints to avoid leakage.
  • The shade factor of inner plants needs to be considered.


Solar-powered hydroponics vining kit 

This kit is a large hydroponic gardening system. It looks complicated at first, but is actually very easy to assemble. However, you have to follow the instructions and do some research for this kit to function at its best.

Versatile, but not perfect

I like this system for its versatility and ability to grow the larger vining crops. However, it does miss some important points. An important issue for me-  I wish it held more plants. For larger crops such as cucumbers, you need to plan only one plant per pot. That makes the system quite expensive on a per plant basis. However, for smaller vining plants such as cherry tomatoes, the cost per plant is much more reasonable.

Similar to the dutch bucket system, this grows a variety of larger vining crops and does an excellent job at it. The overall dimensions of 20x7x7.85 inches, and weigh 9.99 pounds, making it very convenient for even a patio or terrace.  You can use its solar power capabilities or the adapter that comes with it. The kit is a professional-grade and timed watering planter. It also comes with a 20-60 inch extendable climbing trellis for specific plants. 


Plant Choices for this best home hydroponic system

This kit is suitable for almost all types of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and any plants of your choice since the planting pots have a good growing space. You can even grow climbing plants since the kit provides for a detachable and extendable climbing trellis for the vines to latch on to.


Flowers, too

Although roses might not be a top crop for food planning, I’m tempted to try growing climbing roses on the system. I think it would make a beautiful trellis!


Pros using this kit
  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The kit produces good quality and high-yielding crops.
  • It is easy to assemble, use, and clean.
  • The large planting pots make it possible to grow almost any sized plant (except big trees, of course).
  • The waterproof solar panel that it comes with is a wonderful option to cut costs on electricity. 


Cons of using this kit
  • Once the kits are filled with the alternative soil medium and plants and the 3 tanks are connected, they are challenging to move around since the connecting pipes might disengage and leak. And they are heavy.
  • The kit does not have good water circulation, which ends up having stagnant water at times. You could add a small bubbler to aerate the water.


Hydrofarm 10 Gallon vining kit 

For growing up to 6 vine plants, maybe as many as 12 smaller ones, I like the Hydrofarm system. While not practical for larger amounts of crops, it proves quite economical for small family usage. Some even note that it makes a great training unit for learning to grow vine crops. I like that it provides a basic setup that can be used indoors or out. And it allows for mobility when needed.

Plant Choices for this best home hydroponic system

As stated, this system grows most vine crops very well. Although it produces herbs and greens, when tried, I found it did not exceed that of the pipe systems. I recommend this one for vining crops and maybe plant some herbs alongside.

Pros using this kit
  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The kit is portable and can be used indoors or out.
  • It is straightforward to assemble and use.
  • Watering the plants is super easy with the bottom watering design.
  • The materials used are well made or durable. 


Cons of using this kit
  • The growing space is limited.
  • Although it states use for herbs and greens, it is best used for larger crops such as vines that need trellising.
  • I would not recommend it for root crops.


Hydrofarm Root Spa 8, 5 Gallon Bucket System

I really like this Hydrofarm system. In fact, it is modeled after larger commercial systems and proves quite economical for home or small market growers. The Deep Water Culture systems, like this Dutch Bucket one, provide a basic setup that can be used indoors or out.

Although the system could be used indoors, you would need a drain as it drains to the ground. This is typical of Dutch Bucket systems, but something to consider when placing your buckets. In fact, some people have been surprised at the weeds that sprout up near the system. The nutrients and the water feed the plants, but any extra also feeds nearby weeds.

A complete system once set up

This system comes pretty completely. It takes a little extra time to set up, but then functions well with little effort from you. Hydrofarm is also well-known for excellent customer service, should you have any needs.

Plant Choices for this best home hydroponic system

Vine crops grow especially well in this system. Given the bucket media, you might add some small herbs in the buckets, too.

Pros using this kit
  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The system is portable and can be used indoors or out.
  • It is straightforward to assemble and use.
  • Watering the plants is super easy.
  • The materials used are well made or durable. 
  • Provides a good production of most vining crops.
  • Can also be used for some non-vining crops with excellent success.


Cons of using this kit
  • The growing space is limited to 1, possibly 2 plants per bucket, depending on the type.
  • Although it can be used for herbs and greens, it is best used for larger crops such as vines that need trellising.
  • I would not recommend it for root crops as most do not like to stay submerged in water.
  • It does drain to the ground, so has some waste. And it feeds any nearby weeds, too.




5-tier vertical garden kit

I don’t consider this truly hydroponic, but I include it as a choice as it is similar to some hydroponic vertical systems. The problem I had with any of the vertical systems was based on top to bottom. The top plants get the most light and the best of the water and nutrients. The bottom plants receive much less. Except that any waste or dense nutrient flows through to the bottom.

However, I recommend this for some situations

If you plan to grow similar-sized plants and if you have a garden hose nearby, it might work well for you. It certainly provides ample room for most plants, though I hesitate to recommend it for the larger vining ones. I like it best for lettuces and herbs. It works well for root crops, too. But you should consider the cost per plant space. Keep in mind that the soil costs need to be added, too.

Another consideration is that the soil will tend to compact tightly over time. You might have better results if you add enough loose material, pebbles, sand, or similar, to keep the soil from packing. However, this adds to your costs.

Not hydroponic, but still saves space

This kit is a soil-based vertical garden. It is simple to use and has the most minimal amount of assembly required. It uses a unique and patented watering system that waters all 5 tiers effectively and efficiently. Since it is soil-based, it does not require special nutrient solutions or electricity.

This garden kit is an outdoor soil-based vertical setup and 5 tiers with 6 planting pockets each for a total of 30 at maximum capacity. Each tier holds 1 cubic foot of potting mix and has 12 drainage holes for excess water. The item dimensions are 19x19x18 inches and weigh 17 pounds without the plants and soil. It is made out of BPA-Free Food Grade Polypropylene Plastic #5. Polypropylene plastic is a relatively complex plastic, but is considered the safest and widely used commercially.


The kit is suitable for a wider variety of crops, fruits, or plants since the planting pockets are reasonably medium-sized.


Pros using this kit

  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The kit is portable and can be stacked or unstacked as preferred.
  • It is straightforward to assemble and use.
  • Watering the plants is super easy because of the patented design.
  • The materials used are well made or durable. 


Cons for using this kit
  • You need to have a lot of space and proper drainage at the bottom of the stack since the excess water needs to flow out properly to prevent flooding.
  • With the “drain to the ground” such as this system, you have more waste of nutrients and water. Also, it distributes unevenly from top to bottom.
  • The watering system tends to leave stagnant water in its reservoir and might cause problems regarding mold growth



As a bonus, I recommend a top-quality alternative soil medium and growing trays for both soil or hydroponic systems. Our farm uses these in our farm system. We find they also work well with the aforementioned best home hydroponic system products.


Oasis 104×3 ct sheets 


Years ago, a product named rockwool provided growers with a good seed starting medium. It allowed seems to germinate well and proved economical. However, rockwool also showed some negatives. The pH level needs balancing prior to use. And it needs rehydrating prior to seeding. Most growers also complained about the itch created when using it.

Oasis offers a great solution to the problems with rockwool. It does come at a slightly higher price. But our farm chose to use it exclusively over rockwool. It saved us time and frustration.

This alternative soil medium improves root system growth and penetration. The brand is well known in the hydroponic growing community for producing quality goods for the best prices.

The whole order comes with 3 sheets, and each with 104 cells. The overall dimensions of the cubes are 1×1.25×1.5 inches. The sheets are also come with seed holes and are 1.25 inches apart. The cubes separate easily as they come in pre-scored sheets. They just pop apart.


Use Oasis Cubes for which crops?

Oasis cubes work well for all crops, herbs, and other vegetables. They come in many sizes. The main selling point is its porous material. It not only enhances drainage to maintain better oxygen levels, but helps minimize algae growth as well.


Pros using this alternative soil medium
  • The porous material is ideal for crops that need high levels of oxygen to grow properly.
  • The product quality is consistent per cube.
  • It is also sterilized before you get it and requires no protective gear when handling.
  • The cubes can easily be separated since the sheets are pre-scored.


Cons for using this alternative soil medium
  • The porous material tends to make the whole thing a bit fragile, especially when wet.
  • There are reports that the cubes can break down and dissolve after some time. While some consider this a negative, it also proves helpful when separating the roots. And it allows for easier transplanting.


Plant Growing Trays (no holes) 


I recommend these trays for the amazing price to quality value. It comes with 10 plant-growing trays, offering a good product at a fair price. We use them for starting seeds into plants using soil or hydroponic media. They also work well for growing microgreens. And the oasis cubes grow well in these trays.

The tray is approximately 21×11 inches with a depth of 60 mm. The tray is made from durable, non-toxic recycled polypropylene and is excellent for indoor gardening. You can use it to plant microgreens, vegetables, budding seedlings, and other small to medium-sized plants.


Pros using these growing trays

  • The materials used are food-grade and non-toxic.
  • The growing trays serve their purpose well since they are both durable and last long under heat.


Cons for using these growing trays
  • There are reports that the corners of the trays dent easily. 
  • The growing trays are a little more expensive than regular store-bought plastic trays.


Buying vs Building

Many people ask if it is better to build or buy the best home hydroponic system or soil-based kit. The best answer would be to try both. I recommend starting with one of the aforementioned best home hydroponic systems. In fact, try two or three styles to see which fits your needs best. Use these to gain experience.

Then get creative! You might find your purchased system works as a great template if you choose to design your own.  In fact, buying and building your garden systems will give you all the benefits. Will you design another of the best home hydroponic system ideas?


Our Experience

With our family farm, we started with one commercial system. With experience, we learned to incorporate other types of systems for a variety of plants. It helped to have the initial system to learn and build from. Now, 15 years later, I understand the types of systems so much better than when we started.

Recently, one of our adult daughters set out to create a small backyard growing area. I shared with her these Best Home Backyard Systems. Even though she has the knowledge to build her own, she wanted something ready to go. With little time and a small budget, she found that these offered her the best choice for a quick start.

I’ll be sharing her experiences in upcoming articles, too. Please subscribe to receive further updates!



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