8 Dangers of Gardening with Hydroponics

hydroponic gardening

Although hydroponics present a gardener with the possibility of much better plant growth, there are dangers associated with a hydroponic garden. Here we take a look at some of the risks that are associated with this kind of gardening technique.

What Is Hydroponic Gardening?

In hydroponic farms, plants are grown without soil. This means the plants can be grown year-round and do not require the same amount of water as plants found in a traditional garden require.

Hydroponic farms also grow faster, meaning higher yields. As a result, many growers are looking into using hydroponic growing techniques to improve their crop yields and therefore make more money.

The lack of water required also makes hydroponic farms a great option for parts of the country in a drought or for those looking to save on their water bills.

Hydroponic growing is also known for being a great way to get plants the nutrients they need quickly. In more traditional methods of growing, plants have to get nutrients in the soil through their roots.

In a hydroponic garden, however, nutrients are dissolved in the water that surrounds the roots of the plants. This makes it easier for plants to quickly get the nutrients they require to grow. This, in turn, contributes to why these plants are able to grow quicker than plants found in traditional gardens.

hand holding plant with root system

Is Hydroponics Safe for Indoor Gardening?

Hydroponic gardens can be grown either indoors or outdoors. Because of this, they are a great option for people who want to grow plants in poor weather conditions or in the winter.

Hydroponic farms take up less space than traditional gardens, which also makes them a great option for both indoor and outdoor gardening. These gardens are known for being incredibly space efficient.

Are Hydroponic Gardens Safe for the Environment?

Despite requiring more equipment than a traditional garden, hydroponic gardens are safe for the environment. This growing technique uses less water than traditional gardens making it a more environmentally friendly option than a traditional garden in areas that do not get a lot of rain.

A word of caution, however, make sure you understand how to properly dispose of some of the equipment you will use in the garden. The manufacturers of the equipment you use in your garden should be able to teach you how to dispose of it safely.

strawberries growing in hydroponic tube

Hydroponics works in a variety of scenarios—from growing a small collection of herbs in a kitchen all the way up to numerous plants in a large-scale commercial operation.

People with limited or no outdoor space, such as urban residents, apartment dwellers, or renters who can’t have an outdoor garden, find hydroponic growing especially useful.

Many types of plants grow well hydroponically. Some of the best plants to grow in a hydroponics system include herbs, lettuce and greens, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. As a rule, avoid plants that grow tall like corn, have deep taproots like potatoes, or grow in a vining nature.

What Is the Correct Size for a Hydroponic Farm?

Hydroponic gardens can be any size you want. On the small side, hydroponic growing techniques can be used to simply grow a few herbs in your kitchen.

In recent years, hydroponic gardens have also been used for large commercial operations.

They are also becoming increasingly popular in urban areas where people don't have a lot of space to grow because they require less space than a traditional farm.

tomatoes growing in hydroponic setup

What Plants Can I Grow in a Hydroponic Farm?

If you are going to invest in a hydroponic farm, you may be wondering what the best plants to grow will be. You're in luck! While you will not be growing large trees, many plants grow well in hydroponic farms.

Many people grow herbs, vegetables, and fruits in hydroponic farms. Microgreens are a popular choice, as are peppers and strawberries.

Generally, plans that grow tall like corn or have very deep roots or vines are not good options, though, for a hydroponic farm. Moderate sized plants that do not grow too far up or down are better bets for a hydroponic farm.

Before deciding what to plant in a hydroponic farm, make sure to consider what the plants will be used for and how much space you need. If you love making homemade pesto, for example, you may want to grow basil so you don't have to go to the store every time you want to make some pasta sauce.

If your children are big fruit lovers, strawberries could be a great option as your little ones will love seeing them grow, helping you pick the fruit off the vine, and then eating it themself.

Like with traditional farming, consider what plants will grow well together. You may also want to consider the needs of the plants.

Rather than growing multiple plants that need very different types of nutrients and levels of care, you may want to only grow plants with similar needs to make the gardening process a bit easier for you and your family, especially if you are not able to invest in high-end, automated equipment that some growers have.

lettuce growing in water garden

Potential Issues

There are a handful of potential issues with hydroponic gardens. Here are a few of the big ones to keep in mind. With any garden, a little love and care will go a long way. Take precautions early on instead of only reacting to issues after the fact.

This can help you have a strong and beautiful hydroponic farm that you will be able to enjoy for years to come with your friends and family.

1. Electricity and Water

Despite some of the benefits associated with hydroponic farms, there are some downsides. One of the potential issues is the use of both electricity and water near each other.

Electricity and water are dangerous if they are combined, and hydroponics gardening often uses both resources in close proximity.

It is vital that you are aware at all times of where your power leads are in relation to the water supply. This is especially important if you have a system that moves the lighting to simulate a natural day.

It is equally important that you are very careful when performing any electrical maintenance, as the strength of an electric shock is intensified by wet skin.

If you take the necessary precautions, you can still ensure you have a great hydroponic farm but make sure you understand where your water and electricity are coming from and do not mix the two, or there could be deadly consequences.

2. Water Leaks

Water leaks can be a major problem in any garden or watering system, including in hydroponic gardens.

To make sure there are no major issues with your garden, you should check for water leaks in the system at least once a week. It is possible for a leak to create major problems for your property if not detected and fixed early.

Depending on the size and location of the leak, you may be able to correct the problem yourself, especially if you catch the leak early, hence why you should look for leaks frequently.

If the leak is quite large, near an electric line, or you simply don't have the know-how to fix a leak yourself, you will need to call in the professionals to fix the leak for you. If it is a minor leak, it might not cost too much, but a large leak that has been left untreated for a longer period of time could cost a lot of money.

hand cutting pipe

3. Non-Food Grade Plastics

Setting up a hydroponic garden can be relatively expensive, but the importance of using food-grade plastics is often underestimated. Using non-food-grade plastics as an economic measure could contaminate your food crops because dangerous chemicals can leach out of the plastics and into the growing fruits or vegetables.

The whole point of growing food is to be able to eat or sell it, and using non-food grade plastics will make these plans impossible.

If, however, you are simply growing plants like flowers that are meant to be decorative, you may not need to take the same precautions. Hydroponic farms are usually not used for these types of plants, though.

4. Salmonella

Salmonella is another concern to think about when doing hydroponic gardening. Salmonella generally lives in the intestinal tract of animals like birds. People can contract the virus by eating foods that have been contaminated with animal feces from animals who were infected.

Every year there are tens of thousands of cases of Salmonella in the U.S. alone and even more worldwide.

Although water may be circulating in some hydroponics systems, the bulk of it is static. Salmonella can grow quickly in still water and is not always easy to detect. The problem gets intensified when you use chemicals to get rid of microorganisms in your stagnant garden water.

Make sure that the water is being circulated correctly and not exposed to bird feces. Doing so can prevent the spread of Salmonella in your hydroponic setup.

5. Pathogens

The high moisture content of the air around hydroponically grown plants encourages molds and other plant pathogens to grow and spread quickly. This can be avoided to a great extent by paying proper attention to ventilation, especially when plants are in flower or fruiting and are therefore more vulnerable.

Again, these issues can be avoided if you take proper care of your garden. Make sure to check on the ventilation frequently and repair any issues as they arise, even minor ones, before they blossom into major issues affecting the health of your hydroponic garden.

6. Pests

Pests can be a huge concern in both traditional and hydroponic gardens.

Just as pathogens can be encouraged by the damp atmosphere, so are plant pests like spider mites. Spider mites are minuscule, breed prolifically, and drain the sap from leaves.

Fungus gnats, meanwhile, can do enormous damage to root systems.

Thrips also drain sap from leaves and scrape the surface off them.

You will have to be aware of insect pests and use specific insecticides against them rather than a broadband insecticide in order to save your garden once pests do arise.

Be careful to use pesticides that are not dangerous if ingested by you or the people you sell produce to.

Make sure you do a lot of pest prevention. It is better to spend the time and money to prevent pests from coming into your hydroponic garden in the first place rather than having to get rid of them after the fact.

lettuce growing under lights

7. Power Outages

As the nutrients supply in a hydroponic garden is powered by electricity, an outage could be detrimental to the garden. If an outage occurs, and lasts for a considerable period of time, the plants may die out if a supplementary system of nutrition is not implemented.

Therefore, it becomes essential to have such alternative supplies on-the-ready, which increases the costs of setting up such a garden. Still, it is better to have these supplies on hand than having to frantically look for a generator if the power goes out, at which time many others will be in the same boat you are in, and it will be harder to get the necessary supplies.

After even a quick power outage, make sure to check on the garden to make sure everything came back on correctly and your garden is running smoothly.

8. Insufficient Knowledge

The hydroponic technique is intriguing. However, there are several dangers in setting up a hydroponic garden without the right knowledge. Since electricity is involved, the problems may get compounded. If you are planning to have a hydroponically powered garden, you need to do a lot of research first.

If you are creating a hydroponic garden for the first time, consider touring other existing gardens. This may help give you some ideas for your garden. You could also consider enlisting a professional gardening company to build the start of your garden.

When you're ready to get gardening, check out our piece on Building a Hydroponics System.