Which System Is Right For You?

Ebb and flow, lettuce raft, NFT, Aeroponics! How do you know which one is best for your needs?

In our section "4 Simple Systems" in Simon's box at the end of this page, we will give more detail to help you decide. But for now, a quick introduction to the most basic, but still very popular hydroponic designs.

LETTUCE RAFT- For lettuces, spinach, endive, other low-growing, small, lightweight crops, a lettuce raft is simple, easy and economical. They just thrive on this impressive setup! I have never had a lettuce crop fail on one of these babies. You could start with this system and later add individual pots for tomatoes, celery and peppers.

lettuce raft with Romaine

Baby romaine in one of my lettuce rafts

For a mixed bag; lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, you name it, consider an ebb & flow planting bed. This is a very popular and dependable unit, highly recommended for beginners as well as loved by the pros. This system consists of a large flat basin filled with square pots that have openings in the bottom to let the juices in. There's room for 24 large pots in the 4X4 tray... awesome!

classic ebb and flow garden

Young ebb & flow garden
You can pack a lot of produce into these flats

DUTCH BUCKETS- If you wish to concentrate on the larger, individual potted crops, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, beans, melons or squash, a network of top drip pots (Bato or Dutch buckets) or the wick action Autopots (below) might fit the bill.

top drip Dutch buckets

Dutch Bato buckets, newly planted with
beans, peppers, tomato & eggplants

AUTOPOTS®- Autopots® run themselves without a pump/timer, but are more expensive. They have a patented "smart valve" which waters just the right amount (via gravity feed). They can be left alone for long periods of time.

auto pots

One Autopot module provides 2
large pots. See my cabbages?


Check out our free monthly e-zine offer below. After that, more on hydroponic designs and how they work.

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~If you only want to set up one or two large pots, say for tomatoes or chili peppers, we also offer free plans for a simple independent unit, the Bucket Bubbler.

the bucket bubbler

You can use a combination of any of 2 of these 4 simple systems at the same time. I just love my "split plan", and use it often. It's half lettuce raft and half pots, on a PVC stand. Right now I am growing 20 romaine lettuces (on my raft), 10 ebb & flow pots (6 cabbages, 8 broccoli, a pot of onions and one of carrots). I even piggybacked in an Autopot® on the side for two more cabbage plants. All this in a 4X4 foot space... what a food factory!

brand new garden
split-plan hydroponics garden

         Just getting started               Same garden... 13 days later!


Are you any closer to deciding what type of hydroponics unit to go for? You don't have to decide just yet.

But here's my pick for an excellent and versatile starter unit:

Base unit: 4X4 foot ebb and flow tray. Cheapest way to go; you can easily add a raft. Try Stella's "split plan" with this setup.

Want a "hands-off" system that runs itself for weeks (But costs more)? Opt for Autopots
®. Each 2-pot unit costs $50, though. Ouch! But there's no pump or timer to buy. These are the best pick for the "lazy gardener".

You can fit eight 2-pot Autopot
® units in a 4X4 foot base. If strapped for cash, you could start out with 4 double pot units (at $200) and add a 2X4 lettuce raft. Now that would be sweet! Read more about these full-sized gardens here: U-BUILD-IT.

For more information about basic hydroponic design: lettuce raft, ebb & flow, Dutch bucket top drip & Auto pots®, GO NOW TO 4 SIMPLE SYSTEMS.

Return From Hydroponic Design to What To Grow


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