Actually, there’s no wrong or right answer to the question. What you want to grow can determine the best hydroponic system for the task. Naturally, you will want to grow more than one type of plant in your garden. And while it might be the most budget-friendly option to have a single system in the beginning, it will limit what you can grow simultaneously due to nutrient needs from one crop to another. One way you can discover the answer of which type of hydroponics system is most efficient would be by staging a growing competition pitting one against the other.
Now you would need to grow all one type and variety of plant to get the best results from your testing. Also, you’ll want to run the same nutrient solution in all of them, and start the seeds on the same day too.
For anyone who suspects that hydroponics would never outproduce soil grown plants, add a few soilless mix grown subjects to your research grow. No, that’s not the same as growing in ground soil outdoors, but it’s closer to that kind of garden environment than your other options. Plus you would need this control group to be grown in the same environmental conditions as your hydro groups, so you couldn’t get the same results growing them outdoors.
I’ve seen a few of these one-garden competitions done in the past, but they were all people testing different nutrients and growing different plants at the same time. Some results were pretty sad. Others it was really hard to tell which setup was best since there’s not much similarities between lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes beyond being edible. Not very scientific, and certainly uninformative, unless you want to learn what not to do.
So today, I came across the video below. The gardener pits soilless media and traditional container growing against two hydroponic systems. The soil-grown plant lost the race. It doesn’t even come close to the efficiency of hydro growing.
Now, if he would just grow everything in the same size container… they never think this stuff through! Even so, if you’re serious about growing tomatoes in the indoor garden, Dutch buckets are clearly the best hydro system for the crop. If he hadn’t been pruning it, that plant would definitely dwarf the ones growing in ebb and flow.