Exploring the Pros and Cons of Vertical Hydroponic Towers

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I’ve spent the last two years growing plants with my two vertical hydroponic towers. Living in my flat in London, with a small outdoor garden and limited indoor space, they’re the perfect system for me. But, depending on your specific situation they may not be for you.

Vertical towers excel in hydroponics with their high capacity and small footprint, but they’re best suited for leafy greens, not heavier crops. Depending on your goals, they might not be ideal for your needs.

In this article, I’ll explore the pros and cons of vertical hydroponic towers. We’ll uncover together what makes them great, and not so great, and whether or not they’re the right sort of hydroponics system for you. Let’s dive in.

Pros and Cons of Vertical Hydroponic Towers

For straightforwardness, I’ve compiled a checklist highlighting the primary advantages and disadvantages of vertical hydroponic towers.

Owning two for more than two years has provided me firsthand experience, pinpointing these as the crucial factors to consider if you’re considering buying your first tower.

What is a Vertical Hydroponic Tower?

A hydroponic tower is a vertical growing system in which plants are suspended in net cups instead of soil.

More info: Read my related article Hydroponic Towers: What are they and how do they work?

Nutrient-rich water is pumped to the top of the tower before flowing down over the roots, ensuring each plant gets essential nutrients while maximizing space and efficiency.

Hydroponic towers are one of the most space-efficient hydroponic systems out there. As such, I have found them to be a great way of growing leafy greens at home. Whether indoors or out.

Check out this related article: Outdoors vs. Indoor Hydroponics: Which is better?

Let’s explore the pros and cons in more detail.

The Pros

Let’s start with the pros (which I believe far outweigh the cons). I’ve personally loved owning and operating my two hydroponic towers. There are probably many more pros to add to the list.

However, these are the main ones.

1. Space efficient with a small footprint

Vertical hydroponic towers present one of the most innovative solutions for space-constrained growers. By utilizing verticality, hydroponic towers significantly minimize their overall footprint.

Between my tower towers, I am able to grow in a total surface area of 2.7 ft2. 

2. Saves up to 90% of water

A hydroponic tower, like most hydroponic systems, is a closed-loop system. This means water is recirculated within the system, dramatically reducing waste.

Read this related article: How efficient are vertical hydroponic towers?

As plants absorb only the water they need, the excess can be captured and reused.

3. Large plant capacity

Vertical hydroponic towers boast a large plant capacity, enabling growers to cultivate numerous plants within a compact vertical space.

Related article: The 10 Best Plants to Grow on a Vertical Hydroponic Tower.

This maximization of growth potential within a confined footprint allows for enhanced production. This is particularly beneficial in urban areas where traditional growing is limited, thereby promoting the efficient use of available space.

I can grow 53 plants in total across my two towers. That’s 1 plant for every 0.05 ft2 of space!

4. Easily movable and versatile

Vertical hydroponic towers are celebrated for their versatility and movability.

Adaptable to various spaces and climates, they can be conveniently relocated to optimize light exposure and temperature. This offers growers the flexibility to easily adjust their setups according to changing environmental conditions or spatial requirements, thereby ensuring consistent and optimal growth conditions.

Read my related article: Outdoor vs. Indoor Hydroponics: Which is better?

5. No experience needed

The user-friendly nature of vertical hydroponic towers allows even those with no prior gardening experience to delve into agriculture with ease.

With various automated and semi-automated systems available, beginners can navigate through the basic maintenance and care relatively effortlessly. Hydroponic towers, therefore, offer an accessible entry point into sustainable, personal food production for individuals at all skill levels.

The Cons

There are, of course, cons to owning and operating a vertical hydroponic tower. Here are four of the main ones I have discovered since owning my own towers for the last couple of years.

1. Can be harder to maintain and clean

Regular maintenance is key to ensuring the optimal functioning of your tower. Preventing issues like algae growth and pest infestations, which can jeopardize plant health and yield, is a key consideration.

Depending on how your tower system has been constructed, it can be difficult to get inside the structure itself to keep it clean.

For instance, my towers aren’t modular, so getting your hands inside the tower shaft can be a challenge, requiring additional tools. Nonetheless, cleaning is vital and you must do it.

Check out this article: Cleaning Your Vertical Hydroponic Tower: Step-by-Step Guide.

This requisite for regular upkeep may pose a barrier or unanticipated workload for some users, particularly those new to hydroponic systems.

2. More expensive than other systems

A principal drawback of vertical towers pertains to their initial cost to either buy or construct. This is an issue that has been further exacerbated in recent years as the cost of various essential components of vertical towers has increased significantly.

I purchased my vertical towers from Etsy, from a company called Vertical Horizon. My larger tower cost around $200 and my smaller tower cost around $135.

3. Needs electricity to work

Another notable drawback of vertical hydroponic towers revolves around their dependency on electricity to function. The requirement for constant power to operate pumps, lighting, and any climate control systems means that any disruption in electrical supply can adversely impact the growth and health of the plants.

Additionally, although they do not use much electricity, this does mean that there is an additional cost associated with running the tower.

Read this related article: How much electricity does a hydroponics system use?

4. Limited primarily to leafy greens

A further limitation of vertical hydroponic towers pertains to crop variety, being predominantly conducive to cultivating leafy greens.

Related article: The 10 Best Plants to Grow in a Vertical Hydroponic Tower.

While these systems adeptly support the growth of lettuce, kale, and similar vegetables, they also accommodate certain fruit-bearing plants like tomatoes to an extent.

However, the cultivation of root vegetables remains a challenge due to the system’s design and spatial constraints.

Therefore, the plants that can be effectively grown within vertical hydroponic systems limit growers to a narrower selection of produce than might be desirable or commercially viable in some contexts.

As an aside, one of my favorite things to grow in my vertical towers is lettuce. Check out my article on that.

To sum up

While providing notable advantages like a large plant capacity water efficiency and versatility, they also present growers with some challenges. These include high initial costs, reliance on continuous electricity, and a somewhat limited range of plants to choose from.

So, would I recommend a vertical hydroponic tower to you?

The short answer is yes – absolutely! While the system comes with disadvantages, they are not enough to outweigh the benefits. I have greatly enjoyed growing plants with my two hydroponic towers. They represent a fantastic way for space-limited hobbyists to grow a variety of tasty plants quickly at home.

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William, an experienced consultant and passionate advocate for technology and sustainability, is the founder of Smarter Home Gardens. William's journey into gardening began with the purchase of his first home, which came with a small backyard garden. Despite initial challenges brought about by limited space, soil, and sunlight, William's determination to create a vibrant garden led him to research and experiment with innovative gardening technologies and sustainable practices. Driven by his lifelong enthusiasm for technology and sustainability, William explored various gardening methods, including vertical gardening, hydroponics, companion gardening, and composting. Through these efforts, he realized that it was possible to combine his passions with his newfound love for gardening. Smarter Home Gardens was born out of William's desire to share his research and experiences with others, helping them create smarter gardens that leverage cutting-edge technology and contribute to a more nature-positive world. The blog offers in-depth articles on innovative gardening technologies and methods, helpful 'how-to' guides, reviews of the latest gardening technology, and research on cost-effective garden maintenance solutions. William's commitment to sustainable and technologically-driven gardening has made him a trusted voice in the field. His enthusiasm for creating gardens that work with the planet, rather than against it, is evident in every post he shares on Smarter Home Gardens. Through the blog, William hopes to engage with a wider audience, encouraging others to join him on this exciting journey towards smarter, more sustainable gardens.

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