Last Updated on January 14th, 2020

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DIY Hydroponic Systems – By definition, hydroponics is a water culture method wherein the plant roots are totally immersed in a nutrient-rich and oxygenated solution instead of soil.

What’s even more encouraging for growers is that they can build DIY hydroponic systems which they can use to grow plants all year round.

There are six types of hydroponic systems.

We will explain each type and also discuss how you can combine different hydroponic systems, depending on your situation and needs.

An option is purchasing Best Hydroponics Equipment, Hydroponic kit (see here) or Hydroponic Systems (see here) that can be very economical way to get started.

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Contents

DIY Hydroponic Systems

There are many reasons why hydroponics systems are becoming more popular among hardcore growers, garden enthusiasts, homemakers, and families who simply want to have more plants.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to hydroponics is that it can greatly increase plants’ growth and yield.

There is the potential for plants to mature up to 25 percent faster and produce 30 percent more than the same plants which are grown in soil.

Advantages of hydroponics systems

Why is this so?

Plants have the potential to grow faster and bigger because they don’t need to work hard to get nutrients.

A hydroponics system provides the plants what it needs, so it can grow upstairs fast instead of expanding its root system downstairs.

Uses less water in hydroponic system

A hydroponic system uses less water than soil based plants.

Thus it can be said that a hydroponics system is also environment-friendly because there is a reduction in waste and pollution from soil runoff.

Can build hydroponic system in a small area

Another reason why hydroponics is highly popular these days is because it works well for growers who don’t have a backyard to plant.

Hydroponics can save a lot of space unlike in traditional soil gardening.

Home-based growers can pack their plants closer together.

In fact it is not uncommon to see plants grown in hydroponic systems in apartments and condos.

Challenges of hydroponics systems

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to hydroponics systems.

One is that it can be time consuming to set up a large scale hydroponics system.

If you aren’t the most experienced grower, you could end up ditching the system because of its intricacies.

Managing it is also time-consuming and challenging, as you need to closely watch and balance the pH and nutrient levels on a daily basis.

Perhaps the biggest risk you are taking just in case you try a hydroponic system is the potential to kill off your plants due to a pump failure.

Plants can die quickly in a water culture since the system can’t store water the way soil can.

A pump failure can cut off a fresh supply of water, and that would be enough to kill your plants and waste whatever progress you have made.

Hydroponic Basics and Types of Hydroponics Systems

There are six types or methods of hydroponics systems.

Hydroponic Wick System
Water Culture
Ebb and Flow
Drip
Nutrient Film Technique
Aeroponic

Hydroponic system Wick

Wick is the easiest and lowest costing hydroponic method.

The idea is that a material like felt of wicking rope is surrounded by a growing medium such as perlite.

One end of the wick material is immersed in a nutrient-rich solution, which is then wicked to the roots of the plant.

Wick is best suited for growing small, non-fruiting plants such as herbs and lettuce.

However, it won’t work for large plants that need more water.

Water culture in a hydroponic system

Water culture is perhaps the most popular among home growers.

It is simple and inexpensive to build.

Also known as the reservoir method, this system has the roots of the plant suspended in a nutrient solution.

The latter is oxygenated by an aquarium air pump which prevents the roots of the plants from drowning.

Ebb and flow for a hydroponic system

The third type, ebb and flow, functions by flooding the growing area with a nutrient solution at certain intervals.

The solution then slowly drains back into the reservoir.

To ensure that the process repeats itself at specific intervals, a pump is hooked to the timer.

This allows the plants to get the right amount of nutrients at certain intervals.

This hydroponics system type is best suited for plants that are accustomed to dryness.

Hydroponic system Drip

The fourth type, drip, is also quite simple.

There’s a tank of water where vital nutrients are added, creating a nutrient reservoir.

The water is then released to the plants individually through a network of tubes.

The problem with this system is that it is notorious for clogging due to the particles from nutrients.

Nutrient Film Technique NFT

In nutrient film technique or NFT, a continuous flow of nutrient solution runs over the roots.

The solution is slightly tilted, so that nutrients will flow with the force of gravity.

It is preferred by most growers because the roots of the plant are able to take in more oxygen from the air.

It can also facilitate a fast growth rate because the plants are able to get more oxygen, while the tips of the roots get the nutrient from the solution.

Aeroponics or hydroponic system

The aeroponics system is the most technologically advanced among the six hydroponics systems.

In fact scientists believe that this system will be the solution to man’s food shortage woes in the future.

In this system, the plants are suspended in the air and the roots hanging down below.

A tube pumps up the nutrient solution while another pump of higher pressure sprays the solution as a mist over the roots.

Building your own hydroponic system

When you do it yourself, you can choose from any of the six methods, or combine their principles in building your own hydroponic system.

One reason why DIY hydroponic systems are popular among do-it-yourselfers is that you don’t need to buy a lot of materials for this project.

In fact, you can have a DIY hydroponic system using recycled water bottles.

One note when choosing plastic water bottles is to watch out for the harder plastics. They are often number 7 plastics which you will want to avoid.

This is the plastic made from polycarbonate which is made from Bisphenol-A (also known as BPA) a hormone disruptor.

The best plastics for hydroponics are number 2 and number 5.

Hydroponic System Materials

For this project, you will need a plastic water bottle of any size, a cutting tool like a knife or razor blade, a marker, and a drill or awl.

You will also need a wicking material like a cotton yarn, a hydroponic nutrient solution, perlite, and duct tape.

Hydroponic system Procedure

Start by cutting the top of the bottle using a knife or razor blade at the part where the curve of the upper part of the bottle meets its straight sides.

Turn the upper portion of the bottle and insert it into the bottom, so that its lid is inside the bottle.

Using a marker, mark the point where the lid is. This would serve as the point of reference in adding nutrient solution.

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Then drill a hole in the lid. The hold should be large enough for the wick material to pass through.

Then insert the material into the hole in the lid.

It must be long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle and with at least an inch or two remaining in the top.

Remove the top of the bottle and pour the hydroponic nutrient solution into the bottom part.

Refer to the mark you put on the side of the bottle.

Reinsert the upper portion of the bottle into the bottom, enabling the wick to fall into the nutrient rich solution.

Using the duct tape, secure the top of the bottle to the bottom.

Moisten the perlite with the nutrient solution before placing it on the top of the bottle.

String the wick through the perlite so that it can draw nutrients from the solution and into the perlite-filled top section.

Add the seedling in your hydroponic system

Then put a small seedling in the perlite.

The seedlings should get nutrients from the dampened perlite.

Once the nutrients have been absorbed, more nutrients will be drawn up from the wick.

Hydroponic Kits

You may also buy hydroponic kits if you aren’t fond of DIY.

These hydroponic kits have everything you need to get your home garden started.

There are also instructional manuals to guide you on how to set up the hydroponic system.

But you will still have to watch the systems closely unless you want your plants to die quickly.

While you obviously have to pay upfront for these hydroponic kits, it may well be worth the price if you want to make sure you get things right, and if you want to start right away.

Advantages of Hydroponic vs Soils

As mentioned earlier, hydroponic systems save space compared to traditional gardening.

But there are other advantages of hydroponic systems which make them ideal for home growers.

Save water in hydroponic system

One is that it can save water. Studies show that a hydroponic setup can save as much as 90 percent of water used in traditional soil gardening.

No weeds in a hydroponic system

Second, you don’t need to weed in hydroponics system.

Because there is no soil, there won’t be weeds in a hydroponics set-up.

You can spare yourself of the exhaustion you will get from weeding.

Hydroponic system: No pests and diseases

Plus, there are no pests and diseases to worry about.

Taking away soil from the equation also gets rid of soil-borne diseases that plague traditional gardening.

Hydroponic system Save time

Finally, you can save a lot of time.

You don’t have to water the plants, or weed like in a traditional garden.

Plus you don’t need to put pesticides and fertilizers.

These tasks that you have to do in soil-based gardening aren’t needed in hydroponics systems.

The idea of growing plants in a soil-less environment may sound impossible for the uninitiated.

That is until they learn what hydroponic systems are.

With all these benefits of hydroponics systems, you may want to give DIY hydroponic systems a try.

How To Build A basic Hydroponic System

You don’t have to invest in a lot of expensive, high-tech equipment to start an indoor garden. For less than $75, you can build a basic hydroponic system and get a crop growing. The setup explained here is an adaptation of the design introduced by Bernard A. Kratky, Ph.D., an emeritus horticulturist at the University of Hawaii. He developed the system for urban food growers, though it works for anyone who wants to start a small indoor garden. It needs no pumps, tubing, or maintenance of any kind. With this setup, you can grow eight plants in a fairly small space. It’s the easiest way to begin your first indoor garden, and you can reuse it for years.

Supplies

As with any undertaking, you need the right tools to get the job done well. Hydroponic gardening is no different! Along with a power drill, 2-inch hole saw attachment, and water-soluble organic hydroponic fertilizer for your plants you will need the following tools to help you get started

Directions

  1. Drill 8 evenly spaced holes into the lid of the plastic storage bin. Dump out the shavings and thoroughly rinse the storage bin.
  2. Replace the lid and place a net pot in each hole, making sure they fit securely.
  3. With the lid on and all the net pots in place, fill the bin with water so that about 1/2 to 1 inch of the pots are immersed (about 9.5 gallons in a 10-gallon bin).
  4. Remove the lid. Following the package’s dilution instructions, add the vegetative stage fertilizer to the water in the bin and replace the lid.
  5. Set one rock-wool cube into each net cup.
  6. Place the bin so that the plants’ top leaves are 2 to 4 inches from the grow lights.
  7. In about a week, the leaves should start to grow. Even more importantly, the plants’ roots should extend down into the nutrient solution. The roots should be white, not brown. (Brown roots indicate root rot, commonly caused by lack of oxygen. You can’t cure rotted roots, but carefully stirring up your nutrient solution will introduce more oxygen and prevent further rotting.)
  8. The roots will grow longer as the fluid level drops, so they can continue taking in nutrients to grow. In about 30 days, you will have big leafy plants and only about 10 percent of the original fluid will remain.
  9. If you’re growing a crop for its leaves, they’re ready for harvest at this point. To produce a flowering crop, carefully remove the lid and set it where the roots can dangle without breaking off. Refill the bin to one-third of its capacity with water and add the recommended amount of flowering stage fertilizer. Replace the lid and set the bin so the plants are under the grow lights.
  10. When you are finished harvesting, thoroughly clean the bin. Rinse the bin well before reusing for a new crop.

How Did It Go?

Hopefully you are well on your way to growing plants in your brand new, DIY hydroponic system. It’s always a good feeling to know you’ve built something that will last and provide for you with your own hands. Show off your hard work on our Facebook page for some serious bragging rights and see what other people have done too! If this article was a huge help, consider signing up for our e-newsletter so you can stay informed about new articles, tips, advice, and great offers on products that will help your gardening! For more in-depth information visit our learning center and see how our products can help your lawn and garden today.

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It can be very confusing to get started in hydroponics. Figuring out how it all works, how to choose a system, what to grow, and even HOW to grow are all challenging.

This guide will give you everything you need to know about the basic types of growing systems in hydroponics:

  • The main types of hydroponic systems including their pros and cons
  • A sample build for each type of hydroponic system
  • Video walkthroughs for each system

This is a long and in-depth article, so if there’s a particular section you’re curious about, just use the table of contents below to skip to your desired section. Otherwise, read on!

What is Hydroponics and How Does It Work?

From my article on the history of hydroponics:

Simply put, hydroponics is the practice of growing plants using only water, nutrients, and a growing medium. The word hydroponics comes from the roots “hydro”, meaning water, and “ponos”, meaning labor, this method of gardening does not use soil.

Instead of soil, hydroponic gardeners use different types of growing media, like coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, and more.

In a nutshell, the idea behind hydroponics is to remove as many barriers as possible between a plant’s roots and the water, oxygen, and nutrients it needs to grow (and thrive).

This can be done in many different ways, which is why we’ll look at the different types of systems you can use to grow hydroponically — but first, let’s understand the benefits and downsides of growing without soil.

Benefits

The most blatant benefit of hydroponic gardening is the massively increased growth rate of most plants. It’s not uncommon for a plant to grow at least 20% faster than soil gardening. On top of that, plants will typically yield at least 25% more than their soil counterparts.

A hydroponics vs. soil comparison for Holland Hybrid tomatoes. source

This happens because you’re making it easier for them to get the nutrients they need to grow. When they have to struggle less to find pockets of water or nutrition like they would in soil, they can divert that energy to growth.

It’s important to keep in mind that you only enjoy these benefits if you set up and maintain your hydroponic garden carefully.

Learn More: Hydroponics vs. Soil

Downsides

The biggest downside of hydroponics is the cost of buying a system. However, it’s my aim to teach you how to build most of these systems yourself if you want to, which can reduce the cost.

Another negative is the experience required to run a system successfully. It’s not THAT hard, but it’s certainly more difficult than growing the same plant in soil. This is because you are creating an artificial environment where you provide the water, nutrients, light, and everything else the plant needs — which means you also need to monitor those inputs.

If one of those elements is out of balance, or you have an equipment failure like a pump dying, then your entire garden can be put at risk.

Types of Hydroponic Systems

There are six main types of hydroponic systems to choose from:

  • Wick Systems
  • Deep Water Culture (DWC)
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT).
  • Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
  • Aeroponics
  • Drip Systems

Wicking Systems

A wicking system is the most basic type of hydro system you can build. It’s been used for thousands of years, though it wasn’t considered a hydroponic system back then.

The inner workings of the wick system. source

It’s what’s known as passive hydroponics, meaning that you don’t need any air pumps or water pumps to use it.

Nutrients and water are moved into a plant’s root zone via a wick, which is often something as simple as a rope or piece of felt.

One key to success with a wicking system is to use a growing media that transports water and nutrients well. Good choices include coconut coir, perlite, or vermiculite.

Wick systems are good for smaller plants that don’t use up a lot of water or nutrients. Larger plants may have a hard time getting enough of either via a simple wick system.

Benefits of Wick Systems

  • Truly “hands off” if you set it up correctly
  • Fantastic for small plants, beginner gardeners, and children

Downsides of Wick Systems

  • Not good for larger plants
  • Incorrect wick placement or material can mean death for your plants

To learn even more, learn how to build a two liter bottle garden or watch my video tutorial:

Deep Water Culture (DWC) Systems

Deep water culture, which I will refer to as DWC from here on out, is hands-down the easiest type of hydro system to use.

How a Deep Water Culture (DWC) system works.

In a DWC system, you use a reservoir to hold a nutrient solution. The roots of your plants are suspended in that solution so they get a constant supply of water, oxygen, and nutrients.

To oxygenate the water, you use an air pump with an air stone to pump bubbles into the nutrient solution. This prevents your roots from drowning in the water — a weird thing to think about, but it can (and does) happen to many beginner hydroponic gardeners.

Your plants are typically housed in net pots that are placed in a foam board or into the top of the container that you’re using for your reservoir. With some hydroponic growing media added into your net pots, they provide a home for the very beginning of your root system and plant stems.

Benefits of Deep Water Culture

  • Very inexpensive and easy to make at home
  • Extremely low-maintenance
  • Recirculating, so less wasted inputs

Downsides of Deep Water Culture

  • Does not work well for large plants
  • Does not work well for plants with long growing period

To learn even more:

  • Check out the in-depth deep water culture guide or watch my video tutorial:
  • Check out my video tutorial below:

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Systems

The Nutrient Film Technique, which I will refer to as NFT, is a popular commercial hydroponic system.

The simplest way to set up a NFT system.

Plants are grown in channels that have a nutrient solution pumping through them and constantly running along the bottom of the channel. When the solution reaches the end of the channel, it drops back into a main reservoir and is sent back to the beginning of the system again. This makes it a recirculating system, just like deep water culture.

Unlike deep water culture, your plants roots are not completely submerged in a NFT system — hence the “film” part of the system’s name.

Plants are placed in these channels using net pots and growing medium and can be replaced or harvested on a one-by-one basis.

Benefits of Nutrient Film Technique

  • Minimal growing medium needed
  • Recirculating system means less waste

Downsides of Nutrient Film Technique

  • Pump failure of any kind can completely ruin your crop
  • Roots can become overgrown and clog the channels

To learn more, check out my in-depth nutrient film technique guide or watch my video tutorial:

Ebb and Flow / Flood and Drain Systems

Ebb and Flow systems, which are also known by the name Flood and Drain, are a less-commonly seen system. But they’re still quite effective and can be the best choice depending on your situation.

An example of a commercial flood and drain system.source

Unlike the previous two hydro systems we have covered, an ebb and flow system does not expose the roots of your plants to nutrient solution on a constant basis.

Instead, you grow in a tray filled with a growing medium. The tray is “flooded” with your nutrient solution a few times per day, depending on factors like:

  • The size of your plants
  • The water requirement of your plants
  • The air temperature
  • Where your plants are in their growth cycle
  • …And many more

Flooding is accomplished by using a reservoir below the tray, a water pump, and a timer to schedule the flooding cycle.

After the tray is flooded, gravity drains the solution back down into the reservoir, where it is being oxygenated by an air pump and air stone. It sits there waiting for the next flood cycle, and the process goes on.

Hydroponic growers choose ebb and flow systems for their flexibility. Most of them will fill the tray with a growing medium of their choice and also add net pots to organize their plants and control the roots a bit more.

Benefits of Ebb and Flow

  • Efficient use of water and energy
  • Highly customizable to your specific needs

Downsides of Ebb and Flow

  • Roots can dry out quickly if environmental conditions are off or the pump or timer fails
  • Uses a lot of growing medium

To learn more, check out my in-depth ebb and flow system guide or watch my video tutorial:

Aeroponics Systems

Aeroponic systems are the most “high-tech” hydroponic setups that you can build. But they’re not that complex once you understand how they work.

A simple aeroponic system you can build at home.

An aeroponic system is similar to a NFT system in that the roots are mostly suspended in air. The difference is that an aeroponic system achieves this by misting the root zone with a nutrient solution constantly instead of running a thin film of nutrient solution along a channel.

Some growers prefer to mist on a cycle like an ebb and flow system, but the cycle is much shorter, typically only waiting a few minutes between each misting. It’s also possible to mist on a continual basis and use a finer sprayer to ensure more oxygen gets to the root zone.

Aeroponic systems have been shown to grow plants even quicker than some of the simpler systems like deep water culture, but this has not been verified to be true in all cases. If you want to experiment with this system, you will need specialized spray nozzles to atomize the nutrient solution.

Benefits of Aeroponics

  • Roots often are exposed to more oxygen than submerged-root systems

Downsides of Aeroponics

  • High-pressure nozzles can fail and roots can dry out
  • Not as cheap or easy to set up as other methods

To learn more, check out the video tutorial:

Drip Systems

Drip systems are extremely common in commercial operations, but less common in recreational gardens. This is because they’re simple to operate a a large scale, but slightly overkill for a smaller garden. Regardless, they’re a great way to grow hydroponically that you should consider.

A basic hydroponic drip system.

Benefits of Drip Systems

  • High level of control over feeding and watering schedule
  • Less likely to break
  • Relatively cheap

Downsides of Drip Systems

  • May be overkill for a smaller garden
  • Fluctuating pH and nutrient levels (if using recirculating system)
  • High waste (if using waste system)

To learn more, check out the video tutorial:

Well, there you have it. The six major types of hydroponic systems, how they work, and the ups and downs of each one.

No matter which one you choose, your plants will grow fast and big provided you care for them properly. Hydroponics offers amazing flexibility, so even if you’re experiencing some troubles, you should have no problem correcting them and getting your plants back on track.

All Articles About Hydroponic Systems

If you want to read more about hydroponic systems, have a look at everything else I’ve written about them on the site:

  • The Nutrient Film Technique Explained
  • Deep Water Culture (DWC): What Is It And How To Get Started
  • The Kratky Method: How To Grow Food Almost Automatically
  • The Definitive Ebb and Flow Hydroponics System Guide

9 best home hydroponics kits

Hydroponics might be better known for large-scale underground urban farming – or, ahem, mass-producing marijuana – but it’s also revolutionising horticulture at home. It’s easy to see why: growing hydroponically allows those without gardens to grow food inside, fuss-free, mess-free and all year round.

Hydroponics, quite simply, is the process of growing plants without soil. In most systems the roots are directly suspended in nutrient-rich and perfectly pH-balanced water.

You can grow a variety of plants in a hydroponic system, such as greens, vining plants, root crops, fruits, herbs and even flowers.

You might be thinking: this seems like a lot of effort… why not just grow plants in soil? Well, hydroponic plants grow around 30 per cent faster, they generally produce a higher yield, you don’t need to worry about over or under-watering your plants (meaning they won’t die if you forget to water them for a month) and you can grow seasonal plants, such as strawberries and tomatoes, all year round.

Hydroponic farming en masse is on the rise in urban areas, but now it’s entering the do-it-at-home market, with brands such as Seed Pantry and Ikea offering plug in and play kits.

We’ve tested nine of the best kits available in the UK. The most time-consuming part of growing hydroponically is the setup, and there are some important things to consider before you get growing.

Each plant is different (and a bit picky) when it comes to its ideal growing conditions, so do your research before you get set up. Some kits will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, such as automatically watering the plants and keeping the light on a timer. For more manual setups, you may need to purchase a grow lamp and a timer. Most kits provide nutrients and instructions on how often to feed your plants, and some come with a pH reducer as tap water can be a bit high for optimal growing (plants will still grow, just slower, if you want to avoid the scientific part).

A common problem to watch out for is algae. It’s not harmful to the plants, however, and there are different ways to prevent or remove it, such as keeping your nutrients in a cool, dark place like a cupboard, or refreshing the water and wiping down the tanks. Once everything’s plugged in, it’s time to sit back and relax.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Akarina 01 starter pack: £169.99, Akarina

What’s included: 1 x 0.5g pack gourmet looseleaf salad seeds, 100ml bottle liquid nutrients
Grow cycle: approximately 40 days (5 weeks)
With minimal setup, three removable culture trays – which make seeding and watering extremely easy – and an LED light with an integrated timer and dimmer function, the Akarina 01 is the easiest plug in and play hydroponics kit for the beginner indoor gardener.

It is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing kits we tested and works well in any room as a lamp. The starter pack comes with gourmet looseleaf salad, which excels in a hydroponics system and takes around 40 days to grow (or fewer if you prefer babyleaf).

Younger plants only need watering once a week. Towards the end of the grow cycle, or during a heatwave as we tested recently, you will need to up the watering to twice a week – so it requires a bit more attention than some of the other kits we tested.

The light is timed to be on for 16 hours a day, and can get quite warm to the touch, but this can be adjusted, turned off or dimmed if you prefer.
Due to the white exterior, discolouration from algae is more noticeable. Akarina recommends refreshing the water in the culture trays and wiping them down with a cloth if it becomes excessive. Akarina 01 is the flagship model, but there are two others available that are cheaper and just as aesthetically pleasing.
Buy now

Seed Pantry grow pod 2: £65.00, Seed Pantry

What’s included: three seed packs (includes Italian basil, basket of fire chilli, sweet ‘n’ neat cherry tomatoes), advanced grow medium with nutrients
Grow cycle: around 7 weeks for chillis and tomatoes to appear
A bit smaller than some of the others we tested, Seed Pantry’s grow pod 2 is a simple and affordable kit that fits nicely on a desk or windowsill.
The grow pod itself looks pretty hi-tech and the packaging is modern and 100 per cent recycled. We liked the adjustable LED light, which can be switched on and off and features an inbuilt timer, the smart controller, which beeps when it needs watering, and the seed spacer covers, which clip on the top of the grow pods and space out the plants as they grow.
The kit only comes with enough nutrient-infused growing medium for one cycle, so you would have to purchase more (£3.50) for another harvest. Seed Pantry claims to be mess-free but we had some spillages of growing medium and water, so take care when filling the pods and watering.

You have a choice of Italian basil, basket of fire chilli or sweet ’n’ neat cherry tomato. We chose tomatoes and chillies, which took around 10 days to sprout, and around five weeks to grow to a foot high. No fruit has sprouted yet (at time of writing).
Seed Pantry also offers a seed subscription box and a range of different grow kits, including starter kits for children.
Buy now

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Harvest: £59.99, Amazon

What’s included: six pods gourmet herb seed kit (includes Genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, mint), patented nutrients
Grow cycle: around a month/5 weeks
Miracle-Gro is known for its fertilisers and plant care, so it’s natural that it has branched out into hydroponics (multiple puns intended). It offers several different models but the Harvest, with 6 pods, a red/blue LED system with a timer function and control panel that tells you when to add water and nutrients, is definitely the elite of the bunch, while still affordable.
The Harvest comes with a gourmet herb seeds kit, which includes pre-sewn plugs, featuring Genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil and mint, grow domes for optimal germination and a full season of liquid nutrients. These will need to be purchased again for an additional season.
The kit is extremely easy to assemble and use: we particularly like the adjustable light panel, which can be moved up and down as the plants grow taller, the pre-sewn plugs, which can be placed straight into the unit and are mess-free, and the inbuilt pump, which circulates the water several times a day to prevent sediment buildup for healthier plant roots.
We encountered a problem with some of the plugs: the parsley and thyme failed to sprout at all (on their website Miracle-Gro says it will replace dud pods free of charge), while both species of basil grew much faster and taller than the others, eventually blocking out the light for the dill and mint, stunting their growth. The basils also grew taller than the light panel, and were burnt where leaves touched the light.
Buy now

Ikea Krydda/Vaxer grow kit: £63.50, Ikea

What’s included: growing media, nutrients
Grow cycle: 4-5 weeks
The Ikea grow kit has been doing the rounds on Instagram recently and inspiring a new generation of hydroponic gardeners. It comes with plenty of plugs, growing medium and nutrients for multiple cycles, but seeds are extra (£1.50 per pack). Instructions on how to clean the pumice stones for reuse are also provided.
This kit takes a little longer to set up as it arrives flatpacked (it is Ikea after all) and must be assembled, and also requires you to germinate seeds in a nursery box (which is provided) before planting.

It can be a bit fiddly to replant the delicate seedlings, which are grown on plugs made from stonewool (absorbs water and provides a good base for the roots), into the baskets with pumice stones without damaging them. We found we didn’t plant the plugs deep enough and some of the roots were exposed, which meant the plants could not support themselves and fell over.
However, things get easier once the seedlings have been replanted as there is a water level and a funnel to make topping up easy. The red/blue LED light means you can grow all year round, but doesn’t come with an integrated timer.

The plants grow well and quickly, but can become overcrowded, so it is best to use fewer than the eight provided grow pots and spread them out a bit. Ikea also sells a two-tier version.
Buy now

Alicja Patanowska Plantation hydroponic plant grower: £19.50, Trouva

What’s included: ceramic planters
Grow cycle: varies – eg full-grown garlic bulbs takes months, plants around 6 weeks
Plantation, created by Polish artist and designer Alicja Patanowska, is slightly different to the other hydroponics kits we tested. It comprises four different ceramic pots that can be placed in or under a variety of standard-sized drinking glasses, and is ideal for growing plants such as garlic, onion, potato, herbs or even an avocado, or the perfect solution for rooting grafts.
This method of growing allows both stem and roots to be seen so the entire process can be observed. One of the pots can also be turned upside down to create a mini greenhouse ideal for germination. Nutrients aren’t provided but they can of course be used.
The pots come with detailed instructions on the types of plants you can grow and the best methods of growing, but you are also free to experiment, and flowers work too, such as hyacinth. You can grow things to eat, but in smaller quantities than the other units. We think an assortment of the pots would look great arranged on a shelf. An added bonus: they’re dishwasher safe.
Buy now

Hydromerce grow tub: £14.99, Hydromerce

What’s included: lettuce seeds, nutrients, pH adjuster
Grow cycle: 4-6 weeks
The Hydromerce grow tub contains everything you need to get started with a simple lettuce growing system, takes only a few minutes to set up and is the cheapest on this list.
What the grow tub lacks in looks (it is quite literally… a tub), it more than makes up for in its simplistic design and ease of use. It comes with enough seeds, rockwool plugs and nutrients to run for five cycles, producing a total of 10 lettuces – far more than any of the other kits we tested.
It’s also the only kit to provide a pH reduction solution and testing strips. The pH of tap water tends to be a little high for optimal growing, and this can be detrimental to the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. Hydromerce recommends testing the pH every week and adjusting as necessary, which is not complicated but does add an extra step compared to other kits.
The grow tub doesn’t come with a lamp, but requires plenty of light and warmth so you will need to purchase one if you don’t have a suitable space. Watch out for algae – Hydromerce recommends using aluminium foil to prevent light hitting the box, which will reduce algae growth. It also advises keeping the nutrients in black bag and in a dark space such as a cupboard as the combination of nutrients and light can cause algae to grow.
Buy now

Botanium: £59.00, Botanium

What’s included: growing medium, pipette bottle with liquid nutrients, seeds are extra (basil, chilli pepper, cherry tomato, coriander, £3.30 extra)
Grow cycle: 2-3 weeks for coriander, 4-5 for tomatoes (but no fruit)
Botanium is a “smart” plant pot that automatically waters your plants for you several times a day, meaning no over or under watering, and less fuss and more growth. The water tank lasts several weeks, and features a handy window on one side so you can easily see when it needs topping up. Instead of submerging the plants in water, Botanium uses a porous growing medium that retains a lot of water without draining the roots, while also providing an aerated environment for the roots, meaning faster growth and more control.
The Botanium is suitable for vegetables or flowers, but recommends you plant dwarf varieties that won’t outgrow the container. Seeds (it recommends basil, chilli pepper, cherry tomato and coriander) are extra and cost £3.30 each. The seed packets come with handy instructions for how to plant and maintain, including how much light and nutrients are needed, how long they take to sprout and how tall they will grow.
We grew tomatoes, which take around a week to germinate but 1-2 weeks to sprout. So far (at time of writing), growth has been slow – Botanium recommends carefully removing all but the tallest seedlings to avoid competition and maximise growth, and helping the plant pollinate once flowers have bloomed (after a few months). We also tested coriander, which grew much faster and excelled in a sunny spot on a windowsill.
Botanium doesn’t come with a growing light. In summer, this doesn’t matter too much as there is plenty of light, but if you don’t have a sunny spot in your house or you want to continue growing in winter, you will need to purchase a grow lamp.
Buy now

Harvy cultivation box: £51.44, Blomster Landet

What’s included: 6 sewn plugs (includes 3 lettuce, 3 basil), 250ml bottle special nutrients
Grow cycle: 5-6 weeks
The Harvy cultivation box, a collaboration between Nelson Garden and Hemmaodlat, is the largest of the kits we tested, measuring around 80cm long and with space for six plants. It’s perfect for a windowsill as the LED light can be fixed to the glass with suction cups and moved up and down as plants grow.
The kit comes with six sewn plugs made out of peat and coconut fibre and containing lollo rossa lettuce and Emily basil, and a 250ml bottle of liquid nutrients. There are a variety of other sewn plugs available, or empty ones so you can grow your own. When the plants first sprout, they are very delicate. We accidentally broke the stem of one and it stopped growing, so take care.
Once set up, the box does not need refilling with water for around three weeks – much longer than the other kits we tested. However, it is large and heavy, so be sure to fill it when you’ve found a good spot for it. Nelson Garden also claims the box can be used daily for many years, and all elements are recyclable.
Buy now

Growgreen hydroponic tube: £44.99, Amazon

What’s included: only equipment
Grow cycle: 2 weeks (but no seeds provided)
The EasyIn-06 system from Hong Kong-based Growgreen is a bench-top, tube-shaped hydroponic system with space for six plants. The kit can be purchased on Amazon, but unfortunately does not come with nutrients, seeds or instructions, though it does provide a demo video on its website to guide you through the setup and growing process.
The kit comes with an external pump (with a USB port), which helps to save water and prevent sediment and algae buildup by circulating water (and nutrients, if using) through the tube. Growgreen recommends leaving the pump on for 12 hours a day.
It doesn’t come with an LED lamp so must be placed in sufficient sunlight. The tube itself is double-layered, providing thermal insulation in heat and cold. The kit comes with 12 sponge plugs, but recommends germinating seeds on a damp piece of kitchen paper in a plastic box before transferring to the tube – which can be quite fiddly.
We decided to grow spinach and watercress and found the EasyIn-06 was the perfect environment – we had fully-grown crops within two weeks, which is faster than some of the other kits we tested.
Buy now

The Verdict: Best hydroponic kits

For easy setup and maintenance, a modern style that will suit any room in the house, and fully-grown lettuce in around a month, the Akarina 01 is our best buy. For a more hands on experience, and Instagram fodder, choose the Ikea Krydda/Vaxer. If you want something fuss-free, that you can forget to water for a month, the Botanium is for you.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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for Indoor Gardens

Hydroponics, most often defined as “soilless gardening,” is an intensive method of growing that facilitates abundant yields and year-round harvests. It can be done low-tech or high, simply or not, indoors or out. It’s easily adapted to growing a wide variety of plants: greens, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, even root vegetables, as well as flowering plants of all kinds. Here’s what it is and why it’s become so popular.

Definition: Why Not “Aquiculture”?

The Greek root word “hydro” describes the technique’s liquid nature. “Ponic” suggests work or action. Dr. William F. Gericke, a plant scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, as he explored the possibilities of soilless growing, brought the terms together to form “hydroponic” in the 1920s. At the beginning of his classic 1940 text The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening, Gericke explained the origins of the word:

HYDROPONICS was really the second name to be applied to the science of soilless gardening. The first was “aquiculture,” chosen because of its analogy to “agriculture.” Later it was found that this word had already been used in another connection and so could not be employed again. “Hydroponics” was then selected because of its parallel relationship with “geoponics,” the Greek word meaning “earth working.”

Hydroponic growing is as much about the nutrients as it is about the water. It’s specifically described as growing in a liquid culture. Oxygen, ready for the plant’s taking, is in the culture. Solids, some in dissolved form, also play a role. In addition to the nutrient solutions that supply sustenance to plants, most hydroponic systems use growing mediums such as coconut coir, rockwool, pumice, clay pebbles, or mixes of natural and mineral components, to support roots and promote irrigation. Some, including nutrient film systems which use aeration and moisture conducting matting, rely less on growing mediums than do top-fed, bucket systems filled with clay pebbles or coconut coir. The mediums work hand-in-hand with the solutions, supplying and enabling the feeding of nutrients and oxygen to the plants.

With the right indoor gardening supplies growing hydroponically is easy! Planet Natural has everything you need to produce fresh veggies and beautiful flowers in your own home year round. Got bugs? Visit our Pest Problem Solver for pictures, descriptions and a complete list of earth-friendly remedies.

Hydroponic gardens, once established, makes it simple to provide optimal conditions at all times for your plants’ development. Systems are defined as “active,” in which pumps move the solution between nutrient tanks and plant roots, or “passive,” in which the solution is applied by mechanical means including hand watering. The practice is widely adaptable in scale and complexity and can be made to work in basement corners, warehouse-sized commercial spaces, or outdoors on an apartment balcony or against the side of a garage.

As simple as it can be, growing indoors, like outdoor growing, requires work and attention. An oversight or mistake can have disastrous consequences. While growing in soil provides a safety margin when it comes to moisture and nutrients, growing hydroponically means less, if any tolerance for missed floodings or false-steps in nutrient measurement and application. That said, a well-designed system makes efficient growing easy and even beginners can achieve success. Technology has reduced a lot of the guess work and automated applications. Commercial nutrient solutions make for almost foolproof feeding.

Why Hydroponics?

The advantages of hydroponic growing, some more obvious than others, are many. We think the best reasons to invest in a hydroponic system is often found in winter salad bowls filled with fresh greens, herbs and even tomatoes that have been raised indoors.

Yes, it’s great picking lettuce or basil from a downstairs grow room in February. But it’s also great to be gardening. No longer are the winter months a time of waiting, planning and going through seed catalogs. Gardeners with even small systems can be actively involved in planting, raising and harvesting in the dead of winter.

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Perfect for growing large plants in a small indoor growing area. The General Hydroponics® WaterFarm uses a pump to deliver nutrients from the bottom reservoir up to a drip ring where it is distributed throughout the grow chamber and back into the reservoir. Includes everything you need to get started!

Indoor hydroponic units that extend the gardening season also provide a place for it. They allow apartment, condominium and urban dwellers without access to a traditional garden plot a space to grow plants, from orchids to tomatoes, indoors, any season they might choose.

Hydroponic how-tos always cite the speed and abundance of the results. Yes, growing in controlled hydroponic conditions will yield harvests more quickly than any outdoor, soil plot can, even under the best conditions. This is especially important to commercial growers.

Hydroponic systems make managing staggered planting and harvesting more exacting, no matter the season. They also make it easy to control light exposure and temperature making it easy to control flowering and yields.

Hydroponic gardening has few of the problems that come with soil growing. Because you start with a sterile growing medium, weeds are eliminated. There are no soil borne pests or diseases to cope with.

There’s seldom need for pesticides because there are few pest problems in enclosed systems. When problems do occur, they’re easier to recognize and put down because of the controlled conditions (some indoor pest problems can get out-of-hand if not dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Large operations have significant advantages, making for more production in less space than soil farming. Recirculation of liquid means more efficient use of water than in outdoor, soil growing.

Growing on tabletops or in stacked shelf hydroponic systems makes plants more accessible for inspection and harvesting.

Small, counter-top systems make growing herbs or greens (even radishes) a great family activity during the winter months. Having your young students keep journal records on what and how they’ve grown hydroponic gardens can be the basis of a great science project.

History of Hydroponic Growing

Examples of growing plants in water date back to antiquity. The legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, said to grace the ancient city in the 6th Century B.C.E (B.C.), were described by Greek and Roman writers as lush, stacked gardens through which cascading water from the Euphrates River was channeled. No archeological evidence of the gardens has been discovered at the site of Babylon, but the ruins of similar water gardens have been unearthed.

In Asia, the world’s oldest-known book on subtropical botany, written in the third century, describes techniques for growing vegetables, particularly spinach, on islands floating in water.

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The Aztecs of Mexico, beginning some thousand years ago and continuing until they were overrun by the Spaniards in the 16th century, grew maize, beans and squash on floating islands in the shallow lakes in the valley where their empire was based.

The long, scientific history of hydroponics is a story of discoveries that determined how and which nutrients, including oxygen, were taken up by various plants. It’s also a record of the incremental developments that allowed gardeners to control the conditions that all seasonal and indoor gardens require.

Necessity was the mother of invention. Extending the growing season required protecting plants inside structures that kept out the cold. Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder tells how the Emperor Tiberius raised Mediterranean cucumbers year-round by growing them in pots that were moved to indoor shelters when weather conditions required it. Makeshift Middle Ages cold frames were covered in oil cloth to extend the season. Better quality glass production made greenhouses, both public and backyard, practical.

The early 17th century Flemish scientist and physician Jan Baptist von Helmont whose five-year willow tree experiment is credited with proving the importance of water in conducting nutrients. During those five years, the tree, rooted in the same soil and given nothing but water over the period, was observed to grow normally.

A variety of European and American botanists contributed discoveries that determined how we understand nutrient uptake in plants. Many devoted studies to perfecting nutrient solutions best suited to individual plants and conditions. 19th-century German botanist Julius von Sachs, best known for advancing the concept of photosynthesis, coined the term “water culture” when addressing the raising of plants on nutrient solutions.

In the late 1920s, as commercial growers found they were exhausting their soil with serial cropping, large-scale projects in New Jersey and California attempted to utilize irrigated, “sand culture methods” to grow various vegetable crops. Costs of building and maintaining concrete grow beds, before the arrival of plastic liners, made the practice impractical.

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Cal-Berkeley’s Dr. William F. Gericke’s The Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening made practical application of the accumulated knowledge. In 1929, Gericke began experiments growing vegetables, cereal crops and fruit trees with nutrient solutions. The book, still read, introduced growers of all types to exciting possibilities. Applications of Dr. Gericke’s text found their way into the military. Hydroponically grown vegetables were distributed in the Pacific Theater during World War II and hydroponic produce from Japan was distributed to American hospitals during the Korean Conflict. Soldiers in both invasions of Iraq were fed hydroponic produce grown in the Middle East.

The development of plastics allowed for widespread use of indoor, nutrient solution-based crop raising with bed liners, inexpensive, flexible hosing and seasonal greenhouse covering. Drip irrigation techniques and nutrient film systems were pioneered in the 1960s and by the 1970s, the first commercial nutrient solutions were offered to gardeners. Refinements in equipment and systems, often with a focus on the environment, continue to advance the craft of growing without soil. Advancements in artificial lighting, beginning with fluorescent lights and progressing to high-intensity discharge bulbs and today’s sophisticated, energy-saving LED systems facilitated peak-performance from indoor, year-round growing.

While many of the advancements in hydroponic growing have come from the laboratory, much of the recent progress in the craft has come from individual growers seeking efficiency, increased ease of operation and overall higher yields. The simplest, most practical systems — the kind you might put to use in a corner of the basement or laundry room– combine time-proven methods with the latest equipment adapted to the growers specific needs. In other words, the history of hydroponics could be advancing right in your own home.

The University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences instructional on growing hydroponic tomatoes has a succinct history page that discusses such breakthroughs as the manure-heated glass greenhouses of the 1700s and the discovery and widespread application of plastics have had on its craft and science. Check it out.

Everything You Need to Know about Hydroponic Indoor Growing Systems

Indoor growing can be fast, easy, and fun with a DIY hydroponics setup.

by Alec Lower

Last month, we gave you the ins and outs of how to start your own vegetable garden. Now, with summer heat in full swing, toiling in that summer heat can be exhausting. So why not move the garden inside?

Move the garden inside? That sounds like a lot of dirt on the floor.

Actually, there is no dirt involved at all!

No soil in the garden? Do . . . do you not know how gardens work?

Of course we do. We’re talking about hydroponics.

Ahhhhh yes, hydroponics. What’s hydroponics?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary officially defines hydroponics as “the growing of plants in nutrient solutions with or without an inert medium (such as soil) to provide mechanical support.” In layman’s terms, it’s the process of feeding plants the nutrients they need with a water-based solution instead of naturally through the soil.

Advantages of hydroponics

  • A plant growing in a hydroponic system can grow around 30% faster than a plant grown in traditional soil. This happens because the plant does not need to expend energy in search of nutrients within the soil continuously. Instead, the nutrients are carried right to the plant, and that energy goes to growth.
  • A hydroponic system can use as much as 95% less water than traditional soil-based growing methods. Since the system is enclosed, water used in the growing process is not exposed to the outside world, which reduces evaporation.
  • Environmental conditions don’t play a large role in the success of your crop. Since your plants are growing inside, factors like weather conditions and soil type won’t impact the growth of your crops. You have a lot more control over the growing conditions.

Disadvantages of hydroponics

  • Hydroponics can be an expensive hobby. There are lots of different types of hydroponic systems (we’ll get into those later), but top-end systems can cost more than $500 alone. Fortunately, there are more affordable DIY options.
  • In traditional gardening, the soil stores nutrients that the plants can access on their own. In hydroponics, there is no nutrient storage. That means you’re feeding the plants directly. If something breaks in your system or you forget, your plants will end up just like your Digipet.

As long as you can ensure that your plants will receive the appropriate amounts of nutrients and light, you can set up a hydroponics system pretty much anywhere, including in the comfort of your own home. Pre-constructed systems are available for purchase online, which can become quite expensive, or you can have some fun and make your own. The choice is yours.

Before we start though, here are a couple of terms you should know.

  • Growth tray – Where the plants themselves will sit
  • Reservoir – The bucket or tank that will hold the nutrient solution
  • Nutrient solution – A mix of water and key nutrients plants need to grow and will be supplied to the plant roots
  • Growing medium – the material that the plant will lay roots in (not present in every system)

How do you build your own system?

Building your own hydroponics system can be as simple or as complex as you would like. There are some really simple types of systems that require little effort to set up, and there are some really serious investments you can make. Deciding what kind of system is right for you is the first step. Since we’re betting against most of you wanting to build a $5,000 hydroponics wonderland—because who has time for that?—we’re going to focus on the smaller-scale systems that are best for building in your home.

Wicking systems

A wicking system is the most basic hydroponic system around. It has been called the “training wheels of the hydroponic world” and for good reason. It’s easy to set up and use, making it the perfect system for first-timers.

This system has seen some innovation, but the general concept is older than hydroponics itself. All you’ll need are two containers, your plant of choice, a growing medium, and a wick (hence wicking).

SN Tip: Growing medium is inert, which means it won’t decay, and it provides no nutritional value to the plant. It exists to provide structural support, and that’s about it. Common mediums include things like vermiculite or perlite, but just about anything that will give the plant support and allow it to root can function as a growth medium. Sand is another example.

This wick does not have to be anything particularly specific. A piece of rope or string will work fine. You set up the system so that the reservoir sits below the growth tray. You then run your wick or string from the solution in the bottom container up into the growing medium in the growth tray, as pictured.

SN Tip: The reservoir and growth tray can really be anything. As long as it can hold a solution, it should work. On a small scale, you can use bottles. Large plastic tubs will also work.Source: offgrid.com

Fill the bottom container with the solution and the top with the growing medium and plants and you’re done. Capillary action will move the nutrient solution up the wick and into the growth tray with consistency that will allow the plants to intake the nutrients and grow.

SN Tip: Capillary action has a very sciencey definition, but all you need to know is that it’s the movement of water or another liquid across a surface against gravity. The physical properties of water make this possible and it’s what allows a wicking system to work. SN Tip: fill the bottom reservoir as much as possible in order to minimize the distance the solution has to travel.

The advantage of the wicking system is that it’s super easy to set up and maintain. The disadvantage is that it won’t supply nutrients to the plants at the same rate as some of the more complex systems, so the variety of plants that can be grown in a wicking system is a little smaller. Plants that don’t “drink” as much, such as smaller plants like lettuce or different types of herbs, grow best in a wicking system.

SN Tip: Wicking systems also don’t require the use of a water pump to deliver the solution to the plant roots, making it a “passive system.” Those that do require a pump to move the solution to the plants are referred to as “active systems.”

Deep Water Culture (DWC) systems

A DWC system is a little bigger and a little more complex than a wicking system, but all in all, it’s still relatively simple. This system differs from a wicking system in that it submerges your plant’s roots in solution 24/7 instead of a growing medium that is supplemented by the nutrient solution.

Image: offgrid.com

Because of this, it is critical that the aquatic environment the plants live in is properly managed. pH and oxygen level management are quite important with the DWC. An oxygen pump is necessary to ensure that oxygen levels remain sufficient.

Setting up a DWC only requires one reservoir and does not need a growth tray. The reservoir is filled with a nutrient solution, and the air pump is installed to ensure the appropriate amount of dissolved oxygen.

SN Tip: Smaller DWCs are harder to manage because it’s challenging to keep nutrient concentration, dissolved oxygen, and especially pH levels consistent.

The plants themselves are suspended above or on top of the liquid solution in net pots. Net pots are simply pots with holes in them that allow roots to sit underneath the pot and submerged in the solution. There are several different ways to install the net pots in a DWC system. You can float them, where you attach a flotation device to each pot and allow them to rest on top of the solution. The second option is to suspend your plants in the air above using a brace or a roof with holes in it. The actual process of doing this depends on how you construct your reservoir, but the image below will show you a good example.

Image: aquaponicsexposed.com

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) systems

An NFT system is among the most popular hydroponic systems. It’s an active system that requires a water pump to run, but other than that it is set up very similarly to a wicking system.

Image: offgrid.com

Like the wicking system, an NFT has both a reservoir and a growth tray. Unlike the wicking system, a pump is used to move the solution from the lower reservoirs to the growth trays (or upper reservoirs), where it flows across the tray and drips back into the lower one. The system also requires an air pump to ensure the water is properly oxygenated.

NFT, like any active system, requires a little more maintenance because the water does not reach the plants naturally. You’re dependent on your pumps to keep the plants receiving the nutrient solution. If a pump goes out, your entire garden is at risk. Thankfully, this isn’t common (pump technology isn’t particularly complex), but it is something to stay aware of.

Other systems

An ebb and flow system and a drip system are similar to NFT systems, with the lone difference being how the solution is supplied to the plant. An ebb and flow system uses a pump to flood the growth tray the plants reside in periodically, draining it shortly thereafter. It’s like an NFT except it doesn’t push the solution through continuously. A drip system is also similar to an NFT, but instead of filling the upper reservoir with nutrient solution, the solution is trickled from drip lines on top of the plants in the growth tray, where it then percolates through a growth medium and falls back into the reservoir.

SN Tip: Because of the recirculation of these systems, pH and nutrient amounts can change frequently, so consistent monitoring is recommended.

How do I manage pH?

pH is an absolutely critical element of a functioning hydroponics system. A pH level that is all out of whack can cause plants to die from insufficient nutrient uptake or, believe it or not, too much nutrient uptake.

For anyone who didn’t pay attention in eighth-grade science class, pH is a measure of the acidity of a liquid. The scale runs from 0–14, with lower numbers being more acidic and higher numbers being more basic. For reference, battery acid has a pH of 0, water has a pH of 7, and drain cleaner has a pH of 14.

The reason this is so critical is that the solubility of nutrients changes at different pH levels, which affects the ability of the plant to absorb these nutrients. If the plant has trouble absorbing nutrients from your solution, growth will be stunted, and the plant will eventually die. If levels are too high and the plant absorbs higher than acceptable amounts of nutrients, it can die from poisoning. You can have the coolest hydroponics setup in the world, but if your pH is off, all your plants will still die.

SN Tip: There are multiple ways to test your pH. The easiest and cheapest are pH test strips, which are extremely quick and easy to use and available at any gardening or pet store. You simply dip the strip in the solution, swish it around for a manufacturer-specified amount of time, and then match the color it turns to the color on a corresponding table that comes with the test strips.

As you’ll see below, many plants prefer a slightly acidic nutrient solution. It’s necessary to continually test your solution to ensure it remains at the right pH. If you find it needs adjusting, you have a few options. The easiest is adding “pH up” or “pH down” chemical solutions. These are readily available at the store or online. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how much to add and be sure to check your pH frequently.

What can you grow in a hydroponics system?

You can grow just about any type of fruit, vegetable, flower, or herb. Ideal growing conditions will vary by plant, and some are more suited for specific system types because of it, but almost anything can be grown with hydroponics.

Hydroponic lettuce and hydroponic tomatoes are some of the more common items to “plant” in your system. Lettuce, in particular, is one of the best plants for beginners looking to dive into the world of hydroponics. The leafy green is easy to grow, will grow in a wicking system, and can be harvested in just one short month.

Fruits like strawberries and the aforementioned tomatoes (a tomato is a fruit, deal with it) have a slightly longer grow time, but are good starter crops as well. Below you’ll find some popular plants and key details needed to succeed at growing them.

Lettuce

  • pH range: 6.0-7.0
  • Grow time: 1 month
  • Difficulty: Easy

Tomatoes

  • pH range: 5.5-6.5
  • Grow time: 2 months
  • Difficulty: Easy

Strawberries

  • pH range: 5.5-6.5
  • Grow time: 2 months
  • Difficulty: Easy

Spinach

  • pH range: 6.0-7.0
  • Grow time: 1.5 months
  • Difficulty: Easy

Bell peppers

  • pH range: 5.5-6.5
  • Growth time: 3 months
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hydroponics is a fun way to grow your own fruits and vegetables from the comfort of your own home. It can get complex and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you don’t want it to be. Simple and easy systems exist that will allow you to enjoy fresh homegrown produce at your dinner table.

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Last Updated on January 27th, 2020

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DIY Hydroponic System – We do not have any garden space or soil for planting in our yard.

But that didn’t let that stop us from starting a vegetable garden.

Here’s how we about building a hydroponic garden. Hydroponic Greenhouse

How to Build a DIY Hydroponic Garden

If you haven’t considered setting up a DIY Hydroponic Garden you’re really missing out.

These gardens are the wave of the future, and just about anyone can set them up.

The best part is, they can fit into just about any space, so even those in the smallest apartment can have the garden of their dreams.

I live in a climate which is very hot and dry throughout nine months of the year.

While I have a small yard, there isn’t usable soil for growing a garden.

I don’t know much about gardening, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

I realize it will be a greater challenge with the hot climate.

My goal is to have a year round system to produce herbs, lettuce and other greens without needing to bring in dirt or compost.

Building a DIY hydroponic system was one of the first things I did.

DIY hydroponic System

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Why Should I Build A DIY Hydroponic Garden?

Setting up your very own DIY hydroponic garden comes with a whole plethora of advantages.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your space is, you can set up your garden and watch it flourish.

These gardens also use far less water than traditional gardens and are less vulnerable to harmful pesticides.

Since these types of gardens conserve water and don’t erode the soil, they are environmentally friendly.

Plus, they produce the same delicious crops that you would find in traditional gardens.

How Do I Get Started On My Hydroponic Garden?

If you’re ready to build a DIY hydroponic garden, there are several things that you will want to take into consideration.

Making sure that you give the following steps the due diligence they deserve will help you maximize your garden and get the best returns on what you plant.

How I Built My Hydroponic System

My setup is a free standing, recirculating pump based hydroponic system. Best LED Grow Lights Review – How To Choose

It has a reservoir full of nutrient solution which is pumped through 3/4” PVC tubes up to system of four 4” PVC grow pipes.

The 170-200 GPH fountain pump can push water up to about 7 feet.

Pumping about 170 gallons per hour through the system, it makes for lots of circulation.

Hydroponics System

Hydroponic Reservoir

The reservoir is a standard plastic storage container with a lid.

I keep the reservoir covered to avoid evaporation and prevent debris and critters from entering.

In addition, I put reflective insulation around the reservoir to help deflect direct sun, as that raised the temperature of the water considerably.

Even with the reservoir covered, I have to replenish the system roughly once every two weeks.

A lot of water is lost through the plants themselves and their pots.

Hydroponic Grow pipes

Each of the 48” grow pipes has four grow sites, spaced about a foot apart.

Each grow site has a net pot filled with clay pellets.

I used standard 4″ pipe caps. (They were only about $2 each).

I didn’t cement the ends because I wanted to disassemble and clean the unit as needed.

The pipe ends have a snug fit, but not enough to prevent water leaking, so I wrapped the ends with black PVC pipe tape.

That took care of the remaining leaks.

Each end of the horizontal PVC hydroponics pipe

At each end of each horizontal pipe, I drilled a 3/4″ hole in the PVC for intake or outlet.

You can see that the intake ports are positioned high on the end caps, and the outlets are low.

I did tests during construction to get the position just right.

If it drained too fast, then the standing water level would be too low, and conversely, if the outlet was too high, the pipe would fill up and overflow.

It was a bit of a balancing act there.

In each hole, I put a 3/4″ steel pipe plug with outside threads as a thread tap.

It ended up working pretty well and didn’t cost nearly as much as a real 3/4″ tap and die set.

Hydroponic Water pumped

The water is pumped from the reservoir up to the top grow pipe.

Then it flows through the top grow pipe, down to the next pipe below, and so on.

Finally it drains back into the reservoir.

I try to keep 2″ to 3″ of water in the tubes.

The nice part about keeping it so deep is that if there is a pump failure or other issue with the water supply, there will be some standing water that keeps the plant roots wet and fed for a while.

This happened to me once when the tomato plant roots blocked one of the pipes, causing the tube above to overflow and eventually drain the reservoir.

Once the pump shut off from lack of water, the tubes still had enough water in them to keep the plants alive until I noticed several days later.

Before planting the homemade hydroponics

Before planting anything in the hydroponic system, I had started some beans, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions and peas indoors in a growth medium that I could easily transfer to the net pots.

Not all of my starts took off.

My beans did not survive at all, and all but one lettuce plant died.

I attribute this to planting too soon, before the starts had developed good roots.

In the photo here, you can see the tomato plants are taking off, peas are doing okay and the onions and lettuce are still slow to get going.

Think About Where You Want To Put Hydroponic Garden

Location is everything!

Although these gardens can thrive and exist in all sorts of different sized spaces, where size doesn’t matter location does.

Make sure that the garden is located in a spot where it will not be disturbed.

You will want to find a place that is fully enclosed, private and temperature controlled.

Greenhouses are great options, as are basements.

Simply make sure that your space is safe from the elements, dry, and easily accessible.

If you put your garden in a darker space, like a basement, you’ll want to add lights to it to ensure that the plants are able to grow properly.

Small greenhouse

I put a “green closet” small greenhouse around the structure to help control temperature and filter out some of the intense sun.

The greenhouse is made out of PVC pipe, made rigid with wood bracing and covered in 7 mil painters plastic.

When this greenhouse photo was taken, the tomato plants had grown the most by far.

So much, that I had to remove a few plants due to their roots blocking up the pipes, and to allow for the other plants to get more light.

Later, I added string support for the plants to cling on to. I should have added this support much earlier on.

Set Up Your Hydroponic System

There are several different types of hydroponic gardens.

The hydroponic system or hydroponic garden that’s best for you will largely depend on your skill level, space restrictions, or the amount of time that you are willing to devote to the garden.

Ultimately, most gardens are built out of PVC pipe, which is readily available at any home improvement store.

You just need some standard pipe, a trellis for the plants to latch on to as they grow, and a pump inside of the pipes to distribute nutrients to your new plants.

Remember, these systems recycle water and nutrients, so the pump system is absolutely imperative to the growth of your brand new crop.

You need to cut holes at the top of the pipes and place the plants inside of them.

That will allow the nutrient and water mixture to wash over the roots, fortifying the plants and helping them grow properly.

If you are growing fewer plants, you can always use buckets with holes punched at the bottom.

The nutrients will snake up into the roots.

You can either set up a pump or water the bucket manually.

This s a great option for people who want to grow a few large plants and don’t have a lot of skills when it comes to the mechanics of setting up a PVC pipe hydroponic garden.

Mix The Nutrients And Add The Plants

The nutrients are what will really get the party started in your DIY hydroponic garden.

The general rule is to add one cup of nutrients per 25 gallons of water.

Don’t pop your plants in just yet.

Let the pump mix up the nutrients and water so everything is fully integrated before you add the plants.

It’s time to add the plants.

If you are using seedlings, remember to wash all of the soil off their roots before integrating them into your garden.

It’s important to make sure that you do this very gently because water that is too hot or cold could damage the fragile root system of the plant.

You can buy seedlings at just about any store that sells plants.

Once your roots are nice and clean, you can put them in your PVC pipe or bucket.

Make sure that the roots are firmly encased in clay pellets and accessible to the nutrient and water mixture that is flowing through the pipe or into the bucket.

That way, they will have the best chance to get all of the important nutrients that they need to thrive.

Root system

I was very surprised by the root systems.

Below is a photo of the root system of one of the tomato plants.

These roots actually started to become an issue.

They started to grow so much that they would block the pipes and cause water to back up in the system.

A little bit of a “hair cut” fixed that for a little while.

This is a pot I removed to thin out the garden.

Support The Plants

Here is where your trellis comes in.

Once the plants are securely fixed in your pipe or buckets, it’s time to make sure that they are growing upright properly.

The best way to do that is to tie them to the support system and guide them in their growth.

You want to be very careful with this step.

Seedlings and smaller plants are very vulnerable to shock and breakage.

Think about tying them to the trellis as a way to simply guide their process, not affix them like glue to the support structure.

Supporting the plants is very important if you are operating in a small space, or dealing with multiple plants.

You need to maximize the area while still giving these plants ample room to flourish.

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Start Up The Pump And Watch Your Plants Grow

Now it’s time for the fun part.

Start up the pump and let the garden do the rest.

You can be assured that you’re doing something awesome for the environment, and also creating a garden full of delicious fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy without having to worry about pesticides.

Remember to keep an eye on your plants.

There are times when these plants need to be cut back, so trim them regularly and make sure that they are growing in a straight line.

If you have multiple plants in a single pipe, it’s important to ensure that dominant or aggressive species are not taking over.

Ultimately, have fun on your gardening adventure!

Enjoying the harvest of your hydroponics setup

We used the green onions and lettuce from the setup to make a lot of salads for six (two adults and 4 kids).

Here is a photo of one of those plants.

We just kept cutting leaves off for salads, and they just kept growing back.

DIY hydroponics cost

Overall, the bill of materials cost on the entire unit is well under $100.

I also bought some tools that I didn’t already own, including a 4″ hole saw for $20.

Materials I used to build DIY hydroponic System

  • 170-200 GPH fountain pump
  • 27-gallon plastic storage container with lid
  • 4” PVC pipe: [email protected]
  • 3/4” PVC pipe
  • 4” PVC end caps: 8
  • 3/4” PVC elbows: 8
  • 3/4” steel pipe plugs: 8
  • Flexible PVC fountain tubing
  • Black PVC pipe tape
  • Wood for support frame

Hydroponic Supplies

  • Standard garden seeds and plant starts
  • Standard seed starting medium and starter cells
  • 4” hydroponic net pots: 16
  • Hydroponic clay pellets
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution formulated for growth; I like FoxFarm.

Hydroponic Equipment

Hacksaw and guide for cutting pipe, Drill, 4” hole saw and 3/4” drill bit

If you don’t already own the proper tools, there are several options.

You can ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to borrow them.

Oftentimes, you can rent them from a local hardware store.

And of course, you can buy the tools you need and then use them for future projects.

Best Hydroponics Equipment

All in all, my DIY hydroponics setup has been a good experiment, and we’ve grown a lot of produce.

Advantages to hydroponic gardening

In addition to being able to grow all of this produce in a space space, there are several benefits to growing with hydroponics.

According to hydroponics.net, under the same conditions, the rate of growth for plants in water is 30-5o% faster than when they grow in dirt. They also yield more fruit.

There is less change for bug infestations and diseases.

Because there is more oxygen, it stimulates the roots better.

You won’t need to contend with topsoil erosion, and generally, you won’t need to use pesticides.

Also, it was fairly easy to set up, and it worked well in my small space.

I can’t wait to build my next hydroponic system, refining my ideas with these tips from what I learned.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been successful with in your hydroponics system.

Please share in the Comments.

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Hydroponic Vegetable Gardening

A hydroponic garden is a fun way to grow your own herbs and vegetables. Hydroponic systems use nutrient-enriched water instead of soil, and have existed for thousands of years. “Hydroponics” is a term derived from the Greek words for “water” and “working.” Ancient Egyptians described growing plants in water, and the Aztecs used floating gardens called “chinampas” to grow vegetables.

A floating hydroponic garden is easy to build and can provide you with lots of nutritious vegetables. Best of all, this type of gardening avoids weeds and other pest problems common to soil-grown vegetables.

This hydroponic garden is in custom wooden planter, but using a plastic pool or even a bucket is fine for smaller projects.

Materials Needed

  • Plastic children’s pool or other wide-mouthed bucket
  • 1.5 inch thick Styrofoam™
  • Water-soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 with micronutrients
  • Epsom salts
  • Net pots or Styrofoam™ coffee cups with slits cut in the bottom
  • Hole saw or sharp knife

Plant Selection

Thought and care are necessary when selecting your plants. It is important to note that transplants used for hydroponic gardens should be started in a typical soilless media, such as peat pellets or a prepared potting mix, available from garden centers.

Leafy salad crops usually do quite well in hydroponic gardens. Great cool season choices include lettuces (romaine, Boston, bibb, and leafy lettuces), mustard greens, mizuna, mint, and kale. Additionally, Swiss chard and the broadly named “Asian Greens” group of Brassica cultivars grow well in most hydroponic production systems. Other cool-season veggies don’t fare as well—spinach is disease prone and collard greens tend to get too large.

Using a floating system does not override the normal challenges of gardening in the warm season in Florida. However, there are some crops that can handle higher temperatures well in a hydroponic system. These are basil, Swiss chard, cucumber, watercress, and some cut flowers like zinnia and sunflowers.

Steps

  1. Cut the Styrofoam™ to fit the pool and make sure it has sufficient room to move up and down.
  2. Fill the pool with water to a total depth of at least 5 inches. Keep track of the total gallons of water you add.
  3. Add water-soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 with micronutrients, at a rate of 2 teaspoons of fertilizer for each gallon of water used in the water garden.
  4. Add Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) at a rate of one teaspoon for each gallon of water.
  5. Use a hole saw or sharp knife to cut holes in the Styrofoam™. A 2.5-inch hole saw is needed to drill the correct-size holes into the Styrofoam™ when using 3-inch net pots. Use 1.75-inch hole saw for 2-inch net pots. Bigger plants like Swiss chard, cucumber, and cut flowers need bigger cups to keep them anchored in the water—otherwise they fall out. The hole size should allow the bottom of a cup to be level with the underside of the Styrofoam™. It’s very important that cups do not extend lower than 1/16 inch below the bottom of the Styrofoam™ sheet. This allows the root mass to wick up water without being totally submerged.
  6. Place holes 6 inches from the sides and 12 inches apart.
  7. Place young starter transplants directly into the cups. Use toothpicks, if desired, to hold the transplant in an upright position. Do not remove the potting soil from the transplant. Do not add any potting mix or other material around the young transplant as this will keep the roots too wet and inhibit oxygen intake.
  8. Add extra water and fertilizer as needed to keep the Styrofoam™ sheet floating on a minimum of 5-inches of solution.

If you are growing hydroponically during hot summer months, it is recommended that you install a 30-50% shade cover.

Light rainfall will have little effect on the water garden; only extensive downpours would require fertilizer adjustment based on the amount of water added by rainfall. The solution in the garden needs to be replaced periodically for optimum production. You can grow two crops of salad greens in the same solution before changing the entire solution and starting with a new batch.

Now, stand back and watch them grow. The care is easy. You won’t even need to water your plants, because they get everything they need from the nutrient solution.

Also on Gardening Solutions

  • Vegetable Gardening in Florida Series

UF/IFAS Publications

  • Grow Your Own Vegetables Without Soil
  • Building a Floating Hydroponic Garden

You don’t need a large garden to grow your fresh produce. Nor do you need years of experience to build your own DIY indoor grow system. That is the beauty of hydroponics.

The entire discipline is based on flexibility and inventiveness. There are scores of DIY hydroponics plans floating around the World Wide Web.

Here is a selection of the best homemade hydroponics plans anybody can build. These plans include beginner, intermediate, and expert level setups.

1. The Passive Bucket Kratky Method

The Kratky Method is no doubt one of the easiest hydroponic plans you can start by yourself within several hours.

This system is great for anyone who just gets started with hydroponics. What you need is a bucket, some growing media (like hydroton, perlite), some net pots, hydroponic nutrients, and pH kits. These are all required to set up a passive system (no electricity required) that can run automatically for weeks without maintenance.

You can grow green vegs like lettuces, spinaches at the start or fruits plants like tomatoes after you have got enough experiences.

Difficulty level Beginner (1/5)

2. Simple Bucket Hydroponic System

This is another simple hydroponic setups for beginners. All you need is a 5-gallon bucket, some growing media like coco coir or perlite-vermiculite, and nutrient mix.

The setup works by using the growing media to make a capillary action, which moves nutrients up to the plants roots.

This system is ideal for single large plants. If you want to keep things basic, you can water the system manually.

For an automated system, you will need another bucket for the reservoir, and a submersible pump, and timer.

Difficulty level Beginner (1/5)

3. Simple Drip System With Buckets

Another entry-level option, this is a bit more advanced than the single bucket system above. It can still be cobbled together using parts that cost less $100 in total.

The original plan calls for growing four plants in separate buckets, all fed by a common reservoir. This is a very flexible setup that can be expanded in Future.

You can change the size of the containers, and reservoir depending on the size of plants involved. You can use large 4-gallon buckets or smaller containers.

Remember to buy a larger reservoir in case you want to add more plants to the mix later on.

Difficulty level Beginner (2/5)

4. Aquarium Hydroponics Raft

This is a very cool project to get your feet wet in the world of hydroponics. It is also a great way to get your kids hooked to the field.

As the name suggests, you will need an aquarium fish tank to make this work. This system can be used to grow small beans or even a single large lettuce.

Along with the usual ingredients like nutrients, water, and plants, you will need a raft of barge fashioned out of foam. The system can be passive or active, using pumps and electricity.

Difficulty level Beginner (1.5/5)

5. PVC NFT Hydroponics System

Large 4 inch PVC pipes can be used to create your homemade hydroponics system. In this plan, the plants are placed in cups which are arranged in holders drilled into the pipes.

The system is watered using a reservoir and pump. This is a closed system, with the water circulating between the pipes and the reservoir.

This plan is ideal for growing a lot of small plants within a small area. The basic system can house anywhere from 20-40 plants.

This system can be placed indoors or outdoors. If indoors, grow lights are of course essential.

The hydroponics method used in this plant is called NFT. It is an excellent plan for growing plants like tomatoes.

Difficulty level Advanced (4/5)

6. Hydroponic Grow Box

This DIY plan is a very flexible system that can be moved around quite a lot. It can be made with any sized storage tub or bin. It should have a lid.

The system uses PVC pipes, a submersible pump, and irrigation sprinkler heads to deliver nutrients and water to the plants.

The plants are housed in net cups filled with some growing medium. The lid of the box will house these net cups.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3.5/5)

7. Frame Hydroponic System

The frame hydroponic plan is very similar to the PVC hydroponic system. It uses the same NFT-based principles to feed nutrients and water to the plants.

The difference here is the increased verticality. By adding new layers of PVC pipes at different heights, you can grow more plants in the same space.

The amount of tubing required will increase, as will the complexity of the pumping system.

This particular plan houses the PVC pipes on a wooden rack frame. You can grow herbs and plants like strawberries and tomatoes with this system.

Difficulty level Advanced (4.5/5)

8. Vertical Window Farm

A unique concept that solves the problem of lighting while also creating a fascinating window display for the outside world.

The plan involves using containers to hold plants in a vertical rack setup. Recycled water bottles make perfect containers.

A system of pipes/tubes to bring nutrients from the reservoir to the plants. Lighting is of course provided by natural sunlight. This plan is ideal for herbs, kale, strawberries, and chard.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3/5)

9. Hydroponic Rain Tower Garden

This is another vertical hydroponics plan that uses a tower-like structure. The entire setup can be created for around $500.

The tower is created using a fence post. The plan can be adapted for indoor and outdoor grows.

The plants are housed in net cups that are spaced evenly across the length of the post in recesses cut into the post.

A pump is used to pump water to the of the tower. The water flows down the inside, reaching every plant from top to bottom.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3.5/5)

10. Simple Desktop Hydroponic System

The name says it all. This is a very cheap hydroponics system that can be placed on your desk.

The plan is perfect for a small plant, like a herb or lettuce. This ideal for beginners who don’t have much space to grow.

The plan involves using a half gallon bucket or even a coffee can as the main container. The plant is housed in a net cup with a growing medium like rock wool.

The most expensive part of this setup is a small bubbler.

Difficulty level Beginner (1/5)

11. Mason Jar Kratky Method Hydroponics

This is a low maintenance setup involving no electricity or motors. You have run into the Kratky method from the plan talked above. But this one uses Mason Jar instead of the bucket.

This system requires no special tools or equipment. Most of the components are readily available in homes.

As usual, net cups are used to hold the plants. These are then housed inside the mason jar lids.

The net cups can be homemade using plastic cups that fit into the mouth of the mason jars. The jars are filled with the nutrient solution, and the plant’s roots are allowed to grow into it.

Difficulty level Beginner (1/5)

12. Dutch Bucket Hydroponics

Dutch Buckets are also called BATO buckets. These are incredibly versatile containers that can be used in hydroponics systems of varying complexity.

You can easily have a manual watering system where you apply the nutrient solution several times a day to the plants.

Or you can go for a simple recirculating system using tubes, pump, and PVC pipes. To make an automated system, all that is needed is a simple timer.

This grow system can be used for different sized plants. The larger plants can be given a whole bucket, while several smaller herbs can be housed in the same bucket.

Depending on the scale of the system, you can grow a dutch bucket system indoors, or outdoors in a greenhouses/patios.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3/5)

13. Deep Water Culture Hydroponics

If you want to grow stuff like tomatoes and lettuce indoors, this system is ideal. Growers usually use an opaque plastic storage box is perfect as the primary nutrient solution container.

Depending on the size of the box, anywhere from two to eight plants can be grown in this system.

The only other components require are a bubbler and some air hoses to pump in oxygen into the nutrient solution.

The plants can be placed in net pots, underneath LED grow lights.

Difficulty level Beginner (2/5)

14. Drip Water Hydroponics

Drip systems can be simple or complex, depending on your requirements and budget.

In a passive system, you can forego the pumps and use gravity to bring the nutrient solution to the plants. This will call for some creative placement of the garden and reservoir.

Or you can just use a submersible pump and a network of thin tubing to deliver the nutrient solution is small amounts to the plants.

A growing medium is usually preferred for drip systems. Popular options include coir and perlite-vermiculite.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3/5)

15. Ebb-Flow System

This is another largely inexpensive homemade system that uses a storage tray or tote to house the entire grow operation.

The ebb-flow system involves growing plants in a medium, and flooding the medium with nutrient solution for a few minutes at set intervals. It is also called a flood-drain system.

This system will need a pump as well as a timer for automated operation.

Difficulty level Intermediate (3/5)

16. Stackable Hydroponics

Stackable planters are very popular in smaller gardens to grow a lot of plants in smaller space. But these stacking systems can also be used for hydroponics.

But you will have to factor in the irregular flow into the plants at the lower levels. Stacking is not a very efficient system for hydroponics for this reason.

But it is still worth experimenting, with different plants that have different water and nutrient requirements.

Difficulty level Intermediate (2.5/5)

Conclusion

We have only scratched the surface of diversity in hydroponic systems. Homemade DIY hydroponics is both an art and science.

You can make creative setups that not only produce lush growth but also end up looking aesthetically pleasing as well.

The only limit is your imagination, and of course, the primary concern of getting enough nutrients for your plants!

How To Build A Homemade DIY Hydroponics System Setup Using PVC Pipes Complete Guide

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A homemade PVC hydroponic system made using the appropriate design guarantees to get rid of any kind of problems that are related with the use of the hydroponic system as well as makes its daily use much simpler.

A hydroponic gardening system with PVC pipe can be built using the basic tools that are often found within a household.

You can also use this same system to plant lettuce hydroponically, learn more here.

These tools include:

  • Chalk Line
  • Maker
  • Tape measure
  • Soldering iron
  • Hole saw
  • Hack saw
  • pruning shears
  • Power drill
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The materials include:

  • Four 10 ft 4 inch PVC pipes
  • Eight 4 inch PVC elbows
  • PVC pipe glue
  • Duct tape
  • Hydroponic Submersible Pump
  • PVC primer
  • 4 ft Hydroponic pump hose
  • 6 inch air stones
  • 40 pieces of 16 Oz plastic cups
  • A 30 gallon plastic storage tote with its lid
  • 20 liter bag of expanded clay pellets
  • 2 Sawhorses
Picture Item Description Rating
Genova Products 30107CP 3/4-Inch PVC Pipe Coupling – 10 Pack Four 10 ft 4 inch PVC pipes. 4.6 Check Price
Genova Products 30707CP 3/4-Inch 90 Degree PVC Pipe Elbow – 10 Pack Eight 4 inch PVC elbows 4.3 Check Price
Gorilla Clear PVC PrimaGlue 8oz. PVC Primer and Glue in One Can. 4.4 Check Price
3M Utility Duct Tape 2929 Silver, 1.88 in x 50 yd 5.8 mils (Pack of 1) Duct tape 4.4 Check Price
Superior Pump 91250 1/4 HP Thermoplastic Submersible Utility Pump Powerful 1/4-horsepower Hydroponic Submersible Pump 4.5 Check Price
Oatey 30246 PVC Regular Cement and 4-Ounce NSF Purple Primer Handy Pack PVC primer Cement. 4.6 Check Price
Commercial Duty Pro Garden Hose, 5/8-Inch by 100-Feet 4 ft Hydroponic pump hose. 4.0 Check Price
Active Aqua Air Stone Cylinder 6 inch air stones for aeration and circulating nutrients. 4.4 Check Price
Plastic Assorted Colors Cups 40 pieces of 16 Oz plastic cups. 4.5 Check Price
27 Gallon/102 Liter Industrial Tote, Black Lid & Base A gallon plastic storage tote with its lid. 4.5 Check Price
Expanded Clay Growing Media Hydroponic Aggregate Pebbles Pellets 20 liter bag of expanded clay pellets. 4.6 Check Price
Black ProBrackets Sawhorse, Pack of 2 Two 2×4 basics Sawhorses. 4.4 Check Price

A great place to get quality tools at discounted rates is definitely at Bonanza.

You may also opt to get the latest advanced hydroponics growing kits here.

Once all materials and tools have been collected it is time to get working.

The end result should be a system that is 3 ½ FT by 8 FT and can accommodate up to 36 plants that are 6 inches in height.

The hydroponic garden system should also have the ability to hold up to 15 gallons of water while the nutrient reservoir should hold another 15- 20 gallons.

Best Way to Cut The PVC Pipes

A homemade hydroponic systems PVC pipes should be cut nice and straight into 7 FT 6inches long making sure that none of the pieces are longer than the other.

Cut an additional three 6 inch pieces to be used to make the u-turns using the PVC elbows.

Use the PVC primer to clean the burrs from the pieces that have been cut both on the inside of fitting as well as the end of the pipe.

When gluing the piece together ensure to hold them together for a few seconds so as to avoid them from popping back out.

The glue is applied on the fittings and the end of the pipe approximately 4 to 5 times on each and should cover 1 ½ inches on the end of the pipe.

The pieces should be twisted just a bit in order to shut out any air bubbles. Make three u- turns by pushing each u-turn together and putting it upright on a surface.

DIY PVC hydroponics systems setup are quite simple.

It entails the cutting and assembling of the PVC pipes.

It also includes cutting holes for the plants, reinforcing the hydroponic system and cleaning the system.

Then making the homemade netted pots and most importantly controlling the water level in the pipes.

Lets now do the Gluing together of the cut PVC parts:

It is recommended that once the u- turn pieces are sufficiently dry, the rest of the system should be glued together before the holes for the plants are made.

The elbow should be glued to one of the longer pieces and the other end is glued to one of the u- turns ensuring the elbow is facing up and the upturn is lying flat on the ground.

Glue another u- turn to the other end of the long pipe and ensure it is flat on the ground.

Another long piece is then glued to the other end of the u- turn.

On the other end push on the final 90* elbow without gluing it on.

This elbow should point up in the air to keep the final long piece level during the period as it dries.

Drilling the Plant Holes

It is highly recommended to leave the system to dry overnight before undertaking the task of cutting the plant holes.

This will ease the process and ensure that it does not come apart or dismantle while you are trying to make the plant holes.

The holes should be made at the complete top of the PVC pipe otherwise if it is put a bit off centre then there is a high probability that the system will have a leakage at that spot.

Measure 3 ½ inches in from the elbow and mark it with a dot over the centre line.

Each long pipe should have 9 dots that is drilled to make a pilot hole using a small drill bit to prevent the hole saw from “walking”.

The above works very well with hydroponically grown tomatoes.

Use a thin piece of metal to clean the PVC burrs as soon as all the holes have been cut to ensure that the water pump is not clogged with little pieces of PVC.

Great levers are made from the long pipes. They should not be moved up or down either left or right in high degrees otherwise there is a risk of cracking the system at the u- turn joint.

The distance between the long pipes needs to be measured before cutting three sections of PVC to the length obtained after measuring.

The sections in between the long pipes should be wedged and then duct- taped into place making sure the tape is between the plant holes instead of covering them.

Cleaning Of the System

The system will need to be cleaned and flushed out a number of times after it has been reinforced and is safe from breaking.

The hydroponic system is lifted off the ground and set on a couple of sawhorses.

The rinse water is caught by placing the reservoir at the end of the system.

Water is shot into the PVC pipe using a hose with a good spray nozzle to remove all the PVC burr debris from the pipe.

A toilet brush is also helpful for this procedure.

DIY Hydroponics Netted Pots at Home

16 Oz disposable cups are used to make the netted pots by burning small holes using a smoldering iron. The holes are made on the sides and at the bottom of the cups.

This step should be done in the open air environment to avoid suffocation from the smoke.

The holes should not be large enough to be seen or to let the clay pellets to fall out once the cup has been filled.

Controlling Of Water Levels in the PVC Pipes

A dam hydroponic system is constructed at the end of the system just before the water flows back into the reservoir.

This dam is purposed to keep the water level in the hydroponic system as high as it possibly can without causing any leakages.

You can also use StealthRO 200 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter.

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Find a piece of thin plastic and using a 4 inch piece of scrap PVC, trace out a circle on the plastic and cut it out.

A flat side of the circle that represents the height you would like to maintain is then cut off.

Cut two slits in order to give you a flap that you can bend down in order to fine tune the level of water.

The last elbow is wedged into place at 90* in order to test things out.

The last elbow is not glued but instead is coated with a thin layer of vaseline.

A 24- 30 inch of PVC is attached to the elbow and used to carry water from the homemade hydroponic system back into the nutrient reservoir.

Instead of pointing downwards, this pipe should run at an angle in order to prevent any splashing as well as the sound of falling water.

The end of the pipe should be emerged into the nutrient reservoir and notches cut in the side of the lid of the reservoir so as to accommodate the PVC return and the water pump line.

How To Setup The PVC Hydroponic Gardening System

The homemade PVC hydroponics system is filled with water while the reservoir is filled 1/3 of water.

The pump is then turned on until there is just as much water going back into the system as there is being pumped into the system.

The water level running through the PC pipes should be ¼ inch or less below the discs.

Sections should be raised until the level of water is a similar distance below every plant hole.

The expanded clay pellets should be soaked overnight and rinse repeatedly if brand new.

Place the 16 Oz cups into each plant hole and add the clay pellets to each cup to the a level just above the water level in the cup.

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Stir them with your finger to settle them and ensure that half of them are emerged in water while the other half is not.

Place a 6 inch seedling or clone in each cup as you cover the root and any other cloning material.

It is crucial to add the air bubblers once the plants are in the homemade DIY PVC hydroponic system.

The pump should be turned off after some time to give way for the nutrients to be added to the reservoir.

The strength of the nutrient should be brought up to a level that has already been established in the feeding plan of the homemade PVC hydroponic system.

After all this is done, the lid for the nutrient reservoir is placed back on and the routine for maintaining the nutrient solution is then taken up.

The hydroponic PVC garden is only complete once the lights and fans have been installed.

The 1000 watt light is the most recommended light for the job. It should be put up on a short light mover.

Review Of Best LED Grow Lights to use

  1. VIPARSPECTRA Reflector-Series 300W LED Grow Light Full Spectrum for Indoor Plants Veg and Flower

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This 300W LED grow light is made to have a great PAR per lumen output, which means every bulb is within the correct wavelength for the best photosynthesis.

It provides you with the complete spectrum of wavelengths to help you grow the plants in the perfect conditions at all levels.

Feature:

  • It features state-of-the-art aluminum cooling heat sinks and high-speed rather cooling fans, which run 70 percent cooler than (HID) lights.
  • This product is scientifically made to maintain the balance using high Lumen/PAR and appropriate Coverage.
  • With this light, you will see an improvement in the level of quality by growing larger flowers, which are dense and entirely coated in resin.

This VIPARSPECTRA Reflector-Series 300W LED Grow Light also comes with the following:

  • Protection against overheating: by using upgraded cooling fans and cooling sinks, heat is reduced.
  • Disburses the comparable to 250W MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium); however, it uses a wattage of just 136.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Full spectrum of light to for supporting plants through the veg to flower’s growth stages.
  • It comes with a 3-year warranty and 30-day money back guarantee.

Pros:

  • Low heat
  • Long lifespan
  • Energy efficient

Cons:

  • No veg/bloom switches
  • Only one fan
  1. LED Grow Light, 108W Waterproof growing light bar with UV/IR/Red/Blue Spectrum for Garden Greenhouse Hydroponic Indoor Plants

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This model is particularly great for flowering stage and medical plants to get high yield.

Include the UV and IR to maximize its growth. It offers your money much value and brings excellent growth results.

You can read more reviews from Let’s Tend The Garden.

Features:

  • It gives a high efficient heat dissipation thanks to its aluminum case. It also has 180 degrees adjustable brackets for flexible installation.
  • IP65 Waterproof led grow light bar, ideal for more planting situations, particularly for the greenhouse, hydroponics, etc.
  • Top quality 3w Epileds chips plus high light efficiency, high lumen, high transmittance LENs, and high light penetration
  • It is backed by a one-year warranty.
  • It is a perfect spectrum for plants indoors that grow indoors, particularly for flowering stages and medical herbs. Spectrum is significantly absorbed for maximum production of ChlorophyII A and B.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • It provides optimal indoor cultivation spectrum that boosts growth and harvest
  • It comes with adjustable brackets that improve the flexibility of installation
  • With IP65 waterproof, the light is perfect for different cultivation conditions such as hydroponics
  • Affordable
  • It improves lighting efficiency by gathering light and reducing light loss
  • Top quality

Cons:

  • It heats up fast since it is fitted with a low-cost plastic power supply casing
  1. Roleadro LED Grow Light – Full Spectrum Grow Lights for Indoor Plants from Seeding to Harvest Galaxyhydro-series 300W with UV/IR

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This light offers lots of nutrients- just like photosynthesis.

Good plant growth is efficiently maintained by the spectrum ratio.

It features a 120-degree lens and 5 mil Epileds chips that directly guarantee high PAR value.

It has a quite sturdy frame and simple to plug-in while being ready to use as well.

It comes with aluminum heat sinks and two quiet cooling fans that guarantee even heating.

The heat sink offers good heat dissipation, and the cooling fans aren’t noisy.

Roleadro LED Grow Light ensures you get a productive yield and great results at that, as well.

This light provides the all-important boost for your plants.

It’s correct to state that while there are lots of lights available on the market on a limited budget.

This is one of those available in the marketplace that is a part of the top-notch group, without compromising on the essential features.

Pros:

  • Great cooling system
  • Doesn’t overheat
  • Zero maintenance
  • Two-year warranty
  • Durable
  • Very economical
  • Optimal spectrum for strong and healthy plants
  • Energy saver

Cons:

  • Might not generate the same results as some of the powerful models in the market
  • Not very powerful
  • No feature for manually controlling the spectrum.
  • The coverage area might be small.

A reflective material is then hanged on the one 8 foot side and two 4 foot sides.

At the centre of the 8 foot side, a 12 inch oscillating fan is mounted on a stand and a centrifugal fan of 400 cubic foot per minute is hanged purposefully to push around cool air in and out of the garden area.

The correct Way to Use the System.

The best fact of this system is the fact that you can either decide to plant a seed and nurture it grow from start or you could star off the seedlings elsewhere before finally transplanting them into the hydroponic system.

Most of the time, the hydroponic PVC system acts as a flowering system whereby you can start the seeds elsewhere under regular LED Grow light and then transplanting to the homemade PVC hydroponic system when they are ready to be flowered.

Once the seedlings or clones have obtained a 6 inch height and have roots, then they can be transplanted into the DIY PVC hydroponic system and grown vegetatively for a week.

If any plant dies then it should be removed from the system together with its roots.

However, the disposable cups as well as the clay pellets should remain in place in the plant holes.

Reduce the light cycle for the plants in the PVC hydroponics garden from 24 hours to 12 hours on then 12 hours off with the use of a digital timer.

You may also opt the easy way out and go for the easy to use Aerogrow Miracle garden below.

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Challenges You Are Expected to Encounter

There are various problems that the systems have to overcome.

For instance, the homemade hydroponics system is prone to leakages due to the fact that the water levels must be kept very close from the spilling point.

This ensures that the roots of the plants have sufficient space in order to grow appropriately.

Another problem surfaces itself halfway through the flowering process whereby the root mass increases highly.

This increase hinders the flow and speed of water through the hydroponic system.

The increased volume of the roots does not allow water to move at 360 GPH as the hydroponic pump is set to pump water at 360 gallons per hour.

The best solution for this mishap is to insert a “T” into the water pump line.

The side of the nutrient reservoir was left but the other side of the “T” was fed into the hydroponic system.

This act cuts the GPH to 180 GPH, helps to stop the leaking and to top it off, it does not cause any ill effects to the plants in the system.

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Why We Recommend this System.

In addition to all that, the PVC homemade hydroponic systems can do, there are also other benefits.

The lack of the drip/spray makes this a very reliable and easy to maintain system.

The hydroponic pump in use produces low pressure and hence handles any kind of risk that could result due to failure such as bursting of a pipe which could spray everywhere until the reservoir is empty and could risk electric fault in the system.

The benefit of this system is that it does not spray and therefore a leak will only drip slowly to the ground making it impossible to empty the reservoir as well as making it easy to recollect.

The DIY PVC hydroponic plan minimizes the exposure of light to the nutrient solution and hence prevents the growth of algae.

This also helps in preventing fungus gnats which in turn prevents root damage.

In case of a power black-out, the still water in the system will prevent damage of the roots for a while.

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Last update on 2020-02-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Summary Author Rating Aggregate Rating 4.5 based on 13 votes Brand Name General Hydroponics Product Name DreamJoy HyNFT PVC Hydroponic Pipe Home Balcony Garden

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