If you’ve always wanted to build your own hydroponic garden, we don’t blame you. Hydroponics have plenty of benefits! Not only are they beginner-friendly, but hydroponic gardens are also space-efficient and water saving. Studies have found that plants not only grow faster in water than dirt, they also produce more fruits and reduce the growth of pests and diseases. Not to mention, soil-erosion and pesticides are a thing of the past!
This gardening method of the future is hardy and a potential replacement for soil medium in gardening. The following is a complete guide to help get you started on your DIY hydroponic garden.
Do keep in mind that the following recommendations for single-plant hydroponic setups need black buckets that are not only food-safe but also maintain nutrients in the solution and prevent algae growth. Blue tubes are also necessary for stopping algae breeding and easy monitoring of water level. The fourth setup recommendation is for multi-plant hydroponics. You should maintain pH levels at about six for ideal conditions in all cases.
Starting off simple, we have the affordable DIY Drip method. The catch basin doubles as a reservoir while two black buckets and a manifold system for delivering water via a pump are fitted. Water flows downwards and can be time-controlled to suit a plant’s needs.
Taking it a step further, the DWC Bucket method is user-friendly yet highly efficient. Fix an airstone to your pump then place this into a bucket filled with nutrients and water to the level of the roots but not covering them entirely. After adding some clay media to your seeds on the lid of the bucket, simply place the lid on the bucket. As your plants grow, adjust the water level to maintain a 3-to-1 submerged ratio.
Next, the Kratky method is the cheapest and easiest to operate. Other than filling the bucket completely with water and letting the plant roots be aerated instead, the rest of the setup is similar to the DWC Bucket method. That said, this method works best only for leafy vegetation.
Finally, this last method can allow for multiple plants to grow simultaneously by using four-inch PVC pipes as grow beds instead of buckets. Plants are placed in holes cut-out from the top of the pipe. A recirculating fountain pump that brings nutrient solution up from a reservoir (preferably a black bucket fitted with a cover to preserve the system) to the roots of all your plants is also required. The 48-by-4 inch PVC pipes should be about a feet apart, each fitted with caps at the ends to prevent any leakage. Connect the pipes from high to low with smaller pipes; output holes should be lower while intake holes should be higher on the caps for smooth water flow. To buffer against any pumping accidents, ensure two to three inches of water level in the pipes at all times.
Out of these four options, choose the most suitable one for your space, level of experience, and commitment.
Preparatory hydroponic work
Prior to starting your hydroponics planting journey, it is worth noting that if you’re transferring beans, lettuce, or other types of plants, ensure the roots are developed well to make sure it lasts.
No matter the scale, the site of your hydroponics is pivotal. The location should be indoors, private, and accessible. This lets you control the environment to make it ideal for your plants. For instance, you can opt for a greenhouse or even a basement, although you would require additional grow lights for the latter.
The last step before planting is fully mixing the nutrients into the water. As a rule of thumb, for every 25 gallons of water, you will need a cup of nutrients.
Now you’re ready to plant!
It is imperative that you thoroughly clean off all the soil from the roots of seedlings with room temperature water first. Then once you place them in your grow bed of choice, ensure the roots are in contact with the nutrient solution before keeping them in place with clay medium.
Don’t panic if the roots start obstructing the water flow in the pipes. Simply give the roots a trim each time it happens.
As your plants grow out, you need to guide their growth with a trellis or other supporting structure. You have to let these plants grow upright but you don’t have to glue them down to the trellis. This step optimizes your space while allowing sufficient room for your plants to thrive.
Let the pump go and the fun roll! Your hydroponics is great as a sustainable source but it requires constant monitoring and care. If they start growing everywhere, give it a trim to keep it growing upright. Sharing a pipe among multiple plants also puts the weaker plants at risk of being overshadowed by more potent ones.
Expenditure for a DIY hydroponics
The materials for DIY hydroponics include pipes, pumps, nutrient mixture, supporting structures, medium, and plants. The list differs across different hydroponic setups but an average one will cost about $100.
This doesn’t include the tools needed to install the materials because it is hard to give an estimate. It depends on whether you can borrow them, rent them, or even buy them as a long-term investment.
Choice of plants suitable for hydroponics
Although there are a myriad of vegetation and fruits you can grow in hydroponics, here are some of the easier ones, especially for beginner growers.
Leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce flourish in hydroponics. Tomatoes also make the list because they have a fixed space requirement. Strawberries, herbs (e.g. cilantro and basil), and cucumbers are also great options.
Although there is plenty of information given in this article about making your own hydroponic garden, you won’t know what works for you and your space until you have tried it. As long as you give your hydroponics the care and grooming that it needs and keep improving your craft, you will eventually make your hydroponic garden a dream come true.