Hydroponic System at Home
If you are interested in building a complete and inexpensive home hydroponics system then this is the place for you!
So… where to start? Let’s start at the beginning.
Hydroponic systems have been around for centuries. The Aztecs designed floating rafts covered with dirt in which they planted food crops. The dirt was taken from the bottom of the lake so it was loaded with nutrients and the roots of the planted crops would dangle into the lake for water.
These rafts would just float around until harvest time. It has even been suggested that the famous ‘Gardens of Babylon’ were elaborate hydroponic systems.
Hydroponics, or ‘soilless gardening’, was always a mystery to me – it brought to mind warehouses full of supporting equipment and multi-thousands of dollars to keep it running.
This may be true for some of the larger commercial enterprises but not for the home-builder.
Simple home growing systems can be built completely on your own even if you have little to no mechanical ability such as myself. They can be as simple as a glass jar, an aquarium air-bubbler, and some plant nutrients to grow one plant or can consist of a 5-gallon cooler, an aquarium air bubbler, nutrients, and something to float the plants on such as styrofoam.
Steps to Build a DIY Hydroponic System at Home
Have you ever wanted to grow your own produce at home? Hydroponic gardening is a great way to do that. It’s an alternative method of growing plants without the use of soil, using water and nutrients instead. There are many benefits to hydroponics – it can be done anywhere, there’s no need for pesticides or insecticides, and the harvest is more consistent. In this post we will go over how you can build your own DIY hydroponic system in your spare time!
What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil by using water and nutrients. It’s an alternative to traditional gardening that can be done anywhere – you don’t need any yard space or even natural light! All it takes are some simple supplies, some basic knowledge about how your system works, and regular care for proper growth.
Benefits of hydroponics:
- Hydroponic gardening is a great way to learn about plants – you can control the conditions in which they grow and have more oversight on their development. There’s no need for pesticides or insecticides, so it’s also environmentally friendly!
- Your new system can be set up anywhere – whether you live in an apartment without a yard or somewhere where the climate isn’t very conducive to growing plants.
- Since hydroponics is done with water and nutrients, your harvest will be more consistent than traditional gardening methods that rely on soil quality and weather conditions. You can also grow many different types of produce at once using multiple hydroponic systems.
How to build a DIY hydroponic system at home:
You can easily make your own hydroponics system by following these steps!
First, you’ll need a watertight container that is transparent and has drainage holes in the bottom – this will be where you grow your plant’s roots. You’ll also want a second container that will hold the nutrient solution and sit above your water tank. A grow light is also necessary to provide your plants with enough light during their growth cycle, as well as an air pump for oxygenation.
Start by filling up the bottom of your water tank with gravel or small pebbles – this will keep larger particles from falling into your water and clogging up the system. You can then add a layer of clay balls to prevent root rot, as well as another layer of pebbles on top. Then you will want to place your net pots in each corner – these should have holes for drainage at the bottom, so make sure they are deep enough that excess water won’t spill out. Add your plant to the net pot, being careful not to damage its roots, and fill in any areas around it with more clay balls or pebbles so that the water pools up against the sides of the container but doesn’t cover all of them.
Next, you will want to mix together a nutrient solution – this should contain all the minerals your plant needs to grow, as well as some vitamins and sugars. The solution should be about halfway up in your nutrient reservoir – check out our chart below for specific amounts of each component!
Finally, all you have to do is hook everything together with an air pump or two that will push oxygen into the water through a tube. You can then place your whole system under a grow light for maximum exposure to artificial sunlight. Do not forget the importance of watering – if you see water seeping out from anywhere in your hydroponics system, it’s time to refill!
Maintaining the plant’s growth cycle:
It will be necessary to replace some or all of the nutrient solution every few weeks, and you should also check the water level of your system to make sure it doesn’t get too low. A good rule of thumb is that if more than an inch or two is gone from your reservoir, it’s time for a refill!
You will want to keep track of how often you need to replace the nutrient solution, as well as monitor the condition of your plant. If it is looking droopy or wilted, you may need to increase the amount of oxygen in your system – check for any clogs and make sure there aren’t too many bubbles accumulating on top!
Harvesting the produce:
Your plants will be ready to harvest when they are full-grown and the leaves begin to turn yellow. All you have to do is cut them off at their base, leaving about an inch of the stem with each one so that it can continue growing!
Cleaning up before you go: It is best not to leave any traces in your hydroponics system after harvesting – pour out all of the remaining nutrient solutions and then rinse everything with clean water.
How often should I change my nutrient solution? -The condition of your plant will determine how quickly you need to replace the nutrients in your system, so this depends on personal preference as well! You can also try experimenting by changing them at different intervals to see what works best.
Where should I place my hydroponics system? – Try and find a spot that gets at least five to six hours of sunlight per day, as well as an area where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much between night and day. You also want your plants to be close enough so they can get plenty of oxygen.
Any other tips? – It is best not to let your nutrient solution get too cold, as well as avoid letting any clogs form in the tubes! If you are having problems with algae or fungus growth, try using less light and more air pumps.
My Home-Built Systems
The first step to a successful indoor grow setup is purchasing the right equipment. This includes a grow tent and an air filter, as well as other items such as filters, extension cords, etc. For those who are new at this hobby, you should also purchase a book that will teach you how to do everything from start to finish. There’s no better way to learn than by doing!
Step two is to assemble your grow tent and hang the light fixture. You must ensure that all connections are tight, otherwise, you may be in for a fire hazard somewhere down the line.
Step three is to place your fan inside of your grow tent near where you will enter it – this ensures proper circulation throughout the entire space. Also, make sure that there’s ample ventilation by leaving an opening at one end or side of the tent (and don’t forget about adding an air filter).
Next up is step four: add water to the reservoir and attach it to the top of the light fixture with hookups intact. This should come standard when purchasing both items; if they do not include these parts then you can purchase them separately from the hydroponics supply store in your area.
Last but not least is step five: add carbon filters to the air filter, then attach it with duct tape to the exhaust port of your grow tent (make sure connections are sealed). Then plug-in extension cord into a power strip and set up within reach of both outlets – if you need an extra length or two then use a heavy-duty one that can handle more electricity running through it. If all has gone well so far, turn on fans and light(s) for the initial test run! It’s best to wait 24 hours before actually turning them off again just in case something goes wrong during this time period. You don’t want anything catching fire while you’re asleep after all…
This is a picture of 2 growing systems in my portable greenhouse; one I purchased and one I virtually built by myself.
Both systems are an ebb and flow design also known as a flood/drain system. The system in the foreground uses 2 separate growing containers holding an amazing number of plants and the background system is designed for 1 plant per container for 12 containers. They are very compact and easy to maintain.
Combined, both systems grew 9 basil plants, 11 parsley, 6 Caribbean scotch bonnet pepper plants, 3 cilantro, and 3 green pepper plants.
Or it can be as complex as a water pump on a timer periodically pumping in the nutrient solution to groups of plants arranged in a container.
In other words, once you get past the idea that plants NEED soil to grow properly you can design and build any number of systems for yourself. The sky is the limit!
Just think of soil merely as the means to anchor a plant – it is the mineral salts mixed with the soil that plants need to grow.
So feel free to make yourself at home and ‘browse’ to your heart’s content.
Hopefully, you will glean some valuable information and either build your own system or gain the knowledge to select a good pre-made system.