Hydroponic Garden Set Up

This covers the hardware to get started. These are plans to make a fairly portable, and very inexpensive water culture (advanced hydroponic) system. These plans only explain how to make the garden itself, and do _not_ explain how to use/maintain it.

1 5-10 gallon bucket2 Pieces of PVC or ABS pipe, 8-10" long, 5" or greater diameter.4 Caps for PVC/APS pipe ends.1 waterpump capable of about 50 Gallons Per Hour (you will needa bigger pump if you choose to make this a larger system)4' of hose that will fit the waterpump (often 3/8")1 TEE joint (or Y-splitter) that fits the water hose4 clamps for the water hose (one for pump to hose, and 3 for
hoses to TEE fitting.)1 Airpump, airstone, and some airline from a fish tank.1 Can White epoxy based spray paint1 Can Black Epoxy based spray paint
Everything must be made light tight. Paint all hoses, the
bucket, the PVC/ABS (which will be called PVC from now on)
and the lid of the bucket with a layer of black paint. Let
it dry overnight, and then cover it with a layer of white paint (to make it reflective, and reduce the temperature of
the nutrient solution).
Take each of PVC pieces and drill a 1" hole in the side,
about one inch from the end. Then epoxy the caps onto the ends of the PVC.
Drill the inlet/outlet holes (these should be located on the
caps of the PVC),
The inlet hole should be as low as possible (as close to the
wall of the PVC), and the outlet hole should be as high as
Now cut two 5" holes in the sides of the bucket (close to the
top), and epoxy the PVC in place, so about 2" of pipe (and
the outlet hole) are inside the bucket, and the 1" hole is
facing straight up.
Place the airstone in the bottom of the bucket, and find a
place for the airpump. If you are planning an indoor garden,
with enriched CO2 in the air, then the pump should be OUTSIDE
of your enclosure. The idea of the pump is to dissolve
oxygen into the nutrient solution, and not to dissolve CO2.
CO2 can kill rootsystems. If you are growing outside, or not
enriching CO2, then the pump can sit anywhere.
Place the waterpump in the bottom of the bucket (assuming it
is a submersible one) and attach a hose to it. long enough to
reach the top of the bucket. Cut a hole in the lid of the
bucket for this hose to go through. Then attach the TEE
fitting to the hose. Now attach hoses to the free ends of
the TEE, and run them to the inlet holes on the end of the
PVC pipes. Use clamps on the TEE fitting and on the pump
itself, but use epoxy to attach the hoses to the PVC. This
seal must be completely water tight. Let them dry for 24
Put some water in the bucket and turn on the pump. What
should happen is the PVC pieces will fill with water, and then when they are full, they should begin to continuously
drain out the outlet holes, and back into the bucket. If you are getting leaks anywhere, fix them immedately. If water is
coming out of the 1" hole on the top of the pipe, then either
your pump is too strong, or your outlet hole is too small.
Fix one or the other.
Empty the system (hint, remove the hose from the pump to
drain the arms), and replace the water with some form of
hydroponic nutrient solution (look in a hydroponics book for
details on what exactly to use, or visit a gardening store,
and ask)
Place your plants into the system. The best way I have
found to do this is to take a 1 1/8" garden hose and cut a
1" tube off of one end. Then slit the tube down one side.
Wrap the stem of your plant (just above the roots) with polyester fluff (available at aquarium stores, for stuffing
into external water filters) and then wrap the garden hose around the fluff. Then force the hose into the hole at the
top of the PVC arm. People also have used rubber stoppers.
Turn on the air/water pumps, and let your garden grow.
This is obviously just a small setup, but these plans can
easily be modified for much larger systems, using longer pieces of PVC, or more than one pair of arms, and a larger bucket to
hold the nutrients.
Starting Seeds:
This system is not for seeds. Either purchase small plants, or
start your seeds in a pan of vermiculite, flooded with 1/2 strength hydroponic nutrient fluid. When they are about 4-6
inches tall, they are ready to be moved to the system. Remove them gently from the vermiculite, using clean water to get
every last chunk off of the roots. Then wrap the stems in polyester fluff and garden hose.