Have you ever desired to grow your own fresh and healthy food at home, but don’t have enough space or soil? If so, hydroponics might be the best solution for you. Hydroponics is a soil-less method of growing plants using water and nutrients only.
Hydroponics has numerous benefits, like saving water, space, and time, increasing yield and quality, and reducing pests and related diseases.
This blog will explain how to build a cheap hydroponic system using the Deep Water Culture (DWC) method. It is one of the easiest and most reasonable ways to begin hydroponics gardening.
DWC is a type of hydroponic system where the plant roots are suspended in a nutrient-rich water solution and take oxygen from an air pump and a bubbler. DWC is the best for growing leafy greens, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
Materials and Tools Needed
To build a hydroponic system, you will require the following materials and instruments:
- A plastic container with a lid (such as a bucket, a tote, or a storage bin)
- A drill and a hole saw
- A net pot or a plastic cup with holes
- A growing medium (such as Rockwool, clay pebbles, or coco coir)
- A plant (either a seedling or a cutting)
- A water pump and an air pump
- An air stone and an air tube
- A water level indicator (optional)
- A nutrient solution (you can buy ready-made or make your own)
- A pH metre and a pH adjuster
- An EC metre and an EC adjuster
How to Build a DIY Hydroponic System
Step 1: Prepare the Container and the Lid
- Find a plastic container with a lid that can hold enough water for your plants. You can use a bucket, a tote, or a storage bin, depending on the size and number of your plants.
- Use a drill and make a hole in the centre of the lid. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the net pot or the plastic cup. The purpose of the hole is to use it for holding the plant. That will ensure a snug fit and prevent light from entering the container.
- Use a small drill bit to make another hole near the edge of the lid. This hole is for the air tube that connects the air stone inside the container to the air pump outside the container. The air tube will provide oxygen to the plant roots and prevent them from drowning.
- Make a third hole on the side of the container, near the bottom. This hole is for the water pump cord that will power the water pump inside the container. The water pump will circulate the water and the nutrient solution and keep them well-mixed.
Step 2: Fill the Container with Water and Nutrient Solution
- Fill the container with water, leaving some space at the top. The water should be clean and free of chlorine and other contaminants. You can use tap water, filtered water, or distilled water, depending on the quality of your water source.
- Add the nutrient solution to the water, following the instructions on the label. The nutrient solution will give the essential minerals and elements that your plants need to grow. You can buy ready-made nutrient solutions or make your solution using fertilisers and supplements.
- Mix the water and the nutrient solution well, using a spoon or a stick. Cheque the pH and EC levels of the water using a pH metre and an EC metre. The pH level measures the acidity or alkalinity of the water, and the EC level measures the electrical conductivity or the concentration of the nutrient solution. The ideal pH range for most plants is 5.5 to 6.5, and the ideal EC range is 1.0 to 2.0 mS/cm. If the pH or EC levels are too high or too low, you can adjust them using a pH adjuster or an EC adjuster.
Step 3: Install the Air Stone and the Water Pump
- Place the air stone inside the container, near the bottom. The air stone is a porous device that produces fine bubbles when connected to an air pump. The bubbles will aerate the water and increase the dissolved oxygen level, which is vital for the plant roots.
- Connect the air stone to the air pump with the air tube. Ensure the air tube goes through the hole in the lid and the air pump is outside the container. The air pump is a device that pushes air through the air tube and the air stone. The air pump should be powerful enough to create a steady stream of bubbles in the water.
- Plug in the air pump and make sure it works properly. You should see bubbles coming out of the air stone and rising to the water’s surface. The bubbles should be small and frequent, not large and sporadic. If the bubbles are too large, they can splash the water and cause noise and mess. If the bubbles are too few, they can reduce the oxygen level and harm the plant roots.
- Place the water pump inside the container, near the bottom. The water pump is a device that moves water through a small tube and creates a current in the water. The water pump will help to circulate the water and the nutrient solution and prevent them from settling or stratifying.
- Connect the water pump to the water level indicator (if you have one) with a small tube. The water level indicator is an instrument that shows the amount of water in the container and alerts you when the water level is too low or too high. The water level indicator can assist you in maintaining the optimal water level for your plants and avoiding overfilling or underfilling the container.
- Make sure the water pump cord goes through the hole in the side of the container and the water pump is submerged in the water. The water pump cord should be long enough to reach an electrical outlet, and the water should fully cover the water pump. The water pump should not touch the bottom or sides of the container, as this can cause vibrations or noises.
- Plug in the water pump and make sure it works properly. You should see a gentle movement of the water in the container and feel slight water pressure in the tube. The water movement should be smooth and even, not turbulent or erratic. If the water movement is too strong, it can disturb the plant roots and cause stress. If the water movement is too weak, it can reduce nutrient distribution and cause deficiencies.
Step 4: Prepare the Net Pot or the Plastic Cup and the Growing Medium
- Find a net pot or a plastic cup that fits the hole in the lid of the container. The net pot or the plastic cup will hold the plant and the growing medium. The net pot or the plastic cup should have holes or slits on the sides and the bottom to allow the water and the air to reach the plant roots.
- Fill the net pot or the plastic cup with the growing medium. The growing medium is a substance that supports the plant and provides stability and drainage. The growing medium should be inert, sterile, and porous to avoid interfering with the nutrient solution or harbouring pathogens. The common growing media for hydroponics are rock wool, clay pebbles, coco coir, perlite, or vermiculite.
- Make a small hole in the centre of the growing medium, and insert the plant gently. The plant can be either a seedling or a cutting. A seedling is a young plant that has germinated from a saeed, and a cutting is a piece of stem that has been taken from an existing plant. The plant should have healthy and vigorous roots, stems, and leaves and be free of pests and diseases. The plant roots should reach the water level, but not be submerged in it. The plant stems and leaves should be above the water level and receive enough light and air.
Step 5: Secure the Lid and the Net Pot or the Plastic Cup
- Place the lid on the container and protect it with tape or glue. The lid will prevent light from entering the container and protect the water and the plant roots from algae, dust, and insects. The lid should fit tightly and safely without gaps or leaks. The lid should also be easy to remove and replace for maintenance and inspection procedures.
- Place the net pot or the plastic cup in the hole with the lid and press it firmly. The net pot or the plastic cup should fit snugly and stably and not move or wobble. The net pot or the plastic cup should also be easy to remove and replace for cleaning and harvesting purposes.
- Make sure the air tube and the water pump cord are not pinched or twisted. The air tube and the water pump cord should be long enough to reach their respective devices and not interfere with the lid, the net pot, and the plastic cup. The air tube and the water pump cord should also be flexible and durable.
Step 6: Place the DWC System in a Suitable Location
- Place the DWC system in a sunny spot or under a grow light. The plant needs light to make photosynthesis, which converts light into chemical energy. The plant uses the chemical energy to grow and produce more food. The plant should receive enough light, but not too much. The best light intensity and duration depend on the type and stage of the plant, but generally, most plants require 10 to 14 hours of light per day and 100 to 200 micromoles of light per square metre per second.
- Monitor the water level, pH, EC, and temperature frequently and adjust them as needed. The water level, pH, EC, and temperature are vital factors that affect plant growth and health. The water level should always cover the roots only, not the stem or leaves of the plant. The pH level should be between 5.5 and 6.5, and the EC level should be between 1.0 and 2.0 mS/cm. The temperature should be between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius. If any of these factors are out of range, you can adjust them using the appropriate methods and devices.
- Change the water and the nutrient solution every two weeks or when the EC level drops below 0.5 mS/cm. The water and the nutrient solution can become depleted, contaminated, or imbalanced over time due to plant uptake, evaporation, or microbial activity. Changing the water and the nutrient solution can refresh and replenish the system and prevent problems such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicities, or infections. To alter the water and the nutrient solution, you need to drain the previous water and the nutrient solution, clean the container and the net pot or the plastic cup, refill the container with fresh water and nutrient solution, and monitor and adjust the water level, pH, EC, and temperature.
How to Maintain a Hydroponic System
To maintain a Hydroponic system, you need to do the following tasks:
- Cheque and adjust the water level, pH, EC, and temperature of the nutrient solution. The water level should cover the roots but, not the plant’s stem or leaves. The pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5, and the EC should be between 1.0 and 2.0 mS/cm. The temperature should be between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius.
- Change the water and the nutrient solution every two weeks or when the EC drops below 0.5 mS/cm. That will prevent nutrient depletion, contamination, or imbalance in the system.
- Track and treat the plant health and look for signs of pests and related illnesses. You can use organic or chemical procedures to prevent and treat them, like neem oil, insecticidal soap, hydrogen peroxide, or fungicide.
- Prune and harvest your crops, and remove any dead, diseased, or unwanted parts of the plants. That will enhance air circulation and increase plant growth and yield.
How to sow seeds directly into your DWC system?
You can sow seeds directly into your DWC system by using a net pot or a plastic cup with holes and a growing medium such as rock wool, clay pebbles, or coco coir. Firstly, you have to germinate the seeds in a moist and warm environment, like a paper towel, a rock wool cube, or a peat pellet.
Once the seeds sprout, transfer them to the net pot or the plastic cup with the growing medium and place them in the container with a hole in the lid. The plant roots should reach the water level and ensure they are not fully immersed in it.
How to grow cuttings in your DWC system?
You can grow cuttings in your DWC system by using the same procedure as for seeds, but instead of germinating seeds, you need to take a healthy and mature stem from an existing plant and dip it in a rooting hormone.
Then, you can insert it into the net pot or the plastic cup with the growing medium and place it in the hole in the lid of the container. The plant roots should reach the water level and ensure they do not go below it.
Let’s Build Your Hydroponic System With BNJ Gardens
Do you want to grow your food at home but don’t have enough space or soil? Do you need to save water, space, and time and increase yield and quality? Do you desire to join the hydroponic revolution and enjoy the benefits of soilless gardening?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must need BNJ Gardens. We are the premier hydroponic gardening supplies company in Manchester and London (Carshalton) UK. Everything you require to launch your hydroponic garden is available for you.
From seeds to systems, supplies to guidance. Reach out to us right now, and we’ll assist you in building the hydroponic garden of your dreams.
In this blog, you learn how to build a small hydroponic system using materials you may already have at home. A bucket or a bin can become a productive instrument for growing your food. If you don’t have a lid, you can use a piece of styrofoam with holes to hold the plants.
At first, hydroponics may appear complicated because of the wide variety of accessible systems. That’s why we suggest starting simple, with a DWC system that is easy to set up and maintain. You can put it anywhere indoors or outdoors, as long as there is enough light.