1. Find A Container That Can House Your Hydroponic System
If you want a stable water tank, you should use a deep container with lots of water. If there is not enough water, the nutrient concentration and pH levels will change too much. You will also have to fill it up more often.
You shouldn’t leave your container exposed to the sun when you’re growing plants. If sunlight hits your water, algae will begin to grow quickly.
I usually recommend a 50-60 litre storage container. I that we have leftovers from a previous project. For my purposes of leafy greens, it should work fine. In hindsight, I would’ve preferred using a deeper container.
2. Drill Holes Into The Lid Of The Container
The plant will grow in net pots. To make the net poles, you must use a drill to create the holes. A net pot needs to be bigger than the hole, so it does not fall through.
If you are using a wider container, then you can drill multiple holes. Make sure to plan carefully here. I put holes 15 cm apart, so the plants will be able to grow. If you are using a 20-litre bucket, then one hole in the middle is suitable for making one plant.
When you drill holes into the plastic, put wood under the lid to stop it from moving around and breaking the plastic lid.
3. Assemble The Air Pump
- To work the air pump, it must stay outside of the water. It will come with a “check valve.” This means that the water won’t go back up into the pump if you turn it off. If it does not come with one already, keep it above the water level.
- Connect the air stone and check the valve with tubing. The arrow of the check valve should point to the air stone. Then connect them both to the pump for breathing.
4. Fill The Container, Mix In Your Nutrients And Optimise The pH
- When the container gets full, it might be heavy. Make sure you pick a spot for it before you fill it up! Pour water in the container, but leave space at the top.
- Next, put the nutrient water in your container. Add 110ml of A and B nutrients, following the instructions on your bottle.
- To measure the pH of water, we will use a pH meter. Tap water is usually 6.5-7.5, and most vegetables and herbs need the solution to be slightly acidic, so it should be around that range.
- You can use phosphoric acid (often sold as “pH down”) to alter the pH lower to 5.5-6.5. To do this, I suggest using a pipette, so you don’t add too much. Remember to wear gloves when handling the solution and mix it well after you put it in water.
5. Assemble The Hydroponic System
- Plugin the air pump first. Place an air stone in the water in a reservoir. Put on the lid, and you are almost done.
- I put the plant that I grew in Rockwool plugs into the net pots. You can use seedlings grown in soil, but they might make a mess. Rockwool plugs or hydroton clay pellets are cleaner options.
How Do I Maintain My Hydroponic System?
It is crucial to keep the water level high enough with young plants. In order to successfully grow, young plants need to be near the soil’s surface and not covered up by it.
- Every time you add water, you should observe the pH levels.
- I use an old 2L water bottle to add water. I put 4ml of A and B nutrients into the reservoir for every 2L of water I pour in.
- Clean and refill the reservoir every 14-21 days with fresh water.
Downsides To DIY Hydroponic Systems
While a DIY hydroponic system can be a fun and cheap way to get started with hydroponics, it does have its disadvantages. Firstly, the set-up is quite tricky, especially if you’re not a very hands-on person. It can be hard to set up and maintain and discouraging if it’s too hard. Secondly, it limits what you’re able to do with the system. For example, without grow lights, you’re forced to grow your plants outside and cannot alter the amount of light they get. You also cannot use things like automatic nutrient feeders to automate the process. If you’re serious about growing and want to do it right, I highly suggest purchasing equipment for your set-up. But, if you’re looking for a fun DIY project and want to start growing without spending a lot, this guide will help you do that.
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