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How to Build Your Own Hydroponic System: A Beginner's Guide!

Are you interested in hydroponics or growing at home but don't know where to start? Would you like to make your own system by upcycling materials in your home? There are many benefits to growing hydroponically at home: a regular supply of fresh, nutrient-dense produce is sure to save you a lot of trips to the supermarket!

 

Ⅰ. What is the best hydroponic system for beginners?

 

Deep Water Farming (DWC) is the easiest type of hydroponic system you can build and maintain at home. In this system, the roots of the plants are directly submerged in nutrient-rich water.

 

For home growers, this can be accomplished by growing in large opaque storage containers or barrels. Commercial growers use rafts that float on large water beds; these work like a conveyor belt, with seedlings added on one side, and they'll keep moving until they're ready to be harvested on the other side.

 

The lack of moving parts or circulating water makes the construction of a DWC hydroponic system relatively simple and inexpensive. The water in the DWC system is not recirculated, it remains in the reservoir for the life of the plant. This means you have to aerate the water to replenish the oxygen used by the roots.

 

In soil, air pore spaces provide much-needed oxygen to the root system, and in a cyclic fully automated hydroponic system, water is aerated as it is pumped. We can solve this in a DWC system by using an air pump with an air stone (for fish tanks) to ensure the water remains rich in oxygen.

 

Ⅱ. What can be developed in the DWC hydroponic system?

 

The best crops to grow in a DWC system are lettuce, kale, beets, bok choy, basil and parsley. These are top-heavy plants.

 

In a DWC system, the roots are not well anchored, which means growing tall plants like tomatoes can be difficult, and if you do grow them, you will need the right support to keep the plants upright.

 

Ⅲ. How to make DWC hydroponic system at home?

 

(1) Materials:

 

Storage containers or buckets, mesh basins, air pumps with air stones, liquid nutrients for hard water, pH drops, pH meters, measuring cups, pipettes, hole saws with mandrels, drill bits.

 

(2) Method:

 

1. Find the right container for the system

 

Many people find deeper storage containers and buckets suitable for these systems, as the deeper the water, the more stable the nutrient solution. Fluctuations in nutrient concentrations and pH are more likely in smaller reservoirs, and you must also add water more regularly.

 

Light cannot penetrate your container or there is a high risk of algae growing in the water. Used this 55 liter opaque storage container that we left over from a previous project. In retrospect, a deeper container was preferred, but for leafy green vegetable growing purposes this would be fine. You could also buy hydroponic grow box online, which is quite convenient.

 

2. Drill holes in the lid of the container

 

The plants will be grown in mesh pots with lots of holes for roots to grow. The next step is to drill holes in the lid of the container that holds the mesh basin. This requires the only professional tool you'll need on this build, a hole saw, which are very affordable and easy to use. The size of the net pots you use must be larger than the holes so they don't fall out.

 

If you use a wider container like this, you can drill multiple holes. Careful planning is important here: keep the holes between 15cm to accommodate the size of mature plants. If you're using a 20 liter bucket, it's recommended to drill a hole in the center to make a single plant system (they're great for growing bigger things like tomatoes or zucchini).

 

Pro tip: put some wood under the cover when drilling, this will keep the saw from shaking and breaking the plastic.

 

3. Assemble your air pump

 

The air pump must remain outside the tank. It will have a check valve to make sure the pump doesn't suck back water when it's off. If not, you must keep the pump above the water level.

 

Connect the air stone to the check valve with a length of tubing, making sure the arrow on the check valve faces the air stone. Then connect the check valve to the air pump in the same way.

 

4. Fill the reservoir, add nutrients and adjust pH

 

The system can be quite heavy when full, so make sure to identify where the container will be stored before filling it up. Fill it with water, leaving 1-2 cm of space at the top.

 

Next, you'll need to add the hydroponic nutrients to the water following the directions on the bottle. It is recommended to add 2 ml per liter of nutrients A and B; using a measuring cup, add each 110 ml to a 55 liter container.

 

We also need to adjust the pH of the water. Using a pH meter, measure pH; the pH of tap water is 6.5-7.5. Most vegetables and herbs require a slightly acidic nutrient solution.

 

You can drop the pH down to 5.5-6.0 by pipetting in phosphoric acid (sold commercially as "pH Down" for use in hydroponics). Wear gloves when handling pH drops and remember to mix the solution well after application.

 

5. Assembly system

 

Insert the air pump and place the air stone in the tank. Attach the lid to it and you're almost done.

 

Adding plants is simple, place some plants grown with rock wool plugs into a mesh pot. You can also use seedlings grown in soil, but we recommend a medium that won't mess up. Rock wool plugs or hydrated clay granules are cleaner solutions.