In recent years, hydroponic gardens have become increasingly popular among home gardeners. Homemade hydroponic systems are a different and fun way to grow fruits and vegetables at home without using soil. Below are a few of the most popular homemade hydroponic systems.
The Tank System
One of the easiest homemade hydroponic systems to assemble is the water culture raft system, which makes use of an old fish tank or aquarium. This system works well for vegetable gardens especially, and you can assemble one for around fifty dollars using materials you can get at your local hardware store. You may even have some of the materials just lying around the house.
To make this system, cut a 1″ thick Styrofoam sheet to fit the top of an old fish tank or similar container. Then make holes in the Styrofoam for your plant roots. Make two small holes near the top of opposite sides of your fish tank for air tubing to go through. Attach this tubing near the bottom of the tank with air stones and attach the other end of the tubing to the air pump.
Cover the tank with foil so that light does not get in to the tank. Fill your tank with nutrient solution, then float the Styrofoam on top of it. Place your plants in the holes you cut for them in the Styrofoam in such a way that their roots dangle in the solution. You can hold the plants in place using filter floss.
The Bucket System
Another one of the most popular homemade hydroponic systems is the “ebb and flow” system. This system can be made with two large buckets. Simply drill a hole in both buckets about a half-inch from the bottom and connect them with tubing. You should have enough tubing to place one of the buckets on a platform while the other bucket, which will hold the nutrient solution, is left on the floor.
Place a couple inches of gravel in the bucket that your plants are to grow in, then cover it with a fine mesh plastic screen. The screen should fit tightly to the sides of the bucket. On top of the screen, place perlite, rockwool, coconut fiber, or whatever other growth medium you have chosen to use.
After you have planted your seeds in the growth medium, fill the second bucket with nutrient solution and cover it with a lid to keep out foreign debris and dust. Then lift the nutrient bucket so it is on the platform with your grow bucket. This will allow the nutrient solution to flood your plants.
After your plants have been well soaked, place the nutrient bucket back on the floor. This process of flooding and draining your grow bucket will need to be repeated several times a day.
The Wick System
A third easy-to-make hydroponic system is the wick system. It is built much like the bucket ebb and flow system except that the two buckets are connected with a highly absorbent wick rather than tubing. As the growth medium gets dry, more solution is pulled up the wick by capillary action, eliminating the need to continually lift and lower the nutrient bucket.
The wick method allows plants receive a steady flow of solution without being flooded and drained several times a day. It is best to use this system with water-loving leafy vegetables, since the grow medium always remains soaked.
These are just very brief descriptions of three simple homemade hydroponic systems. There are many variations of these systems for the beginning gardener. To learn more, you might want to consider buying a book on hydroponics, or browse YouTube for instructional videos on how to make your own hydroponic system.