What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics are water-based plant growing systems that are rapidly gaining popularity all over the world. Hydroponic systems are used in residential and commercial environments with designs ranging from basic DIY projects to large factory farming operations, each with their own requirements.
Tip: Hydroponic systems work best for plants that need a lot of water to grow. Plants with easier water and nutrient uptake will grow better in this environment. Less absorbent plants may not grow as well with hydroponics.
DIY Hydroponics Systems
While hydroponic systems can work in large factory or greenhouse settings, there is also a growing community of people who enjoy hydroponics as a home-based DIY project.
DIY hydroponic systems are a simple, yet effective way of growing plants in a controlled environment without having to invest in expensive and complicated equipment. DIY hydroponic systems are a great way to grow plants using a small, well controlled system instead of waiting on rain.
Types of DIY Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponic systems come in hundreds of different styles and sizes, but here are a few that are easier to construct and maintain for a DIY project.
Tower systems involve an upright PVC tube that has holes in it to hold pots. These posts use material like rockwool to hold the plants together, allowing them to grow horizontally. This system is very popular and examples can be found all over the internet.
Dutch Bucket systems use pots or buckets that are filled with fast-draining, non-soil materials like coconut fiber. These pots are lined up and have a drain line attached to the bottom of each pot. Another tube waters each plant, which drains quickly, sending water through the material and down the drain line. This water goes to a reservoir, where nutrients are added, then used to water the plants again. It’s a good idea to keep track of the nutrients and fine-tune them to the needs of whatever plant you’re growing.
Ebb/Flow systems are probably the easiest hydroponics for the DIY community. This system involves a large bed with raised sides, a liner (similar to one used with a pond), and a drain. The media bed itself is flooded with water and allowed to sit for around 15 minutes, then drained. Marble-sized clay balls absorb water and hold onto it for the plants to use. With this DIY home system, water can be drained into a 5 gallon bucket and the same water can be used again later.
Now that you know the different kinds of DIY hydroponic systems, let’s go over the materials needed to make your own.
A Water Culture is a hydroponic system that uses water, a bucket, a mesh pot, and a pump to create a simple, yet effective way to grow your hydroponic plants. These systems are incredibly easy to build, yet are still great for growing plants indoors.
What You’ll Need
An External Pump to keep water moving through the system and watering your plants
Tubing for water transfer and drainage. Multi-Flow systems need PVC piping while Water Cultures require an air tube. Any type of tubing will work with Ebb/Flow systems.
A Waterproof Bin for use as a reservoir for water that is in use but not actually on the plants. For multi-flow systems, the reservoir should be vertical to control flooding.
Pots to hold plants. Water cultures should have mesh pots to allow water to pass through while Ebb/Flow systems can use plastic nursery pots.
Plant Trays for holding pots in place. If using a water culture system, you’ll make your own tray out of Styrofoam to fit your space needs. A multi-flow system should have at least six plant trays. Ebb/Flow systems should have a plastic/plastic-covered metal plant tray.
Growing Medium for plant growth. Rockwool, coconut fiber, and grow rocks are all viable options for hydroponic systems that need a non-soil medium to allow water to pass through.
Nutrients to promote plant growth and keep plants healthy. Hydroponic systems need different nutrients in differing quantities to produce healthy plants. For this you’ll need grow formula, bloom formula, pH-related chemicals, and other supplements to ensure good growth.
Air Stones for a water culture system to keep the water aerated.
A Sharp Object like a knife or scissors for some of the construction process.
Flow/Drain system to allow water to be recycled into the reservoir and promote water movement using drains and pipes. This system works best in an Ebb/Flow system.
Tip: Make sure you keep pots on stable surfaces to ensure even plant growth.
Hydroponic System Concerns
Hydroponic systems can be a fun and productive DIY project, but they do have their own set of concerns and issues. This section will cover some common hydroponic system concerns and how to deal with them.
Indoor hydroponic systems will need to supplement regular daylight with an indoor grow light. If your hydroponic system is in a greenhouse or even outside, you’ll have the advantage of actual sunlight.
All plants need nutrients to grow and hydroponic plants are no different. While large hydroponic systems need their nutrients constantly monitored, smaller DIY hydroponic systems have a little more leeway. Smaller scale operations have fewer plants, which means more nutrients per plant. For smaller hydroponic systems, you can use manure or fish emulsion to provide nutrients and help your plants flourish.
Pests are a problem for any garden and to keep your water garden functioning, you need to protect your hydroponic plants against pests and diseases. As long as your reservoir water doesn’t go to a fish tank, you can use insecticidal soap or pyrethrin-based spray to keep the system free from pests and bugs. To prevent the spread of disease, use diluted copper spray.
The SANI-TRED® Solution
Hydroponics depends on a functioning system of tubes, drains, and pumps to be effective. To keep your hydroponic system operating, you need to keep water flowing. For this reason, leaks in any part of the system can be disastrous for your plants. To keep your hydroponic system working its best, you need to keep it water-tight. Regardless of system or surface type, SANI-TRED® can waterproof and protect your hydroponic system from the bed to the tubing. If you’re looking to build your own DIY hydroponic system or just want to protect the one you have, keep it water-tight and operating with SANI-TRED®.
For more information on waterproofing and everything SANI-TRED® can do, visit SANI-TRED