There are many different hydroponic DIY systems available, whatever you’re looking to grow. This article gives you all the info you need to know about the best systems that can be purchased on a budget. Hydroponic DIY systems are a brilliant way that you can grow food all year round without investing much money.
When you’re on a budget, even something as simple as a well water filtration system can go a long way. And if you’re wondering “are hydroponic plants healthy?”, the answer is absolutely! Your greens will be packed with nutrients as you supply the perfect growing conditions. Sounds like a costly endeavor, right? Fortunately, the beauty of hydroponics for home is that you don’t need money or years of experience. You can create your very own hydroponic home system in a matter of hours, filling it with an array of wonderful plants.
If you’re not sure about how to approach the topic, we’re going to show you how to do hydroponic farming without breaking the bank. Let’s start with a few pointers on maintenance and preparation.
Hydroponic DIY Systems Maintenance and Getting Started
When you enter the world of hydroponic and aquaponic DIY systems, it’s important to take a few considerations on board. Measure the pH of your water every day in order to get a more accurate understanding of what your plants need.
As you add your nutrients, this can change the pH of the system. Therefore, add bit by bit, measure and repeat until the pH stabilizes to a level that’s comfortable for your plant. The pH is also dependent on the quality of your water. If you live in a hard water area, you could see your pH naturally climb well above 7.5. In this case, you’ll want to neutralize carefully with some natural acid.
Just like our world is fueled by the sun, your plants will need a lot of light. It’s difficult to achieve this indoors, but always try to put your plants by a bright window. If you’re not able to do this, never fear, because hydroponic lights are available on the cheap. You can achieve the same desired effect, if not more, using small fluorescent bulbs or high intensity grow lights. Even LED’s are brilliant, plus they hardly use any electricity.
What Type of Hydroponic Nutrients to Use?
If you’re wondering about which hydroponic nutrients to use, each plant has different requirements. The rule of thumb is to get a good balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The distribution will be based on a number of factors other than species, such as the growth stage and the amount of light your plants are receiving.
Last but not least, it’s best to keep things as sterile as possible. The health of your plants is paramount to the success of your project. Plus you will want to consume your bountiful harvest at the end.
You do not need to purchase expensive chemicals that can be damaging to plants. Some simple bleach or vinegar will be ideal for sterilization but make sure you always handle everything while wearing clean gloves.
At the end of your deep clean, make sure you give your systems a thorough wash with a power washer before planting anything. Cleaning everything is an essential part of the process that is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important.
The Best Hydroponic DIY Systems for Your Garden
Now that you have a solid foundation on hydroponic for beginners, let’s get into some cheap and easy home systems!
1. The Kratky Method
This is one of the easiest hydroponic methods that you can employ within your home. You won’t need any fancy hydroponic accessories, just a bucket, some nutrients, a net pot, and a pH kit. It’s the perfect solution for growing green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, and green onions.
To get started, place your plants within a net pot and submerge these pots into a container filled with water and nutrients. You can do this by covering the container with a piece of wood with holes drilled wide enough to fit pots through.
The roots should be partly submerged in the water and partly exposed to the air. This will help the plants get enough water and oxygen. Over time, the water level in the container will drop. You should take care to occasionally measure the pH of the water using a kit and to clean this system regularly.
2. Relatively Easy Bucket Method
This is one of the best hydroponic DIY systems for people who are completely new to gardening. All you will need is to find certain growing media, as well as a 5-gallon bucket, and a proper nutrient mix.
This generally works by creating capillary action, transporting the healthy nutrients up through the roots of the plant. It’s best suited for bigger plants. Another useful thing is that you can save some money by watering with the gallon bucket manually.
Drill 6-8 half-inch holes around the bottom of your bucket, about an inch from the ground. Place your growing medium into your bucket, water, and place the plant in the center of the medium. If you want to automate things, you will need another bucket on hand to act as a reservoir, along with a timer set up to pump.
3. Drip System
This option is slightly more expensive and requires some basic hydroponic equipment, but it’s bound to set you back more than $100. The setup is traditionally achieved by putting your plants into four separate 5-gallon buckets, all interconnected by PVC pipes that fit through holes drilled in the bucket bottoms.
These pipes will also link to a reservoir tank that contains a submersible fountain pump, which pumps your water, and nutrients. If you’re new to the terms hydroponic and aquaponic, waste products from fish farming provide some of the best nutrients for plants grown in a hydroponic environment. This helps to purify the water. We recommend the drip system to complement your aquaponic practice.
4. Hydroponic Raft
This is a great hydroponic garden project to get stuck into at home, especially if you have children. It’s fun and easy-going. Simply make a raft out of foam and poke holes in it that large enough to fit beans or seeds into.
After you’re done, you can place your raft into a full fish tank to grow anything from beans to lettuce. You can use the pump from your fish tank to create an active hydroponic system. Long gone are the days of spending a fortune on your hydroponic indoor system – all you really need is some foam!
5. PVC Pipe System
You may find this commonly referred to as an NFT system. The basic setup is composed of four large PVC pipes that have several holes drilled into them, large enough to fill your plants.
The whole system can be watered with a pump and reservoir. Generally speaking, you could say that it is a completely closed system, which is great if you want to grow a lot of small plants within a smaller area.
Even the most basic system can hold anything between 30 and 40 plants. Moreover, you can place it inside or outside the home. With only the cost of a few PVC pipes, what have you got to lose?
6. PVC Pipe Grow Box
This is a plan that requires purchasing a special grow box. You can pick one of these up for cheap at your local hardware store. Grow boxes are, as the name suggests, large containers that will hold your class and substrate.
These boxes are a neat combination of irrigation sprinkler heads, connected PVC pipes, and a submersible pump used to reliably deliver both water and nutrients to your plants. The lid has holes that will house your plants in net cups. If you’re looking to go extra DIY, you can probably make your own out of a large plastic container.
7. The Frame System
Much like the NFT system, this system relies on stacking PVC pipes vertically. By layering a number of pipes at different heights, you can grow a large number of plants in quite a small space.
With some basic DIY skills, you can build a structure to hold a number of pipes up and suspended in an area. It’s a wonderful plan for growing delicate herbs or plants such as strawberries.
8. Vertical Farm
Sometimes when you’ve got a setup indoors, it can still be hard to get a lot of light to your plants. Perhaps you don’t want any light or sound pollution in quiet areas?
The good news is that you can do hydroponic with plastic bottles, making use of dead space in the home. By combining a vertical rack set up using an array of recycled water bottles connected with pipes, you can have the perfect hydroponic system for plants such as chard, kale, and strawberries.
9. Simple Desk System
Pure simplicity, but very effective. It’s great to utilize as much space around the house for growing vegetables, so why not make use of your desk? It’s the perfect environment for small herbs and plants such as lettuce, and perfect for beginners or those who don’t have a lot of space.
This system can be built around something as small as a coffee can or a half-gallon bucket if you’ve got a larger desk. Rock wool is a great medium to use for growth, and the plant is housed within a net cup. If you can go a little over budget, purchase a small bubbler for a more comfortable environment.
10. Mason Jar Hydroponics
If you thought the simple desk system was easy, then think again! If you want to do hydroponics without an air pump, then this is a great one for you. No electricity is needed, just some good old fashioned mason jars.
It’s similar to the Kratky method as previously discussed, but a mason jar is used instead of a bucket. No special tools are required – you only need to source your jar, plus something to cut a hole in a container.
I’ve found that yogurt containers work a treat and are just the right size for some seedlings. If you can’t find some, any container that will fit into the mouth of the jar will do, just be sure to give the bottom a few pokes so that the plant’s roots can grow freely.
11. Deep Water Culture Grow System
Go down to any cheap hardware store where you can find a large opaque plastic storage box – this will be perfect for a deep water culture system. Make sure the lid can be easily cut to place plants in net pots.
The nature of the setup makes it very easy to attach a bubbler and air hoses to provide ample oxygen for the nutrient solution. If you’ve heard of hydroponics with led lights, it’s a great match and the perfect match in this system. Place LED lights all around your boxed system to speed up growth.
12. Drip Water Technology
In terms of flexibility, it’s hard to beat a drip system. You can make it complex or simple depending on the needs of your particular plants and your wallet. Because this is a passive system, you don’t need to worry about managing pumps, and you can simply let gravity do the work.
All you need to do is carefully place the garden and the reservoir to facilitate a steady drip. If you use this type of system, be sure to employ a good hydroponic fertilizer and growing medium like coir or perlite-vermiculite.
13. Ebb-Flow Systems
Inexpensive and easy to set up, the ebb-flow system can be set up for both manual and automated operation. Plants are grown in a medium which is then flooded in a nutrient solution for a couple of minutes periodically. You can make use of a tote or storage tray to house the whole operation.
Hydroponic Growth – the Way of the Future
I wanted to show you how the hydroponic system works and how you can design your very own DIY hydroponic growing system on a shoestring budget. I’ve only just scratched the surface though – remember that you can get creative and come up with all sorts of unique solutions of your own.
Soon you’ll have everything you need to make all sorts of nutritious meals from an array of nutrient-dense hydroponic plants. Best of luck! Which one of these DIY hydroponic systems is best suited to your needs? Don’t hesitate to tell me about your thoughts in the comments section below.