If you are the kind of person who loves growing plants, then chances are you spend your time searching for new ways to ensure the growth and success of your various seedlings.
Of course, the most common approach is to grow your plants in soil, which can provide them with the various minerals and nutrients they need to thrive. But what if we told you that you can also grow plants without using any soil at all?
Known as hydroponic systems, this technique is commonly used by scientists to grow plants in an energy-efficient way, which is accomplished by feeding the specimens various nutrients through a body of water.
Not only can hydroponic systems be used to maximize space and conserve water, but they can also create a microclimate for your plants and require less labor and seasonal care.
However, this does not mean that these systems do not come with their setbacks, as they can be very expensive to purchase and require prior knowledge to operate properly. So if you do not have the funds or experience to use your own system, you can instead make one yourself from the comfort of your own home.
So if you want to know how you can build your own hydroponic system, then you’ve come to the right place.
In the following article, we are going to teach you how to make your own hydroponic system using materials and supplies you should have readily available. So if you want to grow your own plants in a cost-effective and efficient way, then we have everything you need to get started…
What Is The Best Hydroponic System To Build?
If you are interested in growing your own home crops in a cultivated environment, then you may be considering building your own hydroponic system. However, this is something that is easier said than done, as there are various types of hydroponic systems that can be used to cultivate your various plant life.
So if you are keen to make your own system using obtainable materials, then the best one for your home is a Deep Water Culture system or DWC for short.
As a hydroponic system, Deep Water Culture is probably the easiest to make and can be maintained from the comfort of your home, which means you don’t have to spend large amounts of money to keep your plants alive.
In this system, the plants are grown by submerging the roots in nutrient-rich water, which helps them to thrive without the need for soil or long-term care. This can be done by growing your plants in a large container, such as a bucket or storage box.
Unlike other hydroponic systems, Deep Water Culture does not require any moving parts or recirculating water, which means it can be easy to build at home and will help to ensure the controlled growth of your plants.
Because this particular system does not recirculate, this means that you will not have to worry about changing the water, as it will remain the same for the duration of the plant’s life. However, you will need to make sure that the water is aerated to ensure the roots are receiving fresh oxygen.
If you end up deciding to buy a kit or complete hydroponic setup check out our guide where we discuss what to look out for when purchasing the best hydroponic system.
What Can You Grow In A DWC System?
When building your own Deep Water Culture system, you will only be able to grow small crops such as lettuce, kale, chard, basil, bok choy and parsley.
This is because the structure of the system will not be able to support more free-growing and taller plants, which means you should avoid trying to use your system to grow tomatoes, chillies and other top-heavy species.
However, if you are keen to grow your own fruit and vegetables, then you will need to make sure that you have the proper equipment to help support the plants as they grow and develop.
Check out our guide on the best hydroponic vegetables!
How To Build A Cheap Hydroponic System
Now let’s take a look at how you can build your own DWC system, using the instructions that we have outlined in the section below:
What You Will Need
- Storage container or bucket
- Net pots
- Growing media
- Air pump (with air stone)
- Hard water liquid nutrients (A & B)
- Measuring beaker
- Ph down
- Ph meter
- Hole saw (with arbor)
Step One: Find A Container
Before you can begin building your DWC system, you must first find the perfect container for the job. For this, we recommend using a deep storage container or bucket, as these supplies will be able to carry more water and provide a more stable nutrient solution.
Ph levels and nutrient concentrations are more likely to fluctuate when housed in shallow containers, which could endanger your plants and require regular maintenance.
It is also important to obtain a container that is opaque, as you do not want any sunlight to penetrate the water. Suitable containers can be purchased from establishments such as IKEA or even your local hardware store.
Step Two: Drill The Lid
When you begin using your DWC system, your plants will need to be grown in net pots, which means they will require holes for the roots to grow through.
So to do this, you will need to drill holes into the lid of your container, which can be accomplished by using a hole saw, a specialist tool that can be both affordable and easy to use.
During this process, you will need to make sure that the holes are smaller than the net pots you are using, as this will allow the pots to fall through and grip the lid without issue.
If you find yourself using a wider container, it is also important to consider the number of holes you will need and their placement on the lid.
For example, when using a wide container, we would recommend only drilling 5-6 holes while making sure that they are about 15cm apart. However, if you are using a bucket, then chances are you will only need to drill one hole to accommodate the growth of your plants.
Step Three: Assemble The Pump
When building your DWC system, you need to make sure that the air pump remains outside of the container, as you don’t want it to get wet or inhale any water. Fortunately, many air pumps now come with check valves, which work to reduce this possibility.
After you have assembled the pump, you will need to connect it to the air stone using a piece of tubing. You will also need to use a similar method when connecting the pump to the check valve, which should be facing the air stone after the construction is finished.
Step Four: Fill The Container
Before filling your container, we recommend placing it in an ideal location in your home, as it can become very heavy once the water and nutrients have been added.
To begin this process, you will need to fill the container with water, leaving a 1-2cm gap between the water’s surface and the lid. Following this, you will need to add the hydroponic nutrients to the water, following the instructions provided.
When this has been completed, you can measure the ph levels in the water by using your ph meter. During this process, it is important to remember that tap water will commonly have a ph level of 6.5-7.5, which may not be suitable for herbs and vegetables that require more acidic solutions.
Fortunately, you can lower the ph levels by adding a few drops of phosphoric acid, which should always be handled wearing protective gloves.
Step Five: Complete The System
To complete your DWC system, you will need to plug in your air pump and place the air stone in the container, before securing the lid on top. Following this, you will then need to add your plants, which can be placed into the holes using the net pots, ensuring maximum growth and development.
For this, you can use seedlings that have been grown in soil or rockwool plugs. However, it is important to remember that plants grown in rockwool plugs will usually produce a much cleaner and efficient solution, especially when compared to the mess that can be caused when using soil-based specimens.
When the system is complete, your only job is to ensure the maintenance of the container, which will usually involve topping up the water, measuring the ph levels and cleaning the reservoir every 14-21 days.
You will also need to make sure that the water level does not drop too much, or you could risk endangering the health of your plants.