A DIY Hydroponic Garden is Fun and Practical
So What Are You Afraid Of? Just start growing your garden.
When I first started growing plants hydroponically I wanted to make everything as easy as possible. That meant I didn’t want to think about building my system because I wanted to get to the process of growing plants immediately. I couldn’t wait for the first embryonic leaves to the seedlings to appear. When those appeared, I knew I was doing something right.
My prepackaged setup worked well for my first couple of growing sessions, but then I started to get dissatisfied. The biggest problem is that if I wanted to expand my growing operation, it wasn’t going to properly fit the space that I had. I saw right away that I would have wasted space. Not only that, but the prepackaged system I chose wasn’t going to work well with the new vegetables I wanted to try.
As I had always liked to build things since I was a kid and had been handy at fixing things around the house, I thought, “Why not? It’s time for DIY hydroponics.” I browsed through various websites to find easy-to-build systems and what materials I needed. Guess what? It worked.
Constructing a DIY hydroponic garden is not difficult. The trick is finding an uncomplicated design that will work well for the plants you want to grow. If you have basic DIY, you can build one. Let’s get to it!
Convince Me That a DIY System is Better Than That Online Kit
Many people ask me why they should spend the time looking through the internet and then going to their local hardware store when they can get a box delivered to their home with everything needed to build their hydroponics operation. Let’s look at the drawbacks of this scenario first.
Sure it will take you more time to accomplish setting your garden, but the benefits will easily outweigh the time you spend shopping for the necessary materials as well as the tools if you don’t have them. Think of it this way: how long does it take you to go to the hardware store? That’s how long it will take you to find everything you need for a PVC pipe hydroponic garden.
The other significant advantage is the price. You’ll spend a lot less on constructing a hydroponics garden from scratch. Rural Living notes that materials for a free-standing, recirculating pump based vertical hydroponics set up built with PVC piping will cost $100 or less. Of course, if you don’t own all of the tools needed to construct the system, you’ll either have to rent or buy them. Even if you do have to spend money on tools, the total cost will often be much less than pre-packaged systems from online sources.
Now you’re probably going to say, “Look, I Googled hydroponics growing systems, and I found plenty that are inexpensive.” Hobby Jump lists quite a few systems that are great for beginnings, some of which are under $100. However, if you t a look at them, some are quite tiny while others don’t include everything. When you build a Diy hydroponics garden from scratch, you’ll have everything you need.
Of course, you may be anxious that if you build your own system, it won’t work correctly. Maybe you like the idea that all you have to do is order a system, open the box and follow directions or simply want to concentrate on growing plants and not be concerned with the setup. Those are valid reasons, but if you want a little adventure, why not try building your own?
I HAVE to Grow My Favorite Veggies
Virtually anything that you grow outdoors in a traditional soil environment, you can grow in a DIY hydroponic garden. What’s more, most of the vegetables, herbs, and greens that you select will grow better than they do in soil. Why is that? Well, you’re providing your crops with precisely what they need. In short, that means your plants will receive the exact amounts of water, nutrients, and sunlight required to grow and flourish.
Start With the Most Popular Crops
Short-season crops grow quickly and will provide you with quick rewards. You’ll feel like a pro, and seriously you are, after only a few months. Another benefit is that you’ll get several batches of short-season crops from your indoor hydroponics garden each year.
While hydroponics is virtually foolproof, some crops will grow more easily than others. According to Green and Vibrant, lettuces are the most popular crop grown in hydroponic gardens. They grow very fast and are extremely easy to take care of. If you plan to start small, greens are that way to go. Other easy greens that are also nutritious are kale and spinach. You can also consider other types of greens such as arugula, endive, mesclun mix, you name it.
Vining vegetables also grow well in hydroponics gardens. All types of tomatoes, which are technically a fruit, are a great choice. You can choose traditional slicing tomatoes, aroma varieties, cherry, and grape tomatoes. All work well but bear in mind that they need a tremendous amount of light, so make sure that you have grow lights if you have set up your garden indoors. You will also need a trellis or some other type of structure to support tomatoes as they grow.
Another vining vegetable, which is also technically a fruit that works well in a hydroponic environment is cucumbers. Many different types enjoy rapid growth and high yields, including American slicing varieties, long seedless European tyes ad smooth-skilled Lebanese cucumbers. All love warm weather, so make sure that you supply hem with plenty of light and heat.
Radishes, another quick-growing vegetable, also take well to hydroponics. You’ll see seedlings emerge in three to seven days. These are cool-climate crops that need little light.
Think About Branching Out Your DIY Hydroponic Garden
Once you get the hang of producing short season, easy-to-grow crops, you’ll become hooked and will want to try other crops. What’s your favorite vegetable or fruit? Do you use a lot of herbs in your cooking? Modular Hydro recommends the following:
Warm Weather Crops
- Sweet and Hot Peppers
- Green, wax, lima, pinto and other types of beans
Cool Season Crops
- Cabbage and bok choy
- Swiss chard
- Snow and sugar snap peas
- Green onions
- Short crop carrots
Don’t Go Home Without These Items
Four our purposes, we will concentrate on what you’ll need for a PVC pipe hydroponic garden. Vertical towers present many advantages for beginners, not the least of which is you’ll need less horizontal room than for more traditional-looking hydroponic gardens. However, PVC pipe works for Horizontal and well as vertical systems. Before you head out to the hardware store, make sure that you have sufficient building materials and tools to construct your setup.
DIY Hydroponic Garden Essential Materials
Grow Lode recommends the following materials for a simple PVC system:
- Sawhorses or cement blocks on which to place the pipes
- One reservoir
- Four-inch pipes cut to equal lengths to hold the plants
- Two four-inch elbows fittings for every two pipe sections
- One T-fitting for each four-inch pipe length
- Mag drive pump
- Bypass valve
- 1/2-inch black poly Ts for each pipe
- 1/2-inch black poly end cap for each header line
The PVC pipes don’t come with the holes in which to insert your plants, so you’ll need cutting tools to accomplish that. At the least, you’ll need a drill, a 3-1/2-inch holesaw, handsaw or skill saw, a knife and a wrench to tighten connections. Farm Hydroponics also recommends that you also use a chalk line, tape measure, soldering iron, and pruning shears during construction. You may also want to consider using PVC primer and pipe glue as well as duct tape to ensure that the pipe connections are secure.
Putting It Together: The Moment of Truth
Putting together your PVC pipe hydroponic garden may be the least far part of the process, especially if you decide to make one with more than just a handful of growing pipes, so Instructables suggests that you enlist the help of a fellow DIYer to make the job go faster.
Preparing the PVC Pipes
Cut the growing pipes to the desired length, making sure they are all even. Remove any burrs with PVC primer. Use the elbows and the T-pieces to connect the rows to one another and then twist the pieces in just a bit to make them fit better before applying glue (if using). Make sure that all parts sit flush on the floor before gluing everything together.
Drilling the Holes
If possible, let the system dry overnight before drilling the holes. If you can wait several hours before drilling holes. Measure 3-1/2 inches from each elbow and make a mark before making the first drilling on the absolute top of each pipe. Drill holes at one end of each pipe to connect the 1/2-inch black tubing that will be the feeder line, which pumps the nutrient solution into the system.
Connecting the Pump
The pump should sit above the highest point of the setup, whether vertical or horizontal, to allow gravity to accomplish some of the nutrient delivery. The black tubing reservoir may be located under the system itself or to the side as long as it is lower than the plants. Another 1/2 inch black tube will take the nutrient solution back through to the pump to recirculate once again.
A Variety of DIY Hydroponic Garden Configurations
The beauty of a PVC hydroponic system is that it can accommodate a variety of configurations including the vertical A-frame shown here, here you will see how a sample PVC pipe system works. Note that some systems will require end caps on the pipes to keep the nutrient solution within.
Get Building Your DIY Hydroponic Garden to Get Growing
One of the greatest joys of hydroponics is the joy and satisfaction you get out of growing your food. When you construct your system, you will augment that joy and satisfaction. Not only did I grow my own food, but I also made the system that supported the crops.
Over the years that I have maintained a DIY hydroponic garden, I have found that the PVC system not only fits a variety of spaces and configurations, but it can also adapt to the needs of different crops. If you want to grow plants such as squash or watermelon. You can place the pipes in such a manner that the plants have sufficient room to grow.
Because you can make these systems as big or as small as you want, you can set up a new trial system to try crops that have different nutrient needs to determine whether or not you want to continue growing experimental plants. Thus, it’s a win-win situation.
Finally, if you’re worried about the cost of maintaining your newfound hobby, you’ll see that even if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be able to slowly build an operation of varied and nutritious crops grown pesticide-free that can keep you and your family feed all year long.