A homemade hydroponics system does not have to be complicated or expensive to build. Each type of hydroponics system has its own special things you must consider. Before building your own system, you should be familiar with common problems that often trouble various hydroponic systems. Below is a list of systems that are the easiest to put together and that you can still get great results from. These hydroponic system types are...
Once you have a system, check out the sections on hydroponic feeding tips and organic hydroponics for some plant feeding ideas. Or, put together the perfect environment to keep your hydroponic system in at garden design.
This is the lowest cost, lowest maintenance system. You can
fill 50 cent grow bags with a soilless mix (like equal parts
vermiculite/perlite/coconut coir) and you are all set to grow.
With this method, it is important to make the medium slow draining. This is accomplished by using the vermiculite and coconut coir, both of which retain water. The goal is to have the bags retain the nutrient solution (and stay moist) for about the same amount of time as a soil mix would. All of this is very easy to accomplish. Simply water every day or two using whatever feeding plan you like.
Also known as the reservoir method, this homemade hydroponics system is also very easy. To duplicate a deep water culture system homemade, all you need is a cheap plastic storage tote, a regular fish aquarium air pump, and a couple of air stones. Alternately, water can be pumped up into pipes or grow tubes above and flow back to the hydroponic reservoir below.
An effort should be made to keep light out of the nutrient solution. This will prevent algae growth, which will prevent the appearance of fungus gnats. Square containers fit together nicely to make the most of your space, and also to block light. As another option, holes can be cut in the lid of the storage tote to accommodate several plant containers, keeping in mind the importance of blocking the light from the nutrient solution.
For a homemade hydroponics flood and drain system, you will need two sturdy plastic storage totes, an aquarium air pump, an aquarium water pump, a timer, a set of flood and drain fittings, and a short length of plastic tubing. The parts are all easy to get, except the flood and drain fittings can be a little tricky to find sometimes. I found an affordable set on Amazon.
First, one tote will be your nutrient
reservoir. Pick a dark colored tote to keep light out (this will prevent
algae growth). The air pump should go to a couple of air stones, which
will be kept bubbling in the nutrient reservoir. The water pump goes
there as well.
The other tote will go on top of the nutrient reservoir and hold the plant containers. Somewhere in the bottom of this container (out of the way of the plants) you will cut two 3/4 inch holes and install the flood and drain fitting and the overflow fitting.
Finish it off
by running a short piece of tubing from the water pump to the flood and
drain fitting (which is the shorter of the two). All you have left to
do is plug the water pump into the timer, set your timer for your flood
and drain cycle, and fill the nutrient reservoir with about ten gallons.
the pump kicks on, the top container will fill with water (but never
higher than the overflow). When the pump kicks off, the nutrient
solution will drain back down the shorter fitting, leaving the plant
roots and growing medium wet with nutrient solution.
The flood and drain is the homemade hydroponics system I first started out using. The function of the system is so simple. The results are consistently very good. The system is so easy to put together... there is no reason to ever purchase an expensive hydroponic setup!
To build a homemade hydroponics NFT system, you will need plastic gutters, PVC pipe, or any flat container a few inches deep. You will need a cheap plastic tote for a nutrient reservoir, and an air pump to keep it Oxygenated. You will also need a water pump to move the nutrient solution, and some capillary mat.
In this homemade hydroponics example, the gardener uses one line from the pump to feed the top PVC pipe. Gravity then pulls the water back and forth until it is back at the nutrient reservoir.
In this setup, each row is being fed constantly from a line off the
pump. Each row drains back into a collection pipe, which drains back to
the nutrient reservoir. This setup would require a much stronger water pump, but a low pressure pump could still be used. An affordable version of this system can be made from PVC pipe or fence post.
The key to a successful homemade Nutrient Film Technique system is the capillary mat in the bottom of every gutter, pipe, and tray. Also, make sure to pitch your pipes just a little to keep the water flowing in the right direction.
For this homemade hydroponics setup you will need two cheap storage
totes, some square plant containers, and several feet of 1/2 nylon rope. You will also need an air pump
to keep the nutrient solution Oxygenated. The hydroponic system above has been fitted with drip emitters for top feeding. With the reservoir positioned directly below the plants, this system could very
easily be made into a wick system (or a hybrid system).
One storage tote will become the nutrient reservoir on the bottom. The
nutrient reservoir always gets the air stones from the air pump. The top
tote will hold the plant containers. 1/2 inch holes are drilled beneath each plant container to allow
the nylon rope to hang down into the nutrient solution. Each rope must
be long enough to be buried through most of a planting container, yet still be able
to hang down into the nutrient solution.
Finally, you want to fill the plant containers with a medium that will pull water from the nylon wick into the plant container. A 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite should work well. Perlite and coconut coir would also work well.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT
having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow
your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality
nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with
and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as
possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only
just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only
because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique
and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more
high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole
year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to
increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the
same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your
own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...
The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!