Feedback on My Best Homemade Hydroponic System

 I am a complete beginner to hydroponics, I built my homemade hydroponic system and started attempting to grow literally this week. I built a very small, six plant model of your most successful model and I am looking for some feedback. It only holds about a gallon and a half of water, and I am currently not using a reservoir. I was wondering if a reservoir is essential or if my plants should be fine? I constructed my model out of 3 two foot pieces of three inch PVC.


I am also wondering if you think this will be too small for growing things such as tomatoes and herbs. I am using both a water pump to circulate the water, and a marine air pump hooked to 2 three inch air stones in my system (to help with oxygen levels). Please let me know what you think about my system and how I can improve it, or if you think it will even work. Thank you for all the great information also, your site is extremely useful!

Answer: Davis- sounds like your homemade hydroponic system is off to an OK start, but I do have a couple of suggestions for you. As a general guideline, I always build my systems to hold 3/4 to 1 gallon of nutrient solution per plant. Ideally, every system would hold one gallon of nutrient solution per plant, but I have found that you can fall just a little bit short of this without too much of a problem.

The little paper pH test strips would be another low-cost alternative for checking the pH. It is just as important to check and adjust the nutrient STRENGTH.

When you begin putting too many plants in too little nutrient solution, the plants tend to change the pH and nutrient composition of the nutrient solution very quickly. In good circumstances, this means you will have to check and adjust the nutrient strength and pH twice a day (and likely "top off" the system, as the water levels will probably be down). In bad circumstances, the plants use up one nutrient more than another, or the pH shifts too quickly to catch and fix it. In this case, nutrients become unavailable (or even toxic) to your plants and damage can happen very quickly.


Controlling the Nutrient Solution in a Homemade Hydroponic System

When I first started making my most successful hydroponic system, I also tried to make it work with just the nutrient solution in the pipes. Had I used 6 inch PVC pipes, this would have been possible (in my next homemade hydroponic system I will be using 6 inch pipes and NO nutrient reservoir).

If you're thinking about spending the big money for a pH meter, you might as well buy a combo pH/TDS or pH/EC meter (for about the same cost)

So, my first suggestion is to try to increase the amount of nutrient solution available per plant. This will act as a "buffer zone" against changes in pH, changes in nutrient composition, as well as changes in the temperature of the nutrient solution. The most obvious way to do this would be to add a nutrient reservoir to the system. In fact, this might be your only option if the pipes in your homemade hydroponic system are already filled to capacity with nutrient solution.

When designing most of my systems, I usually place the plant holes a minimum of 8-10 inches apart. This gives the user the flexibility to use every single hole if growing smaller plants (like lettuce and herbs), or to grow in every other hole if growing larger crops (like tomatoes and peppers). Even with 20 inches between plants, tomatoes and peppers can get out of hand and grow into each other without careful attention to pruning and training.

The good news is, with only 6 plant sites in your homemade hydroponic system, you should be able to train your plants outward in every direction. This is a practical solution and could work very nicely for you, given the circumstances. Another idea would be to grow your tomatoes in the four corners, and grow herbs in the middle spots. This would allow you to use all of the spots in your system, but would also allow your tomatoes to have just a little more space.

I suspect the tomatoes will eventually overtake the herbs and make it difficult for them to grow during the later stages (flowering). However, this would be OK as most herbs and lettuce varieties produce their edible parts during the vegetative stage of plant growth (and so should be finished by the time your tomatoes are producing their fruits). I hope this helps you out Davis, and Happy Growing!


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AffordableGarden Design&Setup

(10 week update below)

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people...

Epic Nutrient Change

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)...

Homemade Cloner

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 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 production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...

High Efficiency

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--->


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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.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

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!

If you've found this site helpful at all, I would really appreciate it