This homemade hydroponics system is a system that uses a combination of two different techniques. It is similar to a nutrient film technique (NFT) in the way the nutrient solution is continuously circulated through the system. The depth of the nutrient solution is kept high, allowing the roots of your plants to bathe constantly in the nutrient solution. In this way the system is also similar to the deep water culture (DWC) technique.
The system shown here was made with two 10 FT pieces of 4 inch PVC. It is important to note that there are some advantages to using 6 inch PVC instead of 4 inch. A 6 inch pipe will give you twice as much root volume area, and makes clogging and leaking much less likely. This decision depends mainly on what type of plants you have in your garden and what size they will finish at.
The system was PVC glued together in the shape of a "U". The open ends were capped, and the plant holes were drilled with a 3 inch hole saw about every 12 inches. After making two systems this way I switched to 2 inch holes for the plant sites, which helps a lot with preventing leaks if you are using 4 inch PVC. When 2 inch holes are used, it is easiest to simply buy some 2" netted pots.
An air pump and a couple of air stones are used to aerate the nutrient solution. Nutrient absorption only occurs in the presence of Oxygen, so this is very important. At one end of the hydroponics system, a small aquarium water pump (about 60 GPH) transfers water from one capped end to the other. This sets up a continuous circulation of the nutrient solution, which evenly distributes Oxygen through all parts of the system and prevents your plants from drowning.
To keep expenses down, 16 OZ disposable cups were used for the plant containers. Holes can be easily made in the cups with a soldering iron, but should be done in a well ventilated area (plastic fumes are very toxic). The system is filled with nutrient solution until the bottom inch of each cup is under water. When properly built and filled, the 4 inch PVC system holds about 10 gallons of nutrient solution in the PVC pipes themselves. It is easy to add an additional nutrient reservoir if more nutrient solution is desired in the system. As a general rule, I like to aim for about one gallon of nutrient solution per plant in my homemade hydroponic systems.
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