Setting Up your Most Successful System

by Glenn
(Crameton, NC)

I am setting up a hydroponic system similar to what you have described here. I have (4) 16 foot 4" PVC laterals which I have drilled out for plastic cups as you describe. I will make the holes in the 16oz. plastic cups using a solder iron as you describe. I have plastic end caps for the ends of the laterals to return the fluid back to the 30 gallon container.

What should the fluid level be in regards to the bottom of the plastic cups? Do I need to add any media to the cups? I have read about NFT systems, where the fluid level is low in the pipes, and other recommendations. What has been most successful for you? Thanks in advance, Glenn.

Answer Glen- two things first....using 16 foot pieces of PVC, you are going to want to support them well underneath every two or three feet. Otherwise you will get sagging. It even happened to me in my 8 foot system! Second, make sure you solder those cups in a well ventilated area- the fumes from burnt plastic are toxic and is what kills most people in a fire (not the fire itself).

When made the way I describe, the cups only sit down into the system so far. In order to get adequate water coverage inside the plastic cups, I first had to try to get the water level inside the PVC pipes as high as I could without causing any leaks. If the holes in the pipes are not all centered along the same high spot on the pipe, this becomes more difficult to do. Even one hole off center will force you to run your system at a slightly lower water level to keep it from leaking.

Once the holes are drilled and the whole system is filled with water and level, the water should be within about 1/4 inch from spilling out of each of the planting holes. As you can see, this is an affordable system (and it produces great results) but there is little room for err. Now when you begin to fill the system with the perforated cups, there should be about an inch and a half of water in the bottom of each cup. The more, the better.

It is now time to fill each of the cups with an inch an inch and a half of pre-soaked clay pellets. Here is the strategy- you don't want to plant the roots of your clones underwater. You want to put just enough clay pellets in each cup so that the roots of the clones will not be under water, BUT NO MORE THAN THAT. After filling each cup a little with clay pellets, but before you plug any clones in, you should do a test. Looking down into each cup, you should be able to see the bed of clay pellets upon which your clones will be sitting- the top layer of pellets should be half in the water and half out of the water, so that you can also still see the water level. Finally, poke your finger down into each cup to make sure the base of clay pellets is solid (to make sure they are not just floating there).

Now you are ready to plug the clones in. Pop one into each cup and carefully fill the rest of the cup up with clay pellets around each clone plug. It is ok if the very top of the clone plug is still showing when you are done, but also ok if there is a layer of clay pellets over the top of the plug. Now you are all set and the rest of your energy can be spent on proper lighting, proper maintenance of the nutrient solution, proper temperature control, etc..

There are many, many different ways you can design a hydroponic system to provide food, water, and oxygen (at the root level) to your plants. To make things as simple and easy to use and maintain as possible, I came up with this design rather than a drip system, a flood and drain system, or a NFT system with low water levels. My system is more of a cross between a deep water culture system and an NFT system, which incorporated certain benefits (to the grower) from each different type. Because of it's ease of use, this is what has worked best for me so far....although I'm always looking to make improvements, lol. I hope this helps you out Glen, and Happy Growing!

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(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