Introduction: How to Lasercut a Simple Hydroponic Vase for Growing Tomatoes!

Picture of How to Lasercut a Simple Hydroponic Vase for Growing Tomatoes!

This simple hydroponic vase was developed for my sister - a questionable gardener who likes a simple aesthetic (modern/minimal) and really wanted to grow tomatoes for her daughter.

If you're interested in more of the story behind it, check out the video!

Why Hydroponics?

  • Hydroponic growing techniques actually use less water than traditional soil techniques
  • There's no weeding
  • Maintenance is really straight forward (just change the water and 1/8 tsp nutrient once a week!)
  • A hydroponic plant takes less space than a potted plant

What Hydroponic method is used here?

There are a lot of different ways to grow a hydroponic plant, this one is about as simple as you can get. I cannibalized a petomato kit which used a combination of a root system (where the roots are directly immersed in the nutrient rich water) and a wick system (where the wick carries the nutrient and water to the roots, which sit in a substrate, like sand).

What you'll need:

  • Access to a laser cutter - Try your local makerspace
  • Acrylic - It doesn't have to be white, but it must be opaque (roots don't like sunlight) - I went with a light color so I didn't have to worry about heat cooking my roots. Your local makerspace should be able to help you source the right acrylic for their cutter
  • Weld-on 3
  • A paintbrush or large needle to apply the weld-on
  • Tape
  • Growing substrate/wick - I used the cannibalized wick and sand, other substrate options include rockwool, fired clay pebbles, sand, fired clayballs, pumice, and many more! - If it's your first time working with hydroponics I'd suggest buying a petomato kit and starting there, it's cheap, it works, and it comes with plant food and seeds to start with! I'll play around with more substrates and post an update if I find an ideal candidate for this vase!
  • Tomato Seeds (theoretically you can grow lots of stuff hydroponically, but I can only vouch for this vase's success with tomatoes)
  • Miracle Grow (working on finding a better/organic option)
  • Water

Step 1: Cut Your Pieces

Picture of Cut Your Pieces

Take this file to your local laser cutter. Figure out your acrylic choice, the appropriate settings for that material, and get cutting.

I've attached a few different filetypes here. The dxf is the right set up for my local laser cutter (shout out to steam labs!) , but if you need to save it in a different format the .ai or .eps should get you there.

Step 2: Glue Them Together

Picture of Glue Them Together

I watched a video where this guy used weld-on 3 and a paintbrush to glue together his acrylic item after taping it all together.

I had mixed results using his methods... the tape I used seemed to react with the weld-on, making my edges feel a little rough. I had more success with balancing my pieces together and dabbing on a tiny amount of the weld-on, waiting for it to dry and then going back with a heavier hand.

I thought I'd have to go over the whole thing again but the first pass actually made the whole thing water tight!

Step 3: Plant Your Seeds in Your Substrate

Picture of Plant Your Seeds in Your Substrate

Give the whole thing a rinse (I might be paranoid but I wanted to give my little seeds a chemical free chance).

  1. Put your wick in the inner tube. (I had to trim the part from the petomato kit) and substrate. If you don't have kit to cannibalize, try using some old undyed fabric, like a sock, and placing your substrate on top.
  2. Put in a little substrate
  3. Plant 2-3 seeds
  4. Top off with 1/4" substrate
  5. Fill your base with water (no nutrient needed right now)
  6. Place the top into the base and drip 3 drops of water onto the substrate to dampen it
  7. Wait 7-10 days for seeds to germinate

Step 4: Maintain

Picture of Maintain

Once your seeds have sprouted...

  1. Change your water once a week and add 1/8tsp of miracle grow (the base holds about 5oz of water)
  2. Place it wherever you'd place a potted plant (For optimal growth you can place it under a grow light, but it works fine with direct natural sunlight)
  3. Once your plant is flowering, use a paintbrush to "pollinate" your tomato plant, increasing fruiting (search youtube, there are videos for this stuff).
  4. Pick and eat your tomatoes! WOO HOO!

Comments

INHAOS YAKE (author)2016-04-18

Great instructable!

MichelleK53 (author)INHAOS YAKE2016-05-04

Thanks! It's my first but definitely not my last.

YourMagesty (author)2016-04-15

Repeat after me: ir - rad - i - ca - tion. There ya go, dear!

This is intriguing....one plant per self-sufficient receptacle, weed-free, water-maintained, (did you say..."sister-resistant?") hehe.

You had me until the word: "pathogens" floated by. How is this resolved? Would love to hear about it. Thanks!

MichelleK53 (author)YourMagesty2016-04-16

Well you know, I've never had problems with pathogens, it's just a problem I've read about. (I get the sense that systems where you don't completely change the water have more issues with pathogens than this prototype would).

Once my life settles down in June I'm going to start a full scale experiment (multiple substrates, wicks, system designs and nutrient sources) - I'm sure I'll run into molds, bacterias and other ickies at that point. Depending on what I've got growing, and whether it's an organic system or not, I'll probably follow some of the ideas laid out in this article first - http://www.simplyhydro.com/kill_pathogens.htm

If you get testing first definitely let me know :)

Akin Yildiz (author)2016-04-14

this is pretty cool.. you should include a picture of the wick in action.
are you familiar with my work.? we can easily implement smart plant technology to your vase.!!

MichelleK53 (author)Akin Yildiz2016-04-15

Definitely! I want to try to figure out an organic alternative to miracle grow (ugh) for hydroponics - being able integrate a pH meter and other metrics would be killer (it was a future plan but it's cool to know I can start by looking through your stuff!).

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