Why hydroponics? Simply put, a plant is able to uptake nutrients much faster in hydroponics as the nutrient solution is made readily available to the plant. This allows for much faster growth and higher yields with vegetables. Plus it's a great learning experience and very fun!
What is DWC hydroponics? DWC stands for Deep Water Culture. This is a method that suspends the plant in a nutrient rich solution with an air stone and air pump supplying oxygen to the roots.
Step 1: Supplies
Pepper seeds, I used Bhut Jolokia (Ghost pepper) for this experiment
Rockwool cubes (for starting seeds)
5 gallon Home Depot bucket (Spray Painted black)
6 inch net pot bucket lid
Hydroton clay pebbles
Aquarium air pump with air line
Aquarium air stone
pH meter with calibration powder
pH up and down (for adjusting pH of solution)
General Hydroponics Flora Series nutrients
Grow light (LED, HPS, etc...)
ALL ITEMS CAN BE BOUGHT ON AMAZON
Step 2: Starting Seeds
I recommend using rockwool as a starter for your seeds. This with reduce any problems associated with transferring your plant into the system. I used soil and found that if you don't wash the soil off the roots very well it causes problems with pH in your DWC. Rockwool can do the same but you will find less problems with using that method.
Basically soak the rockwool cubes in water, make a hole in the top of the cube and place seed in the hole then cover. Germination for Bhut Jolokia requires warmth, I used a heat mat and covered the seed starter cube. You will find that most peppers require warmth for germination. LIGHT IS NOT NEEDED FOR GERMINATION.
Step 3: Time to Set Up DWC Bucket
This part takes a bit of patience. Wait to build your system until after your plant is established. Established meaning roots coming out of the bottom of the rockwool cubes. Once that is done, move on...
Get yourself a good ol' Home Depot bucket and some spray paint and spray paint that bucket black. We do this because any light that gets into the bucket will cause the solution to start growing algae. This can be detrimental to your plants health.
Once completed, drill a small hole at the top of the bucket (use picture for reference). I used a 13/64 drill bit. I have the air line running through the bucket in the picture, but you should get the point.
Step 4: Mixing Nutrients Pt.1
This part is easy to mess up, so take your time.
I used tap water but for the purpose of the instructable, use reverse osmosis water.
This is what is called a 3-part nutrient mix. General Hydroponics makes a great solution, and it's pretty fool proof.
Start out by adding the water to your bucket. Keep track of how many gallons you pour into the bucket. You can test the pH of the water at this time but it doesn't really matter at this step. I like to write down how many gallons of water is in my bucket and what the starting pH is without nutrients. Once you have the water in your bucket and you know how many gallons are in the bucket move to the next step.
Step 5: Mixing Nutrients Pt.2
The order in which you mix the nutrients is VITAL. Mess this up and you will have countless problems with your mix.
The order goes as follows:
Here is how you mix; For every 1 gallon of water, use 1 teaspoon of nutrient. I had 4 gallons of water in my bucket so I mixed 4 teaspoons of FloraMicro, FloraGro, FloraBloom. IN THAT ORDER! First mix your 4 teaspoons of FloraMicro, stir. Then 4 teaspoons of FloraGro, stir the mix. Then 4 teaspoons of FloraBloom, stir the mix.
Step 6: Testing PH
After you mixed your nutrients, it's time to test the pH. Take off the cap from your meter and dip the very tip of it in the solution. Move the meter around as this helps get a better reading. For peppers you need to be in the 5.8-6.5 acidic range. If you are too high 6.6-8.0+ you will have nutrient lockout, simply put your plant will die. Same goes with if your pH is too low. If your pH is too high, pour a very small amount of pH down into the solution and mix. Test again and continue to adjust until your solution is at the right pH. If your solution pH is too low, use pH up and continue to test and adjust until your pH is in the 5.8-6.5 range.
Step 7: Setting Up Bubbler
By now you should have your DWC bucket where you need it. This is it's final home.
If the airline isn't attached to the air pump do so now. Run the air line through the hole you drilled earlier and then attach the air stone to the line. Drop the air stone in the solution and position the stone in the middle of the bucket.
Step 8: Transferring Plant
It's best to start by placing the 6 inch net pot bucket lid over your bucket. Pretty self explanatory.
Take your plant (still in rockwool cube) and put it in the net pot. Next cover the rockwool and around the plant with Hydroton, which is basically expanded clay pebbles. This adds stability to the plant as it grows. Next and final step, plug in the air pump and just be patient.
Step 9: Done!
You're done. Congrats!
The work is not over though. DWC requires lot's of maintenance, check the pH everyday, adjust the pH as necessary. Every month, dump out the water from the bucket and mix a new one in the same bucket. Make sure to clean out the bucket as algae tends to grow very quick.
Just have fun and experiment with what works best for you!