Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil. The process may sound strange at first, but a brief look at the history of the Aztecs will indicate that this horticulture strategy has been in use for thousands of years. Driven from their land, the Aztecs were forced to grow their crops by building rafts that floated on top of the lake allowing the plants roots to dangle into the water. With this technique the Aztecs were able to harness the nutrient filled water of the lake and grow enough food to become a mighty civilization.
Growing hydroponically offers many benefits over the standard soil grow as it eliminates all pests and bacteria associated with a normal soil grow that can hurt your crops. Along with less potential dangers, hydroponics allows the plant to grow larger as standard soil grown plants focus a lot of energy on spreading its roots throughout the soil in order to properly absorb nutrients. As hydroponically grown plants have their roots dipped directly into a nutrient rich liquid solution root growth is a very small concern to the plant which allows them to focus all their resources on fruit growth, which is what everyone cares about anyways.
Step 1: Preparation
The following instructable will allow users to create a cheap miniature tomato growing hydroponic rig. The total time to create this small rig is about 15 minutes. Once created, the hydroponic system can be used in any indoor room and offers the room an artistic display of creativity.
All of these materials can be bought from a common hydroponics store which many major cities will have several of. All the materials together should cost no more than $15 together as this is a small set up.
• Bottle of nutrients (Can be obtained for free at a hydroponic store, just ask for sample nutrients)
• Rockwool cube (The medium the seed will be directly placed into)
• Hydroton (Brown Rocks that will hold the roots of the plant stable)
• 2-inch net cup (cup that will hold both the hydroton and rockwool cube)
• Air pump (can be purchased at Wal-Mart for $6.50)
• Air pump tube (Wal-Mart for $1.50)
• Tomato Seeds (Wal-Mart for $3)
• Air stone (Wal-Mart for $1)
• Small soda bottle (any size will work as long as top near lid is narrow)
• Distilled water (Important! Needs to be chlorine free.)
•pH testing strips(optional)
The hydroton, rockwool cube, and net cub were all purchased from ebay for $6.00 here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-2-NET-CUP-POTS-1-ROCKWO...
Scissors or Knife
Bowl or Cup
Caution: You will be using a knife or a pair of scissors, be careful as not to point the knife or scissors at yourself as you may cut yourself if you are not careful.
Step 2: How to Create a Minature Hydroponic System
Caution: The next step will involve the use of hydroponic nutrients, common to fertilizer this ingredient is not meant to be ingested by humans. Please do not drink your nutrients as it may bring fatal consequences.
Hint: It is important to make sure the water has an appropriate pH level for the stage and type of plant you are growing. For tomatoes the optimum pH range is 5.5-7.5. You can use Epsom salt to try to neutralize you pH level.
(If you are unfamiliar with what pH is check out this link: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH_indicator )
Professional Tip: If you are using a utilizing a reservoir for multiple plants or want better results look into buying an electronic pH meter as most of them also tell you the ppm (parts per million) and temperature of your water (around 68 degrees fahrenheit for tomatoes). The price tag associated with this technology is usually in the $250 range however.
Lighting: It is also important to note that tomatoes perfer a light cycle of 18 hours on and 6 hours off. Light from incandecient light bulbs and CFLs are usually not sufficent enough for plant growth so it is important that you have your rig near sunlight.
Nutrients: Change the resivoirs water weekly and make sure to not use tap water! Once the tomatoe starts to sprout you can slowly increase your nutrient dosage by 10% a week until maturity.