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Hydroponics - at Home and for Beginners

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I am pushing this project early. I want to clear out my unpublished projects so this is now public. Hopefully it will force me to finish sometime soon (all I need to do now is buy plants)

If you've heard of this word, it may have been on the news due to some illegal drug growing operation in someone's garage. That, or you saw the word on the packaging on some very good looking and expensive lettuce. If not - kudos to you :D

Basic Intro:
What is hydroponics?
Basically, growing plants without the use of a traditional dirt medium and using a nutrient rich water solution. Those mediums range from fiberglass to sand and from fired clay balls to nothing at all. Several branches of hyrdoponics include aeroponics (using air as the grow medium), aquaponics etc.

How do I get started?
Well, you can buy a kit - but its going to cost you... a lot. Or, you can improvise and create your own kit to suite your needs. My local hydroponic supplier's cheapest multiplant kit is $185, does 8 plants but is not very versatile and is very compact. It uses the ebb and flow method. They also offer a single pot (bucket) bubbler system for $50. We are going to combine these two systems into a more versatile and much cheaper system.

What are my options
There are many different methods. NFT (nutrient film technique - stream a thin layer of nutrient solution over the roots) is common among professional kits - a long with ebb and flow (temporary flood your root system and allow to drain). The most interesting method involves suspending your plants in mid-air and spraying the root system very frequently (aka aeroponics). Drip systems are also common and has its own advantages. There are MANY methods - all of which do not use dirt ;)

What method is used here?
By far the simplest and cheapest is a bubbler system. That is, keep your pots filled with your choice of medium just barely above your nutrient solution level -- then keep the solution well aerated. The popping of the air bubbles will keep your medium moist. Remember that more simple and more cheap does not mean less effective ;)

What Medium is used here?
I have used several different mediums in the past. Chopped rockwool, rockwool cubes/blocks/slabs, fired clay and a combination of rockwool and fired clay. This system will work best with chopped rockwool (cubed) or fired clay (extra attention is needed if starting from seed with this medium).

Cost?
I'm in college - so cost is very important to me. This can be a very cheap project if you collect parts slowly. And luckily, the parts list is not long and they're not rare. I believe I have spent a total of $30 for new materials - however I did buy a few items in bulk and I splurged a little :P

Lastly
WHY HYDROPONICS?
Hydroponically grown foods not only taste better and are more nutritional, you can change the properties of your food, monitor what goes into your food and pollutes less. You can also grow more in less space. This is especially great for those of us that do not have a backyard to grow in. With the right plant selection, you can also keep pests away. I plan on planting a citronella plant - not only do I like the smell of citronella plants, but their oils keep away mosquitoes and other pests.

This design is in no way novel... but, it is easy to do - especially for someone just starting or someone with little money.

Excited? I am. Lets go!
 
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gluvit3 months ago
Nice job
craton7655 months ago

You don't actually need a special light bulb to grow plants a regular incandescent one works fine. You can actually use CF if you want but it should be augmented with incandescent.

Sources: experience, 2 Botanists opinions on the matter.

Life Traveller10 months ago
Thanks for your post. I'm a starter of hydroponics. It helps me a lot.
donkeyknee1 year ago
good
the articles teach me a lot , thank U , I know better about hydroponics after read the articles
alexiraul1 year ago
it is nice
Growing hydroponics at home is really interesting. Hollywood stars have become serious hydroponics growers. Comedian/activist/actor Joe Rogan growing big hydroponics garden. Joe said he is in love with this plants - http://www.rosebudmag.com/hydroponic-tips-ideas/joe-rogan-plants-growers-hydroponics
For the sterilization, you could also just build a basic water distiller (unless you are in a rush) and use that.
macnomad842 years ago
is "electrons per second" a unit of power, not energy?
kovakyl2 years ago
I made one of these in my window vertically useing plastic bottles. Turned out pretty good and was around 100 bucks all in all
You can check it out at youtube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AVQPIls-PI
I was wondering if you could use lava rock as the medium. Do you think it would throw off the ph balance due to the high mineral content?
akinich2 years ago
hey nice ible
abt the nutrient mix
i live i india and there is no nutrient mix available
so i thought i could mix coconut water http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_water
sea water http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seawater
regular water and maybe a little glucose????
check out the contents of the respective waters in wiki
thanks in advance!!!
Akinich
ilovetea2 years ago
You have the section on starting from seed but I just had a question. After germination, I would put it into the rockwool and just manually water it so it doesnt get dry?
sonyagilman2 years ago
hi friend you have shown a best example of hydroponics,the plants seems good
friend I have a nice idea i know the store in that store you can get a better seeds in a very cheap price they also tell you about effective production,the store name is coasthydroponics and you can also visit online coasthydroponics.com
jlanaux4 years ago
 Hi, I also have a question...I live in Columbus, GA and we are limited here. I have a fishtank pump, would that work? Would I be able to find the other materials at my local Lowes or Home Depot?

Thanks.
in short yes... but... a fish tank is great for hydroponic plants and if you have a fish tank bubbler it is great for  aerating the water. but make sure to cover the glass. plant root hate light and it will harm them. also make sure it's not too deep. if your tank is too deep you'll just waste a lot of the nutrient solution.  
If the tank is too deep, a nice trick would be to deposit a few (completely filled with water, sealed) soda bottles at the bottom.

It's the same displacement trick some people use to waste less water if their old toilet tank is the 5 gallon/20L type.
air pumps for hydroponic systems are usually exactly the same as those for fish tanks. Like dubbed was saying, a fish tank for a planter isn't the best of ideas but could work, but the pump is good to go.
xlioilx6 years ago
I personally would not add bleach. If you want chlorine in your water the tap water would be more then enough. I strongly suggest not to use tap or chlorine and if you use the tap let it sit out for a few days. The reason why is chlorine will make your roots grow slowly or kill them and the more root the faster the plant growth. I doubt that sterilization with bleach would do much for long periods of time anyways.
I second this. If you want to sanitize the container, use Idophor or Star-San. I have both of these in my house because I use them for cleaning out my homebrew and keg system.

Iodophor will stain plastic and leave a faint iodine odor (not very strong) if you dilute it as directed. Star-San is a nice foaming cleaner AND sanitizer (but it will not do both at the same time.. ie, don't think you sanitized anything if your star san solution is full of organic floaties.. dump, rinse and re-apply to sanitize).

Star-san is nice because it's a mild acid, and becomes inert when dried (but if any were left, it would just break down some of the plant food into simpler organic compounds. Star-san -will- begin to etch and pit metals after 15 minutes, so don't soak stuff in it for any longer. SS is actually not that strong when dillute, and I've used it plenty without wearing gloves, but you need to take some care.
shortw xlioilx3 years ago
You are right, some plastics are known to absorb chemicals and will release it slowly.
If you have chlorine in the tap water you simple can drop your air stone in it and aerated it for 24 hrs, this will get rid of the chlorine. Some tab water contains chloromine and there is no way to get rid of it, since it is a combination of chlorine and ammonia.
Bleach residue could kill your roots and you end up with a smelly mess. Why sterilize and then you pump air into your solution which contain a lot of airborne bacteria anyway.
Remember, 1 drop of bleach in a quart of water will kill any bacteria you may have on your counter top.
So, I would not use bleach at all for this purpose.
I would get a test kit to check your tab water if you use tab water. If your tab water tests for ammonia and chlorine, you have chloromine in it.
scottinnh2 years ago
For folks who do not want to keep a syringe around the house, you can get a 60ml "pipette" (or a smaller one and just repeat the measurements).

A pipette basically is a glass or plastic straw. If you've ever "carried" soda in a straw by covering the straw top after dipping it in beverage, then you know how to use a pipette.
TVarmy2 years ago
How long can a hydroponics system wait between waterings? IE, say I changed the water, went on vacation for a week, and came back. Would the water be too low?
this might sound stupid but can you use a type of fishtank gravel? i dont have any hydroponic shops near me and only have things avaliable from places like walmart and homedepot. Any ideas if the smaller gravel wont work?
In aquaponics we use quartz-gravel, which would be like uncolored fish gravel.
Aquaponics is basically the same, but live fish are used to make the plant food.
I have glass marble size beads i guess they'd be for a fishtank as decoration, clear and look to be about the same size as the fired clay you can buy, these should be ok right?
You are thinking about the hydroton and they range from 1/4 inchto 1/2 inch. Remember, the roots need to stay in the dark. Glass marbles would be fine if they are not translucent.
The reason we try to use quartz, because is tends to be the most neutral media. Other media may affect your ph, but if you use glass marbles that is a neutral media also. Plastic would be ok as media, but for larger plants it may not be heavy enough to hold the plant in place.
thanks, i might look around to see if i can find something more suited for the project, like i said before though i only have regular stores around me no specialty stores. there are a few hobby shops around im wondering if i can find something in there closer to what i need.
You may look and find some river gravel at construction sites or a garden center and you could check it yourself if it would change the ph.
*Get your water and let it sit for 24 hrs and aerate it. Some new/fresh water from the tap or from the well will show a higher ph until it will air or gas out. *
After 24hrs check your ph. Wash some of your gravel in regular water and let the gravel dry.
*Check your ph
* Now put a handfull in your aired out water,( that you let set and aerated for 24hr earlier )
* Let the the water with gravel sit for 24hrs-48hrs.
* check the ph again.
If the ph does not change or only change a little bit, you should be ok.
But if it changes a lot then I would not use it.

Here is a website for aquaponic, my username is Johann.
http://aquaponicscommunity.com/forum

This should give you a lot of useful information.
I know it is not hydroponics, but they are somewhat related.
Aquaponic, is using fish instead a liquid fertilizer, but the rest is pretty much the same.
thanks lots of good information, this is my first attempt at something like this so its all a little alien to me.
Your welcome, I noticed the link for lowes.com does not work directly, but you can copy the link and past it in your browser and just hit enter. Sorry for that. This will get you to the pea-gravel I thought I will use. I went to lowes hardware and in realty the gravel looks a lot lighter in color then the picture and looks like quartz.
You may want to search the internet for a hydroponic forum, this would give you a better answer to you questions.
Good information leads to a very good start. So I would advise you to join a hydroponic forum if you thinking about doing hydroponic, this way you could ask questions there and you would get better answers. Good luck, if you got any more questions please let me know and I see what I can do to answer it. Let me know how it works out.
I meant to tell you that once my tank is cycled, that I will be using river gravel from Lowes hardware for my growing bed.
Walmart and /or Homedepot should have the gravel and it would be cheaper.

Here this is what I thought getting after my tank is cycled, but I need to check the ph for that gravel first. http://www.lowes.com/pd_92130-66882-92130_4294857240_4294937087_?productId=3047340&Ns=p_product_quantity_sold|0&pl=1&currentURL=%2Fpl_Bagged%2BRock_4294857240_4294937087_%3FNs%3Dp_product_quantity_sold|0
Any thoughts on making your own solution? I currently live in China (in a soil-deprived apartment), and I think it will be tough to find solution. But, I have seen some mysterious chemistry shops....if nothing else, it would be an interesting language learning opportunity...
You may want to check into 'aquaponics' where you keep live fish in a fishtank and there poop and fishtank water is used as plant food. You will find info here at Instructables.
I've heard that most insects do not like Diatomaceous Earth (DE). It is basically inert, Silicon Dioxide. From what I gather, it does not chemically kill them. For an insect, being exposed to DE is like being coated in razorblades - it works its way into their chitin and delivers death by a thousand paper-cuts. As far as its effects on humans - it is in Bisquick (it has no effect on our physiology). Anyhow, I wonder if this might be an effect pest control?
It is true Diatomaceous Earth is a pretty much natural pest (get rid of er) they say you can even feed a small dosage to your pets and it kills the pests that live in them.
Diatomaceous Earth only tends to rid of soft bodied pests, like slugs. They crawl over it and it cuts them up initiating their death. I would never give this to a pet to rid them of worms or any other pest they may have. If it cuts up soft bodied insects it could cause damage to your pet too. If you care about your pet, seek out a Vet!
gjones donbroro3 years ago
DE does not harm pets. I have been using it for 9 months in their food...I have friends that have used it for years.
I use 1 tablespoon per 10 pounds of feed for my horses, dogs and cats. I live in a heavy tick and flea area of the country and so far this year the only critters I've found on my animals are in the process of dying...much better in my book than a monthly topical super icky chemical application.
I've read 1 teaspoon added per gallon of water helps as well...thinking about starting that too and hopefully we will be totally critter free :)
carnivorous plants aren't as easy (as they need pampering sometimes) but work a bit more actively so that's where I lean on pest control...
bountycrops3 years ago
Your hydroponics setup looks really good. I agree that using chlorine bleach can help prevent the spread of any intruder in the garden. I personally use it in my garden. Although you really need to be careful because using it inappropriately can also cause deficiency on the plants. It's a good thing that you mentioned about allowing to air dry completely to get rid of the chlorine. Great article!
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