Ultimate Vertical Hydroponic Farm on the Cheap.. Gift Away Green Crops!





Introduction: Ultimate Vertical Hydroponic Farm on the Cheap.. Gift Away Green Crops!

*** for more info and pictures please visit my blog at http://thehydroponicexperiment.blogspot.com

Ok guys i apologize for the crappy instructable .. i kinda rushed it in order to make it to the gift contest... i obviously lost that one.. so i'm coming back to fix this one... maybe i can do better in the Shopbot contest :)

Ok originally i said a lot of things about a concept.. i wrote a blog while building this and i reused the stuff i wrote back then.. of course this is no longer a concept.. i fixed it into almost a final design.. i'm going back and cleaning this up so if i left concept or past tense stuff please forgive me.. 

Looks like i lost all of the contests i entered and i'm not elegible for the gardening contest going on right now.. So if you liked my instrcutables and you learn something. please vote for me in my other contest entries..  right now i need all the votes i can get..  my best contest entries are the following... i organized them in the order of chances of winning.. please help by voting for me

RIght now i believe my best chances of winning are on this Nano holder with earphone organizer. So please!! vote for me

.25 ultra slim minimalistic Wallet, money clip, metal bottle opener, credit card that could be attached to your android case

This is a link to my iphone wallet case.. so please vote for me here too .. thanks


Step 1: Hydroponic Concept and Materials

My materials are as follows
Water pump
Sunterra 120016 Large Fountain Pump, 200 GPH, Black (the GPH might be a bit much but you need the power for the water to go up that high)
i think it was a 10 ft Rain Master 2 in. x 3 in. Vinyl Downspout... cut down into 3 long pieces X2 with a total of 6 pieces
Amerimax Downspout Flex Elbow X5
15 min timer for the pump
Another timer for your lights.. don;t matter which type.. cheapo is fine
Black piping hose
PVC pipe (for reinforcement)
2 - 2" x 3" plastic C outlet
2  - 2" x 3" pieces of flat plastic (you will use this and the C outlets to make lid for each end of your system)
Large container to work as water reservoir
6 - 2' by 8" pieces of wood to  make your system shell  or reinforcement
Large zippy ties
solo cups or net cups.. 
if you use solo cups use a 3 in hole saw (i did this but later changed it to net cups so my holes were kinda big
if you use net cups use a 2.75in hole saw. (didnt test this so i'm guessing) (dont make it too thigh so u have space to take out once you have roots)

Vinyl Downspout has a small side that goes inside of the downspout and a large opening that goes over the other downspout piece.. i placed the larger piece on the one on top and the small one on the bottom to prevent leaks... this is a crucial step!!***

i then sealed it with LOTS of silicone and duck tape... you can use black or white.. i used black but then covered with white for appearance purposes *** please use lots of silicone..  please let the silicone fully cure before exposing it to water.. having the seals water thight will save you lots of headaches trying to fix leaks later on!!

i'm using dixie plastic cups.. they require a 3 inch hole and i used a 3 inch hole saw.. The cups are bit big but ithink it might be good since i be able to grow bigger plants.. i don't know how is going to work out.. but i seen people use smaller cups in other set ups (PLEASE NOTE) i did change the design.. so please read the entire instructional.. i changed the red solo cups to net cups.. they a bit more expensive.. but they let the water flow easier and they let the plants grow around them... Try using a smaller hole saw... like 2.75 in .. so the net cups fit better if you gonna use this design

i used solo cups at the beginning and i drilled 3 holes at the bottom of each cup

i'm using some roofing metal net and some plastic pieces to hold this up.. and some zippy ties. but i dont think this is going to be my last set up.. i might change it later on

PS.. For some reason they dont sell end caps for downspouds.. so you have to improvise.. i use the plastic C- outlet then needed to add a flat piece of plastic.. and screw it to make it a cap.. Silicone it and duck tape it to make it a end cap..

(PLEASE NOTE) i did change the design.. so please read the entire instructional.. i changed the red solo cups to net cups.. they a bit more expensive.. but they let the water flow easier and they let the plants grow around them... Also Please not that the total vertical design doesnt work well.. look at other pictures.. it ended up being a slanted S shape.. this method lets lettuce and other plants grow in different directions.. believe me those lettuce heads will get huge.. and so will the curly kales

Step 2: Seeding and Weak Lights

got some hydrowool and some trays.. planted 5 types of lettuce, basil, oregano, cilantro, Mint clippings (Cloning) roma tomato, cherry tomato, etc

at 1st i was growing the seeds with some desk lights and a fish tank light. they grew but very flimsy and delicate.. as you can see... many of them died because they were so fragile.. bend or snapped when moving them around..

Step 3: Better Lights

I browsed craigslist and found some nice fluorescent lights for cheap

2ft and 4ft T5 flourecent lights from some guy in craigslist for 50 bucks!!.. the 2ft alone is like 150.. and the 4ft is like 149 (i know because i had to buy another one) also notice i changed the original design to a step ladder like design.. this maximizes the amount of light the plants receive and the amount of grow permitted by the set up

this seeds were grown with my new light and my new grow set up... as you can see these were very strong and very thick.. little problem is that i now have way too many plants!! so i need to expand from one set up to 2 set ups.. (therefore the new light)

Step 4: Use All of Your Light

Because my 1st design put the water reservoir on the side.. the lower part of my hydroponic garden was being wasted.. so made a not so small bubbler.. this large under the bed storage topperware was clear.. so i paint it. drilled about 12 or 15 holes on top.. added a bubble stone and connected it to my airpoump..

Please note that because the way my design is made you probably don't need a air pump.. because the air spalshes around catching oxygen while going down the flexible elbows.. However, if you plan to add plants on the water reservoir or have small systems like this one.. you have to have an air bubbler to give oxygen to the roots

Step 5: Drink a Mojito, Simmer Some Basil, Eat Lots and Lots of Lettuce

I would love to say i didnt have any problems.. i love to say i didnt have any issues.. and i love to say i didnt have any leaks.. but thats not the case.. once i almost lost all of my garden due to over feeding with nutrients.. i had plenty of leaks because id dint use enough silicone in the beginning.. 

but i learned a lot.. i had tons of mojitos, hundreds of salads and cooked so much basil tomato sauce it was amazing.. 

here are some pics of my babies..

Step 6: Beware of the Tiny Bugs

one of the things i learned is DONT EVER EVER EVER buy plants at the store.. these plants are full of pests.. my garden survived tons of leaks.. tons of overfeeding, under feeding,, lack of lighting.. but couldn't survive a pests attack.. i bought a pepper plant at walmart i believe.. this plant had a white fly.. they are tiny bugs the size of a spec of dust.. but these bugs are savage killers.. 



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    27 Discussions

    Hey! I am happy I came across this! Its looks so good. I know this was a while ago but I am very interested and have a few questions!

    Firstly, how much veg do you produce roughly/ average yield of the system?

    How long does it take for the veg to fully grow?

    How much space do you need for it?

    How much water do you use?

    Sorry if you've already answered these questions!

    Thanks a lot! :)

    You can harden off your plants before moving them by adding a fan that keeps a gentle breeze going over them. This simulates outdoor conditions, making your plants tougher like they would have to be to survive outdoors.

    I am thinking of building it but what is the electric costs of running it?

    Hate to be *that* guy, but there are some points that should be addressed (yes, even eight months after the fact):

    1. The flat surface inside downspout tubing requires a steeper angle for proper drainage, and makes algae growth more likely (yuck!). I can well imagine why you needed to switch to net cups: With regular beer cups, the flat part of the bottom of the cup would sit more or less flat on the bottom of the tube, blocking both drainage and oxygenation. Net cups may help, but are the solution to a problem that you can eliminate by design. With round tubing, only the edges of the cup would rest on the tube, leaving a channel below for nutrients and, critically, air. 4" round tubing would probably be best, but 3" could work if you use smaller cups.

    2. Those elbows...yeah. The flexible pipe has folds which drain poorly and, being flat, are also prone to algae. When you're siliconing and taping plumbing, there's a problem. Best bet would be lengths of round tubing with elbows glued on both ends, then fed one into the next with a slip joint (to allow for disassembly/cleaning/reconfiguration). Chance of leaks if glued properly (which is dead easy): zero.

    3. ***IMPORTANT*** Your comment about needing a high-flow pump to lift the water high is incorrect. Looking at the chart for your Sunterra fountain pump, I see it moves 70 GPH @ 4' of lift (head). By 5 feet, it's down to zero. There are similarly-inexpensive pumps which are designed for lower flow, but higher lift. Get one before you burn your house down! (Note: This probably should have been point #1.)

    4. Aspiring hydroponic gardeners should calculate the current draw of their lights, pumps and anything else that will go through their timer before deciding if a "cheapo" is okay. Should someone plug six 4-bulb fluorescent fixtures (not overkill for indoor gardening) into a power bar, then the timer, they would exceed its safe working limit. In that case, they would need either multiple "cheapo" timers or a heavy-duty industrial timer (e.g. Intermatic).

    All that aside, the fact that you've grown some plants with this setup means you're obviously doing something right. By all means, rock on!

    Ahemp! Nicely done, of course no one would even think to grow anything for recreational use. Mind, if one did grow such a plant,or two, it would only be for the purpose of doing an instructable on rope making. Riiight.

    1 reply

    lol.. did you get a link to this page via rollitup.com? do u have the link or article.. i wanna read it.. i see it as a source of clicks on my stats... thanks

    I love your use of materials! The first thing i though then i saw this is "where would i put the fish tank for a aquaponics setup?" I was thinking to have water/effluent from a fish tank pumped up to the top as you are doing and then the larger containers on the bottom could use a bell siphon equipped bed to dump back into the fish tank. That way you would maintain an organic system without having to continually purchase "nutes" and you could produce edible fish as well. If you haven't done any research on aquaponics just search the word on youtube and you will get way more than you can watch and also search the name Murray Hallam as he is one of, if not THE, leading authorities on the subject of building aquaponic systems.

    4 replies

    I want I do aquaphInics.. I'm a bit afraid but I was afraid of hydroponics and I managed just fine with my 1st set up.. I got to find a cheap fish tank alternative.. The big blue container I use in my second setup might hold small fish .. I will try this on my next set up

    Just make sure you do some research on the subject. Aquaponic systems need to "cycle" before they can support the plants without added nutrients. Also the big blue container you refer to probably won't be a good choice for fish long-term due to the fact that most of those contain BPA and will slowly leach into the water and eventually kill off the fish as well as being absorbed by the plants you hope to eat. Usually the solution is to get some type of container that is "food-safe" or BPA-free although i have wondered about taking one of those cheap containers and just coating the inside with a "marine" resin as that would be safe for constant water contact once it cures.

    I want I do aquaphInics.. I'm a bit afraid but I was afraid of hydroponics and I managed just fine with my 1st set up.. I got to find a cheap fish tank alternative.. The big blue container I use in my second setup might hold small fish .. I will try this on my next set up

    I don't know about this. Once some of the bigger plants get tall, they're going to be growing up in front of the ones behind them. I would think this would only work for plants that stay small, except for the top row.

    1 reply

    I used this for lettuce .,, I think my biggest plants were romain lettuce and curly kale and tomatoes .. I grew them in the small pots... Once they got big I moved the romain and curly kale to the top and the tomatoes to the side reservoir... No. Issues after that

    I'm worried about mold growing in the folds of the flex pipe. Have you noticed any problem with this? I've read the instructions for commercial hanging gardens and they always direct you to dismantle and thoroughly clean, preferably with bleach, the whole system each month. ☹

    1 reply

    I didnt have any mold issues ... I had minor algea issues at the end of the harvest or season... Mainly on the elbow part.. This was because the elbows aren't as apaque as possible,, I added some duck tape around them and this fixed that issue... I'll keep an eye on mold,. But like I said no issues so far

    Amazzzzing!!!! I cant wait to start this project!!!

    Awesome Instructable! I'm almost done collecting all the supplies. I was wondering what type of pump you used? How many GPH is it? And where did you get it?