Introduction: Making a Cheap Hydroponic System, the Kratky Way

About: Growing food in a sustainable way that any one can do. From a small apartment to a full size garden.

Growing Great Food Cheaply And Easily


Good information came be found with this book. How to Grow Fruits, Vegetables & Houseplants Without Soil The Secrets of Hydroponic Gardening Revealed: The Secrets of Hydroponic Gardening Revealed (Back to Basics) and you can decide if hydroponics is good for you

An excellent article by Shannon McKee on the Kratky method of Hydroponics

An Ebook by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii.

Step 1: So What Is Kratky Hydroponics

First of all I am by no means an expert in hydroponics. Like most people on this site I enjoy tinkering or playing in my workshop and definitely growing things. I am also by nature cheap and like everyone else we watch our money so that being said, being cheap and growing our own food which we all know is the best food there is, is for us the way to go.

There are many different methods of hydroponics and they can cost up to thousands of dollars. I want to show you a way that you can grow good food very cheaply, very quickly and put on your family's plate. I am not saying my way of doing things is the best way but for my family it works well.


So what is the Kratky method of hyproponics. The Kratky Method is a way of hydroponically growing your plants in a container without needing electricity, air stones, pumps, or anything else

This system can work indoors if you have a grow light but it can work out doors just as well. Let's get started. So what is the Kratky method of hydroponics. Click on the link to go to a great explanation of this method by Shannon McKee

Another great explanation of the method is this ebook from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii.

Step 2: Finding Your Containers

When it comes to finding your containers there are two ways to do this. You can ask your family, friends and colleagues for containers such as glass jars, plastic containers like folgers coffee cans, non dairy creamer containers ect ect. I have even seen tin cans being used but I do caution against these as they can contain rust which is not a good thing. When you get your containers make sure that you rinse them out. I put mine through a cycle in the dishwasher.

In this method I am showing you I was using 1.9 liter and 2 qt containers that I bought in the home decor section at your favourite Wally World outlet. The reason I like these is that they are clear which you will see why soon

You don’t have to use clear containers it is just my preference.

Step 3: Prepping Your Containers

I paint all my containers a matt black. The reason for doing this is to stop algae from growing in your containers. Sunlight / Grow light light goes through your container and if your containers are not painted then I find that algae can grow. This is detrimental to your hydroponic system as light promotes the growth of algae which will eat the nutrients in your solution thereby taking essential food away from your growing plants.

As previously stated I bought for the purpose of this instructable 10 containers from Wally World. 4 x 2qt and 6 x 1.9lt The total cost for these is around $34. I then removed all the labels using the product “Goo Gone” available from Wally World and the big box stores.

Next I placed a strip of one inch painters tape vertically down the front of the containers. This goes from top to bottom. When painted this tape is removed and this line where its not painted enables you to see your water level and the root growth of your plants. In one of the picture I placed a small light in the container. This shows you how well the paint blocks light.

For my paint I like the matt black of Fusion branded paint that I get from Wally World. At the time of writing this I was paying around $5 a can. Make sure that you are using a dark colored paint. I give the container 2 coats allowing a day between coats. After the paint has dried remove the tape revealing the clear sight line.

Now the lids

The lids I use a two inch hole saw once again available from the big box stores and cut a hole centrally located into the lid. This hole is where your 2" net cup is placed. I then painted the lids the same matt black that I used on the body of the container.

Essentaily your container is now complete and ready to use.

In the next in this series I will show you how I grow lettuce in these containers for as little as 20 cents a head. This does not include the cost of your containers and paint and as you use the containers more and more this cost that you outlay will be divided amongst your grows. If you plan correctly you can have lettuce or your leafy vegetable of choice growing all year around with the right conditions. Any water that is left can be strained and reused but we use it on the garden around the house. We use fresh water everytime. This way if there are any bacteria left over from the previous grow then they will not be transfered to your next grow.

The good things about this container is that they are totally reusable over and over. This reduces the outlay. Once you have set up your containers your only outlay will be your nutrients and water and if you grow indoors then the power to run your grow light.

Step 4: Growing & New Content.

I will be putting up new instructables on how I grow various greens and vegetables over time.

Here is a link to a picture album of a lettuce grow showing you how well this system works

I hope that you find this informative and that it inspires you to take the plunge to growing great food cheaply.


Step 5: Grow Baby Grow

Planter Challenge

Participated in the
Planter Challenge