Introduction: Pumpless (off Grid) Hydroponics With 5 Gallon Buckets

About: I like fishing, boating, and gardening as well as learning interesting ways to do things. This site is perfect for me because I like to "fiddle".

There is nothing inherently difficult about this and it works phenomenally for growing everything from peppers to tomatoes. The best thing about this is that it is almost a set and forget method of hydroponics. Yes, during the heat of the summer you will have to add more nutrient water to your buckets every few days, but for the most part, this is an easy way to garden. The first image on this instructable is of a Ghost Pepper plant that is about 2 months old and has well over a dozen peppers on it already. Another seed planted at the same time and transplanted into the ground the day after I built these buckets is less than half its size and only has 2 peppers on it.

Step 1: Prepping Your Buckets

Without further delay, let's get started with the build.

You will need:

  • 5 Gallon Bucket (opaque as possible to avoid algae but stay away from black because of heat). I find the gray Lowe's buckets work well for this
  • Lid for the 5 Gallon bucket - again, as opaque as possible.
  • Net pots (get them pretty cheap on Amazon (click here for Amazon search) - 2" or 3" will work well)
  • Rocks (river rocks, lava rocks etc, but no limestone as it alters water PH)
  • Plant (what are you going to grow?)
  • Drill
  • Hole saw for drill the size of your net pot
  • Water soluble nutrients (You can get any decent water soluble nutrients from Lowe's or you can buy the best, scientifically formulated for this type of hydroponics at Coast Hydro (nutrient solution no longer for sale through Coast Hydro. I use 12 grams Masterblend tomato formula (4-18-38), 12 grams calcium nitrate (15.5-0-0) and 6 grams magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) per 5 gallons of water - these can be bought pre-mixed on Amazon or you can buy separately and mix your own)

(Alternatively, instead of net pot, you can also get large net pot lids for 5 gallon bucket (here on Amazon). By doing so, you can eliminate the need for drilling hole and net pot. When buying the, I get the 6" ones as they are perfect to put a large Bonnie plant from Lowe's or Walmart in.

Drill Your Hole

Pretty straightforward - find the center of the lid (there will be a small bump that marks it) and drill your hole using the hole saw.

Rinse your Roots

Remove your plant from its container and rinse the roots off very carefully. You want to remove the dirt but you do not want to tear up the roots. Once they are sufficiently relinquished of soil, put the plant in the net cup with roots hanging through the bottom of the cup and add rocks around the plant in the net cup to make the plant stay in place.

Insert Plant and Fill up Bucket

Insert your plant into the hole in the lid. You will want to add your nutrient mix and fill the water up to where it just touches the bottom of the net cup (and consequently has the roots dangling down in to the nutrient water). Put lid on the bucket with plant in it and place somewhere that will not get direct rain as rain will weaken your nutrients and too much rain will drown your plants.

6" Amazon Pot Variance

If you get the 6" pot lid off Amazon, you can place the Bonnie plant with peat pot and all, directly into the net pot. The nutrient solution will need to be about an inch up on the pot to encourage wicking of water to plant until such point the roots come through the pot and down into the mixture.

Refilling Buckets with Nutrients

As the plants use the nutrient water in the buckets, the roots will grow down to the bottom of the bucket and suck out all the water through natural respiration. You will need to add more nutrient mix but it is IMPERATIVE that you do not add all the way to the top as you risk drowning your plant. See, as your roots are growing down, the upper roots are sucking much needed oxygen. If you fill your bucket all the way back up, you will drown it. Instead, as you run low on nutrient mix, only fill your bucket to about halfway. It helps to have 2 or 3 buckets (or more) at a time so you can mix up 5 gallons of nutrient solution at a time and split among the buckets that need it.

Daisy Chaining Buckets

If you feel comfortable doing so, use PVC and UniSeals or Bulkhead fittings to connect multiple buckets and use a reservoir to fill all buckets at once.

THANKS! Hope ya enjoyed!!
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