I have an outdoor balcony where floor space is at a premium and a lot of unused railing. I considered the bulky "window box" planters, however I still needed to run irrigation to the plants. The hydroponic systems that I researched were industrial looking and NOT aesthetically pleasing. So, I set off on a journey to find the easiest and best looking hydro-system using recycled and/or found parts. And this is what I came up with.
Step 1: The Parts, the Tools:
Rockwool cubes https://www.amazon.com/Grodan-Starter-Rockwool-Hyd...
hydroponic baskets (I recycled Keurig coffee pods)
PVC down spout (I used 5' length)
2- PVC down spout connectors
2- PVC downspout clips
2- 3" x 5" plexiglass, or plastic for endcaps
aquarium pump https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Deluxe-Submersible-H...
5 gallon bucket (I substituted an old cooler)
1/4" pipe to match length of the downspout)
1/2" to 1/4" reducer
1/4" PVC cap
4 - zip ties
seeds ( I used lettuce, anything that grows above ground should work, No carrots, potatoes, tubers etc.)
2" holesaw bit
*Safety glasses always a good idea when using tools
Step 2: Gather Your Hydroponic Basket or Recycle the Keurig Coffee Pods
Remove the foil covering and dump the coffee (makes great compost material, another project...composter). Remove the filter, and wash throughly.
Drill holes in the bottom and sides of the cups (I stacked two at a time, which took less time and gave the cups more rigidity when drilling). These holes allow water to enter/exit and the roots to breathe and expand into the solution.
Step 3: Soak the Rockwool Cube in Water for a Minute or Two
Step 4: Planting
Add the Rockwool Cube to the Basket and plant one or two seeds in the Rockwool as if it were dirt. These should sprout within 1-2 days. The water in the cube will react with the seed to sprout. The seedlings do not like direct sunlight and will burn so gradually introduce them to the sunlight. As you wait for your seeds to sprout, continue with your build to Step 5
Step 5: Prepare the Container
Take the lengthof PVC downspout and measure for 2' holes evenly spaced. Mark the center and use the drill with the 2' holesaw bit. (I cut 9 holes on a 5' lenght of downspout)
Cut 1/2" hole in the bottom corner of the downspout for the return.
Lay the 1/4 pvc pipe in the center, across the top of the downspout, over lapping the 2" holes and mark the pipe corresponding to the center of the holes.
Drill the marks with a 3/16" bit.
Use downspout connectors for the ends. You will need to cut a piece of plexiglass or plastic (I cut a rectangle from an old container). Cut 1/2" hole in the plexi on one end towards the top of the downspout for the pvc connector.
Place the 1/4 pvc pipe inside the downspout, with the drilled holes 90 degrees from the top of the downspout facing the center of the 2" holes. These become the water outlets for your plants.
Place the 1/4" connector on the end of the 1/4" pipe and the 1/4" pvc cap on the far end of the pipe secure with pvc glue.
Place the 1/4" connector through the plexi.
Place the other 1/2" connector in the return hole on the bottom of the downspout.
Add silicone to the cut plastic and place it on the end of the downspout. Add silicone around the 1/4" connectors. Let it dry and cure overnight.
Step 6: The Container Support
I used the downspout clips as support for my container. Drill a hole in the top and bottom of on side of the clip to thread a zip tie through and secure the clip with the inside of the "U" facing up.
Place the downspout in the clips. Secure the downspout further with a zip tie around the downspout and rail.
Make sure the zip tie is long enough to fit around your rail and the downspout.
If needed you can daisy chain zip ties together.
Step 7: The Reservior, a 5 Gallon Bucket
Use a 5 gallon bucket (I used a planter) as a reservior.
Place the aquarium pump inside the bucket
and fill it with water.
Connect the hose to the pump outlet (zip ties work good as a hose clamp). Connect the other end of the hose to the 1/2" connector on the top of the downspout. Connect the return hose to the bottom connector on the downspout and place the other end in the reservior.
I fed the hoses through 1/2" hole I drilled in the planter.
Step 8: Turn ON Pump and Test Your System
Turn on the pump and test the system. Check for leaks and repair if necessary.
Step 9: Add the Sprouted Seed Pods
After you harden the tender sprouts by gradually acclimating them to sunlight (about a week). Place the Hydrocups containing the seedlings sprouted in the Rockwool to the container. If you used Keurig coffee pods for your cups, try to line up a hole that you drilled to the water hole in the 1/4" pipe.
Step 10: Add Nutrient to Reservior
Depending on the type of crop you grow add the nutrient to your reservior. I chose lettuce and ordered a dry nutrient base that is added to water. This particular product is mixed 1/2 cup of dry mix to 1 gallon of water. Some nutrients come in liquid forms but that depends on your preference of product. This instructable was for the build of the system. Many "how to's" on maintaining PH and nutrient levels for your plants can be found on the internet.