I'd quickly like to say I've entered this into the 'Hand tools only' contest so if you enjoy the Instructable it would be much appreciated if you could vote!
I'm a keen gardener and a few weeks ago accidentally stumbled across the concept of hydroponics; basically growing plants without soil by providing them with water with all the correct nutrients in. There are many different hydroponic types but for the purpose of this Instructable I'm going to be focusing on Deep Water Culture (DWC).
DWC is suspending the plant roots over/in nutrient laden water. The water is also oxygenated with an air pump through air stones, without this oxygenation the roots wouldn't thrive. There are many benefits to DWC but the most appealing one to me is the reduced time it takes for the plant to grow and flourish.
Having read a little around the topic I decided to make my own small DWC system as cheaply and easily as possible. Unfortunately I don't have access to many tools and certainly not any power tools so I had to be a little creative at times to finish this system.
The items you'll need to purchase to build this system are:
- An opaque storage box (£3 from Poundstretcher)
- A length of aquarium tubing (£3 from Pets at Home)
- 2 six inch air stones (£1.50ea from Pets at Home)
- 2 way valve (£2.50 from Pets at Home)
- An air pump (£13.84 from Amazon)
- 6 7.5cm net plant pots (15p each from Growell)
You will need to purchase other items to set up the system, but I've not covered this in this Instructable:
- A pH water tester (you want the pH to be between 6 - 6.3 from vegetative growth, not flowering)
- Hydroponic nutrient solution
Step 1: Creating the Holes for the Net Pots
First of all grab your net plant pot (you'll notice that mine aren't net ones but I know I can grab the same size net ones later) and draw around the base of the pot in the locations that you'd like your plant pots to sit. As you can see I've gone for two rows of 3 plant pots. Once you've drawn around the base get your trusty craft knife (I'm hoping you've got a proper Stanley Knife, not like me) and slowly cut out the hole. It's not easy and it takes a bit of time but we've got no other tools to do the job!
Step 2: The Plumbing
As mentioned in the introduction you only need a few simple and cheap aquarium pieces to get going with this project:
- 2x 6" air stones
- 1x length of aquarium tubing
- 1x air pump
- 1x two way control valve
Firstly create two holes in the lid of your box to feed the air stone tubes into. We drill these at the top as otherwise water might flow backwards ruining your airpump when it's not switched on. Due to a lack of tools I created these holes by first screwing a screw into the lid, unscrewing it and then using the screwdriver to form a neat, snug, hole for the tubing.
Feed two lengths of aquarium tubing through the holes and attach the air stones to each piece. Secure the airstones to the bottom of your box. You can buy special sucker pads that do this but I've just used a bit of plumbers tape until I next head down to the pet shop.
Once your air stones are connected to the tubes connect these tubes to the two way control valve, this allows you to split the air from the pump and direct it into both stones at once. Hang the two way control valve on the lip of the box.
Step 3: The Setup
Now that you've plumbed the system and the holes are filled with plant pots you can begin to fill the system in preparation to give it a good clean. Fill with water and add about 20ml of bleach, turn on your pump and give it half an hour to thoroughly clean itself. After that time empty out the water and leave to dry.
Now your're ready to fill it up for real! As I'm planning on germinating seeds in Root Riot cubes I'm going to fill mine to just below the plant pots. The will keep the cubes damp,but not soaked, as the bubbles on the surface of the water pop. At this point in time I've been told I don't require a nutrient solution, however once germinated and roots start forming it's time to sort out the nutrients!
The nutrient solution used is down to your discretion but it's important to have measured how much water you've poured into your system as this will become crucially important in calculating how much solution to add. Also bear in mind that the entire solution/water reservoir will require changing every 2-3 weeks.