Gardening Without Earth





Introduction: Gardening Without Earth

About: Furniture and heirloom design and manufacture. Wooden boat repairs. CNC machining for sign making and furniture repro. One off hand made signs. Garden artifacts in oak, pine and North American hardwoods Wo...

This simple hydroponic garden is built on a small slope for drainage from manifold to drain (around 1 in 10 slope) and a hole in the ground for the nutrient tub.

The hose joints are 3/4" hose into undersized holes (around 1/32"-1/64") smaller, try on something else before drilling end caps, the hose should be hard to insert but will make a watertight seal if it's tight enough.

It's important to line the ground with plastic or boards to prevent the rain from bouncing dirt up into the system.

I used 2" pots at the front and plastic 3" cups at the back.

For plants I have been getting plants from garden store and washing all the earth and so on gently with water flow from a slow hose.

When I have enough root to reach the bottom of the tube (2"-3") I put the clean plant into a slit cut in a 2" by 2" piece of rock wool which has been squeezed under clean water to water log and then inserted into 2" pot with hole cut in bottom with roots hanging deep enough to reach nutrient flow.

I then insert into 1 7/8" holes in tubes.

Keep it simple!

Step 1: Manifold Joy and Sight Box With Carbon Filter.

The ability to control the flow of nutrient to each tube and the sight box at the other end are the key to easy flow control.

The sight box has a false floor with holes to keep the carbon filter away from the outlet (more hose) in the bottom of the box with a close fitting top to keep the system clean.

Carbon filter sold in sheets on Amazon, buy big and cut to fit and change every few days at first then as the system is cleaned once a week is good.

Sight box is what my FUGOO bluetooth came in, look for a sturdy plastic box at the supermarket around 10" by 4" by 4" with a clear or easy to remove airtight lid.

I modified a garden hose manifold with an extra tap on the pass through on the end so as to get 5 outputs with taps to balance output.

This allows for the more hungry plants like the tomatoes at the back to get more flow.

The tubes and end caps are 4" triple wall drain pipes (Tru Value) with the caps sealed with white silicon goo.

The stand for the tubes is a piece of plywood with 4" holes cut at the right spacing to maximise the space available.

Step 2: Pump and Water Cleaning.

The 8 gallon tub in the hole (cooler in ground) has 2 pumps inside.

The pumping for the plants is done by a small aquarium pump moving around 80 galls an hour ($10 ebay/ Amazon)

I also added a small pump/UV/aeration unit (Amazon, $18) to pass water through itself and over a internal UV tube and out via an impeller that also draws air into the output to bubble through the clean water.

This pump only circulates in the tub and does not pump anywhere.

Around $150 in parts and 5/8 hours effort.

Nutrient is Miracle Gro for now and I have a small Ph meter and try to keep our potable well water Ph between 7.0 and 8.0.

This is a new system and a close eye needs to be kept on the nutrient level until it all is stable.

See the many 'stuctables on the topic of nutrient composition and concentration.

Water needs topping up when needed and a second pump is a good backup in case the 1st one fails.

Happy growing.



    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Backpack Challenge

      Backpack Challenge
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest

    21 Discussions

    I use a similar design but have my tubes hanging vertically from a wood frame. I have the ability of growing up to 150 plants at a time, but can expand it if needed. The first year I used a nutrient box to feed the plants, and had good results, but last year used goldfish, about 100 of them in a 75 gallon tank I made from an IBC container. The plants didn't like the fish manure as much so this year I'm using the fish to feed some lettuce and a nutrient tank for the toms, cukes, peppers, zukes, and such. Will see how it turns out.

    I've found that growing hydroponically needs lots of testing, and systems that work in one area will not work in others. So, each year is a new experience.

    1 reply

    Look up " " for some interesting hydroponic ideas using recycled plastic bottles and an ingenious air lift pump design. Was fascinated by hydroponics since I went on a behind the scenes tour of the living land pavilion at Epcot in Florida. There was one idea of having aquatic fauna ( fish and crayfish ) in a tank and letting their waste provide fertilizer for the plants growing in the same tank. You have a good idea there.

    2 replies

    Sell the extra fish to your neighbors as "no added man-made chemicals" at half the price the stores charge.

    As a bonus, your neighbors can come over and see for themselves what environment their food is raised in.

    I'm not sure why this 'ible is so hard to find. The first two times I found it, I forgot to bookmark it. My bad, I know. Anyways, I'm in the middle of doing my version of this hydroponic set up and I'm super pumped to be doing it. I've never written an instructible before and I don't know that I can, but I thought maybe I'd let you know you inspired me.


    I would have liked a photo of the 2"x2" piece of rock wool you put the plant in. Where do I buy it? Thank for the instuctable!

    I always like to repurpose materials to different uses..

    But i definitely dont like this instructable - this project doesnt account for the leeching chemicals from the PVC pipes in hot day time temperatures into the water which you're feeding to the plants. consumption of such vegetation will only make the person sick. Even in the case where the plants arent being grown for human consumption - feeding such leeching chemicals to the plants, in my perspective is just poisoning the plants/other insects which depend on such vegetation.

    But im sure this can still be used for other purposes! :)

    Does the sight box get algae? I've always heard a nutrient solution exposed to light breeds the green stuff

    1 reply

    Box is covered with tarp, uv lamp in pump kills algae water quite clean

    Amazing who you find floating in the net :-D
    Hey, from Brett Jewell

    1 reply

    Nice project! What kind of plants are you trying? Have you hit a size limit yet?

    1 reply

    Assorted veg, flowers, flowers, parsley and basil.

    'S all new so we shall see how big things get, might have to swap out well water (bit acid) for distilled from supermarket, we'l see, thanks for stopping by.

    Pretty nice setup. I noticed on the inlet end of pipes the hoses enter at the top of the tube, and they drain at the bottom of the pipe. Why not raise the drain hole or use an adjustable baffle to raise the water line in the tubes until the young plants roots grow longer? Then you can skip the nursery stage of waiting for the roots to grow.

    1 reply

    Very interesting!

    Do you do this because of poor soil where you live, or for some other reason? I'm not terribly familiar with these systems, but very curious. Thanks for sharing this!