Introduction: Home Hydroponics - a Manual on How to Build Your Own Hydroponics System
Causes and Effects of Overpopulation
Overpopulation shouldn't be taken lightly. It has some terrible effects, one of them being a shortage of food. Our currently overpopulated world is caused by the Industrial Revolution. It occurred about 200 years ago and that is when our global population really started to increase. The Industrial Revolution allowed us to grow much more food than before and transport it around a lot faster as well. Around this time, there was about one billion people living in the world and it quickly increased to over seven billion people; today's current population.
Having seven billion living and eating on Earth doesn't make it easy to grow enough food for everyone. There are about 805 million people without enough food to live a healthy life. Most of these people live in Asia where populations are high and cities become mega cities. A city is considered a mega city when it has over 10 million living in it. In the past 40 years, we went from having three mega cities to having 21.
I used to live in a very small town. I never thought I would have saw the day when I would go to the store and see that I could not purchase any fruits or vegetables. Living in a small town and not being able to purchase produce, I could not even begin to imagine how people living in mega cities could purchase any food at all. I immediately knew that this food shortage has to be caused by something; it turns out that it is being caused by our ever increasing population.
How Hydroponics can be a Solution to Food Shortages
Hydroponics has been increasing in popularity in the past few years. What is hydroponics? Hydroponics is the act of growing plants without the use of a traditional dirt medium and using a nutrient rich water solution. Some mediums may include, sand, rocks, or even nothing at all. Hydroponics can be very small systems that can only support one plant or can be so large that they support dozens. This means that hydroponics are the perfect method to grow food in your own home. This also benefits the people living in mega-cities that might not be able to get food for themselves in grocery stores. They will be able to grow their own food in their own home and it will also be economically smart for them. They only have to pay and build for the system once and pay for the plants once because they can use the seeds the plant grows itself. Since the number of mega-cities has drastically increased in the past few decades, I know that there must be a lot of people living a malnourished lifestyle. Especially since Asia has the highest population of people without enough food and the highest number of mega-cities, I could guess that most of these people probably live in the mega-cities. This is why I think these people could heavily benefit from having a hydroponics system in their home, where they can grow their own food.
How to Get Started
Many places and sites on the internet sell their own hydroponic systems for a lot of money. However, it is a lot more cheaper to just go out and by the materials needed and build your own. Even though buying a kit has its own advantages, if you buy your own materials and build it yourself you can make your own changes when and where you want. An obvious advantage to buying a kit is that it will come with complete instructions. However, you can pay a lot less for a hydroponics system and use this manual which will include instructions and photos to help you.
What Method We will Use
Our hydroponics system will carry water from a reservoir (a container) via a tube or hose up to where the roots of the plants will be suspended. The roots will pick up the water and nutrients because the water and nutrients will be flowing on the bottom of the container that are holding the plants. The water and nutrients will return to the reservoir and the cycle will repeat. This is called the NFT method. NFT means, Nutrient Film Technique. It is the process of a constant flow of water and nutrients over the roots. The water usually flows through a trough or pipe but we will use a rectangular container.
What Medium to Use
A range of mediums can be used in hydroponics and any medium will work just as well as another. I will be using clay rocks as my medium because they will support the plant and they have enough space between each other for the roots. I've seen other hydroponics systems use Rockwool which is an insulator. It works really well because it is light; so any light or "airy" medium will work just as fine.
How Much Attention is Needed
If you start out with a plant that doesn't already have developed roots then a lot more attention will be needed because you need to guide the roots though the medium and though the pots to reach the water and nutrients. However, if you buy a plant that already has the developed roots then you can carefully pull these roots through the pots until they reach the water and nutrients. After that, you may need to replace the water sometimes in order for it to stay clean. If you want, you can also make sure that you're system isn't getting run down and make a "maintenance check."
Step 1: Materials
1. Two Containers
One preferably large and deep (this will hold the water and nutrients). Mine was 58 cm x 39 cm x 19.5 cm (length x width x height/depth)
One preferably shallow and the size depends on how much plants you want to grow (this will hold the plants, pots, and allow the water and nutrients to flow through it). Mine was 38 cm x 28.5 cm x 17.5 cm (length x width x height/depth)
2. Mesh Pots
The number of pots you want depends on how many plants you want to grow
3. Preferably plants that already have a developed root system rather than just seeds (this method will take away not needed maintenance)
4. An Air Pump
Power: 4 Watts
Voltage: 220-240 Volts
Frequency: 50 Hertz
Pressure: >0.015 Mpa
Output: 3.5 liters/minute
5. Six Meters of Tubing
6. Aeration Stones
7. A Water Pump
Model: Aqua-Power 200
Power: 4 Watts
Flow: 200 liters/hour
Maximum Height: 0.60 meters
8. A Medium
**I got all of my materials at my local gardening store. I got the water pump and air pump (the tubing and aeration stones were included with the pump) in the aquarium/fish section.
Step 2: Making Holes for Your Pots
1. Get the lid of the container that you want to have your pots held in.
2. Hold the pot upside down on the top of the lid and trace it with a pencil (use the photos above for clarification).
3. Hold the pot right side up on the top of the lid and trace it with a pencil. Make sure this circle is inside the circle of the one you traced upside down.
4. Do this for however many pots you have.
5. You should end up with four circles, which will end up being two holes. Use the photos above to compare yours to. They should look like doughnuts.
6. Drill a hole in the small circle you made. Now get a saw and start cutting out the smaller circle.
7. After the smaller circle is cut out, begin to cut lines that reach out to the bigger circle. This will creates little "leaves" that will hang on to the pots better.
8. Push the pots through the holes. Mine didn't fit at first so I had to put the lid in the oven to heat up the plastic. I pushed my pots into the holes and waited for the plastic to cool down.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Air Pump
I used a smaller tub of water to act as a prototype for the actual container I will use for the hydroponics system. I did this because I didn't want to waste water when I was just testing the air pump.
1. Get your 6 meters of tubing. Because the tubing will not have to stretch across a great distance, I cut two pieces of tubing into 80 cm each.
2. Before connecting the tubing to the air pump, plug the air pump into a mains socket and make sure your air pump is actually pumping out air. If its not, the fan which sucks in the air could be blocked or something could be wrong with the pump. If it is not working, do not put anything in the water for safety.
3. Connect the two pieces of tubing to your air pump. Your air pump may be a different brand or model but I was able to set mine up without any help.
4. You need to drill holes through the container that will be holding your water. Then you need to feed the tubing through these holes.
4. Connect your aeration stones to the same tubing that is connected to the air pump.
5. Before placing the aeration stones in the water, make sure your air pump is plugged into a mains socket.
6. Now place your aeration stones into the water and make sure they are totally covered by the water.
7. Your aeration stones should be making bubbles.
**My air pump has its fan which sucks in air on the bottom so I had to make sure that nothing was blocking it.
Step 4: Setting Up Your Water Pump
1. Rinse your water pump with clean tap water before putting it in the system.
2. Drill a hole in the plastic container you're going to use to hold the water. To do this, I created a small hole with the screw driver and then drilled.
3. I cut some of the tubing off of the 6 meters and pushed it though the hole. I connected it with the water pump and with the container that will be holding my pots.
4. The tubes did not fit exactly with the holes or the water pump so I used a really strong glue to stop it from leaking.
5. To make sure it works, fill the container with water and turn the pump on. The pump should pump the water to the place you want it to go via the tubing.
Step 5: Returning the Water to the Beginning
1. Cut your 6 meters of tubing into six separate pieces. They should be long enough to go from your "pot container" to your "water container."
2. Drill six holes into your "pot container" and six holes into the lid of your "water container."
3. Put the six tubes into each hole, connecting the "pot container" with the "water container." Since my tubes didn't fit exactly in the holes, I had to glue them there. I didn't glue the lid holes because there is no risk of water getting to that point.
4. To test if it works, you can put water in the "pot container" and let it flow through the tubes and into the "water container."
Step 6: A Functioning Hydroponics System
After filling the water container with water and turning on both pumps, the hydroponics system should be fully functional.
Step 7: Putting Your Plants in Your Pots
1. Fill the bottom of your pots with your medium leaving places for your roots to go through the mesh pots to reach the water.
2. Carefully, with lukewarm water, wash off all of the dirt that is covering the roots. Make sure the water isn't cold or hot because it will shock the plants and they might die.
3. Gently place your plants in the pots. Make sure the roots come through the bottom and touch the water cycling through the system.
4. Carefully place the rest of your medium on top and around the base of your plant to give it the support it needs.
Adding nutrients to your hydroponics system depends on what plant you are growing. Stores usually have a general nutrient pack that includes most nutrients needed. Even though nutrients isn't exactly needed to make your plants grow, it is recommended because it will help the yield of your plants increase. Also, there is less risk for your plants to die if you use nutrients.
Some herbs such as dill, chives and oregano do not even need nutrients to help support them. However, other common herbs such as basil need a Magnesium nutrient. Here's a site that has all of the numbers, nutrients, and plant names: http://www.hydroponics101.com/sw58028.php.
Step 8: Maintenance
- Every week I would replace your water in your hydroponics system because the water could be getting dirty or old. Doing this will also take away the nutrients so you will also need to replace your nutrients.
- I would do a check up a few times a day to make sure nothing has happened to your plants or system such as a leak.
- If your plant's roots are getting too long and start reaching far into the water, I would replant the plant because you don't want to over water them. If you just place a small amount of the roots (1-2 cm) in the water then it should be fine.
Step 9: Bibliography
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"World Food Programme Fighting Hunger Worldwide." Hunger Statistics. http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
"How to Build a Hydroponic Grow Box." GardenGuides. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. http://www.gardenguides.com/122134-build-hydroponi...
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"Hydroponic Herbs." University of Florida. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/giam/plants...
"Hydroponics." University of Florida. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. http://baker.ifas.ufl.edu/Ag/hydroponics.html
Smith, Harley N. "Hydroponic Herb Gardening." Herb Gardening. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. http://herbgardening.com/howtogrowherbsinhyrdoponi...
"7 Billion, National Geographic Magazine." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
"The Science of Overpopulation." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.