If you've ever wanted to grow plants such as herbs, greens, strawberries, and tomatoes at home but thought it would be way too hard and expensive then you'll want to read on. You'll still need to learn about plant care basics, but you'll be doing it with help :-)
- Why DIY when you could buy?
- What is a “Smart” Garden?
- Starting a Smart Indoor Garden
- Digging Deeper into Indoor Gardening
- Indoor Gardening: What can go wrong?
- Managing Nutrient Solution Systems
- Why Arduino when you can Pi?
Step 1: Plant Requirements and Hydroponics
The root environment is what separates hydroponics from soil cultivation. In soil, plants await rainfall or irrigation, and their roots search out essential nutrients. With good, fertile soil and abundant water plants thrive. In hydroponics, the plant roots are constantly provided with water, oxygen and nutrients – no searching for available nutrients or waiting for the next rain. The challenge for the grower is to keep up with the plants’ needs and to avoid damaging plants with excesses or deficiencies of minerals, extremes in pH and temperature, or a lack of oxygen. A few simple tools and techniques can make the difference between success and failure.
Step 2: Nutrients, PH, & Clay
First, let's talk about what is needed on a continual basis in order to garden with hydroponics and some initial investment.
A nutrient solution system: I recommend starting with General Hydroponics Flora Series Performance Pack consisting of the main three liquid parts, several enhancements, and the ph test kit. If you ask General Hydroponics or other nutrient solution vendors for samples of their products you can usually get free or discounted trial sizes.The pH of water is an important measurement whether you are gardening indoors or outdoors, soil or soil-less, because it affects whether a plant can properly take in nutrients. I recommend a hand-held pH tester such as the Oakton EcoTestr pH 2 Waterproof pH Tester, which is excellent for the home gardener and has been proven time and again to be accurate.
The electrical conductivity (EC) of water estimates the total amount of solids dissolved in water -TDS, (Total Dissolved Solids). TDS is often measured in ppm (parts per million). In hydroponics, this measurement is used to determine the approximate concentration of nutrient solution to water. There are many hand-held EC devices available as well and if you are checking the pH, it’s a great time to check the E.C.Support your plants by giving the roots something to grab onto and hydrate as needed.I recommend starting seeds with coco-coir (pronounced coyer) and then into expanded clay pellets as the medium for containing your plants' roots. also known as LECA (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate), or common brand name: "Hydroton"
Step 3: Containers
DIY DWC (deep water culture)
The simplest hydroponics. A plant in a cup of clay pellets with holes on the bottom sitting in a solo cup of nutrient solution. An air-pump is used to keep the nutrient solution circulated and oxygenated. Roots like it, pests and diseases do not.
Reuse plastic containers
Plastic lidded storage totes are typically used to make DIY DWC (Deep Water Culture). There many tutorials on this topic, so I won't replicate them here. My latest version uses an empty plastic kitty litter container. Reusing plastic containers to make simple hydroponics systems is by far the least expensive way to get growing. When reusing containers consider that there is a possibility that the plastic will break down over time and may leach into the system. Also, be judicious about which types of containers you choose to reuse. I feel that the kitty litter container is safe enough after being thoroughly cleaned but obviously any container that once held anything toxic should be recycled appropriately.
Recirculating Drip Systems options
Recirculating systems are very inexpensive, modular, and very effective. The recirculating system is the same as a DWC (Deep Water Culture) system with the inclusion of water being pumped over the rooting medium. The best systems use a single air-pump to both aerate the nutrient solution and pump the water up over the rooting medium. Let's take a look at our options:
A single module completely off-the-shelf: General Hydroponics Complete Single WaterFarm Kit
dive immediately into their complete system: General Hydroponics Complete 8-pack WaterFarm Kit
Most economical choice is a DIY Drip System partially off-the-shelf:
• 5 gallon bucket ( new, or thoroughly cleaned )
• with lid ( cut holes in the lid ) or hydroponics bucket lid basket (various sizes)
• aquarium air-pump ( 1/4" vinyl tubing comes with their kit: )
Step 4: DIY Drip Ring
Prepare the bucket by removing the handle. You should not need to use any tools to remove the handle. Look under the lip of the bucket’s handle to see how it is attached and which way to twist it around until it pops out.
Lay the bucket on its side lengthwise, using a metal ruler, or eyeing it if you’re that good ;-) line up a hole where the handle was inserted with the bottom of the bucket. Measuring from the bottom of the bucket mark 1” up.
Drill the drain hole: Use one hand to steady the bucket, while you use a 13/16” spade bit or Forstner bit in your drill, slowly drill through the plastic taking care to maintain balancing the bit’s penetration through the material.
Remove any remaining debris from the freshly cut hole, you may need to clean it up with a reaming tool or a utility knife.
Insert the grommet by placing one hand inside the bucket to stop the grommet from slipping all the way through and apply pressure pushing the grommet pointed side into the hole. Ensure that the grommet is fully seated in place.
Install the blue 1/2" vinyl tubing and insert the elbow by supporting the grommet from the inside of the bucket, while you push the fitting through from the outside.
Click in the drain line clip using a wire loom clip (included in the
Do not over tighten the zip tie, you should be able to pull the tubing out and back in place.
If using a hydroponics basket like the one pictured, you'll need to take a snip out of one of the outer bottom strips.
Slide the brown re-circulation tubing through the cut-slit about half-way.
Drip-ring mounts on top and you just need to hook-up the air-pump.
Step 5: Location, Lighting, and Ventilation?
Are you growing indoors?
- Will the plants fit? How much vertical and horizontal space will you provide for the plant?
- How noisy is the system? Air Circulation – Fans ~ Water Circulation – Pumps
- Electrical outlet nearby?
- How will I get water to the hydroponics containers?
- How much will it cost? Lights, pumps, fans, heaters, and the controller use electricity
See pictures for examples.
Step 6: HydroMazing Garden Controller and Monitoring System
The hydroMazing system grew from a personal desire to make home hydroponics easier and accessible to everyone. We use open-source hardware to keep the cost down and encourage our community to keep making it a better system. We believe that everyone has the right to be self-sufficient and want to help make it easier to do so. We offer free growing guides and DIY gardening tips. And every hydroMazing system is built by hand with love and a commitment to quality.
AVAILABLE AT http://hydromazing.com/contact
hydroMazing sensor unit kit:
- Arduino Atmega328 Nano ( this project can be extended using more units.)
- Expansion Shield (Nano) ( solder 4.7k to pin3/Vcc for Dallas Temp.)
- DHT21/22 Temperature / Humidity sensor ( solder 10k resistor between Vcc/Data )
- Photocell Module or photocell soldered to 10k resistor.
- Water Level Sensor (Float)
- Liquid Flow Rate Sensor
- Dallas Temperature Sensor (for nutrient solution temperature) (probably needs a connector)
- nRF24L01 2.4Ghz Wireless Radio Transceiver module with or without SMA Antenna
- *customized connector wire kit*
hydroMazing remote monitoring unit kit:
- Arduino Nano ( this project can be extended using more units.)
- Expansion Shield (Nano)
- Arduino Uno R3 or clone. LCD w/ buttons Shield ( solder header pins to the bottom of front )
- Real-Time Clock module (DS3231) ( solder 4-pin male header )
- Piezo Module or piezo soldered to resistor
- nRF24L01 2.4Ghz Wireless Radio Transceiver module with or without SMA Antenna
- *customized connector wires*
- set 3-5 pack of Wireless Controlled Outlets includes remote
- 433MHz RF Transmitter & Receiver Modules set
- 2 x PVC Conduit Service Boxes w/ customized lids
- heat shrink, flexible split-tubing for wires
- 2 x hydroMazing vinyl decals
*hydroMazing connector wiring kit: 2 x 40pcs DuPont Wire Cable 10cm female to female connectors 1 x 40pcs Dupont Wire Cable 20cm female to female connectors connector headers 2-pin, 3-pin, 4-pin, 6-pin see https://www.instructables.com/id/Custom-Wire-Conne...
Step 7: Customizing Wires
hydroMazing comes as a DIY kit offering different options for customized wires. Included with the kit is a cheatsheet that makes it super easy. Or there is an option to upgrade to some full service!
What assembly is required?
Connect Arduino Nano to the expansion board, connecting sensor modules to the expansion board using customized wiring and compiling source-code and programming the units. Optionally, use enclosures, solar charging battery packs, air-pump modules, other sensors, even a motion sensor to detect a disturbance in your gardening area
Step 8: Setup and Customizing
Setup the controller and monitor unit.
- Plug in the appliances to their corresponding remote-controlled AC outlets.
- Plug in the hydroMazing!
- Need a solenoid to turn on a water valve at a specific time or interval?
Using open-hardware, including Arduino parts; makes it fully customizable.
hydroMazing will notify you with piezo beeps (if installed) and LCD message:
- "Too Cold! Require Heater" need to add a heater such as a heating mat.
- "Too Hot! Need Better Ventilation" most common message! It doesn’t take very long for even the most efficient lights to warm-up a small space.
- "Humidity Out-of-Range" too high? consider dehumidifier too low? consider humidifier
- "Luminescence Fault" photocell must be installed
- "Water Level Low" float switch must be installed
- "Soil Moisture Low" moisture sensor or flow rate sensor installed
- "Time to Adjust Nutrient Solution" reminder to change/adjust/check nutrient solution
- "Something is Wrong!" lazy catch-all error message is not very helpful, however with limited resources...
Need help, contact the creator directly and I will respond :-)