Hydroponics With Reclaimed Materials

Introduction: Hydroponics With Reclaimed Materials

Hello there! I'm making this instructable for the "Hydroponics and Indoor Growing" contest. The following is background for how I started this project.


Hydroponics is something that has interested me for quite a while. One of my projects a few years ago was based on the Deep Water Culture technique, where plants were suspended in a nutrient rich reservoir as an airstone aerates the roots. While this was sufficient, I couldn't grow anything but creepers and the reservoir was difficult for changing out the water. The experience and ideas stayed in the back of my mind over the past few years.

Fast forward to fall 2013, my uncle became interested in hydroponics. Great, someone I could share ideas with! After researching the subject and online forums, he decided to go with the Nutrient Film Technique and used a drip line to spray the roots of the plants with the nutrient solution. I was a bit jealous. Over the winter holidays, my father was working on restoring his boat when he tossed a bilge pump...that still worked! 500 GallonsPerHour and after a bit of cleaning, nice and usable for a NFT hydroponics system!

~ But the irrigation channels would be expensive though ~ I thought to myself.

"You could use the black drainage pipe in the back corner, I don't need it for anything" my father replied. He's awesome for ideas and advice.

From there, one thing lead to another and another. There were supplies lying around that would make a sufficient structure and I had kept the hydroponic materials from my earlier project, so starting out it seemed that I could have my own NFT system for just $10!


Later it was discovered that the gifted pump had a bad bearing and needed to be replaced, but still I was too excited to pass this opportunity to realize my hobby. So here it is, how I made my hydroponics garden using reclaimed materials. The big take-away I hope viewers will have is: you don't need expensive equipment to get started with hydroponics on a medium scale or outdoors. This system will be housed on my apartment porch, but could just as easily fit in a garage or shed with a florescence bulb for illumination.

Step 1: The Materials and Tools

When starting this project, I wanted to buy the least amount of materials to get this system running but also be proud of what was accomplished, requiring minimal upkeep and attain maximum modularity. Hard to believe now how it all came together rather fluidly. Full disclosure, I had most of the "niche" equipment already (net pots, growing solutes, etc.) so all I had to purchase was a bucket, vinyl tubing, and later on a pond pump. If I had to get the specialty stuff and big materials from the store again, it wouldn't have been as cheap.

Supplies lying around:
- 4inch diameter drainage pipe (used for diverting water from our gutters to the yard, surplus from renovation)
- Bookshelf (Old, sitting in the corner lot)
- Paracord (used to tie the drainage pipe to the bookshelf)
- Net pots ( 24 for $13)
- Hydroponic solutes ($16 per bag)
- Hydroton ($20)

Supplies purchased:
- Bucket ($3)
- 3/4 clear vinyl tubing ($5)
- Pond pump (Smartpond FP500, a later purchase) ($50)

- Router
- Compass (anything to draw a nice circle, I used a hole saw)
- Battery drill

It should go without saying but please please please do not misuse power tools and exercise caution when operating them. Do not cut or dismember appendages, pull electrical contacts into water, or otherwise grow sentient algae monsters from lack of maintenance of your own hydroponic garden. Thank you responsible people of the internet.

Step 2: Pipe to Bookshelf

First part of construction was simple, cut holes in the bookshelf sides to snake the drainage pipe. A hole saw was used to trace the stencil for the cut. The stencil was then cut. Boom, made three cuts like this and another cut which was actually an ellipse to guide the pipe into the bucket.

"So what's with the pipe curving in the top right?" The reason for that is the drainage pipe end cap didn't have a great seal and rather than goop it with sealant, it's one less point for leakage and a cleaner alternative to just make an S-shape, placing the hose in the bend.

The net pots were generally arranged for the next step.

Step 3: Cutting Space for the Net Pots

After the pipes were tied down to the bookshelf using paracord, the next step was to cut spaces for the net pots. Using a dremel, this took little time.

Step 4: Clean the Hydroton

Hydroton is a growing medium that helps the plants by providing structure for the roots to adhere to. I had some left over from my previous project. Only requirement for use is cleaning it before the first use as to wash off the fine dust, there was a small cloud when I poured it into the bucket. Water works just fine.

Step 5: Finishing With the Pump

Originally, I was using the bilge pump that my father had tossed but halfway through the project it busted with a bad bearing. Having already made the other parts and being so close to having the NFT system done, I broke down and got a fountain pump that worked a little better than the original. More head pressure and volume transfer.

Step 6: Next Time - Improvements to Be Made

Things that irked me:
- The low ceiling of the middle shelf
- Cut one of the net pot holes bigger than I wanted

Next time:
- Bigger reservoir for aquaponics
- Drip line to start seeds
- Arduino Monitoring

Overall, I'm glad to have finally gotten to make a medium sized hydroponics setup after putting it off for a few years. I'd like to thank my uncle for the inspiration and my father for his cleverness. Thank you for viewing!

Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening Contest

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Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening Contest

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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I am writing a research paper and wanted to use the image of your completed project and link to your instructable. Is that ok?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Yes. Thank you for asking. ^_^


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I like how the black corrugated pipe looks switching back and with the wood looks very good- intentionally rustic and natural

    Great use of leftover materials & quite well done. Does the pump run continuously? Some setups I've seen have a timer on the pump so it just wets the medium & then drains back into the tank.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    For right now I'm waiting for my pepper seeds to germinate so it's not a problem just yet. Heard from one of my friends they could get me one secondhand. Trying to use as many repurposed parts as possible. If I don't get one in the next two weeks, then I'll go to the store and purchase one.


    6 years ago

    if you increase your reservoir size you could switch to aquaponics next time


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Mhm, I thought about that in step 6 under "improvements".