This is by far the simplest and most effective setup I have used and requires less than five minutes a day to maintain.
Materials: Opaque plastic bucket
Knife with pointed tip or drill
1. Drill holes about 5 cm above the bottom of the bucket with the knife, about 6 holes around the bucket will do.
2.Prepare your medium according to the instructions given on packaging. Fill bucket with medium.
3. Prepare your nutrient solution I use a 400 ppm mix for small plants and seedlings, 600ppm mix for the growth stage and 800ppm for the fruiting stage of plant growth. Measure your nutrient mix with a CF meter and note these guidelines are for a static system and are about half the strength needed for recirculating systems. Adjust your PH to 6.0. End result you will halve your costs buying hydroponic nutrient. No need to buy pumps, pipes or spend more than 5 minutes constructing this system! I mix a 4 liter bucket of nutrient and this lasts 4-5 days, the advantage of this is you can slowly increase the ppm without shocking the plant and if you have hard water the solution does not have time to produce salts due to existing minerals in the water reacting with the nutrient.
4. Place plant in medium and slowly pour nutrient mix into top of bucket, stop when you start to see nutrient mix flowing from the holes at the bottom. You can use a plastic tray to collect the overflow and recycle but I do not mind a bit of waste here as you are quite often flushing any potential toxins and salts out of your reservoir at the bottom of the bucket. I water twice a day once in the morning to get the plant through the heat of the day, and once at night which is when plants absorb the most moisture. If you live in extremely hot areas you might need to water more.
That's all please note this instructable is designed for People with existing knowledge of growing hydroponics. Beginners please read the Introduction to Hydroponics instructable for detailed explanations of hydroponic equipment, mediums and theory. This setup has saved me so much money during the growth phase I let the bucket sit outside during daylight hours and moved it under lights for 6 hours during the night and achieved phenomenal growth, when I decided to turn this chilli plant onto fruiting cycle I just left it outside with 12 hours of sunlight.
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Step 1: Putting Holes in the Bucket
Using a sharp knife or in this case a drill with a wood bit bore holes about 3-5 cm from the bottom to create a reservoir for your nutrient mix.
Step 2: Prepare Your Medium and Fill Bucket
In this case I place vermiculite and perlite mix in a bucket and filled with water to wash off any dust and let the finer particles settle at the bottom. Drain the bucket of water and scoop the washed medium into your growing bucket. Discard the finer sediment left at the bottom.
Step 3: Prepare Your Nutrient Mix and Adjust PH
Fill a bucket with water and slowly add nutrient until you reach the desired strength, measure this with a nutrient wand. Measure the PH of your solution and adjust using PH Up or Down till you reach a PH of 6.0. I use a pipette to slowly add the adjustments, if you add too much up or down at once you will have to throw your mix away and start again.
Step 4: Plant Your Plant and Water Your System
Plant your plant of choice, in this case I have planted a Birdseye chilli to be used for making peri peri chicken, yum. I planted the seeds in a rock wool cube until roots appeared and then transferred to my bucket system. You can buy seedling and wash the roots thoroughly and gently and transfer to your medium if desired. Pour nutrient mix gently over the root area of your plant until your reservoir at the bottom of the bucket fills and water starts flowing out of the holes you have filled. The medium mix soaks up the water and as it starts drying out it soaks up the water in the reservoir. There is plenty of oxygen in the coarse medium to ensure healthy roots. I hand water twice a day but you could add a reservoir and drip irrigation system on a timer if going away. As this system is highly mobile you can move it indoors under a light at night to accelerate growth, when the plant is big enough just leave it outside for +- 12 hours of light to force it to go into fruiting. I choose to save money by not using electrical aids and just let the plant and natural sunlight do their thing.
Step 5: Proof That Hydroponics Work
I germinated these two Birdseye chilli plants at the same time and planted one in soil with organic fertilizer and the other in the simple hydro bucket system, notice the difference? The plant in soil is about 15 cm high whilst the one in the hydro bucket is about 60cm high and flowering. If you are into growing your own pesticide free food hydro is definitely the way to go!