This is a very easy project for anyone to do. It's a great way to turn that empty coffee container into something useful. With just a few basic tools and very little money, this can be done in no time at all. This is also a great way for beginners of hydroponics or anyone who maybe has limited space or a short growing season like what we have here in Michigan. There are youtube videos out there that you can get some information on, but I will do my very best to show you my way, and step by step along with adding updates throughout the growing season.
Step 1: Drink Up!
First thing your going to need for this project is an empty coffee container. I use the 2 pound containers simply because that is what we buy. other sizes will work just as well, but keep in mind that the larger the container is, the more media it will take to fill.
Step 2: Drill Baby Drill!
For this step you will need a 1" hole saw something like what is pictured on my drill. I paid around 7.00 for mine at the local hardware store. If your making several of these then the cost really isn't all that much, assuming you have a drill already. Drill your hole approximately 1.5" to 2" from the bottom of the container, making sure that it's smooth.
Step 3: Making a Water Tight Seal
Next, you will need a 3/4" grommet. These can be purchased at Menards or a similar store. They would be located in the Electrical Department. They come in packs of three. Expect to pay around .80 to 1.00 each. The Grommets are then fit into the hole.
Step 4: Water Tight Seal
This is what it should look like once you have inserted the grommet into the 1" hole.
Step 5: El-bow
In this step, you will need two 3/4 pvc elbows. I use PVCP instead because it is meant for potable water and it's what I have on hand for repairs around the homestead. You can use either one, but not both because they are sized differently and will not connect. You will also need about an inch or so of 1/2" pvc or pvcp as well and I will show you why on the next page.
Step 6: Making the Connection
So what we have here is a piece of 1/2" pvcp pipe connected to a 1/2" pvcp elbow. I pushed the elbow through the grommet and you can see that little bit of it on the inside of the container, there it is connected to the pvcp pipe and then connected to the second elbow with is facing downward. I did not glue anything, just make sure everything is pushed in tight. this would be so that at the end of the growing season it can be taken apart and cleaned and put away. Just one tip, I filed down a little bit of the elbow, just to round if off and used a little bit of petroleum jelly to help get it through the grommet, it is a really tight fit.
Step 7: Pea Stone
Next your going to need some type of growing media to put into the container. What I found to be the cheapest is pea stone. Menards sells a bag of this stuff for under 3.00 and one bag will do 6 of these containers. You can use whatever you want, perlite, vermiculite, etc. However for me, this was the cheapest way to go. Whichever way you go with your growing media, just make sure that you rinse it off, and free as much of debris as possible. I filled this container about 2/3 full to leave room for your plant. For this container, I'm using a Blue lake Bush Bean plant I dug from my garden. I just washed all the dirt off the roots and it's ready for the transplant.
Step 8: Put a Lid on It!
I just sort of butchered this lid with my knife, but it will serve it's purpose. by making a slice halfway through and then making a hole, you'll be able to put this on by giving it a little twist so that it makes a wide enough gap to go around the stem of the plant. The lid will help to block out sunlight which will reduce the amount of algae. It's not necessary to do this, in fact I didn't bother with my other plants and they are doing just fine.
Step 9: Hook It Up!
Basic drip irrigation poly and connections from rainbird or toro will work. For this container, I'm using 1/4" poly tubing, 1/4" barbed coupling and a hole punch. Again these items can be purchased from Menards, Home depot type stores or probably even your local hardware store. Punch your hole into your main line, connect the barbed coupling to the poly tubing, press into the hole you punched, and secure the end of the tube in the slot on the cover, or you can drill a 1/4" hole somewhere near the top edge of the container if no lid is being used, and run the tube through that to secure it.
Step 10: Test for Leaks
I set this container on the edge so that the nutrient solution would flow directly back into the reservoir while I checked for leaks. After the all clear, I will set it up in the row with the other plants. I used a 1 1/2 pvc sch 40 pipe that I had laying around from a job I did a year ago as my drain pipe. If I am going to buy pipe for this project, I would buy the thin walled sewer pipe as it is much cheaper. You will need end caps as well. As I mentioned earlier, when you drill your holes to put the elbows in you don't have to be exact because you can make adjustments when extending down from the elbow into the drain pipe.
In conclusion, I didn't really get into the details of Hydroponics, just simply showing how I was able to use coffee cans in place of 5 gallon buckets. Iv'e always been interested in trying hydroponics, and this was the year. I still and probably will always grow my food in dirt, there's just something about getting all dirty and making a connection with the earth and the bounty she brings. I am experimenting with three different hydroponic growing techniques, DWC, using coffee cans, NFT, (nutrient flow technique) and Dutch bucket, using coffee cans and soon 3.5 gal. buckets. So far from what I have seen, all seem to be working just fine. It is way too early to make any judgments at this time, I'll have to wait until harvest time!