Growing food indoors is becoming increasingly popular as a hobby, and for a good reason. If done correctly, it is a fun and rewarding pastime. However, most urban dwellers do not have the space to grow a full-scale garden. That’s where Hydroponic at home comes in. Hydroponic gardening involves growing plants without soil. Instead, they are grown directly in water that has been enriched with nutrients.
Deep Water Culture (DWC) is the most accessible hydroponic system to build and manage at home. The plants thrive with their roots submerged right into nutrient-rich water in this practice. For hydroponic at home, it is achieved by developing in large opaque storage containers or buckets. Commercial farmers use rafts that swim on the giant water bed; that work like conveyors with young plants added on one side. They move together until ready for harvest on the other side.
Before we share the steps, let us tell you the material you need to get started:
- Hard Water Liquid Nutrients (A & B)
- pH Down
- pH meter
- Hole saw with arbor
- Storage container or bucket
- Net pots
- Air Pump with air stone
- Measuring beaker
Now that you know what you need to start your Hydroponic farm at home, let’s go over the step-by-step process.
1. Find a proper container for the system
Many people find that deeper storage containers and buckets work well for these systems because the deeper the water reservoir, the more stable the nutrient solution. Variations in nutrient concentration and pH are usually in smaller pools, so it is required to top up the water regularly. The sunlight shouldn’t penetrate the container to avoid the high risk of algae growing in your water. You can use a 55l opaque storage container. In retrospect, it is preferred to use a deeper container, but this will work fine for growing leafy greens.
- Drill small holes in the lid of the vessel
These are pots called net pots with plenty of holes for roots to grow through. After drilling holes into the container’s lid, where the net pots sit with a hole saw. These are pretty affordable and easy to use. The net pots should be larger than the hole to avoid falling through. Multiple holes in a larger container. It’s essential to plan carefully here: I kept the holes 15cm apart to accommodate the mature plants’ size. If you’re using a 20l bucket, you can drill one spot in the center to make a single plant system ( mainly for growing something larger like tomatoes or courgettes).
Pro-Tip: You can put wood below your lid when you drill your holes. This will prevent the saw from breaking and jolting the plastic.
- Assemble your air pump
The air pump should be outside the reservoir that comes with a check valve. Keep the pump above the water level if no check valve is present. It is to ensure that the pump does not suck water back up if it is turned off.
Connect the check valve with an air stone with a length of tubing. Ensure the arrow on the check valve faces the air stone. Once checked, connect the check valve to the air pump in the same manner.
- Fill up the reservoir, add nutrients and adjust the pH
Congratulations for making it this far. Now, you need to take these four steps to ensure nutrition and the proper PH for your saplings to grow:
- When complete, the system can be pretty heavy, so it is necessary to know where your container will live before filling it up! Fill it with water, leaving 1-2cm of space at the top.
- Add your hydroponic nutrients to the water by reading the instructions on your bottle. Mine advised me to add 2ml of each A and B nutrient per liter; I added 110ml of each into my 55l container using a measuring cup.
- Adjust the pH of the water using a pH meter and measure. Tap water will be around 6.5-7.5 pH. Most herbs and vegetables need a slightly acidic nutrient solution.
- Using phosphoric acid, bring the pH down to 5.5-6.5 with a pipette called ‘pH Down’ for hydroponic use. Make sure you wear gloves when handling pH down, and mix the solution well after application.
- Assemble the system
You’ve done all the hard work. Now it’s time to give your hydroponic farm the finishing touch by assembling the system following the following two steps.
- In the reservoir, place the air stones and plug the air pump. After securing the lid on top, you’re almost finished.
- Add your choice of plants. The best crops for DWC systems are Lettuce, Bok Choy, Basil, Kale, Chard, and Parsley. These are all plants that are not too top-heavy.
When getting into hydroponics at first, the complexity of some of the systems on the market can be overwhelming. That’s why it is recommended to start simple, and a DWC system allows beginners to do this. This system is low maintenance and can be placed anywhere that has sufficient light.
If you’d like to make a simple hydroponic system, then give this method a try.