At first glance only, I fell in love with Hydroponics. However difficult it must have been to build, it was worth it when I completed setting up my hydroponics system. Hydroponics is a method of growing fruits and vegetables in absence of soil.
I found it so intriguing, that I started building my own hydroponics system at my home. After doing some research, I finally prepared a design of my system and started building it. Slowly, with trial and error, my setup was complete and was working fine.
My setup qualifies as an ebb and flow system. It is more like a vertical garden.
So, let’s dive right into it and see how I did it.
Requirements for a Hydroponics system:
First of all, I designed a metal frame, so that it can hold all the pipes and eventually support the whole system. The frame is the only thing that keeps everything in place. As we can see in the picture, the frame only holds the whole structure.
The frame is actually very simple to make. Few sturdy metal bars or even wooden bars are enough to carry the load. Plastic bars should not be used as they have a tendency to bend. I just found some metal bars lying around, so I used them to make my structure. Do not worry if you don’t have them lying around in your house, you can get them manufactured from a metal store.
Tank and water pump:
The tank is one of the most important parts of this system. The water that is supplied to the plants is stored in the tank. Here, I have used a tank having a capacity of 200 litres.
One point to remember here is of painting the tank black. Always paint your tank black because it will prevent the growth of algae in the tank. You can also cover your tank with a black cloth or black bin bags.
I have placed a submersible water pump in the tank so that, I can pump the water to the plants.
My system is an ebb and flow system (Flood and drain). In my system, I pump the water for some time and keep the pump switched off for some time. The ON and OFF times of the pump is dependent on the plant you are growing. Most commonly used cycle is 30 minutes ON and 1 hour OFF.
Pipes to hold the plants (cup holders):
In my hydroponics system, I have used two types of pipes. One pipe has a diameter of 10 cm and the second type has 2.5 cm of diameter. The bigger type is for holding the nested cups for plants and they are also used as drainage pipes. The smaller type is for supplying water to the system.
In my system, I have used pipes of 10 cm diameter for holding the nested cups which in turn hold a plant in them. A nested cup is simply a plastic cup which has some holes cut out on the side walls as shown in the picture.
So, these pipes, which hold the nested cups, have trenches in them to hold the nested cups. I like to call these pipes cup holders and they look something like this…
Making cup holders is the only tedious part in making a hydroponics system at home. To make the cup holders, we have to make holes or trenches in them so that we can fit in the nested cups in those holes. Below is the picture of the holes that I made on the pipes.
For making these holes, I first made cuts on the pipe using a small saw. These cuts are 2 inches long and are vertically aligned, having gaps of 6 inches between them. I then made these cuts from all four directions of the pipe. Below diagram shows the position of cuts on the cup holder pipe.
After making cuts, I heated the cut part using a blow gun for 1 minute. This made the cut part soft. Then, I inserted a cylindrical wooden block which had 2 inches of diameter. The wooden block has one tapered end, so that, it could easily slide in the cuts that have been made soft with the blowgun.
As soon as you enter the wooden block, put a wet cloth over the cut. Putting a wet cloth will freeze the expanded cut so that, we can fit in nested cups in the holes.
Repeat this procedure for other cuts and convert them into holes for holding the nested cups.
Pipes for drainage:
For drainage, I have used the pipe with a diameter of 10 cm. As you can see, 3 pipes are laying horizontally. Some holes have been cut out on the drainage pipe so that, the bottom of cup holders can be inserted in the drainage pipe.
The 3 drainage pipes are connected together using curved connectors and only one outlet is given so that the water can come back in the tank. As you can see, I have used unions at the bottom of the cup holders so that all the water from the cup holder can fall in the drainage pipe.
Pipes to supply water:
I have used the smaller type for supplying water to the whole system. As you can see in the picture, I have mounted a structure of the 2.5 cm pipes. This structure has faucets at every 1 foot to provide water to the cup holders which will be holding the plants.
To build this structure, I had cut 2.5 cm PVC pipes into small pieces which were a foot long. I joined all of them together with T connectors, so that, faucets can be connected to the open ends of the T connector.
At the ends, I used the curved connectors to connect the three rows of pipes together. Also, I have given an inlet to this structure so that the water which is pumped from the submersible pump can come in.
To join and keep all the structure together, I recommend you to use solvent cement. Trust me on this, I have use silicone, hot glue, M-seal and other adhesives but, nothing works as good as solvent cement. For making all the connections in the hydroponics system, always use solvent cement.
The faucets are extremely crucial because a lot of time we do not use all the cup holders simultaneously. Sometimes, we don’t have a lot of plants to plant or sometimes we want to experiment with a different variety of plant.
Whatever be the reason, there will be times when we won’t use all the cup holders. So, to stop the supply of water to the cup holders which are not in use, we have to use faucets.
Assembling the whole system:
Once you have all these things ready, it is time to assemble the whole system together.
- I laid three drainage pipes on the metal frame in such a way, that the holes we had cut were facing up. Tighten the pipes in that position using zip ties.
- Now, mount the structure of the small pipes that we had made, at the top of the frame using zip ties only.
- Start mounting the cup holders exactly below the faucets. For mounting cup holders, make two holes, opposite to each other, at the top of the cup holders. Insert a string from these holes. Now, with the help of this string, hang the cup holder to the frame just below the faucets.
- Place the tank that is painted black just below the outlet of the drainage pipes.
- Insert a submersible water pump in the tank and provide the water pump with proper electric supply.
- Plug the wires of the pump in the timer switch and then, plug the timer switch to the circuit board.
- Set the cycle time in the timer switch according to the plant that you have planted.
- Pour pure water in the tank until it gets full.
- Lastly, put the nutrients like liquid fertilizers, salts, etc in the tank according to the requirement of the plant.
Your system is now ready and it’s time to plant some plants.
- To plant the plants, first of all, sow the seeds in a small tray using any growing medium.
- Once those seeds start taking the shape of the saplings, plug them out and start planting them in the nested cups.
- Fill the nested cups with hydroton balls and then gently place the sapling between the hydroton balls.
- Fit the nested cups in the trenches of the cup holders.
- Switch on the timer switch and guess what, your system will start working.
Let me tell you one thing, there is nothing more exciting in this world than seeing your plans work. When I saw my hydroponics system work, I was full of contentment. That feeling can never be expressed in words. So, I highly encourage you to start hydroponics and experience it yourself.
Maintaining an efficient Hydroponics system:
The most important thing to remember in hydroponics is nutrients. Always have adequate information about the nutrients that the plant which you are planning to plant, consumes. You should know which nutrients your plants require and how much they require it.
To make this work easy, I have two devices at home. One device is for checking the pH of the water and the other is to check the electrical conductivity of the water.
In reality, hydroponics is an excellent way to grow vegetables. Maintainance is also very low. You just always have to have an eye on the nutrients. Keep checking the electrical conductivity and pH of the water every two days.
Apart from this, weekly cleaning and dusting should be done to ensure that your plants remain healthy. That is it.
I would like to encourage you all to take the challenge and build a hydroponics system yourself at home. Let us start eating fresh vegetables and stop complaining about the quality of the vegetables that we get outside in the market.
Also, to get more details on Hydroponics please click here.