Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hydroponic Gardening for the Beginner

Although i have always been a part-time gardener, i have recently decided to take mother nature into my own hands and try this upcoming method of Hydroponic Gardening. From my research i have found that a plants life cycle is significantly reduced, as it is possible to control the stages of a plants life. With the use of artificial sunlight (there are many different types of lights that work for growing pants, but the simplest and most energy efficient are definitely Fluorescent Lights) it is possible for the gardener to control the length of time it takes for the plant to go through the vegetative and flowering stages. This blog post is a simple introduction to the world of Hydroponic gardening using the simplest of all systems, a DWC (Deep Water Culture) system, built using simple household products. Here is a list of materials that you will need to construct your simple DWC system for under $25!

A standard 5 gallon Bucket with a lid (preferably black, as Algae is prone to grow in buckets that are translucent).
A standard aquarium pump with two air outlets (a 5-15 Gallon size is appropriate, but anything bigger won't do any damage! )

Length of aquarium pump tubing suitable to your setup
Two blue air pump rocks (the plastic blue stones that attach to the tubing from the air pump and evenly disperse the air). Now in the picture displayed is the ideal kind of air-stone to purchase because it sits perfectly in the bottom of the 5 Gal Bucket, though they are slightly more pricy and are not sold at stores such as Walmart, You'll have to visit a specialized store or my good friends at The LA Shop.

One large mesh bucket, or three small mesh buckets (bought from a hydroponic store or from an online dealer)

One bag of Hydrton expanded clay pebbles.

One large or three small blocks of Rockwool (the fluffy medium used to anchor the plants in the Hydroton pebbles and start seedlings)

A set of Hydroponic nutrients (I recommend General Hydroponics's set of "Grow, Micro, and Bloom")

The DWC method of hydroponic Farming is so effective because of its ability to constantly provide the roots of the plants with plenty of Oxygen. The nutrients will be necessary to put in the water of the bucket in which the roots of the plants will be suspended (as hydroponic systems do not require soil as a medium for growth). With all of these materials, follow the instructions below to construct your simple design:

1. Drill either one hole (for the large mesh bucket) or three holes (for the smaller mesh buckets) in the lid of the 5 gallon bucket. make sure that the holes are not so big that the mesh buckets fall through, you want the lip of the mesh bucket to sit snug in the hole.

2. Cut the length of tubing into two equal halfs so they reach from the pump to the bottom of the bucket. Drill two holes as close to the top of the bucket as possible (in the ridge where the lid goes) so they are big enough for the plastic tubing to fit through. Push one end of each tube into air pump and push the other ends through the holes in the bucket. Insert the ends of the tubing that are in the bucket into the blue air stones, but do not turn the pump on yet!

3. Clean out the bucket with warm water and soap and insert the mesh bucket(s) into their holes. Strain and wash the hydroton clay pebbles and put a thin layer into the bucket(s). Place the Rockwool cube into the mesh bucket and then fill the gaps between the rockwool and sides of the mesh bucket with more washed hydroton pebbles. (your seed will be placed into the rockwool cube for germination)

4. Remove the lid and fill the bucket with lukewarm water so that the water level is just above the bottom of the mesh buckets. Plug in the air pump and then add the necessary nutrients (see the table below for a perfect all-around General Hydroponics nutrient solution)

Vegetative Stage (ml per Gallon)
GH "Grow" - 0ml "Micro" - 5ml "Bloom" - 10ml
Flowering Stage
GH "Grow" - 0ml "Micro" - 6ml "Bloom" - 16ml

Here are two pictures of my current DWC system with a pansy flower in it. Amazingly, this plant is only 2 and a half weeks old! So far the magic of the Hydroponic system is pretty amazing. The second picture is a view from the top, showing the mesh buckets and hydroton pebbles. As you can see, i chose to use 3 small mesh buckets to hold more plants for the 5 Gallons of water.

This concludes the tutorial on how to make your DWC bucket system. It is a good idea to run the pump for 24 hours a day, although it is not necessary. just remember, the more oxygen the better!

Check back soon to get more information on Lighting and PH level monitoring.


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