As you browse through Jason’s Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks. and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).
To build a homemade hydroponics NFT system, you will need plastic gutters, PVC pipe, or any flat container a few inches deep. You will need a cheap plastic tote for a nutrient reservoir, and an air pump to keep it Oxygenated. You will also need a water pump to move the nutrient solution, and some capillary mat.
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients. I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas. like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
The key to a successful homemade Nutrient Film Technique system is the capillary mat in the bottom of every gutter, pipe, and tray. Also, make sure to pitch your pipes just a little to keep the water flowing in the right direction.
With this method, it is important to make the medium slow draining . This is accomplished by using the vermiculite and coconut coir, both of which retain water. The goal is to have the bags retain the nutrient solution (and stay moist) for about the same amount of time as a soil mix would. All of this is very easy to accomplish. Simply water every day or two using whatever feeding plan you like.
The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system—>
First, one tote will be your nutrient reservoir. Pick a dark colored tote to keep light out (this will prevent algae growth). The air pump should go to a couple of air stones, which will be kept bubbling in the nutrient reservoir. The water pump goes there as well.
When the pump kicks on, the top container will fill with water (but never higher than the overflow). When the pump kicks off, the nutrient solution will drain back down the shorter fitting, leaving the plant roots and growing medium wet with nutrient solution.
Once you have a system, check out the sections on hydroponic feeding tips and organic hydroponics for some plant feeding ideas. Or, put together the perfect environment to keep your hydroponic system in at garden design.
Tips for building a homemade hydroponics system that produces great results with little effort.
The Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydro system is the easiest for beginners to use. In a DWC hydro system, you simply fill up a reservoir with your nutrient solution. You then suspend your plant’s roots in that solution so they receive the steady, continuous supply of water, oxygen, and nutrients.
Here’s the important thing to remember:
Using the DWC system, you’ll find it’s extremely simple to setup (once you understand how it all works) and extremely low-maintenance (again, once you understand how it works) making it perfect for hydroponics beginners.
A graph showing bigger circumference (size) plants from hydroponics. From A hydroponics vs. soil comparison for Holland Hybrid tomatoes.
Once you have rinsed the plant’s roots with water, then you can simply add it into your net pot in the lid of your bucket. If the seedling already has roots that you can pull through the net pot into the water, that’s even better and going to make your job easier. Then you simply cover the root system with your growing media and let the system do the rest of the work!
Why is this so important? Because when the pH of your hydroponic system gets out of balance—which can happen quickly if some kind of stabilizing agent or mechanism is not put in place—the ability of your plants to absorb macro, secondary, and micronutrients, as well as vitamins, carbohydrates, and other beneficial sources, is limited.
The truth is that Hydroponics gardening has never been more popular than right now!
That’s why we recommend starting from a live plant instead of trying to use seeds for your first grow. This is called “cloning” and more tips on how to do this can be found here.
What is hydroponic farming anyways?
Easy hydroponics information for beginners who want to do indoor growing