Once you’ve played with the Pindpipe and have a basic idea of what all goes into running and maintaining a small hydroponic system – its time to go big and make your own system at home!
Hydroponics can be expensive and it’s important to not spend too much money on things that can easily be replicated using basic household materials and waste products. The only thing that you’ll probably need to buy is the net pots and the nutrients (from https://www.pindfresh.com/shop )
However we start – its really important to realize that we will be growing food – so everything that you use should be food grade (plastics etc) and thoroughly washed and cleaned (coco peat, clayballs, etc.
Lets check out the basic components of a simple hydroponic setup:
- Growing Chamber (or tray)
The growing chamber is the part of the hydroponic system where the plants roots will be growing. Simply put, the growing chamber is the container for the root zone. This area provides plant support, as well as is where the roots access the nutrient solution. It also protects the roots from light, heat, and pests. It’s important to keep the root zone cool and light proof. Prolonged light will damage the roots, and high temps in the root zone will cause heat stress for your plants, as well as cause fruit and flower drop as a result of heat stress. The nutrient solution temperature itself is very important part of keeping the roots and entire root zone comfortable for the plants (this typically should be about 25 degrees)
The size and shape of the growing chamber really just depends on the type of hydroponic system your building, as well as the type of plants you’ll be growing in it. Bigger plants have bigger root systems, and need more space to hold them in. The designs here are endless. Almost anything can be used as the growing chamber, you just don’t want to use anything made of metal or it could corrode or react with the nutrients. If you look around you’ll get lots of ideas of what and how you can easily use many different things for building the growing chamber of your hydroponic system.
(Pindu tip – Start with a simple 3 inch plumbing pipe or a small plastic /fiberglass tray – don’t get too creative)
The reservoir is the part of the hydroponic system that holds the nutrient solution. The nutrient solution consists of plant nutrients that are mixed in water. Depending on the type of hydroponic system, the nutrient solution can be pumped from the reservoir up to the growing chamber (root zone) in cycles using a timer, as well as continually without a timer, or the roots can even hang down into the reservoir 24/7, making the reservoir the growing chamber also.
You can make a reservoir out of just about anything plastic that holds water. As long as it doesn’t leak, holds enough water, and is cleaned out well first it can be used as reservoir. A reservoir also needs to be light proof. If you can hold it over your head and see light coming through it, it’s not light proof. But it’s easy to make any container light proof by painting it, covering it, or wrapping something like bubble wrap insulation around it. Algae and microorganisms can begin growing with even low light levels.
(Pindu tip – an old paint bucket works well – just make sure to clean it thoroughly first)
- Submersible Pump
Most hydroponic systems use a submersible pump to pump the water (nutrient solution) from the reservoir up to the growing chamber/root zone for the plants. Submersible pumps can easily be found at an aquarium shops. They come in a wide variety of sizes so choose one that fits the bill and pick it up
(Pindu tip – spend more on quality than on specs. This Pump is very critical – don’t use a cheap Chinese one)
- Delivery system
A hydroponic systems water/nutrient solution delivery system is really quite simple, as well as extremely customizable when building your own hydro systems. Besides the pump, it’s really nothing more than just the pluming the water/nutrient solution goes through to get to the plants roots in the growing chamber, and back to the reservoir again. Typically the simplest and best materials to use for the nutrient delivery system are a combination of standard PVC tubing and connectors, standard garden irrigation tubing and connectors, as well as blue or black vinyl tubing.
(Pindu tip – completely non transparent plastic / rubber garden hoses work just as well)
- Air Pump
Other than in water culture systems, air pumps are optional in hydroponic systems. But using them has benefits, and air pumps are relatively inexpensive. Air pumps can be found anywhere they sell aquarium supplies. Air pumps simply just supply air and oxygen to the water and roots. Air is pumped through an air line to air stones that create a bunch of small bubbles that rise up through the nutrient solution.
In water culture systems the air pump helps keep the plants roots from suffocating while their submerged in the nutrient solution 24/7. For any other type of hydroponic system, the air pump is typically used in the reservoir. It helps to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the water up and keep the water oxygenated. Visit this page for more about dissolved oxygen levels.
Other advantage’s of using air pumps are that as the air bubbles rise, they keep the water and nutrients moving and circulating, this keeps the nutrients evenly mixed all the time. The circulating oxygenated water also helps reduce pathogens from gaining a foothold in the reservoir.
(Pindu tip – These are found in aquarium shops and retail for about 150 each. No matter what make / quality you buy (Chinese) all burn out typically in about 6 months or so.
- Grow Lights
Grow lights are an optional part of hydroponic systems. Depending on where you plan to put your hydroponic system, and grow your plants. You could choose to either use natural sunlight, or artificial light to grow your plants with. If you can make use of it we prefer natural sunlight, it’s is free and doesn’t require any extra equipment. However if there just isn’t enough natural sunlight where you put your hydroponic system, or at that time of year, you’ll need to use at least some artificial light to grow your plants.
Grow lights are different than most standard household lights. Grow lights are designed to emit certain color spectrums that mimic natural sunlight. The plants use these color spectrums (wavelengths) of light to conduct photosynthesis. The plants need to conduct photosynthesis in order to grow and produce fruit and flowers. So the type, as well as the amount of light a plant gets will greatly affect the plants ability to photosynthesize, and thus grow.
(Pindu tip – These are the last things that you buy; so don’t waste any money on them until critically necessary)