Container Gardening on Steroids — A Home Hydroponics Project You Can Build in a Day

After seeing the price of food skyrocket for the last few years (inflation is 1.5%–yeah, right,) and out of fear of a major economic shock of some kind, I decided to join the home gardening craze and start growing my own.  (Fruits and Vegetables, that is.)  I started with self watering buckets a few months ago growing tomatoes, cukes, figs, zucchinis, and eggplants and then quickly decided that I needed more mental stimulation and with that a new project was born.  I was thinking about growing smaller stuff like lettuces and herbs, and that I could best accomplish that by building a hydroponic setup on my patio.  I’ve dabbled in hydroponics in my college days and have experienced the basics first hand.  Why not create something that will be productive as well as educational?

I searched high and low on the internet for a suitable design and actually bought plans for a vertical model using PVC.  But alas, the materials are not available due to the abrupt halt of new construction since 2008.   So I reconfigured it into a more typical horizontal type of hydroponics.


A $300 home hydroponics unit that you can build yourself.

The completed unit as of April 24, 2011. I began germinating seeds on April 28th.

Now, I’m not that handy of a person.  I started out with the sawhorses using old wood I had lying around since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  When I  was done, they looked like sawhorses but were flimsy.  I started attaching pieces of furring strips until they felt sturdy when a friend of mine told me to build things in triangle and that I should have learned that in elementary school.  Those wood strips made them feel rock solid, even though if you look at them up close, you can see how bad my carpentry skills really are.

The water needed to flow downward, so I ended up propping up one of the sawhorses with patio pavers that were lying around.  This gave it enough pitch to ensure the water would flow down towards the “manifold” end of the unit.

This unit consists of 7 – 10 foot 4″ diameter PVC pipes sitting on home made sawhorses and a reservoir for holding water and nutrients.

The drain pipe and reservoir.

The drain pipe and resoirvoir. The water flows down through the pipes at the top (right to left) through the manifold and down through the drain pipe back to the reservoir.


Holes were drilled at staggered lengths on each pipe for the plants.  This unit has about 65 plants.  A fountain pump inside the reservoir pumps water to the top of the PVC pipes (right side of the picture) where it flows through the pipes down through the manifold and into a drain pipe which empties back into the reservoir.  The manifold was built out of assorted parts they sell at any warehouse or sprinkler store.    I added a filter inside each tube to prevent the growing medium from traveling to the reservoir and clogging the pump.



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