If you really want to be able to produce top quality fruits and vegetables as efficiently and reliably as possible, then you should consider hydroponics. We decided to set up a greenhouse hydroponic system at our urban homestead. This choice was based on a few reasons: We needed something that would give us a maximum yield in a minimum space and we wanted to have minimal variables. Our weather can range from hot to cold every day and we also wanted to eliminate pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals. Our research lead us past organics and growing in soil and trying to eliminate the limitations of soil as well. After researching and watching countless YouTube videos we decided to make a hybrid of a Dutch Bucket system and a Deep Water System. A traditional Dutch Bucket Hydroponic system is fairly inexpensive and easy to set up. They have been around for a long time and have proven to be a successful hydroponic set up. Also research lead us to the successes of Deep Water Systems and this is where we chose to make a hybrid of the two. Our area has Power outages and hydroponics relies on Pumps and electricity. At some point we will be going solar, but to start with we decided to build in the deep water insurance into our system. So the basic idea of the Dutch bucket system is having multiple buckets, which plants grow in filled with a nutrient rich water reservoir, and then recycle the nutrient rich water via a siphon system back to the main reservoir and continually is pumped back through the system. The Roots of each plant are feeding off of this nutrient rich water system. The traditional Dutch Bucket System has a siphon, or overflow outtake tube approx 2-3 inches from the bottom of a bucket. This allows for a minimal amount of water in the system. However, this does create a large potential to have the roots exposed to free air and if the power goes out for an extended period of time (say for a day or more) and you have a plant with a substantially developed root system, the plant will suffer and even die. Setting up any growing system and especially a hydroponic system plus your energy and love for the process is an investment. We decided to give ourselves a little buffer and insurance by giving ourselves more nutrient rich water. Deep Water Hydroponic systems are traditionally a single bucket or pot that has the nutrient rich water solution alone. Recently, people have added air stones and circulation to these systems to improve the aerobic activity and the oxygenation to the roots. But the important point for us was that these plants were thriving in a larger root-submerged system. So we build our system to do the same. We have all the same in-and-out irrigation and set up as a Dutch Bucket System, but also have enough individual depth in each bucket to ensure we will have more time to react to a system stoppage. Check out our video on step-by-step of How to build a Dutch Bucket Deep Water Hydroponics System
See our step-by-step of how to build a Dutch Bucket Deep water Hydroponic System. We go over the following (and more):
Setting up the Bench for Hydroponics
Setting up the Dutch bucket system
-How to build put together the Dutch Bucket, Lid, Net pot, Grommets, Siphon system Setting up the Net Pot Lids
-How to make a Lid for hydroponic bucket, cutting the lid to correct size, adding net pot Setting up the Overflow drainage and running it back to the hydroponic Reservoir
-How to make a PVC hydroponic return water system Setting up a Hydroponic Reservoir with fill gauge Setting up the Dutch bucket irrigation with hydroponic pump Setting up Quick disconnect on irrigation line with PVC Union
How to Build a Dutch Bucket Deep Water Hydroponic System (Full Video)
In this video we go over how to build a hydroponic dutch bucket system step by step and also how to build a deep water hydroponic system. Starting with a Harbor Freight 10 ft x 12 ft greenhouse, then a simple table or bench set up and then into the hydroponics set up. This video (both Parts) contains: Setting up the Bench for Hydroponics Setting up the Dutch bucket system...
Believe it or not Planning out your hydroponics system is the hardest part. Putting it together is not that difficult. Ask yourself a few questions: Where are we going to have the system? Is the system going to be dependent on Sunlight or Artificial Light? Is there a sufficient power source? Solar or Conventional Electricity source? How Big of a system? Budget? What are you going to grow? Are you going to need more in the future? Ask yourself as many questions as you can and watch as many videos as you can and find out about other peoples successes and failures and learn from their mistakes and accomplishments. In the end we decided that we were going to set up a 10 ft x 12 ft Harbor Freight Greenhouse relatively cheaply for our Urban Homestead. It would be sitting on a Concrete Pad and easily Powered by our House power (later we will go solar but budget limits...). We will use the Sunlight. Initially we will start with (11) 4 gallon square buckets and then expand to (22) buckets and then more. We are leaving room for expansion and growth not just with the plants but with our knowledge as well. Different Plants have different requirements and we are trying to tailor our set up towards a successful variety of plant growth. Take the time to draw out diagrams and edit and re-edit as you plan, buy, build.
BUY EVERYTHING WAY IN ADVANCE! I made this it's own step because it was a challenge to find all the parts we needed in the time, area, budget and our design. There's Big Box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, etc... that will carry all the parts you should need but we ran into issues because of the 2020 Quarantine and supply issues. We ordered many things on the big box sites and then became back ordered, and then a rush to find. For us, we found that Uline.com had the cheapest fastest and best deals on the Buckets. Remember they need to be "Food Grade." The PVC, fittings and irrigation supplies from Home Depot and Lowes. The Bulk Grommets, Elbows and things that are 25, 50, 100 counts it's best to order online. Hope this helps a bit.
Here is a general list of what our system has and what you will need to plan for (I'm Icluding the Links to some of the supplies we used-We are NOT Affiliated or have any relationship with these brands so so your own homework as well):
1. A Reservoir
(We Used https://www.amazon.com/Igloo-Polar-Cooler-120-Quart-White/dp/B004QILD6W/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=BEG4PH57FEX7&dchild=1&keywords=coleman+cooler+120+quart+xtreme+cooler&qid=1597135318&sprefix=coleman+cooler%2Caps%2C229&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyNzE0MzkyT0tPMUdYJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMTQ1MzU0MkQwNDU1VzZHUDlROSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwODQ3NTA1M0lCTEdSTlJHQURSNiZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU= )
2. Hydroponic Pump
( https://www.amazon.com/VIVOSUN-Submersible-Fountain-Aquarium-Hydroponics/dp/B07L54HB83/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=34KP8RS0QKWBX&dchild=1&keywords=vivosun+800+gph+submersible+pump&qid=1597135198&sprefix=vivosun+800+gph%2Caps%2C209&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExOFlYMTRKVEkxNzUwJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMDA1NDgyM1ZCSDI0QzgwUFM4TCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNDMzNTMxMkhOTDc3SVJFTkhYSCZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU= )
3. Irrigation Tubing
-1/2 inch Main Irrigation Tubing and 1/4 inch drip line Tubing
4. Irrigation Connectors (We used Rainbyrd Shut off Valve 1/4 inch connectors Home Depot)
(4 Gallon Square Food Grade Black Buckets https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-13650BL/Pails/Square-Pail-4-Gallon-Black and the lids: https://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-13651BL/Pails/Square-Lid-with-Tear-Tab-for-4-Gallon-Square-Pail-Black )
6. Net Pots 4-10 inch Net Pots
7. PVC drain tubing 1/2 inch white schedule 40 PVC (Home Depot)
8. PVC Drain collection 2 inch Black schedule 40 PVC (Home Depot)
9. PVC Elbows (we used PVCfittingsonline.com)
10. PVC Unions and clamps (Home Depot)
Those are the major things we used.
Dutch Buckets Deep Water set up:
1. Cut out Lids to the right size for your net pots. We used 6 inch net pots which had a 1/2 inch lip. We drilled pilot hole and then used a jigsaw to cut. You can use a dremmel tool, hand saw, or whatever is easiest or available.
2. Drop Net pots in Lids.
3. Drill drainage hole into front of Bucket. Traditional Dutch Buckets have a drainage or overflow hole approximately 2-3 inches from the base. We changed this to be a Deep Water hybrid system so we drilled the holes high enough to allow the bottom inch of the net pots to be submerged. You can adjust accordingly. Ours were 4.5 inches from top of bucket. We used a 1 inch drill bit.
4. Siphons. using the 1/2 inch PVC cut the short horizontal drainage pipe to the length you will need to extend from the bucket to the main Drainage PVC it drops into. Ours were 5 inches. Cut another 1/2 inch PVC that will go vertically down to the main drainage pipe. Ours were 10 inches. Connect with the 1/2 inch PVC Elbow and then slip the 5/8 inch grommet over the horizontal or short PVC. This can be difficult and if you have any issues with your hands may be very difficult. Warming in warm water, using soap or using a screw driver and best another person can all be helpful tips. you want to have a tight fit on the grommet to prevent leakage. Once you have grommet on then insert into the front bucket drainage hole. this too can be a little difficult. some people use soap or oil. We used a flathead screw driver to push the lip of the grommet through a little at a time. Once siphon in then connect other 1/2 inch PVC elbow. Some people put a netting or a screen over the elbow to prevent roots blocking siphon. We chose not to at this point. Repeat for as many buckets as you need. This completes the Dutch Bucket/Siphon part.
5. Main Drainage Pipe. Cut 2 inch Black PVC pipe to length you need. Place End caps as necessary. We secured the pipe to the Table and then lined up each of the drainage siphons to the main drainage pipe. Draw your marks for each siphon hole you will drill. Drill out the holes. We used a 1 inch drill bit. Drop each siphon tube into the holes.
6. Main PVC into Reservoir. Depending on where your reservoir is, you will need to route the drainage from the main drainage pipe with an elbow if your reservoir is at the end of the table or a T-junction PVC if your reservoir is somewhere in between the ends. We used a 2 inch T-junction and ran it into another short 6 inch PVC piece and then into a 2 inch elbow dropping the drainage into the reservoir. Make sure the measure each of these pieces to each length that you will need.
7. Reservoir. The reservoir can be anything that holds water securely. We used a Coleman Cooler to keep our water temp a little more consistent. Drill a intake and outtake hole in the top of the reservoir. We used a 3 inch Pipe drill bit and the 2 inch elbow dropped right in.
8. Pump. set up your pump as the instructions say.
9. Connect 1/2 inch main irrigation tubing to pump and run out of second hole in top of reservoir with electrical cord. (remember to always keep power cable with dependent loop and not in a place or position where water can short the circuit. We decided to place a quick disconnect into the irrigation line to make it easier to access the reservoir. We used the irrigation-to-PVC fitting and then cut 3 inch (1/2) PVC and connected and then connected a PVC union to that. So the same on the other end and then to the main line. Run the main line along table to the length of your bucket system.
10. Connect each 1/4 inch irrigation drip line tubing to 1/2 inch main irrigation line. We used the 1/4 inch Stop valves on each line so we could isolate each and every bucket. Used the Irrigation insertion tool to pop a hole into the main 1/2 inch irrigation line then pop shut of valve into hole. Measure the 1/4 irrigation dripline to the length of your net pot where the Roots will go. Attach to the free end of the shut off valve. Repeat for every bucket in system.
YOU ARE ALMOST DONE!
11. Fill Reservoir with Water and check all connections for leaks and issues. Check over whole system. Some people choose to use PVC glue and caulking on irrigation connections, we have not done this and have not had issues. It is easy to change out and move things around if there is no glue, BUT BE SURE TO SECURE THINGS TIGHTLY AND TEST (If a connection comes loose then you can lose all your solution).