How to Build a Hydroponic Garden


How you build your hydroponic garden depends on what you want to grow and how much money you want to invest. It's easy to start with a small flood-and-drain system to learn the basics of hydroponic gardening. The design of the system can be expanded to support a much larger system when you are ready for more plants. If you are planning to use your hydroponic garden indoors, you will also need to provide a light source.

Step 1

Obtain two dark-colored plastic totes with lids. The totes should have no drainage holes, except for the ones you will drill. The first tote is the nutrient reservoir and the second is the growing bed.

Step 2

Cut two 3/4 inch-diameter holes into the bottom of one end of the growing bed tote. Install the flood and drain fitting and the overflow fitting. These fittings are available at a hydroponics store or online.

Step 3

Cut holes in the lid of the reservoir tote large enough to allow your plastic tubing to pass through snugly. Place the aquarium pump in the bottom of the reservoir tote and connect one piece of plastic tubing between the pump and the flood and drain fitting. Attach the other piece of tubing to the overflow fitting and run it back into the reservoir tote.

Step 4

Attach the air stones to the air pump and place them on the bottom of the tote. Cut a small niche at the top of the reservoir tote to allow the air tubing and pump cord to pass through.

Step 5

Assemble the totes, placing the growing container on the table with the fittings hanging over the end. The nutrient reservoir goes under the table. Fill the nutrient reservoir with water and turn on the pump. Time how long it takes the growing bed to fill. Set the timer to turn the pump on three or four times per day and run for this length of time.

Step 6

Empty the water from the nutrient reservoir and fill it with nutrient solution mixed according to the package directions.

Step 7

Fill the growing bed tote with a growing medium such as hydroton clay pellets, sand or gravel. Place the plants into the growing medium. If you are using plants grown in soil, first gently wash the soil away from the roots.

Step 8

Plug the pump into the timer and turn on the air pump. Cover the timer and air pump if your system is located outdoors. Your hydroponic garden is ready to grow.

Step 9

Provide light from a sunny window, a grow light or a combination of cool and warm spectrum fluorescent lights when growing indoors.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 sturdy plastic totes, up to 18 gallons each
  • Aquarium air pump and stone
  • Aquarium water pump
  • Timer
  • Flood and drain fitting
  • Overflow fitting
  • Plastic tubing
  • Small table
  • Drill


  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Hydroponics as a Hobby
  • University of Illinois Extension: Hydroponic systems
  • Oswego State University of New York: Hydroponics
Keywords: build hydroponic garden, flood and drain, ebb and flow, homemade hydroponic garden

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.