Plants that grow via hydroponics grow more healthy, purer and larger than plants in natural environments, since they are controlled and grow without soil, only nutrient solution and water. Coming from the Greek words hydro (water) and ponos (labor), hydroponics benefit rare plant collectors or avid gardeners who want to grow year-round. One of the best hydroponic systems for beginners is the continuous flow hydroponic system. You can easily construct one from materials at your hardware store. The size of your hydroponic system depends on what and how much you are growing. A 15-to-20 gallon bin can hold enough lettuce to feed a family year-round, or around 10 types of culinary herbs.
Building the Hydroponic System
Drill a hole into the middle of the bin's lid, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Drill an additional hole right by the left or right edge that is the same in diameter.
Flip the bin upside down and drill a hole in the center of the bin's bottom, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Use the tape measure to move about 3 inches to the right or left, and drill another hole here, about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Fit the drain fittings, riser extension and screens, carefully following the directions on the package. This installation varies depending on the brand or size.
Put the pump into the bin and position it properly, following the package directions. Place it close to the lid holes. A pump is a hydroponics item worth the investment for a nice one to ensure durability and quality.
Connect the 1/2-inch tubing to the pump. Run it through the 1/2-inch hole in lid and connect the tube to the 1/2-inch drain fitting in the bin.
Attach the 3/4-inch tube to the 3/4-inch drain fitting, running the other end of the tube through the 3/4-inch hole in the lid. Run the pump cord through the additional 1/2-inch lid hole. Position bin close to an electrical outlet so you can plug it in.
Close the lid firmly, making sure it fits around the tubes.
Using The Hydroponic System
Choose a growing medium for your hydroponic system based on what you are growing. The three most popular are multi-use (also known as long-term use), one-time use (usually perlite or vermiculite), and hydroponic pebbles. Multi-use media are the most common and are less expensive in the long run as they are more durable, while one-time use media are less expensive up front and ideal for seasonal growing. Hydroponic pebbles are great for root or bulb vegetables like onions and carrots.
Fill the nutrient reservoir with water (the main part of the bin). Add the nutrient solution, following the package directions. Fill the bin with the growing medium until it is about 3 inches above the riser extension, which is where the water level will be (also where the plant roots settle).
Plant the fruits or vegetables on top of the growing medium, filling in additional medium around the roots up to the base to make the plant more sturdy.
Refill the reservoir with more water whenever the level goes down from evaporation. Every two weeks, flush out the system and replenish with fresh nutrient solution and water.
Use natural sunlight for your hydroponic fruits and vegetables if possible (you must set up the hydroponic system in this area beforehand if this is the case), or you can use grow lights specific to your plants or growing goals.
About this Author
Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.