Hydroponic planting apparatuses suspend plants in a highly porous, organic soil and then completely submerge them in water. The process has benefits for gardening enthusiasts who cannot go outdoors, as well as those who lack adequate space to garden. Bleach bottles make excellent hydroponic vessels, and using them is easy.
Bleach bottles in a hydroponic gardening setup simply retain the water and water-soluble nutrients. According to B.A. Kratky of the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Hawaii, the exterior vessel holds these nutrients in a controlled environment while being custom fitted at the top to prevent pest infiltration. Using bleach bottles for this purpose is a way to recycle containers that might otherwise be thrown away. They are large enough to hold species of plants that might overwhelm smaller vessels like mason jars and sports drink bottles. The white plastic, as opposed to clear, keeps the sunlight from further breaking up valuable nutrients in the soil, allowing the plant to get the full measure of nutritional benefit from the solution.
What You'll Need
In order to set up a homemade hydroponic bleach bottle system, you'll need a net pot, which is essentially a mesh or plastic crate for holding the organic matter that the seeds grow in. For the organic matter, Kratky recommends using at least two of the following: peat, perlite, vermiculite or coir. These spongy substances allow the nutrient-rich water to freely flow about the root system. You'll also need a hydroponic fertilizer, which can be found at most local gardening stores, and of course the seeds you want to grow.
Cut the top off the bleach bottle so that the net pot rests just inside it. You want the lip of the net pot to rest stably on the rim of the bleach bottle without any gaps; otherwise, mosquitoes, flies, or other insects can infiltrate and lay eggs, contaminating the setup. Be sure to rinse your bleach bottle thoroughly before use, as any residue will negatively affect plant growth. Once this is done, add 1 tsp. of hydroponic fertilizer to the bottom of the bottle, and then add a quart or so of water. Swirl to mix the fertilizer and water together. Add more water until the water level is 1 1/2 inches from the top. Fill your net pot with the organic matter, allowing the compound to settle a bit before adding seeds. Place the net pot in the opening at the top of the bleach bottle and wait for the material to become moist. Then plant a couple of seeds 1/4 inch beneath the surface of the organic matter.
From here, you just want to make sure the plant gets plenty of sunlight. If you are growing in winter or don't have access to a south-facing window, Gardening Tips and Ideas recommends using a fluorescent light to provide the necessary UV rays to the plant as it grows. You won't need to add any more water or nutrients to the soil, and in five to six weeks you should be able to harvest.