There are dozens of hydroponic systems available, both commercial units and home-built designs. To get started quickly, easily and inexpensively, a home-built system is a good choice. In an afternoon, you can have a working hydroponic feeder ready to grow your favorite vegetables, herbs or flowers. All the materials will be available at larger garden centers. You may even have some of the materials lying around the house. If you are growing indoors without adequate lighting, you may need to add hydroponic grow lights to this system. These are available online and from some garden centers.
Rig the Feeder System
Prepare your grow bin. Drill a 1/2-inch hole near the center of the 10-gallon bin. Drill a 3/4-inch hole in the bottom of the bin, leaving at least 3 to 4 inches of space between the two holes.
Drill 2 1/2-inch holes in the lid of the 20-gallon bin. Put one hole near the center of the lid and the other near the edge. Drill a 3/4-inch hole 3 to 4 inches away from the center 1/2-inch hole.
Install the drain fittings in the bottom of the grow bin. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the screens and the riser extension.
Put the pump inside the 20-gallon bin. Thread the power cord through the 1/2-inch hole near the edge of the lid. You may need to enlarge the hole slightly to fit the plug through. Run an extension cord if you don't have an outlet nearby.
Connect the 1/2-inch tubing to the pump. Thread the other end through the center 1/2-inch hole in the lid and connect it to the 1/2-inch drain fitting in the grow bin. Connect the 3/4-inch tubing to the larger drain fitting and feed the loose end through the larger hole in the lid of the reservoir bin. Use the knife to trim the tubing if necessary so it does not coil up.
Fill the reservoir halfway with water. Turn on the pump and verify that the system is working correctly. The water in the grow tray should rise to the level of the 3/4-inch drain fitting, then drain back into the reservoir. Watch for leaks and overflows. When you are satisfied that the system is working correctly, turn off the pump and drain the water out of the reservoir.
Add Your Plants
Fill the grow tray with HydroClay. Add enough water to rinse off the excess dust, then drain.
Fill the nutrient solution with water and mix in the concentrated nutrient solution, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Plant the seedlings in the grow tray, and water them with the nutrient solution from the reservoir.
Put the lid securely on the nutrient reservoir and set the grow tray on top. If the tubing or drain fittings are getting bent, add blocks of scrap wood to raise the grow tray.
Connect the pump timer to the pump and set it to run for 15 minutes every hour.
About this Author
Tricia Ballad has written professionally since 2004. She has authored three books, as well as numerous articles on parenting and website content involving green living. Her work has appeared in Natural Family Online and Budget Artists. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing specialization from Bradley University.