A hydroponic drip system is an easy way to grow fresh vegetables any time of the year. You can set one up outdoors or indoors, although it will require extra light inside. You can build the hydroponic drip system and set it up in less than a day. A basic system consists of a reservoir for the nutrient solution, a way to transport the solution to the plants and containers for the plants.This system uses Bato buckets, which are grow pots with built-in reservoirs for the nutrient solution. If your system loses power, the reserve of nutrient solution will keep your plants alive for two to three days.
Building The Frame
Use the tape measure to mark the PVC pipe into the following lengths: one each 35 ¼ inches, 31 inches, 18 inches, 17 ½ inches, 16 ½ inches, 16 inches, 6 inches, and 2 inches. And you'll need 2 pieces that are 5 inches long. Use the pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut the pipe on the marks.
Insert a Styrofoam circle in the end of an elbow and in one end of the tee. Leave enough room to insert a piece of straight pipe. Glue the Styrofoam in place with aquarium silicone sealant.
Use PVC glue to join all the pieces of PVC together. Glue the end opposite the blocked end of the tee to one end of the 31-inch piece of pipe. Glue the 2-inch piece of pipe to the blocked end of the tee.
Glue the open end of the blocked elbow to the 18-inch piece of pipe. Glue elbows to one end of the 17 ½, 16 ½, and 16-inch pieces of pipe. These will be the legs of the frame.
Insert the plain end of the 31-inch piece of pipe into the elbow on the 18-inch piece. Insert the blocked end into the elbow on the 17 ½-inch piece of pipe. Do not glue yet. Set the piece on the floor and adjust the pieces so the legs are flat on the floor and the tee is at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Remove one piece at a time, glue the pieces together, and press flat on the floor to ensure the pieces are in the correct position.
Insert the 35 ¼-inch piece of pipe into the elbows on the 16 ½ and 16-inch pieces. Do not glue yet. Set the piece on the floor and adjust the pieces so the legs are flat on the floor. Remove one piece at a time, glue the pieces together, and press flat on the floor to ensure the pieces are in the correct position.
Put an elbow on each end of the 5-inch pieces and adjust so the elbows are pointing in the same direction. Glue the elbows in place. Glue the open ends of the elbows to the legs of the frame. Turn the frame upright.
Set the Bato buckets on the lower rail of the frame and against the higher rail. Mark the back rail next to the drain holes of the Bato buckets. Use the drill and the 7/8-inch spade drill bit to drill holes for the Bato bucket drain pieces (included with the buckets). Assemble the Bato bucket drain pieces. Snap one end of a drain piece over the drain hole in a Bato bucket and push into place so the barbs extend through the hole. Insert the other end of the drain piece into a hole on the PVC drain pipe.
Glue the 6-inch piece of pipe to the free end of the tee to form a drain port. Set the storage tote for the reservoir under the frame and mark the lid where the drain port touches it. Use the drill and a 2 ¼ -inch hole saw to cut a hole in the lid for the drain port. Use the drill and a 1-inch hole saw to cut a hole on the opposite side of the short end of the lid for the pump hose and cord.
Attach the ½-inch tubing to the submersible pump and secure with a zip tie. Set the pump in the reservoir and pull the electrical cord and the tubing through the 1-inch hole in the lid. Arrange the ½-inch tubing along the top of the Bato buckets and tape into place. Use a knife to cut off the end of the tubing 6 inches past the last bucket. Roll up the end of the tubing several times and secure with a zip tie so it will not leak.
Connect one end of the air tubing to the air stone and set it in the reservoir. Pull the other end of the tubing through the 1-inch hole and attach it to the aquarium air pump.
Use a knife to cut the spaghetti tubing into 16-inch pieces. Insert a barbed connector into the end of each piece. Use the irrigation hole punch to make 2 holes in the ½-inch tubing beside each Bato bucket. Insert a barb into each hole.
Fill each Bato bucket with soilless planting media and plant the seedlings. Layer clay pellets on top of the planting media to prevent disturbance caused by the irrigation. Place 2 pieces of irrigation tubing in each Bato bucket.
Mix the nutrient solution with water following the manufacturer's directions in the reservoir. Turn the air stone and water pump on. Check for leaks and seal with aquarium silicone sealant. Let dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Plug the pump into the timer and set the timer to turn on the irrigation for 15 minutes three times a day.
About this Author
Melody Lee worked as a newspaper reporter, copywriter and editor for 5 years. In addition, she has edited magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design and is a Florida master gardener. She has more than 25 years of gardening experience, which includes working at nurseries and greenhouses.