If you were to tell someone that they could grow their own tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cannabis, or other fruits hydroponically their first reaction would probably be to wonder how difficult, or expensive it would be to achieve. The fortunate truth is that hydroponics can be as simple as growing with soil, and much more effective at growing massive yields and incredible fruits, vegetables or medicine. Once you experience the power of your own green thumb you'll feel empowered knowing that you can rely on your own skills to supplement your life with the wonders hydroponics has to offer. Keep reading and by the end you'll have made a high-performing hydroponic DWC system out of readily available components. Speaking of components, let's lay them out:
1. 5 Gallon Bucket and Lid (Best if it's opaque and black, otherwise a simple old towel or a spray paint can keep light from forming nutrient-sucking algae in your bucket.)
2. 6 Inch Net Pot
4. Substrate (Expanded Clay, Coco Choir, Perlite, Lava Rocks, or other hydroponic media would work fine)
5. Power Drill with a 1/4 inch drill bit
6. Box Cutter
7. Aquarium air Pump
8. Air Stone
10. Hydroponic Nutrients
OPTIONAL BUT STRONGLY RECOMMEND FOR MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE:
12. LED Lights and Necessary Hanging Equipment
13. Fan (Preferably Oscillating)
Take your 6-inch net pot, flip it over and place it center on the 5-gallon lid. Trace the outline of the pot with a sharpie. Now cut on the INSIDE of this circle so that the pot lip will fit slightly bigger than the hole, thus keeping it from falling through. Many 5-gallon lids will have concentric circles which have a circumference that you can follow to fit the 6-inch pot perfectly.
Drill a 1/4" hole on top of the lid, somewhere close to edge. This will serve as a hole to run you air stone tubing through.
Fill the 5-gallon bucket half-way with Distilled (dH2O), Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Rain Water.
This step may differ depending on which nutrient mixture you choose. I'm using Advanced Nutrient's three part nutrient mix at 2 ml/L for the early stages of growth (1.5 months) and slowly increase it to 4 mL/L for the the remaining vegetative and fruiting stages. Simply read the nutrient labels and follow their instructions. General Hydroponics, Master Blend, Fox Farms, and many others have wonderful nutrient mixes for your different needs. After you properly mix your nutrients in, fill the rest of your 5-gallon bucket up with water. Some mixes may require you to fine tune the pH, but in Advanced Nutrient's case the final solution is always 5.5-6.0 as long as you use pure distilled or RO water. Mix your nutrients in a 1 gallon distilled water jug that is half full so that you can shake between nutrient additions.
Connect your air pump, tubing, and you airstone. Make sure you run the tubing through the hole in the lid before attaching the airstone. Plug everything in and insure that your airstone sits at the bottom of your 5 gallon bucket. LET YOUR AIR STONE SIT FOR ABOUT 1 HOUR BEFORE TURNING IT ON! The smaller the bubble the better as this helps the nutrient absorb more of that precious oxygen.
Put your plant in! You can start from seed and then transplant it in once it's 3 weeks old, or buy a young plant from a nursery or grocery store. The best time to buy young plants is at the tail end of the growing season since everything will be on sale. I got this Naga Viper pepper plant for only $4 at HEB! First Step is to check for diseases or pests. Once you ensure that your plant is a healthy one, transplant it by first cleaning off the dirt from the roots using a hose. You can be rougher than you think and don't be afraid if you lose a small amount of roots. A little left over dirt is okay too.
Place a sheet of cheese cloth over your pot, make sure you have more than enough cheese cloth draping around it as it makes the potting much easier. Throw in a couple of handfuls of your substrate of choice to weigh down the cheese cloth, then place your plant in so that the crow of the roots is slightly lower than the lip of your pot. Fill in the spaces with your substrate while supporting your plant with the other hand. After you get the pot all filled, give it a shake to settle all the loose substrate and ensure a good supporting fit.
Finally trim the cheese cloth, prune the plant from the bottom, and place the pot in your 5 gallon bucket!
ADDITIONAL STEPS FOR THE DISCERNING GROWER:
STEP 7: CHECK OUT OUR BLOG POST FOR LIGHTING TIPS
Hang your light source so that you can vary the height from the plant as it grows. Most, if not all of the respectable companies, include a light intensity map measure in PAR with their lights. This should tell you how PAR varies under a light at different heights and a map showing you how the PAR changes as you move from directly under the light to the sides of the light zone. For a high performing fruiting/flowering plant I'd recommend a PAR of at least 800-900. A PAR of between 300-500 is more than enough for any leafy greens or herbs. A simple trick to increase light around your plant is a simple grow tent with white reflective panels or screen. White generally reflects better than foil or reflective tape, contrary to what you may think.
Connect your lights to a timer. This makes it really simple as you can just leave for 2 weeks and come back to new growth (assuming no disease or pests!).
Add a fan to gently blow your plant and increase air circulation. This helps the plant develop a strong stem, and fight off any fungus or bacterial diseases that occur when you have micro-climates of damp, humid air. This is especially recommend if you are growing in an enclosed space with a large sized plant.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment, I make sure to answer every question you guys may have! This is the best and cheapest way to grow a single fruiting/flowering plant, be it tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cannabis or squash!