A Waterfarm bucket system offers growers a good way to grow hydroponically in a small space, but it can be expensive if you are just beginning to experiment with hydroponics. Build a similar system for much less, using parts available at any large home improvement store. Complete the entire project in an afternoon. A single bucket is large enough to grow one large, four medium, or nine small plants. Because you will provide plenty of nutrients, the plants do not have to share limited resources and you can plant more densely than recommended for soil gardens.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 2 5-gallon buckets
- Power drill with 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch drill bit
- 1/4-inch drain fitting
- Sharp scissors
- 1/4-inch plastic tubing
- 12 inches of soaker hose
- Silicone sealant
- Aquarium pump
- Extension cord (optional)
- Gang valve
- 3 airstones
- HydroClay pebbles
- Concentrated nutrient solution
Drill six, 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of one bucket. This will become your grow bucket.
Drill a 1/4-inch hole in the side of the other bucket, near the bottom. This is your reservoir.
Stack the grow bucket inside the reservoir bucket. Drill three, 1/4-inch holes next to each other, about halfway up the side of the reservoir bucket. Drill these holes below the bottom of the grow bucket.
Install the drain fitting in the hole of the in the reservoir bucket, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Cut a length of plastic tubing long enough to reach from the drain fitting in the reservoir over the rim of the grow bucket. Connect one end of the tubing to the drain fitting.
Curve the soaker hose into a circle, and use silicone sealant to glue the two ends together.
Use the power drill to carefully drill a 1/4-inch hole in the soaker hose. Do not drill all the way through the hose. Insert the loose end of the plastic tubing into the hole in the soaker hose and secure it with silicone sealant.
Allow the silicone sealant to cure completely before adding water to the system.
Plug in the aquarium pump and place it near the stacked buckets. You may need an extension cord if there is no outlet nearby.
Use a length of plastic tubing to connect the pump to the gang valve.
Cut three lengths of tubing long enough to reach from the outlets of the gang valve through the three holes in the side of the reservoir bucket, down to the bottom of the bucket. Thread the tubing through the holes and insert an airstone into each loose end of tubing.
Remove the grow bucket from the reservoir and set it aside. Fill the reservoir halfway with water, but do not fill it high enough so water leaks out the three holes in the side of the bucket.
Let the water sit for an hour, to allow any chlorine present to dissipate.
Add concentrated nutrient solution, following the manufacturer's directions. Mix well.
Put the grow bucket outdoors or in a sink or bathtub. Fill it 3/4 full with HydroClay pebbles and rinse them well. The rinse water should drain out of the holes in the bottom of the grow bucket. Continue to rinse until the water runs relatively clear.
Put the bucket with HydroClay pebbles inside the reservoir bucket.
Plant the seedlings in the HydroClay pebbles.
Place the soaker hose circle on top of the HydroClay pebbles, around the seedlings.
Turn on the pump and verify that the nutrient solution is being pumped through the soaker hose and drains out the bottom of the grow bucket into the reservoir. Verify that the airstones are aerating the nutrient solution.
Tips and warnings
- If you are not sure how big a pump you need, opt for the larger one.
- Allow the silicone sealant to cure completely before adding water to the system.
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