Do You Really Need Soil
I've lived with the idea that plants "eat" soil for many years. So when I read about hydroponics for the first time I was quite surprised to see that you could grow vegetables without any soil at all. The soil in fact is most useful to keep the plant straight and support its root system. In the nature nutrients also come from the soil transported by water but they can very well be brought by water alone. Plants don't need soil to live.This is the idea of hydroponics. Hydroponics has some advantages:
- Reduces some problems with rot and deceases
- There are less vermin to worry about
- Water and nutrients go straight into the roots
- This leads to stronger plants and more produce
- Less work - no more double digging!
- Less water is wasted
- Easier to garden indoor
That's enough to drive some interest, isn't it? Now, the question is, what it takes to create your own DIY home based hydroponics system?
Your DIY Hydroponic System
Hydroponic systems can be passive or active. The passive systems use gravity and the plants natural means of absorbing water and nutrients, while the active systems use some mechanics to supply the circulation. Obviously building a passive system sounds easier as a DIY project.
Then, there are four common solutions:
- Deep water culture where the roots go in dark container with water, nutrients and aquarium pump that supplies oxygen.
- Ebb and flow system where the roots stay in clay pelets or something similar and a pump supplies the nutrients on periods.
- Aeroponics is when no growing medium is used. It's in no way organic.
- A drip system which is similar to ebb and flow
OK, enough theory.
How To Build a Hydroponic System at Home
The easiest way is to purchase a kit. There are kits like this one that will get you started in no time for few bucks.
But if you want to grow some real food at a scale, you need to understand the process and be able to do things yourself. Here are several decent guides to building it from scratch:
- Recirculating Hydroponics recycles used containers and allows growing large plants for long time.
- Hydroponics - at Home and for Beginners nice lovely low-cost solution
- My Indoor DWC Hydroponics System - and here's a more professional one
- Compact, Cheap, and Expandable Hydroponics System - the title says it all
These four instructables should be enough to get you heated and started with hydroponics at home. Now, let's see another interesting aspect of the whole thing.
This is the perpetual motion machine of gardening! Put an aquarium with fish, some plants over it and have their roots in the water. The roots use the nutrients from the fertilized by the fish water. And you eat both veggies and fish. OK, you still need to feed the fish but that's almost all.
This is of course rather simplified explanation of aquaponics. Regardless, it remains a simple enough concept to do it yourself at home. And is far more efficient than the basic hydroponics. So, why wait? Here are some guides:
- Simple aquaponics
- Easy Aquaponics from "mostly" re-purposed materials - this one is bigger!
- Mike's Aquaponics System is smaller and homemade.
- Small aquaponic unit - and here's something you can put in your office
- A whole discussion forum for DIY aquaponics
Good. Sounds like something we'll have to try.