Simple DIY Hydroponic Garden Set-Up

Simple DIY Hydroponic Garden Set-Up

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Hydroponics is a method of gardening that doesn’t use soil. Instead, plants grow in nutrient rich water while being supported by another material— such as rockwool and clay pebbles.

In early 2022, I complained that winter was too long and we needed to figure out a way to grow more stuff year round. My husband went down a rabbit hole and found a bunch of Gardening with Leon’s hydroponic videos. He convinced me that hydroponics was totally do-able at our house, and we dove into making it happen. I’m so glad we got started because we’ve found so many benefits to hydroponic gardening.

A hydroponic garden doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. Putting a celery end in some water on your kitchen counter and watching it regenerate is a basic form of hydroponics. People have successfully grown lettuce in foil-wrapped mason jars filled with water. Your set up only needs to be as complicated as you want it to be.

Our DIY hydroponics set-up

Our DIY hydroponic garden set up uses the Kratky method, which is a passive form of hydroponics and doesn’t require any pumps. As such, it’s a less involved system.

A basic (kratky) DIY hydroponics system requires:

  • dark, opaque container to hold water,
  • a “lid” for the container to hold the net pots (unless the net pots rest directly on top of the container)
  • somewhere for those containers to sit,
  • a grow light (highly recommended)

Keep in mind this is just how we set up our system. There are a ton of resources on the internet and probably just as many ways to set up your hydroponics garden. This is just what worked for us.

Totes for hydroponics

We used 28 quart plastic totes with lids. Our totes were clear, but we painted the entire outside with several coats of black paint.

Why didn’t we just buy black totes? We were told that some black totes sold in the store aren’t actually opaque (hold them up to the light—you’ll be surprised!) which means light can through to the water, making it possible for algae to grow.

Lids and holes for net pots

We cut six 2″ holes into each tote lid with a hole saw. Those 2″ holes are where the net pots will sit when they are planted with our starts.

Net pots come in various sizes, but 2″ is a very common size for many hydroponic items — especially lettuce and other greens like we grow in this part of our DIY hydroponic system.

Not sure what a net pot is or how it works? The net pot is what the plant grows in. The pot has a lot of holes in the bottom which allows the roots to get to the water. I think the whole thing ends up looking a bit like some alien creature when all is said and done. 🙂

Shelving for your hydroponics system

Our totes sit on a shelf we built years ago for our (retired) fodder system and then repurposed for our hydroponics system.

Use whatever shelf/table you want as long it can hold the weight of your containers at capacity. Keep in mind, water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. Each of our totes weighs about 50 pounds when full.

Grow lights for your hydroponics system

Do you need a grow light for your hydroponic garden? I would say absolutely yes. But that’s probably because I live in MN with one small south facing window. And also the fact that my DIY hydroponic garden set-up is in a dark corner of my basement. I would never tell you that you can’t accomplish something (like growing an amazing hydroponic garden without the help of grow lights) but I am going to tell you that my hydroponic garden absolutely requires grow lights.

The above pictures grow lights are Barrina grow lights. We’ve since expanded our system to include a grow light similar to this square grow light.

Our grow lights are set up on a smart plug. The lights are preset to turn on and off at a certain time via the smart plug. You certainly don’t need a smart plug, just remember to turn the lights on and off yourself. But I like using a smart plug because once the starts are in our hydroponic system, it is pretty “set-it-and-forget-it” until the goodies are ready to harvest!

Get started with DIY hydroponic gardening!

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