Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using a nutrient-rich water solution instead. Hydroponic systems can save water, space, and time, as well as produce higher yields and quality than traditional gardening. One of the most popular and efficient hydroponic systems is the tower garden, which is a vertical structure that can accommodate many plants in a small area. Tower gardens are ideal for urban dwellers who want to grow their own fresh and organic food at home.
There are many commercial tower gardens available on the market, but they can be quite expensive and complicated to set up and maintain. If you are looking for a cheaper and simpler alternative, you can make your own hydroponic tower garden using some common materials and tools. In this article, we will show you how to build your own hydroponic tower garden for less than $150. We will also provide some tips and tricks to help you succeed in your hydroponic gardening adventure.
What You Will Need
To make your own hydroponic tower garden, you will need the following materials:
- A 5-gallon food-grade bucket with a lid
- A 7 ft. long 4-inch PVC pipe
- A 10 ft. long 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe
- PVC solvent cement
- A 4-inch PVC collar
- A 4-inch PVC bracket
- A 5-inch PVC square
- A 6 ft. long 1/2-inch poly tubing
- A 1/2-inch barbed tee
- Aquarium-safe silicon
- Two 1 1/2-inch bolts with nuts
- A submersible pump that can pump up to 6 feet
- Twenty 2-inch net cups
- Seedlings of your choice (e.g., lettuce, kale, spinach, herbs, etc.)
- Nutrient solution for hydroponics
- Hydroton (expanded clay pebbles) or other growing medium
You will also need the following tools and equipment:
- A drill with 3-inch bits
- A miter box or saw
- A jigsaw
- A ruler
- A tape measure
How to Build Your Hydroponic Tower Garden
Here are the steps to follow to build your hydroponic tower garden:
Step 1: Work on the Tower Pillar
The tower pillar is the main structure of your hydroponic system, where you will plant your seedlings in the net cups.
To make the tower pillar, you need to do the following:
- Cut two lengths of the 4-inch PVC pipe, one at 6 feet and the other at 4 inches.
- Using your ruler, draw four equally spaced lines around your 6 ft. 4-inch PVC pipe. Once you draw your first line, use your tape to measure the remaining three lines at 3 1/2 inches apart.
- Use your tape measure to mark where you will drill the holes for your net cups. On the first line, mark the holes 5 inches from the top of the pipe and the rest at 15 inches, 25 inches, 35 inches and, 45 inches marks. On the second line, mark the first net cup hole at 10 inches from the top of the pipe and the rest at 20 inches, 30 inches, 40 inches, and 50 inches. The net cup holes on the third line should correspond to those on the first line, and those on the fourth line with the ones on the second line.
- Drill out the holes using a drill with a 3-inch bit. You should have twenty holes in total.
- Sand down any rough edges on the holes and the ends of the pipe.
Step 2: Work on the Net Cup Holders
The net cup holders are small pieces of PVC pipe that will hold your net cups in place inside the tower pillar.
To make the net cup holders, you need to do the following:
- Use a miter box or saw to cut twenty net cup holders from the 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe. Cut each holder at a 45-degree angle on one end, either a straight cut or a slight angle on the other end, and a length of about an inch.
- Draw a center mark outside the angled end of one net cup holder, and center it on one of the hole marks on your tower pillar. Align the marks and trace the outline of the holder on the pillar.
- Repeat this for all twenty hole marks on the pillar. The angled end should point towards the bottom of the pipe.
- To cut out the holes for the holders, first drill out holes big enough to accommodate a jigsaw blade, then cut along the outline for all twenty hole marks.
- Sand down any rough edges on the holes and the holders.
Step 3: Work on the Water Reservoir
The water reservoir is the bucket that will hold your nutrient solution and pump it to the tower pillar.
To make the water reservoir, you need to do the following:
- Cut a hole in the center of the bucket lid using a drill and a jigsaw. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the 4-inch PVC pipe.
- Cut another hole in the side of the bucket, near the bottom, using a drill and a jigsaw. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the 1/2-inch poly tubing.
- Insert one end of the poly tubing through the hole in the side of the bucket and secure it with silicon. Leave about 6 inches of tubing inside the bucket and cut off any excess outside.
- Attach one end of the barbed tee to the poly tubing inside the bucket and secure it with silicon.
- Cut two lengths of poly tubing, one at 4 feet and the other at 2 feet. Attach one end of each tubing to the remaining ends of the barbed tee and secure them with silicon.
- Insert your submersible pump into the bucket and connect it to a power source. Attach one end of the pump’s outlet hose to the 4-foot poly tubing and secure it with silicon.
- Fill your bucket with water and test your pump. Make sure that there are no leaks and that water flows through both poly tubings.
Step 4: Work on the Tower Base
The tower base is the structure that will support your tower pillar and connect it to your water reservoir.
To make the tower base, you need to do the following:
- Cut a hole in the center of another bucket lid using a drill and a jigsaw. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the 4-inch PVC pipe.
- Cut a hole in one corner of the PVC square using a drill and a jigsaw. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the 4-inch PVC pipe.
- Cut another hole in another corner of the PVC square using a drill and a jigsaw. The hole should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the 1/2-inch poly tubing.
- Insert one end of your 4-inch PVC pipe through both holes in both lids and secure them with PVC cement.
- Insert one end of your 4-inch PVC collar through both holes in both lids and secure them with PVC cement.
- Attach your 4-inch PVC bracket to your PVC square using bolts and nuts.
- Insert one end of your 2-foot poly tubing through the hole in your PVC square and secure it with silicon.
Step 5: Assemble Your Hydroponic Tower Garden
Now that you have all your parts ready, you can assemble your hydroponic tower garden by following these steps:
- Place your water reservoir near your desired location for your tower garden. Make sure that it is level and stable, and that you have access to a power source for your pump.
- Place your tower base on top of your water reservoir, aligning both holes in both lids.
- Insert your tower pillar into your tower base, aligning both holes in both lids.
- Connect your 2-foot poly tubing from your tower base to your tower pillar using silicon.
- Fill your net cups with hydroton or other growing medium and insert them into your net cup holders on your tower pillar.
- Plant your seedlings into your net cups, making sure that their roots are in contact with the growing medium.
- Fill your water reservoir with nutrient solution according to its instructions, leaving some space for air circulation.
- Turn on your pump and check if water flows from your tower pillar back to your water reservoir.
Tips and Tricks for Successful Hydroponic Gardening
Here are some tips and tricks to help you succeed in your hydroponic gardening:
- Choose plants that are suitable for hydroponics, such as leafy greens, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
- Check and adjust the pH level of your nutrient solution regularly, keeping it between 5.5 and 6.5 for most plants.
- Change your nutrient solution every two weeks or when it becomes cloudy or discolored.
- Monitor and control the temperature and humidity of your growing environment, keeping it between 65°F and 75°F for most plants.
- Provide adequate light for your plants, either from natural sunlight or artificial lighting sources, such as LED or fluorescent lights.
- Prune and harvest your plants regularly to encourage new growth and prevent overcrowding.