STOP! If you have just arrived at this website looking for drip system hydroponics, you might want to go back to page one of this mini-farm plan.
You can use just the light from a sunny window if all you are growing are houseplants. Anything else requires some supplemental lighting. A T5 compact fluorescent “grow light” will do fine for houseplants, herbs, and leafy green veggies like lettuce. This one is available for under $75, including the 125 watt compact T5 bulb:
You can order this lamp and bulb here: Cheap Lighting. You can get off much cheaper by getting a fluorescent “grow stick” at Walmart for about $25, but you will not get the lush growth a better light setup will produce. Also, for best results, upgrade to the 200 watt bulb listed on our supplies page.
If you are interested in fruiting
veggies like tomatoes, or serious herbs, you will have to upgrade to an HID
lamp. Learn more about HID lighting and see our special combo lamp deal here: Hydroponic Lights.
We highly recommend the Flora Series nutrient solutions put out by GH (General Hydroponics). This stuff is superior, easy to use, and reasonably priced. It consists of 3 parts (Flora Grow; Flora Micro; and Flora Bloom). If you have hard water, get the Hardwater Flora Micro instead.
For this smaller garden, order a quart of each of the three solutions: Cheap Nutrients. Stick with Flora Series, follow the label directions, and you can't go wrong!
The nutrient reservoir must be kept
cool (55-70°). This is especially important for the cool-season crops like
lettuce and broccoli. Learn more about hydroponics nutrient solutions here: Hydroponic Solution. We also
provide a nifty little mixing chart there for the Flora nutrients that you can
print out and save.
As the nutrient level drops in the reservoir bin, you need to periodically add water only (not more nutrient). Keep track of how many gallons you top up with. When you have replaced 5 gallons of water, stop topping up and then let the level drop down towards the pump.
When the pump starts “sucking air”, drain the bin and mix up a whole new batch of nutrient solution. Each new 10 gallon batch should last 3-5 weeks by following this “50% system”.
For our top drip system here, you can lift the lid off the reservoir and rotate aside slightly to allow access to the nutrient solution; for testing and refills, etc.
pH- It is a very good
idea for any serious hydroponics project to keep the pH of the water in the
proper range, which is 5.5 to 6.5 (6.0 is ideal). If the pH is out of range,
some of the nutrients get “locked out” and the plants suffer.
GH puts out a simple test kit with pH up & down solutions cheap. It will last you through many gardens: Cheap Nutrients.
actually use whatever growing medium you prefer in the drip system hydroponics buckets. We
recommend a 50/50 Coco Coir and perlite mixture for the growing area. Then add a
1” layer of LECA (Hydroton or clay balls) to the top of the pots.
The LECA provides an excellent surface for the nutrient solution to trickle onto and prevents the Coco/perlite mixture from moving around during the feed cycle.
This is a brick of Coco-Coir and a handful of Hydroton clay balls:
Here is a cheap source for your media: Hydroponic Media.
Perlite can be bought at any garden
center. Coco Tek and Hydroton balls must be ordered from a hydroponics supplier.
Learn more about hydroponic growing media here: Hydroponic Growing Medium.
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