If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that Hubs is fascinated with hydroponics and aquaponics. I think that this love started because we wanted to grow herbs and veggies at home, but had very little space to do so. This meant that he needed to get very clever around creating a garden in a very small space – enter Pinterest and the world of hydroponics!
He has already built a few hydroponic gardens, both vertical and horizontal (what else do you call it?! haha) which worked out really well. When he told me that he was going to build another, I jumped at the chance to track the process and put a blog post together on how to build a DIY hydroponic vertical garden for you. I have found this to be the ideal solution for those of us with small gardens, courtyards or balconies; it’s really an awesome variation on container gardening.
We used the following to create our vertical garden:
- PVC drain pipe
- Stop end cap to fit the drain pipe
- Standard drill bit
- Wood flat drill bit
- Blow torch or heat gun
- Utility knife
- Old bucket with lid
- PVC head & grate gully to fit the pipe
- Tape measure
- Permanent marker
- Jig to the size of hydroponic pot
- Mold of hydroponic pot
- Paint brush
- Pots for your hydroponic garden (ours were 75 mm)
- Pump strong enough to pump water the height of your garden
- Plastic pipe for water
Now you are ready to start!
- Decide on what increments you want your pots to be at – we went with 100 mm (10 cm) between pots.
- Measure 100 mm from the top of the pipe and mark with your pen.
- Use the paper to line up a straight line on that mark (Hubs found this to be the easiest way to get a straight line on a curve) and mark with your pen.
- Measure the size hole you need along the line that you just drew, Hubs had worked out that he needed to measure these to 100 mm as well, for our 75 mm pots to fit.
- Use a hacksaw to cut along the 100 mm line.
- This is where things get interesting! Use your blow torch or heat gun to heat the plastic; you need to do this in order for to create the hole for your pot to fit into. The slit that you cut into the pipe will start to separate, indicating that the plastic is getting hot enough for molding.
- Once the plastic is hot enough, insert the jig into the hole. (If you don’t have a jig, you can skip to the next step; it’s completely up to you.)
- Remove the jig and insert your mold, manipulate the plastic to get the look that you want (you may need to use gloves here) and leave it to cool . If it’s an exceptionally hot day you can speed the cooling off process off by spritzing it with water. Remove the template once cooled.
- Next up, turn the pipe so that you can start your next hole in line with the end of the last one, measure another 100 mm down from the last hole that you made and repeat steps 1 though 7 until you have gotten to the end of your pipe.
I did take a video of the process as well, because I think that it’s easier to follow the steps once you can see them in action. It’s not perfect though and I have yet to learn how to do voice overs, so there are kids playing the background and awkward silences while watching Hubs work. I’m showing you this video on one condition – no judging!
Right, let’s carry on…
- Thread your plastic water pipe through the PVC pipe and put to one side.
- Using the end cap, measure the size of the hole in the lid of the bucket that you are going to need to make.
- Cut out the hole, Hubs used a utility knife for this (watch your fingers!), you can use what works for you.
- Push your PVC pipe through the hole cut in the bucket lid.
- Take your head & grate gully and bore holes in it for the water to pass through, along with a wider hole for you to thread the water pipe through. This is going to act at the stand to keep the PVC pipe upright.
- Attach the head & grate to your PVC pipe, thread the water pipe through the bigger hole that you made and place in the bucket. Place the end cap on the top of the PVC pipe.
- Attach your water pump as per the instructions for your pump and place in the bucket. Adjust the flow to your liking.
Here you can see that we tested it, with the hydroponic plastic pots, for you to get an idea of what it looks like. We actually changed the pump to a smaller one after this, because the flow was too strong:
That’s it, you’ve completed the basic structure! If you want to include a water level monitor (instead of having to open the lid to check), you can do so. Hubs didn’t do this with the first one that he built, but he did with this one.
In order to add a water level monitor, you will need:
- Ball float
- Pipe connector
- Light-weight stick (initially we tried with a steel threaded bar, but it turned out to be too heavy)
- Drill a hole in the bucket lid.
- Push the pipe connector through the hole (you will have half the connector under the lid and half over the lid.
- Push the stick through the pipe connector.
- Attach the ball float to the stick under the lid
The stick will move up and down, as the water level changes, making it much easier to see when the bucket needs to be refilled.
To finish off the garden, I painted it with a textured paint that Hubs bought last year on clearance (nothing like getting items on clearance for cheap DIY projects!).
Hubs built a cover for the bucket out of some old pallet wood (left over from our DIY pallet wall project). Unfortunately I couldn’t track this part of the process because other duties (ahem, kiddos) beckoned. If you want me to put something together though let me know, I will get Hubs to build another one 🙂
And that’s it – it is now ready for you to plant your seedlings! Since this story has gotten so long, I will do a separate post for this. Don’t worry though, it’s quick and easy – no soil needed!
As this is the first full in-depth DIY how to post that I have written, I would appreciate any feedback on questions/requests that you may have. If I’ve missed something, I’ll be sure to reply and update my post with the information!
Also, any suggestions for veggies or herbs that we should give a try, let me know! We will be redoing our small space at the back of our house shortly; that garden will consist of both traditional raised garden beds as well as some hydroponics, so we will give most anything a try 😀