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DIY Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System

Inspired by a You Tube video, I decided to build my own version of the Deep Water Culture system.

I am using a 18 gallon container (Tuff Tote version) and six 3 inch net pots (55 cents each at Worms Way). I am using coconut coir for growing medium and some hard water liquid fertilizer also from Worms Way. I am growing 6 pepper plants.

If all goes well with this version of the experiement, I plan to switch to a more organic version of nutrient going forward. Worms Way has a large variety of seabird guano nutrient available.

The most difficult part of making this DIY system was cutting the holes.

I plan to upgrade to a better pump later, but for now I'm using an Aqua Culture pump that I had on hand. A better pump from Worms Way goes for $16.

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Comment by bpearcy10 on December 5, 2010 at 5:48pm
Here's a tip from something I've learned by making this....shallow and wide is better than deep and narrow.
Comment by Andrew from California on December 6, 2010 at 6:42pm
Brian, does the pump simply provide aeration? How often do you add liquid fertilizer? Too bad the shallow/wide totes cost so much more than the standard 18 gal. totes. I wonder if a few worms in each pot would help. Mix in some leaf mold with the coir.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 6, 2010 at 7:17pm
It's my understanding that the water needs to be changed weekly, but I am leaning more toward 2 weeks. I need to read up on it some more, but for now I'm considering this an interesting experiment that didn't cost too much to try.

I talked to some guys at Worms Way that experience with these types of systems and they were very encouraging.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 6, 2010 at 7:27pm
It's my understanding the pumps provide some oxygen into the water and along with the nutrients stimulate growth.

It supposedly works by suspending the plant roots into a nutrient solution that is oxygenated. The roots need a high level of oxygen in order to properly process the nutrients and water they intake.

I decided on this method because it was cheap, easy to set-up, and seems to be popular with hydroponic novices because it has a higher success rate than some other methods.

I wasn't sure about adding worms. Not sure if the nutrient might be toxic to them.

At Worms Way, they do sell Seabird Guano for a more organic approach. I'm sticking to non-organic methods first until I get a level of comfort with the system. I'm open to suggestions from some with more experienced hydroponic growers.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 6, 2010 at 7:41pm
rock - I've been looking at some aeroponics systems too. I was discouraged by some who said the misters tend to clog up and be unfriendly to novices.

I was going with a simple wick system with nylon rope, but then I ran across the deep water culture theory and decided to try it.

A friend already warned my wife that aquaponics is likely right around the corner, but I think it'll be at least another year (lol). I've got a lot of learning to do first.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 8, 2010 at 6:55pm
The peppers are beginning add a lot of new growth. This hydroponic thing is pretty cool. Now if I can just keep them alive.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 9, 2010 at 6:19am
It's not, but it can be. I want to understand hydroponics better before I try organic nutrient.
Comment by bpearcy10 on December 14, 2010 at 6:25pm

We've been out of town for 4 days and the hydroponics have been going for 1 1/2 weeks. The roots are beginning to poke through the bottom of the web pots. There are a few blooms on the plants themselves that are about to blossom.

Comment by bpearcy10 on December 21, 2010 at 7:16pm

O.k. here's another update on the progress of my Deep Water Culture Hydronponic System. It's been 16 days. Two of my plants are in full bloom. Four of the plants have grown visibly (ranging between 2 inches and 6 inches), although not the explosive growth I expected. The root growth is poor also, but there is no visible discoloration in the plants or wilting of any kind.  At this point I should have visible roots protruding from the bottom of my net pots, but that is not happening yet.

I am sure the lack of expected results is due to my poor nutrient source. I also predict that having 6 plants in the container requires a more agressive approach than I took.

I did this on a whim after seeing a You Tube video and really didn't put the upfront research into it that I should have. I often take a "ready shoot aim" approach to things. I find that taking action, even it's wrong is better than taking no action at all.

I used a 5-0-0 liquid nutrient I had on hand with 5 tablespoons to my 18 Qt container. I also added 5 tablespoons on Osmocote granular slow release fertilizer that I had on hand. The Osmocote is more agressive, but being a granular I am sure it's not providing the level of nutrient needed fast enough.

Tonight I decided to take a different approach when I changed out the water and added 5 tablespoons of liquid fish emulsion that is 5-0-0 and then 2 tablespoons of a 9-6-0 porcine bone meal. The bone meal will definitely increase the availability of nutrient to the plants. 


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