How to Build a Hydroponic Unit With PVC Pipes to Grow Veggies

How to Build a Hydroponic Unit With PVC Pipes to Grow Veggies

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Are you an aspiring urban farmer, with very little time, resources and space to grow your own veggies or leafy greens?

All hope isn’t lost. You can still experiment with gardening in a minimalistic space by building your own hydroponic unit using PVC pipes! This technique is also known as the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system of hydroponics.

Here’s how you can set up a hydroponic unit using PVC pipes in simple steps:

Step 1: Assemble all you need

  • 4 PVC pipes. Select length based on your requirement.
  • PVC elbow connectors to connect the grid.
  • 1 PVC cap
  • A large size container with a lid
  • A submersible hydroponic pump
  • Ready-made net pots or disposable cups
  • Ready-made growth medium
  • Ready-made nutrient mix
  • Hosepipe

Step 2: Cut PVC pipes

Based on your requirement, cut four PVC pipes. 

Step 3: Arrange them in the grid of your choice

Connect the pieces to make the desired grid of your choice—straight or zigzag. Connect the ends of these PVC pipes to each other using the PVC elbow connectors.

Step 4: Drill holes to hold the net pots.

  • The next step is to drill holes in your PVC pipes to make holders for net pots.
  • Net pots refer to plant holders that come in various sizes. They hold the growth medium and seed/plant in the hydroponic system. 
  • As the name suggests, they are netted to allow the nutrient-rich solution to flow freely and reach the seed at the nascent stage. As the plant grows, the roots extend out of the net pot and grow down in search of water.
  • Take the netted pot and make a marking on the PVC pipe. Cut that circle out. Ensure that you maintain enough distance between net pots. 
  • You can either buy these net pots online or make them using disposable cups.

Step 5: Making Net Pots for planters

You can also use disposable cups to make the netted pots by cutting them out at the sides and then perforating the bottom of the cups with big enough holes. 

Add them to the system.

Step 6: Installing a reservoir

  • The right nutrient mix combines primary nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium; secondary nutrients like calcium, sulphur, phosphorus; and micronutrients like iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, boron. 
  • Here is a recipe for the solution to be mixed in 20 litres of water.

Things you will need:

  • 25 ml of calcium nitrate
  • 1.7 ml of potassium sulfate
  • 8.3 ml of potassium nitrate
  • 6.25 ml of monopotassium phosphate
  • 17.5 ml of magnesium sulfate
  • 2 ml of trace elements

You can buy the nutrients here.
Store the solution in a food-grade container at room temperature, away from light. Shake it well before using. 

Step 7: Making the Nutrient-rich solution

You can either buy the nutrient-mix online or make it at home. 

This mix combines primary nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium), secondary nutrients like calcium, sulphur, phosphorus and micronutrients iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, boron.

Find a recipe to make it at home here.

  • Here is a recipe for the solution to be mixed in 20 litres of water.

   Things you will need:

  • 25 ml of calcium nitrate
  • 1.7 ml of potassium sulfate
  • 8.3 ml of potassium nitrate
  • 6.25 ml of monopotassium phosphate
  • 17.5 ml of magnesium sulfate
  • 2 ml of trace elements

You can buy the nutrients here.

If you have made it at home, keep it in a food-grade container at room temperature away from light. Shake it well before using. 

Step 8: Fill the reservoir and install the hydroponic pump


 

  • Place the water pump in the base of the reservoir. Fill it with the nutrient-rich solution. 
  • Submersible tank pumps are seated in the bottom of your tank and designed to pump water upwards to the surface. 
  • In this method, the pump when turned on will flood the PVC pipes with nutrient-rich water and facilitate plant growth. 
  • Once turned off, the water will flow back into the reservoir.

Step 9: Choose your growth medium

You can use any growth medium of your choice. For e.g. rockwool, clay pellets, cocopeat, coconut fiber/coconut chips, perlite or vermiculite.

You can buy the growth medium here too. 

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Step 10: Choose the plants that you want to grow.

You can grow an array of leafy greens, herbs, veggies and fruits.

You can use your own seedlings, source them from other urban farmers or buy them online. While planting the seeds into the net pots and adding the growth medium, ensure you add at least three of each species.

This increases the probability of at least one seed sprouting.

You are all set!

Monitoring tips

The NFT system uses a pump to deliver nutrient-rich solution to the plants and recycles the unused/excess water solution back into the reservoir.

Simply put, the nutrient-rich solution reaches the PVC pipes through the hose when the pump is on. It meets the net pots containing the seed and growth medium. While the growth medium absorbs the nutrients it needs, the excess nutrient solution will flow through the other PVC system and go back into the reservoir.

Therefore the plants are not entirely soaked. The upper section of the roots remains dry, so it has access to oxygen in the air. The NFT system doesn’t use an automatic timer and so the water pump runs constantly. Since the pump runs 24×7, it is advisable to connect your system to a power backup

  • Refill the reservoir when required.
  • Test the nutrient levels and the water level weekly.

Tell us if this guide worked for you! Also, don’t forget to relish those fresh, soil-less, homegrown veggies!  

“Using the internet, I started building my own hydroponic system. Within one year, I was able to use the vertical farming technique and grow 6,000 plants. It requires 90 per cent less water than conventional soil-based farming. Since it is water-based, it has macro and micronutrients directly fed to the plant, and the plants grow 50 per cent faster as well as have a better yield.”

Rahul Dhoka, Acqua Farms

So, now that you have an idea about what goes into creating your own hydroponic unit, initiate the process and help make the planet greener. 

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