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Hand Watered bucket system plans
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HAND-WATERED BUCKET

This inexpensive system is one of the Professor's favorites. It is probably the simplest hydroponic system on the planet. Simple yet effective, we have seen very impressive results achieved with this easy to build system. The series of holes that ring the bucket are about 1 1/2" inches above the bottom, this makes a small reservoir of nutrient solution in the bottom that will be wicked up to the plants roots by the capillary action of the growing medium.

This system is perfect for large plants, it can easily handle a single tomato or pepper plant or a couple of smaller plants like lettuce or herbs. NOTE: With large plants you may need to supply external support to help hold the plant upright.

This system can be automated with the use of a separate reservoir, submersible nutrient pump, a short cycle timer (one that can be set to come on for as short as a minute), an air pump & airstone as well as a little bit of drip irrigation tubing. (See drawing on left)

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Materials Required:

5 GALLON BUCKET (or equivalent water tight plastic container). Make sure that the bucket doesn't have any leaks in the bottom, it is important that the bucket holds water up to the point of the overflow holes..

GROWING MEDIUM - The Professor favors straight Perlite or a Perlite / Vermiculite mix for this system, however there is a vast variety of growing mediums that will work well. For more information about growing medium CLICK HERE.

FIBERGLASS WINDOW SCREEN (optional) - A small amount of window screen is handy to put over the overflow holes that you must drill in the bucket, this helps keep the growing medium from falling out.

HYDROPONIC FERTILIZER * - A good quality hydroponic fertilizer is required, regular "dirt" fertilizers do not contain essential "micro-nutrients". For more information about the differences in hydroponic and "dirt" fertilizers CLICK HERE.

pH TEST KIT *- You will need some way of checking and adjusting the pH of your nutrient solution.

*Note: Simply Hydroponics and Organics has an inexpensive "Starter kit" that consists of quality hydroponic fertilizer, a liquid pH test kit (good for hundreds of tests) two bottles of liquid pH adjuster (1 pint pH up, 1 pint pH down) and Instructions. CLICK HERE for additional information.

ASSEMBLY OF SYSTEM

  1. Drill a series of holes in a CLEAN plastic bucket approximately 1 1/2" (4 cm) above the bottom of the bucket. The number and size of the holes is not critical, usually 6 to 10 holes (3/8" or 1/2" in diameter) is enough. NOTE: Holes smaller than 3/8" seem to plug up easily. The larger the hole the more likely that you will need step # 2 below. Very large holes will dry out the growing medium quickly.

  2. Optional: From the inside of the bucket place window screen over holes. (you can hold the screen in place as you add the growing medium, or you can glue the screen in place with a small amount of silicone sealant, wait for silicone to cure before adding growing medium). NOTE: The screen is just to keep the growing medium from falling out. If you don't mind a little mess, or if your holes are relatively small, or your growing medium stays together well you can skip this step.

  3. Add the growing medium to the bucket. (NOTE: you will need to wash and / or pre-soak the growing medium before adding to the system, depending on the type of growing medium that you are using. For more information about Growing Mediums CLICK HERE).

  4. Plant your seedling, rooted cutting or seed in the growing medium. NOTE: The Professor recommends starting your seeds separately and then adding the seedling(s) to the system.

CARE AND FEEDING INSTRUCTIONS
Hand Water Version

  1. Mix your nutrient solution as per the instructions on the fertilizer package. Check pH and adjust accordingly. NOTE: The required pH value will vary depending on the requirements of the plant and the kind of growing medium. For more information on pH, CLICK HERE. An easy way to mix the nutrient is to use a one gallon milk jug and mix a gallon at a time, however it can be convenient to mix more than a gallon at a time, you can use another 5 gallon bucket (or similar plastic container). If you mix large amounts at a time it is recommended that you aerate the surplus nutrient solution with an aquarium type air pump and airstone to keep the solution from stagnating. Storage container should have a loose fitting lid to keep out debris.

  2. Slowly add the pH adjusted nutrient solution to the bucket until you see some excess flow out of the overflow holes.

  3. Repeat step #6 periodically as needed. This will vary due to weather conditions and the size and type of plant(s). Knowing when and how much to water requires a little trial and error.

CARE AND FEEDING INSTRUCTIONS
Automated Version

  1. Fill the reservoir with water and mix your nutrient solution as per the instructions on the fertilizer package. Check pH and adjust accordingly. NOTE: The required pH value will vary depending on the requirements of the plant and the kind of growing medium. For more information on pH, CLICK HERE.

  2. Attach the drip line to the submersible pump and put the pump into the reservoir. Plug the pump into the timer. Set the timer and plug it into the outlet. NOTE: You will need a short cycle timer that can be set for short periods of time. A digital timer from a home center usually will work as they can be set to come on for as little as one minute. A good starting point to set the timer is to come on for one minute once or twice a day.

  3. Put the drip line so that the nutrient solution runs out at the base of the plant.