Posts Tagged ‘Floating Raft Hydroponics’

Hydroponics – Dutch Bucket System

I did a post recently about the hydroponic flood table I set up for my lettuce.


Now I have set up a Dutch Bucket system for my broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  This system is not replacing my garden but complimenting it by extending my gardening season, hopefully, both in the spring and fall.


I have really enjoyed watching the youtube video by mhpgardener, Dutch Bucket Hydroponics-How it works and How to Make Your Own Buckets and Hydroponic Update-Dutch Butch Tomatoes & Kratky Lettuce.  This system is a little more involved than the flood table but still very simple, cost effective and easy to set up. You can watch the above videos but I will also show you how I set my system up, the supplies that are needed and the cost.  You can even set this up in a basement if you use grow lights.  The neat thing is it does not take much space.

I chose this system for my “longer season” and “heavier” crops.  I am experimenting with several crops the video doesn’t show (broccoli and squash). I found another video showing cucumbers.  The challenge with cucumbers will be pollination so we will see how that goes. I have been told by an experienced greenhouse grower that tomatoes do not need bees to pollinate the blossoms. They just need wind to vibrate the blossoms.  I will probably use a small fan to make my breeze when they start to bloom. The other thing I am very anxious to see is whether the squash bore will bother plants in a hydroponic setup. Since they will be planted in perlite instead of soil maybe, just maybe, the bore will not be able to bother the plant.  Time will tell on that one. Stay tuned!!!

I have been collecting my components and today I set up my system. It took me all day. I am one tired puppy tonight but very pleased.


Drilled 1″ hole in my bucket2-3″ from bottom.


Insert the rubber grommet.


Using a hacksaw cut a piece of 1/2″ PVC the length that you need with about 2-3″ inside the bucket. Use a file to remove sharp edges on the end that goes through the grommet. By slightly beveling the edge it also helps it to go through the grommet better. It is a tight fit. Put one hand inside the bucket to hold the grommet and with the other use a firm, gentle and careful twisting of tube until it is properly in place. Add a 1/2″ elbow on each end.


Face the elbow down. This is your drain system from the bucket.


Put the 5 gallon paint strainer net in the bucket. It is a wonderful fit.


Fill the bucket with perlite and rinse with water until you have a steady flow out the drain pipe. This will settle the perlite and also remove some of the dust. Refill if necessary. After it stops draining set it in place.


This is my tote filled about 3/4 full with fertilized water, the air stones and water pump.  Right now I am using the same fertilizer mix as I used with the flood table. 1 T. Peters lite per gallon of water.  I need to go back and listen again to the videos as I know he had a special mix for tomatoes. I am hoping I can use the same tote for my broccoli, cabbage, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. Time will tell!  This is a learning experience and you get to see me learn!



The 2″ PVC is my return or drain line. On the one end put a 2″ cap and the other end a 2″ elbow to drop into the tote reservoir.  I have it on a slight slope so that it drains well.  Then hook the 5/8″ Antelco tubing to the water pump and run it along the drain tube. I covered the tub to prevent evaporation, algae growth and to keep the water clean.  Note the air pump sitting above it on the pallet.


Use a punch tool to pierce a small hole in the tubing.


Insert one end of the connector into the spaghetti tubing and the other end push into the hole in the mainline tubing.  The spaghetti tubing needs to be long enough to go into the top of the bucket. I have several inches inserted into the perlite to help hold the tubing in place and also so it is near the roots of the plants.


Insert a piece of 1/2″ PVC into the elbow and down into the drain line.


Wash the dirt off the roots of the plant (this is broccoli) and plant into the perlite.


I set up this area for my tomatoes (two buckets on the left)  and cucumbers (the one with wire back for climbing).  I plan to plant 4 cucumbers in the same bucket. The bucket on the far left  is an award winning heirloom tomato, potato leaf Marizol Bratka,  given to me by friends Bill and India Cox.  The other tomato is an Early Girl so that I can have some early tomatoes in 45 days. This area is one reason is one of the reason I had to dig a hole for my tote to set in.  I wanted the plants as close to the ground as possible because of their growth height and the drain needed to be able to sloop into the tote.

 Today I only got six buckets set up but I plan to add a few more.  I am thinking about adding a few strawberries. I have strawberries in my garden but my curiosity has me wanting to try. In a few weeks I will do an update on the progress of my vegetables.  I anticipate some great things.


 Setup components, cost and where the items can be purchased.

  • I purchased a 18 liter tote for my water/fertilizer reservoir.  Usually the totes have lids and you can drill holes in the plastic lid for your tubes to come out of.  I got my tote for half price as it was missing the lid. Of course it was the only one they had like I wanted so I will improvise with a piece of ply board. (Dollar General)
  • I am using a 290 gph Danner Fountain Pump (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $36.99
  • 2-outlet Aquascape pond aerator with 2 air stones (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $59.95
  • 8-5 gallon buckets (I was fortunate to have some from here on the farm that I could recycle).  I am doing 2 tomatoes, 1 cabbage, 1 bucket with 4 pickling cucumbers, 2-broccoli, and 2-straightneck squash.  I am thinking of adding several buckets of strawberries. ($4.50 Hertzler Farm and Feed).  I can easily add more buckets as I “grow” into my system.
  • 5 gallon paint strainer nets (Goodwyn’s Hardware): 2 pkg $3.99
  • 4 cu. ft bag of Coarse Perlite (Hertzler Farm & Feed): $18.99
  • 2″ PVC tubing 10′ ($7.95) and  2″ PVC end cap ($1.29) and 2″ elbow ($2.39):(Goodwyn’s Hardware)
  • 1/2″ PVC tubing ($2.49 for 10′ section), 1/2″ PVC elbows ($.49 ea):   (Goodwyn’s Hardware).  The pipe is actually 7/8″ outside diameter and 1/2″ inside. This  works with the grommets.
  • I used 5/8″ Antelco irrigation mainline tubing A51082 ( $12.00 50′ roll), Antelco 1/4″ spaghetti dripline tubing A50812 ($4.99 50′ roll),  Antelco 1/4″ tubing barb connectors A40195($.59 each) and Antelco Pocket Punch tool A50048 ($14.95): Hertzler Farm & Feed.
  • 4′ Fluorescent Light Fixture with pull chain ($29.99) and 4′ grow light bulbs.  (I needed this as the section of my greenhouse that I am setting this up in does not have the best lighting). (Hertzler Farm & Feed)
  • 8-rubber grommets. Inside hole is 3/4″ with outer ring 1-1/8″  (Graingers). This was my hardest and most confusing item to come up with.  After checking numerous places, I ordered from Graingers. They were $8.71 but with tax and shipping it was $18.94 for a package of 50.  Item #3MPL8.

Hydroponics – Flood Table Style

I am very excited about dabbing into hydroponics this season.  I have been intrigued for quite a while; reading, browsing the internet, talking to a friend and visiting her aquaponic setup.  I did not want to spend lots of money nor did I want a fancy setup.  I just wanted a simple, easy-to-do method to expand my home garden growing season, especially for lettuce and tomatoes.  This particular blog will deal with lettuce.  I plan to use the dutch bucket method for my tomatoes.  That blog will come later.

Hydroponics is growing plants in fertilized water.  Aquaponics is a little more involved as you use fish to fertilize the water.  But the benefit of aquaponics is that you are also growing fresh, homegrown fish to eat.  I decided to venture into hydroponics.

There are numerous “how-to-do it” videos on youtube and the one that really caught my eye was Off Grid Hydroponics Experiment-The Kratky Method and a follow up video Floating Raft Hydroponics.  This guy has convinced me and I am trying his method.

I am blogging my setup and you can join me in watching the progress in my greenhouse.  This is a first trial run so hopefully it will work the way I envision.  You get the privilege of watching this develop!

I purchased a 48″x48″ flood table 6″ deep.  I decided this was easier for me than having to build a table. (He shows on the video how to build a wooden frame table and line it with black plastic).  I filled it with water and added 1 T. Peters Lite Fertilizer (label says it is good for hydroponics) per gallon. It took 26 gallons to fill this baby.


(The sides of the greenhouse  and shelf are reflecting off the water of the flood table)

I took a 1″ thick 4’x8′ sheet of Styrofoam insulation board and cut it to fit (45-1/2″x 45-1/2″).  The flood table has a lip for the board to set on making it flush with the top.  The sheet will make two flood tables.   I purchased 3″ net cups.

Laying the board on the floor, I set my cups on the board to determine placement and then using a straight edge or T-square I marked grids on the board where I wanted my cups placed, approximately 7″ apart. Then I turned my cups upside down and drew my circles on the board.


I discovered it was easier for me to set the board on edge to cut the holes. Trying to work on the floor killed my back and knees. Using a box cutter, I carefully cut out the circles about 1/8″ smaller than what I had marked.  The cups have a narrow lip that need to rest on the board.



When I was finished I put the board on my flood table and it was a perfect fit.  I have 25 holes in the top.


I carefully washed the dirt off the roots using lukewarm water and messaging the roots to separate the roots from the soil. You want to remove as much of the dirt as possible.



I put some pea gravel in the net cup and tilted it over on its side so I could gently lay the lettuce in the cup and get the roots stretched out evenly before adding more gravel.  You can use pea gravel or hydroponic clay rocks.  The videos say there was no difference using either medium so I choose pea gravel as it was easier to obtain.



I put the cups in the holes in the Styrofoam and checked to make sure the bottoms of the cups were in the water about 1 inch.  Done!  It was that simple!



Now we will see what happens.  I anticipate lettuce in 4-6 weeks.  I only planted 8 lettuce plants (4 Red Sails and 4 Boston-Buttercrunch) as we can’t eat but so much at a time.  There are 25 holes in my board and every 2 weeks I will add 8 more. This will give me a 6 week rotation of lettuce.  You can add herbs.  I am considering doing one with strawberries.

I set some lettuce plants out in the garden 9 days ago.  I wanted to do both at the same time but my hydroponic supplies didn’t get here as planned.  It will be very interesting to compare growth rate, quality and flavor.  The youtube videos say you can put this system outside-you don’t have to have a greenhouse. But since I have one I am using it as I feel it will extend my season both in the spring and fall even though the greenhouse is unheated.

Expenses and supplies:

I have in stock:

  • 4’x4′ x6″ flood tables: $89.00
  • Peters Lite 20-10-20 Fertilizer: 6 lb. tub $16.00
  • 3″ net cups: $.65 each

You can purchase the insulation board at Lowes for $15-18.  I like to buy local but our local hardware store does not stock it.