What got me all started in hydroponic gardening was seeing the garden tower by juice plus. It was cool looking and appealed to my techie side of doing things. The problem was the price tag, $500! That’s when I started doing research into this hydroponic thing and then went crazy building my own systems, I’m sure spending much more than that $500 now.
My Vertical Hydroponic Tower
I finally got around to building my own version of garden tower and it did come out much cheaper. If you would like to build your own I’m going to lay out the steps and a parts list here as well as the attached video. If you are not inclined to building them yourself and are local to San Diego I am selling these systems built as well.
The big thing with building these is having the correct tools. You can do this with simple hand tools, but power tools do make life easy. What you will need are the following:
- Drill and drill bits
- Compound Mitre Saw (hacksaw if you are into punishing your body)
- 3″ hole saw
Hydroponic Tower Parts List
Most of these can be obtained from Home Depot/Lowes. I’ll note if better from somewhere else.
- Dark Bucket with lid (black or make sure no light penetrates)
- 5″ vinyl fence post 8′ length
- 3″ pvc sewer drain pipe (home depot doesn’t carry this so find a good landscape supply shop, drain is much cheaper than sch40)
- (2) 5″ post caps (second one can be fancy if you wish)
- 8′ length of 1/2 tubing
- 1/2″ slip to male thread adaptor
- 1/2″ female thread to barb (look in the drip irrigation area)
- Pond pump (be sure it has a head height of at least 6.5′ like the one linked)
- Air stone
- Air Pump
- 1/4 air tubing
- 1/4″ inside diameter grommet
- (20) 3″ net pots
- Vinyl fence cement
- Clear silicone
- 3″ PVC female thread adapter
- 3″ PVC plug
Putting the Hydroponic Tower Together
Im just going to go over the basic steps here. If you want to see it all come together be sure to watch the video below.
Step 1 – The Bucket.
Well to start the bucket first actually grab your fence post and shave 2′ off 🙂 having a small piece is easier to handle. Next use that 2 foot section and place on your bucket lid and trace it, put it close to one side. Place lid on your bucket and drill a couple starter holes then use your jigsaw to cut out the square. I then used my hole saw to put an access hole opposite of the post hole. The 3″ PVC adapter and plu fit nicely in here.
Next use the side of a large drill bit to create a notch on the side for your pump cord. Change your drill bit and drill just below the lid (or you can put it in the lid if you wish) for your air line grommet. Place your grommet in.
Step 2 – The Standoffs.
This part is really much easier if you have a compound miter saw that slides as well. Use the saw to cut up your pipe into 4″ sections. Next I made a jig to hold the sections in place while I cut each in half at a 45 degree angle. Oh be sure that you adjust the saw cutting depth stop so that you dont cut through your jig 🙂 Once you are done id take a light sandpaper to all the cut edges. Since the pipe only comes in 10′ lengths you will have a lot leftover, you only need 20, so make a few more towers!
Step 3 – The Post.
Ok back to your post. You need to slide it into your bucket and lid and mark where the lid is on the post (or just leave it on making sure it dosent move). From this point up you will lay out your standoffs and trace the inside of each. I started the outer sides a couple inches above the lid, then continued 11″ from the top to top of each stand off. Rotate and the other sides I started in between the first two from the first side (hope that makes sense). You should end up with 5 per side.
Use your drill to drill out starter holes on each of your cutouts (I actually did 4 on each) then your jigsaw to cut them out. Go really slow to stay inside the lines, it actually cuts like butter with a good blade. Once done knock down the edges again with a bit of sandpaper. Oh dont forget at the bottom , the front side of the post, cut out a notch for the tubing and air pump.
Now for the fun (if cutting 20 holes isn’t fun enough) grab your cement tube and start applying to the edges of your standoffs and place over the holes (one at a time). If you are using the fence cement it sets pretty fast and after about 15-20 mins you can rotate it and do the next side. When all done and they are dry I went back over the seams with clear silicone (drain pipe doesn’t cut that cleanly all the time)
Step 4 – The Cap
Remember that 2′ piece you cut off the post? grab it and cut a piece off about 2-3″ and then use the cement to glue this to the outside top of your first fence post cap. Hit it up with a bead of silicone on the inside just in case. Get the drill and put some holes evenly around and one big one (3/4″) in the middle. Don’t get your sprinkler holes to close to the outside edges, I did and I think this is the cause of some minor leaking (the water is splashing right on the post edge where it meets the cap). In this big hole place the 1/2 pvc adapter in from the top and connect the barb to the other side, hand tight.
Fish your 1/2 tubbing down through the post, connect to your cap and place the cap on top. You can then place your second cap over the top.
Step 5 – Wrap it Up and Test
You will have to left the post and lid up so you can get your pump in then connect your tubing (adjust length as needed). Feed your air tubing in through the grommet and attach your air stone and close the lid back up (be sure pump cord is in the notch). Thats about it, at this point put some water in and test. I did have a minor leak at the cap so I put in a little weather stripping. If all is working then put in your net pots and fill up with nutrients 🙂
To Build or not to Build
If you are in San Diego area and would really like one of these (or other systems) for your apt. patio or backyard but just don’t feel like you can build one (or dont want to) on your own well I have started taking orders for building custom systems. You can check out the Custom Hydroponic Builds page for info as I add it for the more standard systems, but we can also chat about a custom system to fit your space, needs and aesthetics. I may be able to throw in some seedlings all ready started for ya 🙂
So either way, get out there and start growing your own food!