We were recently gifted 5 beautiful heirloom tomato starts from some neighbors of ours and have been trying to decide where and how we should grow them!
After much discussion with my wife, and looking to see what materials I have been hoarding... We decided that a "dutch bucket style" hydroponic/aeroponic system would be the best option for what we had to work with.
Most "dutch bucket systems" we have seen require a sump (or a lower tank for all the water to drain into before being pumped back up to the roots). We didn't see a reason why we couldn't use one of the buckets as a sump and save us the parts and room at our location.
Step 1: First we drilled a 1 1/8 diameter hole in the bottom/center of 5 white "food grade" buckets that we purchased at Lowes.
Step 2: We installed bulkhead fittings into the hole after verifying that the gasket surface was smooth.
Step 3: I tightened it as tight as I could by hand, making sure that the gasket didn't bulge out anywhere.
Step 4: We assembled a stand out of some extra 2x6 boards and cinder-blocks that we had left over from one of our other projects.
Step 5: We spaced the buckets evenly across the platform, approximately 2 inches apart, measured from rim to rim.
Step 6: We purchased a 3/4" slip with a 3/4" pipe thread to come out of the bulkhead that fitting we installed in the bottom of the bucket. You can use teflon tape or a pipe dope to seal the treads.
Step 7: We came out of the threaded fitting with a 3"x 3/4" PVC stub to the T. The 2 end buckets have 90 degree fittings. (In hindsight I would have put a T with a threaded plug in it to make it easier to drain for maintenance.)
Step 8: We glued all the fittings together with all purpose cement.
Step 9:...and cut the connecting pieces of PVC tube to 13 1/2 inches long.
Step 10: We started assembling on one end, being careful not to get excess glue into the inside of the pipe.
We recommend dry fitting everything before gluing.
(Not seen...we drilled a 2 7/8 hole in the center of all the lids to hold our 3 inch net pots.)
Step 11: Careful to be quick, clean and ask your better half to help verify that it's straight on the last fitting. It is a challenge to adjust the bucket orientation after the cement sets.
Step 12: Because we decided not to use a reservoir, we chose a bucket "closest to the power" and installed a 170 GPH water-pump to pump the water onto to the roots. We purchased 1/2" diameter x 10' irrigation supply line and a 90 degree fitting to make a clean transition from the vertical outlet of the pump to the horizontal feed line. We installed 1/4" puncture fittings every 13 1/2 inches so that it feeds directly behind the the plant. We then installed a 12" section of 1/4" tubing off of the puncture fittings, not only to give us the room to supply the water whereever we want on to the roots in the net pot but to add little restriction. (When we first turned the system on the water was spraying several feet out of the fittings without the 1/4 inch line".)
While I finished up the project, our youngest daughter "squeaks" stayed busy by keeping the flowers watered.
Step 13: We used rock wool as a grow medium, we had a seed starting kit that we sacrificed to get enough pieced to fill these 5 net pots. You can use any hydroponic suitable grow medium that you have on hand. Clay balls would work beautifully as well.
You can see how that water supply is put together here in this shot as well.