Although you can grow virtually anything in a hydroponic system, even the most devout hydroponics fans have to admit that some plants are easier than others. Leafy, green plants, like lettuce, are by far the easiest to grow. They will thrive in practically any system they’re planted in. Growing fruits and vegetables akin to tomatoes requires a little more space and a little more work.
The Dutch Bucket system can grow most plants with minimal effort and minimal cost.
The primary component of the Dutch Bucket system is a bucket. You can purchase a bucket designed explicitly for a Dutch Bucket system as in most hydroponic stores. This is called a Bato Dutch bucket. The bucket should be around eleven liters, have an L shape at one end, and have a small hole cut in either bottom corner of the rise in the L.
Also, purchase two locking elbows. When attached, the elbows should form three sides of a square. One end will fit through the hole in the bottom of the bucket, the “top” of the square will rest on the L, and the third side will follow the curve of the L downward into the bottom of the bucket. The Bato bucket and the elbows typically cost less than ten dollars from a hydroponics store.
You may also choose to build your Dutch Bucket system using grommets, PVC pipes, and a five-gallon bucket. Drill a hole approximately one inch in diameter in the side of the bucket about two inches above the base. Inside the hole, insert a ¾ grommet and make sure it is seated well.
To make the drainage system, you will need one-half-inch PVC pipe about three to four inches long and two half-inch elbows. Attach one of the elbows to the PVC pipe and taper the other edge to smooth it so that it will slide through the grommet easier. Grasping the grommet so that it does not dislodge, insert the PVC pipe into the hole and attach the second elbow to the other end.
The drainage system in the bucket will flow into a return line as the bucket fills with water. The return line can be made using two-inch PVC piping.
Drill holes in the pipe that are approximately one in diameter. Attach a second PVC pipe to the outside elbow of the bucket’s drain that reaches into the return line so that less water is spilled as the bucket drains.
A Dutch Bucket hydroponic system can even grow plants without a water system, air stones, or electricity with a little extra effort. Water the plants by hand with the nutrient solution three to four times per day and place the plants to receive plenty of light. Of course, suppose you have a suitable area to set up the system but not the time to devote to watering the plants manually. In that case, you could also punch a tiny hole in a gallon bucket to let the water stream directly and constantly into the grow bed.
When choosing a medium for your Dutch Bucket system, be aware that smaller particles may flow out of the bucket with the draining water! Paint strainers are an inexpensive way to ensure no media escapes, but you can use a variety of other grids to block the drain, depending on the size of your media particles.
Thanks to the efficiency of hydroponic growing, Dutch Bucket systems can grow multiple plants in one bucket. They are a cheap, easy, and neat way to set up a home hydroponic system of any size.