How to Build
If you’re thinking about building your own
at-home hydroponic system, your best
bets are either a nutrient film technique
setup or an ebb and flow system.
hile it is evident the hydroponic gardening space
has no shortage of technological innovations, there
is always room for the do-it-yourself hydro grower. Yet, for
many modern gardeners, the ease and simplicity of purchas-
ing a pre-fab hydroponic grow system makes perfect sense.
These horticulturists, who are more interested in horticulture
than garden design, find comfort in the fact that hydropon-
ics equipment companies supply abundant troubleshoot-
ing information, as well as spare parts, for their systems.
Nonetheless, prebuilt hydroponic systems are quite expen-
sive with basic nutrient film technique (NFT) setups.
More technically inclined growers prefer the challenge of
creating their own hydroponic setups, as many indoor and
greenhouse cultivators are notorious tinkerers by trade.
For industrious gardeners, it is possible to design a
hydroponic garden setup up that is highly-functional,
while simultaneously not breaking the bank. For these
DIY growers, all that is required is a logical set of plans,
some gumption, and easy access to a hardware store. To
illustrate some basic concepts on hydroponics system design,
Maximum Yield broke down the key points of popular hydro
methods as a starting point: NFT and ebb and flow. We have
included some easy-to-understand advice on designing
these systems yourself. After reading this brief survey of
homemade hydroponic systems, you can decide which may
be the best for your home gardening needs.
Nutrient Film Technique
Nutrient film technique is one of the most popular hydroponic
system designs in use today; its versatility makes it extremely
applicable in commercial settings, such as vertical farms
and greenhouses. This type of cultivation is characterized by
plants situated single-file, in rectangular shaped canals, often
made of a PVC-like material.
Commercial operations often favor NFT because the thin
canals make the system easy to scale, as the single-file
rows can be strategically placed to utilize every square foot
of available light. In an operational sense, NFT systems
pump nutrient-rich water out of a reservoir and through
the canals which house grow mediums, or nets, as well
as plants. The defining characteristic of NFT hydropon-
ics is a constant, recirculating source of water that is
continuously moving past, and in contact with, the root
systems of plants while not totally submerging the
roots. Essentially, this moving nutrient water leaves a
film on the root system, giving NFT its name.
If you are interested in designing your own NFT
system, it is important to note these setups have
a good amount of moving parts, and all must
work in unison to achieve ideal garden condi-
tions. Either way, most of the required parts can
be procured at hardware and grow stores and
aquarium shops. The primary elements of an
NFT hydroponics system are: reservoir, air
pump, tubing, air stone, water pump, timer,
canal, and grow medium.
As previously mentioned, PVC-like canals
are the defining characteristic of NFT
hydro systems and hobbyist growers
can utilize PVC in the construction of
their gardens. For starters, you will
cut holes into the PVC that snugly fit
your chosen cultivation medium —
ideally stonewool or nets —
which houses the plants.