Poor Man’s Hydroponics
When you don’t have the money to do things fancy you have to make do with what you have. That’s the story of my life. With the non-profit and all that went with it in the toilet it became time to do something to earn my keep around the house. I’ve been working on several projects in the past few weeks. One of the plans we made is to create a hydroponics system to get us some veggies. I decided to start that project with a small system built on the side of my shop. I built a little shelter using small timber I cut from our clearing some land. Before winter I plan on finishing it out to a greenhouse. For now it serves to protect the little project from harsh weather.
The shelter roof is supported by two cedar posts. Cedar does not rot like other types of trees. I made the roof using oak logs. For the support slats I ripped a couple of old 2×4’s. The only thing I had to buy was some plastic for the cover.
Next I installed a water line and an old kitchen sink I had lying around. The waterline was a bitch since the ground was hard packed and very dry clay. It took hours to put the line in the ground four inches! I did have to buy a couple of pipe fittings but most everything else I either scrounged or cannibalized from somewhere else.
The hydroponics system is also built from scrounged stuff. It consists of a primary water barrel, a flat water trough, a collecting barrel, and a little pump to cycle the water. I fill the barrel with water, trickle it through the trough, collect the water in the old barrel, and pump it back to the primary water storage. I
hope to collect rain water from the roof when I can afford some gutters to install. Of course it has to rain, too, and that’s not been happening!
I used the extra plastic left over from the roof/wall to line the trough. It has one tiny leak in it from a screw sticking up through the old plywood I missed but otherwise it works fine. I used a couple of pipe fittings for the drain. The way to make a drain out of such a pan is to get two threaded fittings, a male and a female. Cut a hole the size of the mail threaded fitting. Put it through from the bottom and screw the female fitting on tight. Use some silicon to make it seal. Bingo. Works very well.
The barrel I used for water storage was one left over from our water supply back when we lived in a cabin out here and did not have water down here. We had a series of barrels tied together which collected rain water. Sometimes I had to haul water in. Anyway, the barrel already had a tap at the bottom. I put a water valve on it and created a drip line across the upper end of the trough. The drip line was made from part of a washing machine drain and an old piece of plastic pipe. I elevated the trough at the upper end where the drip is just slightly to help the water flow towards the drain. Once upon a time I made an aquarium out of the bottom half of a barrel. We took it out but still had it lying around the place so I used it to collect the water from the trough. I scrounged an old pump to return water from the collection barrel to the storage barrel.
Once I had the system working it was time to put some plantings in it. I needed pea gravel to put in the trough but couldn’t afford it so I used some flat pieces of broken cinder blocks to support a piece of chicken wire. That would hold the planters off the bottom. For the planters I had a pile of short pieces of large pipe we once used in the garden. (Another story!) The pipe pieces were from 2″ to 5″ pipe and about 3″ long. I cut squares of vinyl screen and fastened them over one end of the pipe. Some of them I used tape and then tried rubber bands to hold the screen on. Both works. I’m a bit worried the rubber bands will rot and break but hoping they will hold until the plants come up. I filled the containers with garden soil from a bag we had already. I put the planters on the chicken wire. We bought some seed and I sewed the seed in the planters.
I could never be a farmer. I hate waiting! Will this contraption work? Beats the hell out of me. We’ll see! My life is trial and error, lots of both! One thing I do know. I’m going to be fucked up for weeks from screwing up the nerve problem in my back finishing this thing. I will enjoy my new creation through blinding pain as I take hand-fulls of Gabapentin and Ibuprofen! Yay!
I often ask myself why I do this shit. I suppose it’s the masochist streak in me. And I’m bored to death with the computer and I have nothing else to do. And maybe the damn thing will actually work and we’ll have some tomatoes, cucumbers and squash in the dead of winter. Ya think? I have stuck in a few more pictures just for grins.
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