Despite the wicking system being considered the easiest of the hydroponic systems to get started gardening with, the deep-water culture is just about as easy when it comes to building. For our purposes of explanation, we will be making a single deep-water culture. This means that we will be designing one as if we were growing a single medium-sized plant. This system can be adapted to fit multiple smaller plants, though if we want to go bigger, we will have to change our culture to a larger container first. 

Since a deep-water culture uses deep water (it’s there in the name, after all), we will be using a five-gallon bucket because of the depth that it gives us. While some people refer to any system of plants floating on the water as a deep-water system, we need to have ten-plus inches of water for it to be considered deep. We could grow a small plant in a small culture and have it be equivalent in ratios to that of a deep water culture but it still wouldn’t be proper to call it such.

The first thing that we are going to do, is a surprise, paint our bucket black and then white. Slightly underneath the lid, we will also cut a little hole for the tubing of our air pump so that we can oxygenate the water. With these two steps out of the way, we can set our buckets to the side. 

Because a deep-water culture works by having the roots of the plant soaked in the water, we need to design a setup so that our plants can bathe. 

To do this, we can go out and buy what is called a plant basket. This is a basket that looks like your typical plant pot but instead, it has a ton of holes through the lower half. Alternatively, we can also just take a plant pot and then cut, drill, or solder holes into it. This is going to be our grow tray. 


We’ll be filling our grow tray up with our desired growing medium and the plant that we want to raise but first, we need to integrate it into the system. To do this we will be cutting a hole in the lid of our five-gallon bucket. At this point, it is best to cut a smaller hole and make it larger as needed rather than start with a large hole. This is because it is far easier to increase the size of the hole than it is to block it back up. If we make our hole too big, our grow tray will just fall into the bucket and we will need to get another lid and try all over again. Our goal is for the lower half of the pot to fit into the hole and be held in place by the pot’s rim against the bucket’s lid.

Earlier, we cut a hole in our bucket just under the lid for our air pump. The reason we didn’t cut it on the top itself is that when we open our system up to check the pH levels and make sure our nutrients are all balanced, we don’t want to have to fiddle around with any wires. When we open our system, we should only have to remove the lid and thus the plant pot. 

Everything should now be in place. We’re going to fill up the bucket with our water, bringing it up to cover three-quarters of the plant pot that is hanging down inside it. We might want to test this first with plain water so that we can then mark the desired water level on our buckets to make it easier to see going forward. Mix your nutrient solution, fill the plant potter with your desired growing medium, and add your plant or seed. 

It will take a week or so for the roots of the plant to start poking out of the holes that we drilled into our pot, so it is important to make sure that the water level is high enough for our plants to get the moisture they need. As the roots begin to hang down, the water level won’t matter nearly as much.

And there you have it, you just created a deep-water culture for your plants. While you can grow a medium-sized plant or a couple of small ones in this one culture, you will most likely want to set up a couple. But as you’ve seen, that shouldn’t take very much time at all.

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