Aerogarden Reviews: Does It Work And Should You Get One?Hydroponic gardens are popular features in sci-fi movies, but they’re also integral parts to many gardens. Thanks to fast and efficient grow times; hydroponics offers tremendous benefits.
Whether you’re an experienced grower looking for a new system or a beginner needing help finding the right system to get started with, we’re taking a look the best deep-water culture hydroponic bucket systems.
What Is Hydroponics?
At its essence, hydroponics is growing plants in water. Surprisingly, the study of it has been around since at least the 1600s, when Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism and creator of the scientific method, published a work that included a study of growing plants without soil.
Since Bacon first introduced the concept, there have been incredible steps forward in the science of hydroponics. Today, there are numerous ways to grow plants in water, ranging from small kits for a plant or two in a basement to a full-scale growing operation designed to create tremendous profit.
For most gardeners, hydroponics has the following benefits:
You can grow plants hydroponically out of doors to allow natural light photosynthesis, or you can grow plants in greenhouses or indoors using a grow light to simulate the sun.
What Is Deep Water Culture?
As we mentioned, there are upwards of ten different techniques for hydroponic growing, and deep water culture is one of them. They’re all based on the same theme (water as a source of nutrients) but differ in how they present water to the plant and at what scale.
Here are a few popular types:
Nutrient Film Technique
This technique is often found in greenhouses and commercial applications because it is highly effective. A thin stream of water carries dissolved nutrients and is circulated past all the bare roots of all the plants via a thin film. This film allows the top parts of the roots to have access to oxygen in the air.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) can be used in home applications, but it tends to work best with plants like lettuce that are light, grow quickly, and are ready to be harvested in a short time period. The downside to NFT is that it requires moving parts--if the power goes out, the plants may die.
Aeroponics is a fascinating system invented in the 1980s by Richard Stoner. In it, a fine mist of water and nutrients spray the plant’s roots, which are suspended in air. Because of the amount of oxygen the roots are subjected to, the plants grow extremely quickly.
Deep Water Culture
There are a few different techniques for growing plants in water that involve submerging most of the root system in water, and deep water culture is one. Most often, hydroponics users utilize some kind of plastic bucket or large container in conjunction with a net pot.
The net pot is filled with an inert growing medium such as small clay balls, which have a neutral pH level so as not to impact the delicate nutrient balance of the water. Deep water culture utilizes an air pump and porous stones to circulate oxygen into the water.
The downside to deep water culture is that it’s difficult to keep up with water levels and nutrient levels on more than a few large buckets or plastic bins. This means it’s difficult to grow extensively.
However, for somebody just starting out or without a lot of space, deep water culture is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of hydroponics without tremendous up front financial investment.
When you’re considering purchasing a deep water culture system, your two biggest priorities will be making sure you have a way to maintain nutrients in the water and making sure you can maintain the water level. If either gets out of whack, it could spell disaster for your plants.
There’s a wide variety of price points and material types available for purchase, but it’s important to take stock of your needs, first.
1. Evaluation Of Your Needs
Do you have lots of space? Will you need extra space to set up a grow light? Would you like to grow larger plants, like peppers and tomatoes, or would you prefer to grow many small plants, such as lettuce?
You should also decide on a budget before you start shopping, and consider whether you like setting things up yourself in DIY fashion or if you want everything delivered straight to your front door, so all you have to do is plug it in!
2. Evaluate Your Potential Setup
Once you’ve thought through your needs, you can begin to evaluate different alternatives. It’s important to remember that purchasing a deep water culture hydroponic bucket system is a little like comparing apples to oranges. The trick isn’t to find the best system; the trick is to find the right system for you.
Most systems include some variation of the following:
The reservoir and tubing should always be opaque, or a solid, dark color so light won’t encourage the growth of algae.
3. A Budget For Additional Materials
None of the available kits listed below come with the plants included, but in addition to the plants, you will also have to purchase the nutrients for the water. These are consumables; you’ll have to renew these over time.
Also, you might need to purchase pH testers or water temperature gauges.
4. Consider DIY’ing
Another thing to consider is DIY’ing your deep water culture hydroponics system. There are a wide variety of plans and tutorials available online and most materials are fairly inexpensive and require little expertise. In fact, you can often use materials you can find online easily, or even at your local Walmart.
Do keep in mind that while it’s tempting to go the DIY route because you think it will cost less, it often takes a lot of time!
How We Chose Our Ratings
Before we list our top choices, we should explain how we decided to rate them. Understanding that our readers will have a variety of needs, we scoured available data and online reviews to find the best products for different scenarios. Our primary goal here is honest and accuracy, so that you can find a hydroponics system you feel good about!
Top 4 Best Deep Water Culture Hydroponic Bucket Systems
With over 150 reviews (and 80% of those four-star or higher), this single five-gallon bucket kit is our favorite way to grow a single, large plant such as squash or tomatoes. At under $40, it’s not the cheapest way to get started (you can save $10-$20 by assembling yourself), but we still feel it’s affordable.
Included with this deep water culture kit are the bucket (all black), a six-inch basket lid for a single plant, an air pump, all required tubing (opaque) an air stone, growing medium, and even seed starting plugs made from Rockwool.
Other features we like include a water level indicator and a bucket drain, making changing out the water easy. What we’re not crazy about: some people report that the pump isn’t effective for larger plants and their needs.
Similar to the Power Grow system listed above, this option from Mr. Stacky is even larger (sixteen gallons) and more sturdy. While the Power Grow system is great for first-time hydroponics growers, the Mr. Stacky is designed for long-term use.
Made from extremely sturdy plastic with a deep net pot, the Mr. Stacky system has holes that support a trellis or rods for a grow light. This means you’ll be able to support a long-lived or climbing plant for a very long time.
The other upside to a large reservoir is that you might be able to go longer in between water changes and adjustments. The downside to the Mr. Stacky? It’s quite expensive (over $100) and will be very difficult to move when full.
Still, you’ll appreciate the included grow medium as well as the submersible pump and Venturi tube, designed to keep the water flowing without needing an air stone.
At just under $100, this four-bucket kit from PowerGrow is a great value (the price puts each bucket at less than $25). While it’s an easy kit to DIY, the people who will love this kit are those who want an easy, no-hassle setup, a good value, and enough room for up to four medium to large sized plants.
This kit comes with four five-gallon buckets, ten-inch net pots and bucket lids for each bucket, an air pump and tubing (there’s one air pump for all four buckets, but enough tubing for each), air stones for each bucket, and a blue water level indicator and drain.
More than three-quarters of the available online reviews for this kit are positive (four stars are higher), and customers report feeling like they’re getting exactly what they paid for. There aren’t any bells and whistles here, but it’s a solid kit for the beginner or value-conscious hydroponics gardener.
Out of all the options listed today, this kit from H2OtoGro packs the most plants into the smallest space. Utilizing a large bin-like reservoir, the kit has six slots for small to medium sized plants.
Here’s what’s included in this kit:
The only thing you’ll have to add to this kit is the water and the plants, themselves! If you have a small space and want to get a quick jump start on growing plants, this is our favorite option. Keep in mind; this isn’t for large plants. But if you’ll be growing something fast growing like lettuce, it’s the perfect option.
What’s The Best Option?
Whether you’re looking to grow a large plant or a plant on a trellis (the Mr. Stacky kit), you want a great bargain (the PowerGrow 4-Bucket kit), you want a simple kit for a medium or large plant (the Power Grow Systems kit), or you need a space conscious option that will help you grow a lot of plants in a small space (the H2OtoGrow kit), we’ve listed the top four kits available to meet your needs.
Now, our only question for you is: what are you going to grow?!