Hydroponic Dutch Buckets. How to grow large vegetables
Dutch buckets are a great way to grow large vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, any kind of squash etc.
Dutch buckets systems are very similar to a traditional drip irrigation system used by most nurseries. The big difference is the with traditional systems the water/nutrients drip into a soil pot. Anything that is not used by the plant is then lost into the ground
in a Dutch bucket or hydroponic drip system all the unused water/nutrients flows through the grow medium back into the water/nutrient reservoir to then be reused
This reusing, no waste, aspect is one reason Hydroponic growing is so popular with commercial growing. Depending on what research you listen to, Hydroponics can use between 40% to 90% less water than traditional growing
The basic design of these systems whether commercial or homemade involve the same principles:
There is a bucket or container filled with a growing medium such as lava rocks, perlite or others things. You can grow in just about anything. The important fact with the growing medium is that it has a very low water absorbing rate and its too dense. This allows the water to flow thru the bucket allowing a good mix of water, nutrients and air.
The drip line goes in the top with a drain whole in the bottom. A standard Dutch bucket is designed to allow a small reservoir of water to remain on the bottom.
The drain lines, usually PVC pipes feed back to the water/ nutrients reservoir where the pump sends it back thru the system. This give the plants a small stead flow of water/ nutrients.
These are the best systems to grow truly anything that has a large root system.
Pros and Cons and thoughts from practical experience:
Great for growing most anything
easy access to water/ nutrient reservoir makes control simple
can be designed to to fit different sizes spaces
easy to take a plant off line if there is a problem
best for greenhouse growing
grows big beautiful vegetables
unless you have a large dedicated space ie a basement, most systems are too big for indoor use.
see duckygrows.com for small indoor systems!
you need to monitor the water nutrient solution everyday. The large vegetables, heavy feeders, need replenishing and PH control often
they can and will leak no matter how careful you are
can be expensive to build
I love growing with this system. To me the big healthy vegetables are worth any issues but...
Make sure that the bucket is big enough for the root system! I have had tomatoes completely fill a five gallon bucket with roots. I have not had much experience with the commercial buckets but the “large” ones I have would never hold tomatoes.
I use a 3 gallon bucket for things like broccoli and summer squash. The “large” commercial ones are great for that
Don’t use covers unless your plants are outside in the weather. The covers will allow mold to grow on your growing medium. It also gives pest a great place to hide.
Use a water reservoir that is large enough. Your plants will grow bigger and faster than you expect. Have a deep enough reservoir to keep up.
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