Recycle plastic buckets by growing plants and vegetables without the use of soil.

Homemade Hydroponics Setup in a Bucket

by Jack Gerard

Hydroponic systems allow you to grow vegetables, flowers and other plants without using soil. This is convenient if you don't have much space for planting outdoors or want more control over the growing conditions of your plants. While some hydroponics setups are very advanced, you can create a simple hydroponics system using a pair of buckets. This setup can be placed in a greenhouse, built indoors to go under grow lights or even placed in an area where your plants will enjoy natural sunlight.

Drill a small hole near the bottom of each bucket, approximately 1/2 inch up the side. The holes should be 3/4 inch in diameter, allowing you to install the marine fittings.

Install marine fittings in the holes, placing rubber gaskets between the fitting pieces and the bucket wall to ensure the bucket is watertight.

Insert tubing into the marine fittings, placing caulk or a similar waterproofing material around the tubing if necessary to prevent leaks. Use the tubing to connect the two buckets, creating the basis of your hydroponic system.

Cut a hole in the lid of one of the buckets, making it just large enough that the mesh portion of your mesh pot fits through it; the rim of the pot should remain on top of the lid. Place the lid on the bucket with the pot inserted.

Fill the mesh pot with a soilless growth medium such as expanded shale, coconut fiber or inert clay-based substrates. The growth medium will support root development once the system is finished.

Place a small submersible pump in the other bucket. The pump should have a low volume such as 63 gallons per hour; it will simply be cycling nutrient solution through a small system. Attach a small feeder line or fish tank tubing to the pump, running it out of the bucket and up to the soilless medium in the mesh pot.

Fill the system with nutrient solution by pouring it through the soilless medium to wet it. This allows the solution to flow through the system and fill both buckets. Continue adding solution until the submersible pump is well covered.

Place your seedlings in the soilless medium, positioning them so their starter medium or root bundles are covered. Position the feeder tube so it will drip nutrient solution onto the roots but not onto the stems. Turn on the pump to start the system.

Items you will need

  • 2 5-gallon buckets
  • Drill with 3/4-inch drill bit
  • 3/4-inch marine fittings
  • Gaskets
  • Plastic tubing
  • Hanging mesh pot
  • Soilless growth medium
  • Submersible pump
  • Feeder line or fish tank tubing
  • Nutrient solution


  • A low-volume pump can be left on for 24 hours a day to ensure that the roots of your plant don't dry out. For larger plants, you can use two or more feeder tubes to ensure that all of the root system remains moist.


  • Avoid using off-the-shelf general fertilizers that only provide major nutrients, because they are designed with the assumption that minor nutrients will be provided by the soil. Use a nutrient solution designed for hydroponics -- it will contain all 13 of the essential nutrients needed for plant growth.

About the Author

Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.

Photo Credits

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