Reader Brandon Koots is a 15-year-old student from Curacao who's been growing his own food for over 4 years. He runs a site where he talks about hydroponics and gardening, and he shared some great tips on starting a simple hydroponics system, called a "raft system."
Build a simple raft system in just a few minutes
Hydroponics is an easy way to grow your own food. It can be made very small and put anywhere you want. It reduces work, and you don’t have to water your plants, since that happens automatically. That means that you save more time with watering plants, and you save more water because you keep using the same water over and over.
A raft system is a hydroponics system where the plants grow in a medium and their roots hang in the water. This system is easy to set up and is perfect for when you don’t have a lot of space. It is commonly used in very large commercial gardens, but you can make a smaller one to use at home.
In a hydroponic system you can plant more food than in the same area of soil. The plants grow faster than normal, and it hydroponic plants are less prone to diseases than when they are in soil.
- a knife or drill
- a plastic bin (size doesn’t matter)
- some plastic cups
- a marker
- a ruler
- an oxygen pump - choose one that comes with an airstone
Here are the steps:
1. Measure the cup’s diameter. Then, drill holes that are slightly smaller into the lid of your bin, so the cups won’t fall in the bin. If you don’t have a drill, you can use a knife. For example: I used a cup with a diameter of 7 cm, so I made 6x6 cm squares. If you heat up the knife, it will cut through the plastic lid much more easily.
2. Start making holes in the cups. This is how the water will get to the roots. You can make the holes with a knife, scissors, or a heated nail. The more holes you make the better.
3. Add water to your bin. If it is hydroponics, remember to add nutrients for the plants, but if you're using your raft system for aquaponics (see below), put only the fish in the water. Choose your fish based on the size of your bin and your climate. I use guppies, since these don't become larger than 6 cm and are perfect for the hot climate here. Ask at your local pet store to find which fish are best for your aquaponics setup.
4. Place your oxygen pump in the bin. Put the pump's airstone into the bin with water. This is important, so that the plants or fish get enough oxygen.
5. Fill the cups with your growing medium. Place the cups into their holes and fill them with the medium. The best medium is hydroton, because it keeps the water at the perfect temperature and also the pH at the perfect temperature. The downside to hydroton is that it can be expensive, so you can also use gravel or crushed coconut.
6. You're ready to plant your plants in the system! I’ve planted 3 peppers, 1 celery and 1 tomato. But you can plant anything you want in this system.
You can also use your raft system as an aquaponic system
The only extra supplies you'll need are fish and fish food. Aquaponics has almost the same advantages as hydroponics. It:
- reduces work that has to be done in a garden
- helps you to save more water
- requires less space.
And in an aquaponics system you can grow fish while you’re growing vegetables at the same time!
- If you have another bin, you can fill it up with water and put it in the sun to create algae to feed your fish.
- If you're using a transparent bin for your raft system, you should paint it white. Otherwise algae will start growing into the bin, and algae take the oxygen out of the water.
My name is Brandon and I’m a 15 year old gardener from Curacao. I’ve been growing my own vegetables for almost 4 years now mostly in hydroponics and aquaponics. I write gardening tips on my blog and right now I’m writing my own gardening book too.