Grow Your Own Fresh Salad Year Round With This Cheap Hydroponic Setup

With fall approaching you might think about moving your gardening inside. [Jared] used cheap and readily available materials to make these salad-green trays.  When used with his grow lights and tent (which he built during a different project) he was able go from seed to salad-bowl in just four weeks.

A pair of plastic storage bins act as the base, keeping the water right where it should be. Some holes cut into a piece of solid foam insulation holds a set of plastic pots in place, allowing the water to leech into the Rockwool that holds each plant in lieu of soil. To aerate the water [Jared] grabbed a cheap aquarium pump, splitting the output into several different branches. Each has its own check valve to ensure that a pump failure doesn’t let the water find its way out of the plastic tube. A set of bubble stones breaks up the output, helping to mix it with the water.

This isn’t quite as easy to pull off if you don’t already have a grow light. But you can always make it worth the investment if you decide to start next summer’s garden from seed. Or perhaps you can try to make your own using a varation of this shop lighting hack.

[Thanks Jayson]

53 thoughts on “Grow Your Own Fresh Salad Year Round With This Cheap Hydroponic Setup

  1. While I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this setup if you want to see some really high quality DIY indoors hydroponic systems with precise control over lighting and nutritients search for MJ growers.

  2. Use old CCFLs from broken flat panel TVs as grow lights?

    Just a thought, the driver can be made from an old TV flyback with a simple ZVS made from two cheap MOSFETs and the DC flow shouldn’t affect the tube too much if you swap the polarity every week or so.

    Using this approach means that the tubes can be connected in parallel so only a single driver is then needed.

    1. Make a simple ZVS that operates DC? Whaaa?

      ZVS is an acronym for Zero-Voltage-Switching and usually refers to a specific operation of switchmode power supply design. Very little to do with DC because the current is always switching.

      These power supplies usually use MOSFETs (higher maximum switching speed) or IGBT’s (really high breakdown voltage) to enable current to flow into the primary of a switching transformer for a short duration.

      The ZVS part means that either the feedback control is designed to only turn on the MOSFETs when the voltage across the MOSFET drain and source is about zero volts. This allows for very low power loss in the MOSFETs as opposed to “hard-switching” designs which will turn on the MOSFETs without regard to the current flowing through the MOSFET or the voltage across it.

      Generally you see these designs in resonant designs, quasi-resonant designs where an inductor and capacitor are in series or parallel with the primary of the transformer, or in full-bridge high power power supplies.

      At zero volts across a MOSFET drain-source, you have very little charge in the MOSFET gate because it’s drain-gate capacitance is lowered.

      Look up the FSFR2100 to have your mind blown.

  3. Update:- Most if not all LCD TVs can be forced to display a picture by feeding them a suitable video source.

    A nice guy on the Net wrote some code that runs on the PIC 12F675 which generates a simple oscilloscope picture. This will keep the set from turning off, and most if not all of them will run just fine without the panel connected.

    Another related hack, get a plasma screen where one of the Y boards has gone bad (common), and remove the bad chip. To find which one meter between the panel outputs and Gnd and look for the chip where there is a big difference in voltage.
    Normally the “bad” panel then works with a black line where the faulty chip was, but without the glass screen present there will be lots of infrared present which helps keep the plants warm.

    Run a video source with red and blue full screen, for maximum absorption.

      1. I know a guy who makes a living growing cucumbers hydroponically, great setup and very interesting. However, any time he goes into a hydroponics store in the city to buy chemicals or ask questions they often tell him things like “well for cucumbers you need a PH of XX but i think what you really want is YY…” at which point he takes great elight in telling them that he actually does grow cucumbers.

  4. Just having something like this can land you in trouble with the officals. I know people who grow chili and have had the police stomp their stuff before anyone could ask what they’re actually growing.

    So better not tell or show anyone if you’re living in the USSE.

    1. While loosing your chili crop would be terrible, but it doesn’t rise to the level of “being in hot water with the officials ” does it? All the officials can do at that point is to say,sorry our bad too bad you can sue us to recover damages. Even if we where lazy in our preparation, we acted in good faith don’t you know?

      1. “Sure, we busted down the door to a completely innocent family’s home, shot their pets, beat a screaming woman’s husband with a night-stick, and stomped out weeks’ worth of effort that you spent on growing perfectly legal plants! Even if we were lazy in our preparation, we acted in good faith, don’t you know!”

        You sound like an apologist tool.

      2. Whatever, I don’t believe this at all. If your friend really did attract police attention for growing chili plants hydroponically, it’s about a 1 minute explanation to police. Moogly, you are an ignorant troll trying to stir up emotion on a subject you likely have no knowledge of whatsoever.

    1. @Hackerspace,

      Thanks for th elink, but I only hope the author of the article knows his crops better then electrical units :)

      (S)he says: “The Amsterdam farm will use approximately 1 megawatt of electricity per year, the equivalent of around 1,000 homes.”

      Firdt of all, that might be “megawatt hour”, and if so, that’s how much an average house spends in less then two months, or given the cost of 0.1$ per kWh, total cost would be 100$ per years.

      Was that supposed to be the “installed power”. That would make more sense

    1. well , with the correct setup one can grow more vegetables than you can consume at a lower price. Almost everyone i know who grows their own vegetables says it tastes far better, and i agree too. I can’t wait when one of my friends sends a couple kilograms of cocktail tomatoes that they cannot use. compared to the shop bought variety it is much much more tasteful. Also as another example my uncle started an vegetables garden, he produced so much he ran out of people to give it to and it still costs him the same as if he would buy only enough veggies for his family.

      Further more if you go the indoors way you will have the added benefit of elevated oxygen levels in the room, especially if you have a small dorm room like mine.

      If you like greens you should really try to grow your own. Not every batch will be a success, but its not too hard to get wrong either.

      Just my 2c on why someone would grow their own green.

    2. I’ve heard claims that it’s cheaper to grow your own lettuce than buying it in the supermarket. I can believe it, at least out of season.

      You’re also not limited to the usual boring selection of greens in supermarkets. You can also grow exotic varieties that are usually available in those fancy (expensive) gourmet shops downtown.

      Growing fresh herbs like basil, dill and thyme is just as easy as growing lettuce.

      This video walks you through setting up a DWC hydroponic system for lettuce. This is the result.

  5. @Evad what I meant was use the ZVS to run the flyback.
    The output of *this* is pulsed DC which is not ideal but will run the lamp(s) fine for several weeks.
    If you reverse the power to the lamp every now and then it should prevent migration of the amalgam from one end to the other which eventually stops the lamp working.

      1. I think he said

        “the only plants I will use a grow-lamp for are cannabis plants. I grow salad greens in my garden in the ground — with hydroponics you have to keep up with nutrients in the water or your plants will die.”

  6. It doesn’t matter what you grow, this looks like a a quick intro into hydro farming. If gardening is your hobby, this could be the next step.

    As described earlier, you can grow exotic varieties not easily obtainable in your area. Whether they be salad greens or medicinal stuff.

    My father has a always had a garden. He always has too much so he gives to the neighbors. Great way to make friends.

  7. step 1: build grow setup
    step 2: add lettuce plants
    step 3: take photos and post to hackaday
    step 4: eat or throw out lettuce
    step 5: add REAL crop
    step 6: ?????
    step 7: profit

    btw, 80 watts out of a standard 4 foot shop light is plenty to grow nearly anything, ALOT more efficiently than any lcd/crt/ccfl/cfl

    a idea i had a while back…
    i had a old 25 inch crt “display” with bnc input, was hella bright but the picture was bad
    but it used only 40 watts of power, could fill the room with bright green light though(until you smacked it a few times, then it’d display regular composite injected into 1 of the bnc inputs)

    ended up ripping the speakers and amplifier out of it and scrapping the rest also the flyback

    why does hackaday have a abio hacks tag(not that the original hack is still even on the net)
    but no weed tag? we get grow setups every other week, 95% of which are going to be used for growing MJ(not michael jackson!), there may be a few pepper heads who will grow some naga jalokias or something but no one is naive enough to believe most of these posts are for lettuce

    1. A lot of the comments suggest that no one would actually want to grow lettuce.. There are a few reasons. I grow my own greens because they’re something that’s hard to source at the farmers market here in Raleigh. The South Eastern climate allows for lettuce from like March to April and Sept-Nov (if we’re lucky) so that means that if I want to eat a salad god only knows where it’s coming from. I have a cabinet in my apartment where I’m currently growing 3 spinach plants, 3 arugula (love the spicy stuff), 3 random “fancy” lettuces, 1 basil, 1 parsley and 1 Rosemary to round things out. These are enough to provide me a couple of salads a week with minimal effort and I know that pesticides have never touched them. Plus I love watching things grow. I have experimented with hydroponics a couple of times but for the simplicity, expense and yield, soil seems to work just fine.

      Each spring and fall I’l take some out side to take to seed and recover for my next planting. I’m currently on my third generation and I’ll be heading into my fourth after this fall passes.

  8. It would be interesting to see how the energy cost of this compares to plants transported from large scale greenhouses. Perhaps you could supplement the artificial lighting during the day with heliostats mounted on the roof.

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