PVC pipes are a common building material for hydroponic gardeners because it is easy to work with and allows for a lot of plants to grow in a fairly small space. PVC is also used to build vertical hydroponic gardens. This is possible because PVC is both lightweight and sturdy enough to support plants and water when mounted on the wall or a frame.
Plan your PVC Hydroponic Garden
Decide first whether you want a vertical garden mounted on a frame or the wall, or a horizontal one built on a table or even the floor. A horizontal garden is slightly less complex to build because you do not have to worry about the entire thing collapsing under the weight of water and plants. However, if space is limited, a vertical garden is certainly a viable option.
If you choose a vertical design, buy a pump a size larger than you would otherwise need. It will need to work harder to overcome gravity and pump the nutrient-filled water to the highest levels of the garden.
Decide on a Hydroponic Method
The two most common PVC hydroponic methods are deep water culture and ebb and flow.
In deep water culture hydroponics, the plants' roots grow suspended directly in the nutrient solution. The PVC pipe is filled with nutrient solution and the pots with plants sit in holes drilled in the top of the pipe.
Ebb and flow systems keep water flowing through the pipes. A pump runs for 15 minutes per hour, flooding the pipes with nutrient solution. When the pump turns off, the nutrient solution drains back into the nutrient reservoir. This replicates the natural cycle of rain and drought.
Finally, you will need to choose a growth medium. HydroClay pebbles are small balls of inert clay. They hold oxygen and provide very good drainage. Perlite and vermiculite are another common choice. They act more like soil, and are good for roots that need more support. Rockwool cubes are good for starting seeds in your hydroponic garden.
Choose Your Plants
Decide how many plants you want to grow. This will determine how large a garden you need to build. Different plants have different space requirements, but in general you can plan on 6 inches of PVC pipe per plant.
Not every plant will thrive in a PVC hydroponic system. Root crops need a deeper growth area that is possible with PVC piping. Tomatoes, lettuce and herbs all do very well in this type of hydroponic garden.