Cheap DIY fogger aeroponic system

IMG_1595 

In my post about basic the basics of hydroponics I mentioned the potential high cost of entry but with a little creativity this can be avoided.  I went through this exercise and here is a pretty inexpensive way to try out hydroponics without having to spend hundreds on a prebuilt system.  The solution I came up with cost me $1.00 to setup though I did have many of the items on hand, if I had to purchase everything cost would be in the $10-15 range.

Supplies

  • Small shoebox sized plastic tub /w lid —  (I purchased a clear generic one from Home Depot for $1.00)
  • 2 inch hole saw and drill
  • 6 — Empty Trix yogurt cups (can be any brand as long top is approx 2 in diameter)
  • Duct tape (no one should be without this)
  • Pond fogger – single disc (can be found on eBay for less than $10, I had one from humidifier)
  • Perlite
  • Water (tap water is fine, fancy bottles work as well)

Assembly
From looking at the supplies this might be able to guess the construction steps, but I will list them out anyway.

  1. Take lid and add drill six 2-inch holes using hole saw.  If the tub is not made of rubbery material be sure to take your time to slowly create the holes to prevent cracking/shattering.  You can also do this with a utility knife but for non-rubber lids I highly suggest against it if you like your fingers.
  2. Test fit your cups and ensure they fit snuggly, if they do not quite fit you can use some sandpaper to expand the holes slightly
  3. Remove cups and cut (utility knife) or burn (soldering iron) 1/4 in lines in a pattern similar to theimage figure to the right to ensure extra support and prevent the medium (perlite) from falling through.   WARNING: Burning plastic emits toxic fumes and should be done (if at all in a well ventilated area)  Knifes are sharp and can cut fingers so if you not careful.  I would recommend buying 2 inch hydroponic net pots which can be purchased for about $0.25 each online, which I would have done if I wasn’t so impatient.
  4. Given that nutrients+water+light=algae, be sure that your box is as light tight as possible.  If you container is not clear like mine you should be in good shape, otherwise cover your box with duct tape or spray paint the box using plastic adhering paint.  I would recommend keeping a small vertical line exposed so you can get a quick look at water condition and level without having to disturbing the plants.
  5. Fill cups with perlite 4/5 full (some expansion may occur)
  6. Pour water into cups until reservoir is full
  7. Dump water out water
  8. Repeat steps 4-6 until water appears clear
  9. Cut small hole in the corner of the lid and feed power line to fogger through
  10. Put fogger in tub and fill with water until it is about 1/2 inch above fogger
  11. Replace lid and plug in fogger and enjoy the mysterious fog

What can I grow with this?
The short answer is anything.  Self regulation wicking properties of perlite it should keep most plants happy for some time.  The major limitation you may see is some types of plants will outgrow this setup and will require transplant outside in soil or in a larger hydroponic setup (coming soon).  Though with careful selection of plants and frequent harvesting you can grow many plants to maturity in this small system.  It did not occur to me until after I completed the project but the size and spacing is pretty close to that of an AeroGarden so plants like greens, herbs, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, peppers would do well in this system.  For starting plants you can simply drop a few seeds, cover with some perlite and a clear plastic container (I used empty applesauce cups, but bottom of water bottles also would work well)  You may also add seedlings by carefully placing in them in the damp perlite.

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What about nutrients?
Keeping the project cheap I opted to use some balanced liquid plant fertilizer I use for my seedling/indoor plants.  I mixed it at the recommendation it stated for indoor watering (2 pumps per gallon)  I noticed it did not contain any Magnesium I also added a half a teaspoon of Epsom salt.  After a couple weeks empty contents and replace with water let run for about an hour to allow sediments to clear up and then empty contents.  This is good for your plants but also can help keep the disc on your fogger clean.  Refill with water and nutrient mix and repeat.  This will work for most plants in vegetative state of growth though if you want your plants to move to a flowering state (peppers, tomatoes, etc) I would recommend purchasing specific hydroponic solution for flowering plants.

For a very small investment you can have your own hydroponic system and experience the benefits of growing without soil.

17 Responses to “Cheap DIY fogger aeroponic system”

  1. Red Icculus Says:

    This is a great starter system. My only suggestion might be putting aluminum foil around the container. Nutrients + light = algae.


  2. Antigonum Cajan Says:

    This may practical and enjoyable in some Artic weather like neck of the woods, even though a few gardeners feel some attraction to this type of gardening.Since I live in a tropical isle, I do not know.. There seems to be technical issues about nutrient distribution, ph in water and so on … that most people will certainly avoid.


  3. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    red icculus, thank you for the reminder forgot to add that step since I hadn’t done it myself (planning on spraying box next time I change water) I did remember to have duct tape in the supplies though.antigonum, must say I am jealous fortunately I do live where spring starts on the day the calendar says but many others have to wait months after. This can be a good way to keep sanity during the dark cold winters. I do agree that there are some technical complexities involved but that is exactly what appeals to me (always loved the sciences) Though hydroponics is becoming more mainstream now due to the cost savings and expedited growths. Good chance many seedlings you find in your nursery/garden center may have lived most of their life without soil.


  4. mpesh Says:

    are you going to be adding a ph sensor to your system at any time?, i would like to see that incorporated with your autonomous grow box.


  5. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    mpesh, this has definitely crossed my mind though the expense of a PH sensor that won’t be destroyed after being exposed under water for a few days is quite high. Unless anyone knows of any cheap alternatives…


  6. Anonymous Says:

    I second the light cover for the res. You really should get a PH meter they can be had on ebay for $25 and I leave mine in solution all the time it will work just fine. PH meter a must in my book.You have to remember as seedlings they have enough energy to grow a couple sets of leave before they require nutrients. So for the time being they may look good, but will soon show nutrient deficiencies because the PH is off


  7. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Anonymous, will have to take a look at eBay, though I wouldn’t want to pay as much as $25 if I didn’t know I could easily hack it to make it readable by my computer. I haven’t seen any inexpensive serial/USB models out there to avoid the hacking.I know a cheap PH meter would probably corrode away in a few days if left in solution. http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?jspStoreDir=hdus&catalogId=10053&productId=100325514&navFlow=3&keyword=ph+meter&langId=-1&searchRedirect=ph+meter&storeId=10051&endecaDataBean=com.homedepot.sa.el.wc.catalog.beans.EndecaDataBean%403b402674&ddkey=Search


  8. Anonymous Says:

    I'm anonymous from above. No PH meters can safely be left in the solution for long periods of time. I've had mine going since a couple of weeks before I posted my comment on feb 22 and its still going strong rock solid. While it does "shorten" there life of usefulness they can be used up to I think 18 months before needing to be replaced.While it is a little bit of an investment it is so easy to look at a number and know instantly if you have a problem.Also do you have an update on your cheap fogger I'd like to hear how it fared. P.S. This is the meter I got from ebay but I got it for I think $25 total.http://cgi.ebay.com/Digital-pH-Meter-Aquarium-Tester-Adaptor-solutions-a_W0QQitemZ250390571071QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item250390571071&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1205|66%3A2|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318|301%3A0|293%3A1|294%3A50


  9. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Anon, actually they are doing quite well. I posted an update a few days ago which you can see here.


  10. rmadams Says:

    What brand of fertilizer are you using? I have had only mixed success with the same approach, and I am wondering if the particular fertilizer makes a difference…


  11. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I can’t find the exact product I bought a few years ago but it is Schultz Plant Food


  12. sarah Says:

    This looks like a great starter setup. I plan to try this in my kitchen garden window for some leafy greens and herbs during winter using a fluorescent fixture since I don’t get any direct sun. You should post this on http://www.instructables.com!


  13. Legal Bud Reviews Says:

    What a fabulous Idea!! This is very ingenuitive. Makes me feel like an ass for wanting one of those kitchen counter hydro set ups for $150+ =)


  14. Humidifier Says:

    Is the pond fogger basically the same thing as an ultrasonic humidifier?
    If so would the old style spinning drum style kids humidifier that atomizes water into a mist would also work…. I think this style would be easier to jury-rig into the lid of a rubber bin…


  15. cannabis seed Says:

    Thanks for any other wonderful post. The place else may anybody get that kind of info in such a perfect means of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search for such information.


  16. Mike Says:

    Did your ebay pond fogger have LED lights? I can only see cheap ones on ebay that have LED lights. I don’t know if those would cause algae growth or not… thanks, nice write up


  17. Cheap fogger hydroponics final results - The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    [...] case you missed them here is the original post on the creation of this fogger hydroponic system, and the latest update (before this [...]


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