Ron’s Hydroponics Bottle Garden
Letâ€™s begin where I began several years ago with this style of EBB & FLOW hydroponics garden. I wanted a garden that was small, medical marijuana legal, easy to maintain and a system I understood exactly how it works. Thereâ€™s dozens of designs out there, this probably wonâ€™t appeal to everybody looking for free hydroponics plans, but for small entry-level hydroponics this is a forgiving system to learn on. You can click all pictures to make them bigger.
I learned about the bottle gardens from this web page:
from that main page take a look at the link “how to build Hydro Ron’s 11 plant garden”. Click on the JPEG link and enjoy a nice slide show type presentation even though you have to use your back button to navigate the entire show. There is even an interactive page where you can design your own garden at the “design a garden” link
This guy has some clever design ideas, one that really catches a new growers eye is this little 4 plant garden that wouldn't be too hard to copy if you liked that design and his $100 price tag is reasonable if you have money in pay pal. Check it out here and see what design ideas for growing Mary Jane you can come up with. Combine the ideas you get off Ron’s pages with the proven techniques we’ve used to convert the design a for growing marijuana and you’ll have a problem free garden that lasts grow after grow. If you are presently growing in soil and wonder about converting over to hydroponics we’ll provide the basic info for those on that path as well. CLICK ALL PICTURES TO ENLARGE.
Small plants always look neat and tidy and the gardener has a chance to dial stuff in before things are less manageable
Medium sized plants can still yield over an oz.
Large plants can yield almost 1/4 pound
Is Hydroponics really for me?
YES! Growing marijuana with free hydroponics plans has been proven to produce plants faster with increased yields. Here is a short overview of hydroponics, it's very brief but there are other more specific resources at
Understanding the Ebb and Flow
The garden can sit directly on the top of the reservoir tub but it's easier to maintain if it's slightly above the reservoir. 2 standpipe overflow pipes should feedback to the reservoir and when flooding will aerate the reservoir when it drains back. This is all the aeration that's required because as the flood recedes the water lowering in the bottle act like a syringe drawing air back into the root zone.
Pumps and Equipment
Pumps are rated by how much they pump per minute or hour and how high they can pump. Expect a $20 pump to pump 1 gallon a minute to a height of 2 or 3 feet or nearly a meter. Most pump outlets are 1/2" like the PVC pipe so just use vinyl tubing to connect them to your garden at a T with hose clamps. I recommend one garden under HPS light and a part time garden under flours during rooting and the first weeks of vegetive growth. You want the gardens away from each other because if you purchase clones from a medical marijuana dispensary you need to quarantine them as they root. All new plants should be treated as if they are infected with powder mildew and sprayed with sulfur and serenade.
They call them 2 part mixes but most involve up to 4 parts as the growing stages progress. One major supplier offers the nutrients or 'nutes' I use in an intro pack for $17.95 at these are the BC nutrient line. Their nutes are PH buffered and easier for new gardeners
Advance Nutrients knows more than anyone about growing marijuana so check them out here they have a wealth of info.
I don't have fancy PPM meters or even a PH meter I use a $5 liquid reagent PH drop kit and I match the color of the sample to the color of another common household item Listerine. City water runs the PH 8 or 9 which is blue or green on the color scale. Yellow is PH 6 which is close enough. Tweak it a bit more with a bit more PH down to 5.8 or the color of Listerine. Go to far with the PH down and your sample will be orange or red, no good, start over. Plants needs change and you add more fertilizer as plants get bigger. Adding fertilizer generally lowers PH. Grow rock (hydroton) normally has a PH of about 8 when new, so soak your hydroton in PH adjusted water for a few days before using.
Tools and Safety:
Since this is a hydroponics grow, there is no doubt that you need a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). Likewise, any place where it is likely or possible that someone may be standing in a puddle of water and will come in contact with a plugged in electrical device needs a GFCI.
Wire your plug in strips just outside the grow area and up off the floor. Away from the grow so the LED's on the power strip don't interfere with the plants dark cycle (important!) and off the floor in case of flood. It's possible to pull a plant out of this garden for just a minute and have the flood cycle hit pumping all the nutrient solution on the floor while your back is turned so always unplug the pump and isolate all sources of power before performing any maintenance operations. A shock from a plugged in device can be lethal, take all possible precautions.
Use only HPS or Fluorescence light as they are safer than Metal Halide. Always use a glass cover with your light hood and always have a smoke detector inside the grow.
You don't need a lot of tools to build or maintain the garden. Buy a good pvc pipe cutter that leaves a razor cut so that pieces slide together easily making design and testing a snap. You'll need a drill to make the holes through the top of the Rubbermaid reservoir lid so the overflow return pipes can dump back into the reservoir. Avoid letting the drill's plastic waste get back into the reservoir system. You will also need a hole for the pump feed tubing and one for the pump's electrical cord. A screwdriver is needed for the hose clamps for the pump install and the bottle assembly. A dremel tool can enhance the look of the finished product on top of the lid but it's optional. 1/2" inside diameter vinyl tubing most likely is all the hose you need to make the pump to garden connection and perhaps make return overflows more flexible. You also need hose to pump the garden's nutrient solution out into a bucket and those fittings are from the simple parts noted further below
Converting the design for medical marijuana
In case you didn'tâ€™t get it this garden is built from PVC pipes and fittings and utilizes 2 liter soda bottles for each plant location. So my first suggestion is when you make your garden cut the 2-liter bottles so they are as big as possible. Marijuana is known to make huge root balls for huge plants. Many systems use 3 to 5 gallon containers, this uses just 2 liters so make sure you at least get the whole 2 liters. The photos at Ronâ€™s shows the bottles cut in half, and thatâ€™s no good for Mary Jane. More on this later.
Another issue I have is the way his bottles tap into each location. There is a more secure way than using the old bottle lids with a few parts in the PVC section of home depot, which youâ€™ll be getting to know a lot about if youâ€™re considering this.
Make 2 gardens, and if your plant limit is 12 make each garden hold 8 plants. This sounds somewhat shady but a mistake I made was building this for exactly 6 plants which is Â½ the limit only to find out I had no additional taps to FILL and DRAIN the system. Youâ€™ll want extra bottles and extra tap plugs when you build it. Youâ€™ll use the extras for maintenance and light poles. Another mistake I made was using Â½â€ PVC pipe when you can get the same sized headers in 1â€ PVC as well. I made 2 over flow stand pipes on my design to compensate this, thatâ€™s not a bad idea anyway.
This is also a garden thatâ€™s ideal for this article â€˜Stealth Closet Cabinet Tutorialâ€™
Parts list and approximate costs per 8-location garden
Most DIY home improvement centers are one-stop sources:
Home Depot (home de pot), Loweâ€™s, Ace Hardware, etc all carry a complete line of PVC fittings in the plumbing isles. You can get everything in one stop at Home De Pot except maybe the bottles.
GARDEN BASIC PARTS
Qty 8 Desc 2-litre soda bottles 10 for $10 on sale
10 feet Â½â€ PVC pipe under $2
10 feet 1â€ PVC pipe under $3
PVC Glue and Primer $5-$7
PVC pipe cutter $10-$12 (a good cutter is worth the price)
Qty 10 hose clamps (one for each bottle â€“ 2 for the pump hose) .79 cents each
5 Pipe to pipe-to-pipe T .79 cents each
5 pipe to female header to pipe T .79 cents each
10 male headers (male adapters) for bottles and drain and fill connects and plugs $.79 each
4 corners with female header $.79 each
3 â€˜Plugsâ€™ to insert into males headers for when youâ€™re not doing maintenance
5 Elbows for overflow standpipes .79 cents each
1 GFCI system for electrical shock and smoke detector $48
Vinyl Hose to connect the pump to the Garden sold in pre-cut lengths $12 I use Â½â€ inside diameter hose
Vinyl Window Screen material for bottom of bottles, smallest amount is $10
Building the bottles
To build the bottles you'll need 8 male adapters and 8 short pieces of PVC pipe (2") and of course 8 bottles. Clean the bottles pretty good except don't take the label off of them. The label will makes the bottles more opaque and we'll be painting the bottles later so our root zone is in total darkness, even under bright lights. Cut the bottom off the bottle so it retains it's original size. When you lay out the pieces you'll notice the 1/2" PVC pipe fits into the top of the Male adapter and the neck of the bottle equally well and this is the basis of the design. Use a piece of pipe that's about 2" long that seat's fully on the male adapter and goes to the end of the bottle's neck. This is pretty easy, use PVC primer and glue on the connections on both ends of the PVC pipe. The bottle end will get primer and glue and a hose clamp over the area that used to be the screws for the bottle cap.
After you have that set up you can glue a 2"x2" piece of vinyl screen over the bottle neck hole so all grow rocks and hydroton are kept in the bottles. Roots will grow right through the screen, I often roll up some screen and put in the neck as well. Roots tend to grow right through and into the plumbing and your garden should be checked for roots plugging the bottle necks every month or so. I normally trim roots the week before I flower them, after their vegetive growth is about finished. I've found no other root trimming is needed.
Once the assembly is dried I buy super cheap spray paint, a can of black for opaque undercoating and then a coat of white so they reflect light on the outside. Use skeleton pieces of the garden to hold the bottles while painting and drying between coates. In some of these pictures the bottles are covered with thick paper around the outside to further reduce light emitting into the root zone. Remember roots don't like light.
Design on the fly to meet your needs
The garden uses the style of pipe used in residential plumbing and is very reliable and easy to fit. With the proper cutter and some planning you can create designs on the fly and pretest the entire design without gluing anything. I have overflow pipes in my garden that are adjustable and have never been glued and have lasted several grows. After you have pre-tested your design you should glue it together. When you begin you don't really know your needs for your space and environment. People in wheelchairs for instance may design in special considerations to make changing the oil an easier one-person job.
As far as saying cut 12 pipes this length and make 2 half's then glue it all together I think it's better to turn you lose with this adult style 'Lego Set'. If you screw up and you have a good set of pipe cutters you can insert missing items or make small additions or design changes. Get the basic garden up and tested and use what you learn as you go.
Changing the oil:
You should change the nutrient solution every week, or every 2 weeks but never longer than 2 weeks. You should mix fresh solution and check the PH. I flush for one day with plenty of fresh PH'd water between nutrient changes, it doubles the work but prevents salt build ups. Pump the old solution into a bucket using a tap you make for the purpose. Never dump your old nutrient solution down a drain or public sewer. Always dump it on outside plants instead. Unplug the pump and sources of power for nearby fans, Work safely.
You will need to trim some roots and open some blocked bottle necks, normally just once per grow will suffice. The roots can take up the whole area but plants vegged 3 or 4 weeks shouldn't be a problem as far as getting severely root bound and all may plants seems to finish okay, even the moms that were in bottles for months.
I had some clones brought in from a medical dispensary that were infected with powder mildew. Since then I set up the 2 garden approach and keep them away from the flowering chamber under quarantine. I use sulfur, Neem Oil and Serenade. Neem and sulfur don't mix, use them several weeks apart. Serenade is beneficial bacteria you can spray on all the time but smells like pig vomit. So I do spray it around the plant base and inside the reservoir tank a bit too, it's good bacteria that eats bad bacteria for breakfast.
Just some closing shots of the garden and it's plants: