DWC, or Deep Water Culture hydroponics, is a method of growing plants using only the roots and water. The term “hydroponic” literally means to work with water. The name comes from ancient Greek hydro (water) and ponos (labor), which pretty much sums up the process; no soil is used in DWC.
DWC hydroponics is designed to be a very simple system to operate with minimal maintenance. There is no need for soil, air pumps or air stones that can fail and clog up the works, so it’s perfect for beginners who want to grow plants at home without spending too much time looking after them. Although it is a low-cost method, DWC hydroponics can be adjusted to suit your needs.
If you want to start growing plants using the DWC method, you first need to make sure you have all of the required materials for building your own system. You will also need some basic tools like pliers, a hack saw, a drill and some screwdrivers.
Now that you have everything you need to get started building your DWC system, let’s take a look at the materials required:
- PVC Pipe (1 inch diameter)
- Tube cutter or saw for cutting the pipe to length
- 3x 1 inch threaded elbows
- 4x 1.25 inch barbed elbow (for attaching your net cups to your main pipe system). Note: Don’t get these confused with standard “elbows”; they are very different and will not work.
- 2x 1 inch T-connector – 3x 1.25 inch barbed T
- connector (for attaching your pump to your main pipe system) – PVC primer and glue
- 2 feet of net cups with rubber bands to hold them together. Each cup holds about one quart, so you’ll need at least 12 cups for a 6-plant DWC system.
- 6 net cups with plant holes (for your plants)
After you have acquired all your materials, you need to set everything up. Note: aside from the plants themselves, most of these items can be found in your local hardware or gardening store.
How to build a simple dwc hydroponic system
A lot of people prefer using PVC pipe for growing plants because it’s easy to work with and inexpensive.
Once you have finished assembling each bucket, it’s time to add the net cups so that they are close enough to the Airstone for the bubbles to reach the roots. Just make sure not to place them right over the Airstone, or else you will end up with algae in your reservoir.
To give your plants a nutrient boost, you have to add a lid to the reservoir and fill it with nutrient-rich water. Using a 1/2″ drill bit, make three to four holes around the rim of the lid. Attach 3/8″ tubing from your air pump to each hole and secure them by tightening the nuts on each end. Then attach an airstone to the end of your tubing.
Now you are ready to test the system. Start by filling your bucket with water up to an inch below where the lid ends. Then set up your pump, airstones and net cups. Fill each net cup completely with nutrient-rich water and turn on the pump. You should see lots of bubbles coming up from the Airstone. Make sure that your plants are sitting in their net cups, then place all of your buckets under a plant light to start growing!
Tips for maintaining your dwc hydroponic system
Once you have set up your DWC hydroponic system, it’s important to look after it so that it continues to run smoothly.
To keep the light from heating up the solution in the buckets, you can put ice cubes directly into the nutrient-rich water before putting them on the lid. This will also help the water stay clean and cold for longer, which means you can wait longer before changing it.
Every other day, test the pH level of your nutrient-rich water to ensure that it stays in the 5.5 – 6.5 range by adding pH down or up accordingly using an accurate pH tester. Also, check your plants every other day and remove any dead leaves or plant debris that accumulates at the bottom of the bucket.
It is necessary to change out all of the water in your system about once a week so that you can prevent algae from growing on top of it. Use distilled water rather than tap water for this purpose because it has no minerals or chemicals that could alter the quality of your nutrient-rich water.
Remember, in order for your plants to grow properly in DWC hydroponics; they need lots of light. Make sure you are supplying them with enough light by using a timer on your lamp and adjusting it according to the amount of plant growth you want to see.
The benefits of using a dwc hydroponic system
Some benefits of using a dwc hydroponic system are:
- You can grow more plants in a smaller space
- The water and nutrient levels are easier to control
- It’s easier to harvest crops because you don’t have to deal with the plants rotting on the ground
- It uses less water than other forms of growing plants
- The roots remain cool because they’re kept away from sunlight and heat
- You can grow soilless plants in a hydroponic system without soil or nutrient supplements. This is great for those who want to grow herbs or plants without soil.
- Just about any kind of plant can be grown in a hydroponic system, even ones that are difficult to grow otherwise.
How to harvest plants from your dwc hydroponic system
It is important to harvest your plants when they are ready to ensure that their roots don’t end up rotting, which can interfere with the plant’s health.
To remove a plant from DWC hydroponics, you must make sure all of its roots are completely free from nutrient-rich water. This means cutting the tubing for each plant with a pair of scissors and allowing the plants to sit in their buckets for an extra day.
Once the roots have dried out, it is safe to pull up a plant from its net cup. Tip: wear rubber gloves if your plants are still wet because although they may look dead, their stems can be quite sharp!
Next, you must cut the plants’ net cups from their roots. Be sure to keep a few of these net cups around because you can re-use them over and over again for each new plant that you grow in your hydroponic system.
To properly dispose of a dead plant, scrape off as much of the bottom roots from the bucket as possible, then cut the plant up into small pieces and throw them in the trash. For leftover roots, you can dig a hole in your yard to bury them or place them with your yard waste to be picked up with your garbage.