Hydroponics – In A Jar

People can be pretty creative. Here’s a couple of videos on how to do Hydroponic gardening at home, without any special equipment. The basics are to start seeds in a small block of peat or rock wool, plop that into a perforated plastic cup (or old yogurt cup), which gets placed into a quart (or 3/4 quart) jar full of liquid plant food solution, which is darkened (either by spraying or warping in old newspapers). Set in the sun, harvest lettuce…

This first one looks like it does use some hydroponics “stuff”. The plant cups are premade, the liquid fertilizer looks like it might be made for this purpose, and then he drops little beads around the rock wool cube in the cup; said beads looking like a commercial “grow medium”. (The second one is all re-purposed junk ;-)

In the next one, the guy goes out of his way to NOT use anything that requires a trip to the hydroponics store. Since those are sometimes nowhere near; and if they are, can be watched a lot by paranoid police, this is a feature.

Sidebar on Pot and Paranoid Police:

The paranoid police statement is in reference to a Father & Son who who were growing tomatoes in the basement. They had gone to a hydroponics store and bought stuff to grow some simple tomato plants. Police decided they were going to grow pot, so raided them. Story here:


Kansas family growing hydro tomatoes raided in failed marijuana bust
By William Breathes on April 1, 2013

Apparently growing vegetables in your basement in Leawood, Kansas is reason enough for the local police to raid your house, hold you and your family at gunpoint and accuse your 13-year-old son of using marijuana. At least, that’s the message sent after Johnson County Sheriff deputies blew in the door of the Harte family home last year looking for marijuana.

The raid – conducted on 4/20 last year – is now the subject of a lawsuit by the family of former CIA employees, who wants to know why they were chosen when the only thing they were cultivating were a few immature squash and some tomato sprouts.

Around 7:30 in the morning last April 20, Robert and Adlynn Harte were startled awake by loud banging and yelling at their door. Her husband opened it to find armed police about to ram it down. They told him to lay down on the ground in his entryway and held him there at gunpoint while they rounded up the rest of the family, including their shocked and frightened 7- and 13-year-old children. The kids were then made to sit down in front of their father.

What they found was a legal hydroponic setup being used to grow perfectly legal plants. “They would have known in the first minute if they would have checked the equipment and seen the tomato plants,” Ceryl Pilate, the family’s attorney, told the Kansas City Star. “This was a hydroponic garden on the level of a school project, with just a few plants and inexpensive lights. It was nothing.”

So, IMHO, Yet Another “Use a legal technology go to prison have police raids” kind of story.

Bottom line is that while I’ve had an interest in hydroponics as a way to grow food in bad conditions or when using crap land in the middle of nowhere: I’m now unwilling to actually BUY any hydroponics equipment. You know, buy a beaker and pseudophed, you must be cooking meth? (Local science shop now must report purchases of beakers and glassware to the drug paranoids. My spouse must sign to buy her decongestants. If I buy a beaker will the two result in my door being broken down?) Do effective encryption and various TLAs will figure you for a spy? Want to spend cash for a new car, expect to be fingered as a criminal and you can have your cash taken WITHOUT OTHER CAUSE as it is now acceptable to do an “asset forfeiture” just for having more money than they think you ought to have. (It HAS happend. MANY times.)

Or, like Tallbloke, run a blog that is skeptical of Global Warming and have some random send you email: Get raided and all your computers taken. “Using computers while practicing Wrong Think” I suppose is the charge…

So I was pondering a DIY way for hydroponics, anyway. Then I ran into “other folks have done it already”. Oh Boy!

Back at the hydroponics

This guy doesn’t spray his jars, he wraps with paper. Doesn’t use the commercial cups, perforates old yogurt cups instead. Uses a regular OTC plant fertilizer. Uses peat pots not hydroponics rock wool cubes. Nice.

As any attempt by me to grow lettuce has had happy leaf miners and slugs, I’m thinking a few jars on the windowsill and I just might be able to have home grown lettuce!

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, Plants - Seeds - Gardening, Tech Bits and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Hydroponics – In A Jar

  1. John Howard says:

    “K-cups” work well for starting…

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    Quick test shows that if you run down to your local Walmart and buy some 5 oz plastic bath size Dixie cups they fit perfectly in the top of a small mouth mason jar. You can get a sleeve of 80 of them for $3.00


    Very light weight plastic and would very easy to perforate the bottoms as he explained.

    I am going to have to play with this, unfortunately I have no south facing window so might have to use my LED grow light.

  3. Larry Ledwick says:

    Optional a zip lock sandwich bag works great too, stuff a couple inches of it in the top of the jar turn the rest over the outside of the jar mouth and add a rubber band. Would be trivial to take a pair of scissors to put slits in the bag a half inch long. The roots will find their way out of the bag if there is any gap at all for them to migrate along.

    You could also do something similar with a mesh fabric like burlap although that would eventually rot but they make open weave mesh fabrics out of polyester for sun shade fabric.

    I would probably use a HD aluminum foil sleeve as you would not even need a rubber band to close the top around the neck.

  4. jim2 says:

    Personally, I was fascinated by the setup where you grow fish to eat coupled with a hydroponic garden. I have an aquarium and at some point want to build an acrylic top that houses lights for the aquarium, plants, lights for the plants, and of course a water pump to drive it all. I would like to have it air tight save some vertical condenser tubes so the water vapor in the air exhaust (including that transpired by the plants) would liquefy and drip back into the aquarium. If done right, should be close to maintenance free. And I suppose one could grow spices to make it even more useful.

  5. H.R. says:

    What fish were you planning to grow?

    Keep in mind that Goliath grouper will take up a lot of room in a tank. Check the fry before you buy.

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    We’re going to need a bigger tank!

  7. jim2 says:

    Well, with a really large pond, maybe we could couple it with a tree farm?

  8. p.g.sharrow says:

    @HR: that is a rather large fish! Met one of those face to face in Hawaiian waters while snorkeling. Not quite that large 8-) but it’s mouth was larger then my face-mask! We met as the fish was swimming up the side of the reef, while I was swimming out over the edge. OH! crap!
    Fish darted down! while I practically walked on water to get back into the shallows over the reef. Took 20 minuets for me to get up enough nerve to swim over that deep lagoon to the beach…pg

    @ hydroponics. I have tried a number of times, not always successfully. Remember to keep the roots oxygenated, fish tank air system will work, the agitation of the bubbles helps to clean the roots and prevents stagnation and don’t over fertilize, use foliage feeding instead of root feeding, specially for the application of nitrates. Many systems use flood and drain to keep the roots wet and oxygenated. If you figure out a Fool Proof system, instruct me, please!
    A couple of years ago I purchased Grow Lamp LED panels at HomeDepot. $49 each about 4″x16″ in size, good enough for a 20inch tray but 2 side by side are better. Red and Blue LEDs. seems to work well with most things at up to 6 inches clearance. works better then florescent at 4 inches.
    aside ( cool white works fine, I have used both Red as well as Blue florescent grow lamps “)
    curly florescents work as well, just remember the more light the better. 300 lumens is barely enough 500 is doable, sunlight is 3,000! use a light meter, they are cheap, generally a part of a ph meter.
    For some reason my tomatoes are not happy under the LEDs, too much Blue I think. For most things the blue is needed to keep the inter-nodal from being to leggy. This ain’t dirt farming, more like managing a busy fish tank…pg

  9. Graeme No.3 says:

    I have used small black plastic pots (such as used for seedlings at the garden shop) with Perlite as medium. Sit these in a hole cut in a 4 inch PVC pipe. Circulate growth solution through the pipe with pump powered by solar PV panel down to a black plastic bucket. This supplies aeration.
    If the flow gets too high the pots will ‘float’ so stick down with tape or regulate the flow. Preferably pass the output flow through a kitchen seive to remove any stray bits of Perlite.
    I guess the solar PV panel wouldn’t work in the average basement but electricity should be available there for growth lamp and pump.

  10. philjourdan says:

    @P.G. – did you have to change your swim trunks? :-)

  11. John F. Hultquist says:

    The monthly COSTCO magazine has stories of 4 modern farming/growing operations about commercial places Costco sources from. You can view this online here:


    Use the + zoom function at the top of the page.

    Butter lettuce and strawberry are interesting.
    One of the growing mediums is coconut fiber.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Years ago we knew folks that built a greenhouse attached to their house.
    They were Adventists who typically follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
    Might have been 12 x 20 feet (?) with raised soil beds hip-high.
    They grew high cost stuff, such as green and red peppers, cucumbers, squash & much more.

    The flowering plants had to be pollenated by hand.

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    This DIY plastic window box is made from clear lettuce sale containers:
    These things work very well for me and is it’s own greenhouse on a windowsill…pg

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