Building a DIY Hydroponics System Part 2: The Support Structure
This is Part 2 of a 7 Part Series of how to build and manage a DIY Hydroponic Lettuce System!
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The hydroponic rail system can be supported by a variety of structures. We originally used a regular folding table but later custom-built a wooden shelving structure to make the growing system more visually appealing in our home and to allow for easy hanging of the lights. You can build your own or buy a structure that will work for your situation.
The main factors involved in creating a support structure for a hydroponic rail system are:
Strength. It's important that the support structure be sturdy as the rail system can weigh up to 50 lbs when circulating water. Tipping over two rails filled with water would not be good!
Light Mounting. The support structure can be used to hang the grow lighting and ensure that it is held an adequate distance from the rails. The grow light itself can weigh more than 20 lbs (though many LEDs are much lighter) and so a solid mounting location is required.
Accessory Mounting. Accessories such as fans can be mounted directly on the support structure, though not required.
Airflow. Support structures that allow for horizontal and vertical airflow are preferable (see lighting for more info). For example, wire shelving will allow more vertical airflow than a solid table. However, when we first started we used a solid plastic folding table and still grew some delicious lettuce.
Storage. The support structure can be designed to incorporate storage for other growing accessories, such as extra net cups, nutrients, and seeding accessories.
Appearance. In our case, we designed the support structure to look nice and somewhat hide wires or tubes. Obviously this is optional.
A few ideas:
- In an area that is unfinished, such as a basement, a sturdy folding table can be used to support the rails and ratcheting hangers can be suspended from the ceiling to support the light.
- Wire shelving can be purchased to match the size of the rail system. The light can then be hung from the shelf above. We currently use this model for some of our 2-rail systems and it works well. This allows you to have multiple, vertically-stacked systems in the same space.
- Simple wooden shelving can be built from a few 2x4s and plywood. Similar to the wire shelving, the rail system can be placed on one shelf and the light hung from the shelf above. Growing accessories can then be stored either below the rail system or on the top shelf, above where the grow light is hung. To add a decorative touch, the wood can be stained or painted.
In summary, the support structure doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, and it can vary depending on the situation and location.
Next up, we'll work on setting up the reservoir!