Did you know you can use DWC for vegetables? If you want to grow larger plants like tomatoes or peppers indoors year-round in an apartment deep water culture is for you.
Deep Water Culture or DWC is a hydroponic growing method where the vegetable plants roots are grown in water with airstones instead of soil.
The DWC bucket systems are also called bubble buckets. That’s because of all the air bubbles inside the bucket.
I will give you the information needed to build single bucket systems. It is possible to hook multiple buckets up to a central reservoir.
This makes things like refilling much easier to manage but there is also an increased risk of leaking because of all the connections.
A single bucket or tote is much safer especially if you live in an apartment or condo. You don’t want any flooding in your apartment or water leaking down on your neighbors.
DWC For Vegetables – What To Grow
Many different vegetables can be grown in DWC. Most commonly plants are grown in 5-gallon buckets with an airstone at the bottom. Usually, a single plant is grown in each.
This setup is great for larger plants like tomatoes and peppers, but you can grow lettuce and greens too. These plants will do better in a DWC tub, where you can have multiple plants.
DWC For Vegetables – What Not To Grow
Not all vegetables will grow well in deep water culture. We want to grow plants with a fibrous root system.
That means potatoes, carrots or other root crops really can’t be grown with DWC.
Other plants can be grown but may not be practical. Melons, watermelons and most vining crops will grow really well but will likely take up too much space.
Grow Bush Varieties In DWC
However, I am growing bush varieties of cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers in my DWC kitchen garden. So, I would suggest looking for bush varieties of many common vegetables if they are available.
For example, I am growing the following Pepper, Bush Belle Hybrid, Tomato, Bush Early Girl Hybrid and Cucumber, Bush Champion. These seeds are available from Burpee Seeds. Also, some nurseries offer transplants of these varieties.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Vegetables In DWC?
Crops grown hydroponically in DWC are fast growing. They can finish a week or two before soil grown plants and generally will yield more.
Lettuce can be done in 45-60 days depending on whether it is a leaf lettuce or a heading variety. Greens will mature fastest.
Other plants like tomatoes or peppers may need 60 – 80 days depending on variety. Go by the days to harvest on the seed pack.
What Is The Easiest Vegetable To Grow In DWC?
Lettuce is the easiest plant to grow in DWC. Leaf lettuce can be done in 45 days and you can harvest individual leaves earlier than that for an extended harvest.
Heading lettuce takes about 60 days. But there are many other greens you can grow besides lettuce. Try some Swiss Chard.
Also, most herbs are very easy to grow. Try thyme, dill, basil or cilantro.
DWC For Vegetables Setup
There are two basic methods to set up DWC for vegetables. One method uses 5 gallon buckets with a single plant in each.
Above you can see a young bush cucumber plant in a 5 gallon bucket and below are some hydroponic roots.
For this type of set up you need a 5 gallon bucket and lid. You will need a 6 inch net pot and you will cut a hole in the lid to hold the net pot.
Alternatively, you can buy a DWC bucket lid with a net pot built into it. They come in different sizes but you dont need anything bigger than a 6 inch pot.
You will need some hydroton and a plant to set in it. You can use a seedling or a transplant but if you use a transplant you will need to gently wash the soil off of the roots.
You will need a hydroponic grow medium like hydroton which is fired clay pellets to hold your plants in the net pot.
They are porous and will last a long time. Just clean them with bleach between grows.
You can also use perlite, but it is not as good as hydroton because it breaks down.
Fill the bucket up to the bottom of the net pot, add nutrients and airstones and you’re DWC for vegetables is ready. Watch it grow!
DWC Tote Method For Lettuce Or Greens
The second method uses a storage container or tote to grow multiple smaller plants like lettuce or other greens.
Above is a DWC tote with leaf lettuce and buttercrunch lettuce.
This DWC planter is made with a 10 gallon tote. You can use a larger tote if you wish.
To make this you will use a hole saw and cut 2 7/8 inch holes in the lid. They will hold 3 inch net pots. I have 12 holes in mine.
You can put more or less depending on the size of your tote, but they should be at least 6 inches apart on centers.
Setup is the same as the single bucket DWC but if your tote is large, you might want 2 airstones.
Here is more detailed information on building DWC buckets.
DWC For Vegetables Final Thoughts
DWC is great for apartments because it eliminates messy soil and many of the pests that can come in with it.
Plants grow faster and yield more with hydroponics and DWC buckets are easy and cheap to set up.
These set ups dont take up a lot of floor space but you will need to deal with vertical growth on tall plants which is why I recommend growing bush varieties.