Do you want to grow tomatoes in DWC bubble buckets? This is an easy way to grow hydroponic tomatoes without soil. It can yield fantastic results for you.
What Is A Bubble Bucket?
A bubble bucket is an individual self-contained DWC system. Many DWC systems use a central reservoir and multiple buckets which are fed by the same reservoir. DWC is a soilless method of growing.
But each bubble bucket is a standalone method of growing DWC plants. They are easier to set up and unlike a recirculating system, if a plant gets a root disease like Pythium it will not spread it to the others.
How To Build DWC Bubble Buckets
Bubble buckets are very easy to build and this is one of the least expensive hydroponic systems so it is ideal for beginners who want to try hydroponics.
You can build as many bubble buckets as you want. They are best for growing tomatoes or other larger plants. So you will only have one plant per bucket.
The first thing you will need is a 5-gallon bucket and a lid. You can also use a storage tote with a lid.
With a 27 gallon tote, you could fit 2 plants in it and you would not need to refill it as often. But the advantage of a bucket is disease won’t spread between plants.
You will need a 6-inch net pot or a lid with the pot built into it. If you only want to use a net pot you will need to cut a hole in your bucket lid for it.
Once you do this your bubble bucket is built with the exception of adding an airstone to it. Drill a 1/2 inch hole in the lid for an airline.
Push the airline into the tote and add an airstone to the end. Fill the bucket with water mixed with nutrients. It should come up to the bottom of your net pot.
Plug your air pump in and make sure you have bubbles in your bucket. You can use more than one airstone because you can’t have too many bubbles in your bucket.
Here is an earlier article about growing tomatoes in bubble buckets:
Bubble Bucket Hydroponics [ Supercharge Your Growth ] (indoorvegetablegrower.com)
if you don’t want to build your own bubble bucket you can buy a complete kit on Amazon with everything you will need except the plant and fertilizer.
How To Grow Tomatoes In DWC Bubble Buckets
Today I am in my DWC kitchen garden and we’re going to talk about growing tomatoes in DWC bubble buckets.
This is a great system that’s very easy to set up and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg either.
All you need is a bucket with a lid. You will cut a hole in the lid for the net pot and if you don’t want to cut a hole in it you can buy a lid with the net pot built-in.
You will fill the net pot up with some hydroton to hold your plant in place and you put your plant in there.
You will need an air pump and an airstone and some airline tubing. The airline will go through a 1/4 inch hole you drill in the lid and the airstone goes in the bucket.
That is really all there is to building a bubble bucket. Easy peasy.
The plant in the video is flowering all over the place. I was really concerned when I first set it in because it only had flower clusters on one branch.
I was afraid it wasn’t gonna yield very much at all but it has gone to town and has a ton of flowers now
I even have a flowering tomato branch that’s getting ready to try and grow out the window,
Already I have some tomatoes growing on this plant. This plant is doing fantastic it’s probably about 50 days old.
It was set in here as a newly sprouted seedling with just two leaves. It didn’t even have its true leaves yet.
If you started from a transplant you’d be much further along than I am.
It’s all just in a five-gallon bucket too. In the video, you can see the 6-inch net pot filled with grow stones if you look closely.
I don’t think they make them anymore but you can use hydroton or even perlite instead.
I just filled up this bucket yesterday because it had sucked up almost all the water. I try to leave the bucket lid loose so I can get into the bucket easily.
This plant is really starting to rock so I will need to check the levels in the bucket every couple of days now.
In the video, you can see all the roots in there and it’s doing really really well. They are nice and white and very healthy. The trellis does make it a bit harder to get underneath the plant.
But I felt like these plants would probably need support and really it looks like I’m going to need another net if I want to support the tomatoes.
I do also have a bush cucumber plant in here that’s spreading out all over the place and I’ve got a bell pepper plant too.
Early Girl Bush Determinate Tomato
But we are here to talk about growing tomatoes in a bubble bucket. So the variety is an Early Girl it’s usually an indeterminate tomato but this is an Early Girl bush tomato and it’s determinant.
I think for indoors determinate tomatoes are a good choice because they don’t get as large or as tall as indeterminate ones.
I may try indeterminate ones next time because with those you would train up a string and also because they bear longer.
Determinate tomatoes bear most of their crop at once and then die back. But indeterminate varieties can bear for years if taken care of.
They might actually be easier to train because I’ve got a frame from an old grow tent over my plants and I could tie strings from the top down to the plant.
The only problem would be getting light to all of them. So you do need to have a grow light if you want to grow tomatoes or anything like that indoors.
Let There Be Light – LED Light
Tomatoes are a very high light requirement plan and you’re going to need an LED grow light. You just cannot grow them indoors without one.
If you have a patio you could probably grow them out on your patio if you have about six hours of direct sunlight and that would be a minimum.
Otherwise, if you have them indoors there’s just no way in your apartment that you’re gonna have enough light to grow them.
So this light I have over these plants is a 200 watt LED and it’s a Spider Farmer SF 2000.
It’s a good light it’s reasonably priced and it’ll cover a two-by-four-foot area for tomatoes or other high light plants.
If you’re growing something like lettuce that doesn’t need near as much light you can probably cover a larger area with it.
In the video, I do have some lettuce plants here that are growing alongside the light so it can be done because they need less light.
But what I really wanted to show you is how well this tomato is doing in deepwater culture.
Growing DWC Tomatoes – Climate Denial
I’ll tell you I’ve grown tomatoes for years outside but in Western Washington, but that’s kind of a losing proposition. The weather here is just too cool so we need really early varieties.
Usually, by the time they finally make tomatoes it starts to cool down and you wind up with a lot of green tomatoes.
Some people really like those but I’m not a lover of pickled tomatoes particularly or fried green tomatoes.
I like juicy red ripe tomatoes that I can put in a salad or slice and put on top of a burger and this plant is definitely going to do that.
Growing tomatoes indoors frees me from my climate’s limitations and gives me tomatoes in the dead of winter when I want them most.
I am not really trying hard to pollinate my tomato. Indoors you will probably need to hand pollinate because there are no bees to do it for you.
What I do is just shake the plant and hopefully, that moves a little bit of pollen around.
Also, I do want to mention this is a determinant tomato so you don’t prune it because it needs all its leaves and all its stems to yield. Anything you take off is going to reduce your yield
Bubble Buckets Pros And Cons
Pro: So deep water culture is an easy system even if you’re a beginner. All you need is a bucket and an air pump and an air stone and you’re good to go.
Because there is no soil, bugs and plant diseases are much less of a problem.
Con: The only problem that you could run into with a bubble bucket or any DWC system can be high water temperatures.
If your water gets too warm there are a bunch of water molds called pythium and they can cause root rot. You can treat it. You can cut off damaged roots and use
a chlorine bleach type solution or there are other products available to treat it.
If you keep your water under 72 degrees you shouldn’t have a problem with it but the beauty of this system is it’s a single bucket system.
Pro: So say one plant gets something like pythium, it doesn’t spread it to all the other plants. That makes a single bucket system much safer.
In most deep water culture systems you have a series of buckets and they’re all connected to the same reservoir and what that means is if you get something in one plant’s roots you’re gonna get it in all of them
Maintenance Is A Bit Harder
On one hand, a central reservoir makes it much easier to monitor your water levels and add nutrients. On the other disease can spread easier.
This is system is a little bit harder to deal with because you have to go into each individual bucket and add water and nutrients one bucket at a time.
I use a little pump for that. I just fill a spare bucket with water and nutrients and I have a pump with a hose going off it and I pump more water into the bucket.
So it does require, like anything, a little bit of maintenance. I mean if you’re growing out in the garden you’re going to have to pull weeds right?
Here there are no weeds to pull but you are going to have to monitor the water level in your buckets.
When you first start out you want the water level right at the bottom of the net pot and after it’s been growing for a while and has some roots you want to let the water level drop a little bit.
Because you’re going to develop air roots above the water and then you’re going to have feeder roots in the nutrient solution itself.
So you can let it drop maybe four inches five inches or so and then when it gets down you below that level you want to refill it so pretty easy really.
The only thing you have to worry about is keeping your water temperatures cool. If it’s the summer you could drop an ice pack in there and that would probably take care of it for the day.
Working With The Seasons Not Against Them
Commercial growers with DWC run a chiller but that’s expensive and I’m not planning on running a chiller for a few plants.
What I did is actually time things out so this crop would be done before temperatures really get warm outside.
Because I am in an upstairs apartment it can get really hot here in July and August so I’m not planning on doing DWC during the height of summer.
I have a small outdoor container garden for growing vegetables during the summer.
When this one is done I’ll clean everything up and then I’ll start another grow in September and grow all through the winter and into the spring again.
Final Thoughts On DWC Bubble Buckets
So in closing, if you’re looking for a way to grow large plants and we’re talking tomatoes, peppers, or even the bush cucumber that you saw in the video you can grow them in deep water culture.
You can even grow strawberries in deep water culture. So it’s a good system and it’s easy to set up and not expensive to build.
But if you’re really lazy and you don’t want to build one you can buy DWC bubble bucket kits off amazon and just go from there but it’s a lot more expensive than just coming up with your own bucket and your own stuff.
Anyway, happy gardening to you, take good care of yourselves and keep it green.