DIY Bottle Hydroponics

Convert empty bottles into a low cost, low maintenance, and aesthetically pleasing hydroponic system using this step-by-step guide.

Hydroponic systems don't get much simpler than bottle hydroponics.
Photo by Cyrus Moshrefi

A quick Google search of “bottle hydroponics” will reveal the many ways to use bottles in hydroponics. Unfortunately, most of these are either complicated, ugly, or both. These simple hydroponic bottles are easy to build, low cost, low maintenance, require no electricity, and look great.

  • Suitable Locations: Indoors, outdoors, or greenhouse
  • Size: Small
  • Growing Media: Stone wool
  • Electrical: Not required
  • Crops: Leafy greens and herbs

Kratky Method and Aeration

The Kratky method is the easiest hydroponic growing technique. No pumps, no complex irrigation systems . . . just plants sitting in water. Most of the early hydroponic research focused on static water systems like the Kratky method. These systems worked, but, as scientists tend to do, they kept experimenting and eventually found there was an increase in plant growth rate when the nutrient solution was aerated. This discovery spurred the development of circulating hydroponic systems with increased aeration, like nutrient film technique (NFT) and top drip irrigation.

Now most of the hydroponic research is focused on these circulating systems, but, there are still horticulturists experimenting with static noncirculating hydroponics. One of the most vocal proponents of noncirculating hydroponics is Dr. Bernard Kratky of the University of Hawaii. He has done so much to continue the development of noncirculating hydroponics that his name has become synonymous with the technique . . . the Kratky method.

Red butterhead lettuce, Italian basil, and Thai basil grown in a hydroponic bottle garden.
Photo by Cyrus Moshrefi


The Kratky method has been successfully used to grow a wide range of crops, from leafy greens like lettuce to flowering crops like tomatoes and potatoes. Most hydroponic gardeners prefer to grow leafy greens and herbs with the Kratky method because the larger crops may struggle with inadequate oxygen levels in their root zone. The root zone oxygen demand for crops like lettuce is far less than it is for tomatoes.

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