DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS

4 Lazy Kratky System Designs. Make one and the plants will come!

Kratky System

Kratky systems designs are known for their easy, almost do-nothing approach to hydroponics.  They are the kinds of systems that the otherwise generally industrious members of the hydroponics community like to brag about using completely lazily.  If you know the type to geek out and give lectures about the intricacies of a hydroponics system, but have that one project over in the corner that they never talk about – well, our money is it’s a Kratky System.

 

However, you only earn the right to be lazy and let it go once you’ve got your build made and your plants put in.  Kratky system hydroponics is all about getting everything right from the very beginning.  If you really do plan to just build and leave something, you really need to be sure you’re doing it right or you’ll come back to some dead plants.  That being said, let’s look at some great Kratky method builds that can have you doing nothing in no time!

 

 

The Kratky Mason Jar 

 

Overview

The name is by no means glamorous, but it is very fitting. In this system, there are three primary components – a net pot, a mason jar, and some expanded clay pellets (Hydroton) to put in the net pot.  The system is small, simple, and easy to use.  They can line your kitchen sink or decorate your porch and patio.  Like all Kratky systems, they are totally forgettable and will grow easily.

Kratky-Mason-Jar-Design
Kratky-Mason-Jar-Design, Source

 

Budget

no more than $15

Build Time

minutes

System Size

1 plant

Area

small, mason jar size

Pros

Incredibly easy to build.  Can be placed anywhere.  Inexpensive.  Low maintenance.

Cons

Limited crop selection.  1 plant per system.

 

 

Learn more 

Kratky Designs

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Milk or Wine Bottle Kratky System 

 

Overview

Empty wine bottles around the house starting to look like a problem?  Never fear!  You can upcycle them directly into a Kratky system hydroponics kit.  This type of system work for longer “stemy” plants that don’t need a net pot to sit in.  All you need is some way to hold the stem into place, such as a wire, and the nutrient mix. 

 

What’s really great is that with this you can take some of your favorite wine bottles – we all know you’ve bought at least one just for the art on the front of it – and turn it into a classy piece of living art that sits well on your kitchen windowsill and can be placed on the table as a good-looking centerpiece when the time arises.

Bottle Kratky Hydroponics
Bottle Kratky Hydroponics, Source

 

Budget

Your favorite wine cost + nutrients, a wire clip, and a plant.

Build Time

minutes

System Size

1 plant (possibly 2!) per bottle

Area 

standard 750 mL wine bottle size

Pros

Conversation piece.  Aesthetics.  Upcycling of wine bottles.  Low maintenance.

Cons

Highly limited crop selection.  Few plants per bottle.

 

 

Learn more 

Kratky Designs

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Build this system

 

 

 

The Kratky Bucket

 

Overview

Once again, the name says a lot. All you need is a lidded bucket (you’ve been to Home Depot, haven’t you?) and a sheet of styrofoam, about one inch thick.  Just take your small growth seedlings and fit them into a slit or two in a styrofoam circle, fill your bucket with nutrient water, pop the styrofoam in the bucket, and let it go!  It can be a bit more complex than that, of course, and not all plants will thrive with such little work but when it does work right it is the easiest thing possible.

 

One thing to be careful of is that the lack of sophistication in this design can lead to contributing to the local mosquito problem due to the easy access they’ll have to the water around the edges of your styrofoam board.

Buckets Prepped for Bubbleponics
Kratky System Buckets, Source

 

Budget

no more than $20

Build Time

hours

System Size

1-3 plants

Area

1 foot long X 1 foot wide X 2+ feet tall

Pros

Incredibly easy to build.  Great results.  Inexpensive.  Low maintenance.

Cons

Small size.  Limited crop selection.  Possible nesting site for mosquitos.

 

 

Learn more 

Kratky Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

The Kratky Totes Container

Overview

This time we are looking at using a standard plastic reservoir as our foundational unit.  Unlike the previously mentioned methods, you’re free to have many more plants.  Your reservoir size is the limit!  Since setup is all dependent on preparing the reservoir (cutting out holes for net pots) and getting your nutrient mixes prepared correctly, we can’t say that this method is ‘scalable’ but once you get the practical side of making this system work down pat you’ll be able to make many more Kratky method reservoirs very quickly.

Kratky Reservoir design
Kratky Reservoir design

 

Budget

Approx. $20 per reservoir

Build Time

afternoon/weekend

System Size

6-12 plants per reservoir

Area

Approx. 2 foot long X 1 foot wide X 1 foot tall (varies by the chosen reservoir)

Pros

Many plants in one system.  Low maintenance.

Cons

Cutting required.  Limited crop selection.

 

 

Learn more 

Kratky Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

There are many styles of Kratky systems to build and they are all quite simple.  They can be good for both beginners and experts alike.  A lot of the appeal comes down to the supposed set it and leave it style that these systems are able to let you have.  Don’t be afraid, however, to experiment and tweak your plants’ growth along the process.  You don’t have to be a ‘no touching’ purist to use any of these systems and get great, efficient results.

 

Any of the Kratky systems described above can be homemade quite readily with just a few tools.  Check our guides, get the know-how, and play around and you will have the capability required to make something well with a Kratky system.  What’s more is that you can make a truly unique gift out of a bottle of wine, a plant, and a nutrient pack! 

 

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Johnny

Johnny

John Alexander is a writer, English language educator, and plant enthusiast. After graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, he began working in labs filled with plants - identifying their seeds, counting their pollen, extracting their DNA, and (of course!) watering them as needed. Nowadays, he is focused more on words and language, whether that be teaching or writing.