Everything you need to know about The Dutch Bucket Method

Bato Bucket System

The Dutch Bucket method is a very versatile and popular hydroponic system, used by hobbyists and professionals alike. However, a lot of farmers produce inferior crops because they don’t completely understand this hydroponic method.

Here are answers to your frequently asked questions about the Dutch Bucket system.



What is a Dutch Bucket Method?

Dutch bucket grouping
Dutch bucket grouping, Source


The Dutch bucket method is a hydroponics method that allows you to grow your crops in buckets. It takes a different approach to all other systems of hydroponics in that it breaks the medium bed down into smaller buckets. 

The Dutch system allows you to space your crops as much as you want without wasting medium; and also allows you to grow larger crops which may not be possible in other mediums. These and other reasons have made the Dutch bucket system one of the most popular systems for growing a variety of vegetables.


What are the Main Parts of a Dutch Bucket Method?


You can begin the Dutch bucket method of hydroponics with only one bucket, and get more as the need arises. Each bucket is for one crop only. You should use well-sized buckets that are suitable for whatever crop that you have an interest in growing.

A reservoir

This can be a small tank or a bigger version of the buckets you are using for growing the crops themselves. The tank serves to hold nutrients and water, which will be distributed to each bucket.

A pump

The pump is connected from the reservoir tank to the buckets. The pump distributes the nutrients to each bucket when needed.

A drain pipe

This is attached to each bucket. A drain pipe removes extra nutrients that are in the buckets.



How does a Dutch Bucket Method work?


First, the buckets need to contain some type of growth medium. The media is to keep moisture and support the plants so that they can stand upright. An example of a growth media is vermiculite.

The reservoir pumps water and nutrients to each bucket. There should be drip emitters connected to the pipe and above every bucket. 

Once the reservoir is switched on, it begins to pump nutrients and water to each bucket. Once the water gets to a certain level, the drain pipe drains the excess water and nutrients from the buckets. 

You can choose to drain back to the reservoir or to drain completely away. Draining back to the reservoir allows you to save more nutrients but it creates room for nutrient unbalancing. Since plants use the nutrients, constantly draining back to the reservoir means that at a point the concentration of nutrients decreases and adversely affects the plants.

On the other hand, draining away from the reservoir means that more nutrients are going to be wasted. This is called flow to waste. Draining away from the reservoir also means that nutrient unbalancing will not happen. However, you can combine the two.



What are the Pros and Cons of the Dutch Bucket Method?



Saves Space: The Dutch bucket system allows you to space your plants as much as you want without the risk of wasting growth media.


Flexible Setup: Since one can have as much space between the buckets as needed and have bigger buckets, it is possible to grow larger crops in the system. Even vining plants like tomatoes can be 


Easy to Control: it is far easier for the farmer to control the growth of the crops and maintain the system. If there is a pest or disease case amongst the crops, it is easy to select the infected one and remove it from the pool of other crops.


Perfect for Beginners: the Dutch bucket system is very easy to set up and so a beginner hydroponic farmer can easily pick up the processes. One can also begin with a small number of buckets and scale up as need be.


Time and Care Intensive: You have to spend time on the system, giving it as much care as possible to get the best results out of it. You have to pay attention to the nutrients in the reservoir to prevent nutrient unbalancing.


Faster Spread of Diseases: even though you can easily remove a plant if it gets infected, you would have to spot it on time to avoid widespread. Since the buckets are all in rows and share pumps, the spread of diseases in this system is faster and has to be curbed on time.


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What are the best crops to grow in a Dutch Bucket System?

dutch bucket strawberries
Dutch bucket with strawberries, Source

One of the reasons that the Dutch bucket system is so popular is because a wide variety of plants can be comfortably grown in this hydroponics system. Some plants are more suited.


Larger crops or vining crops like tomatoes seem more suited to the system because of the space that it affords them. The Dutch system is perfect for crops that require a large number of nutrients or plants that require space.


If the plants need a larger amount of nutrients, you can set the hydroponic system as such that the drip emitters are larger or two to a bucket. Also, if the plant is a vining plant like tomatoes, you should provide extra support to hold the plants upright.


Apart from tomatoes, other crops that have had great production in the Dutch bucket hydroponic system include strawberries, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, and pole beans.


Are there any systems that are sometimes confused with the Dutch bucket system?


Ebb and Flow System

Ebb and Flow hydroponics systems are very similar to the Dutch bucket system. They both have a reservoir, pump, and even buckets. However, they are different in a couple of ways. 

First, the buckets in the ebb and flow system are all perforated and are submerged in a shallow container that contains the growth media. It is in this container that the pump from the reservoir pumps the nutrients needed. 

Also, the reservoir is always placed below the container in the ebb and flow system, while this is not the case in the Dutch bucket system.


Drip system

Technically, the Dutch bucket hydroponics system is a type of drip system. There are 2 Dutch bucket drip system types. 

  1. Recirculating Dutch bucket Drip System (the one your reading about here) – The reservoir tank in the drip system is always placed lower than the buckets in a recirculating system. Each bucket drains the overflow of nutrient solution into a common pipe that recirculates the solution back to a reservoir tank. The reservoir pump sends the solution back up through the drip system to each bucket. 
  2. Run to Waste Drip System – The buckets in this system do not need to be arranged in rows like buckets in a traditional Dutch bucket system since they do not share a common nutrient recirculation pipe. The reservoir pump sends the solution up through the drip system to each bucket. The overflow of each bucket or bag ( in a run to waste bag system)  runs off to waste.



Can I transplant my Soil Plant into the Dutch Bucket System?


It is possible to transplant your soil plant to your Dutch bucket hydroponics system. You have to get the plant at the right time and take extreme care not to damage the seeding.

To successfully transplant your soil plant:

  • Fill two buckets with water, make sure that the water is at room temperature
  • Remove your seedling carefully so as not to damage the root ball. To do this, remove the plant seedling from the soil container by holding the plant and tipping the container over. 


Tap the container lightly on the bottom until the seedling is left in your hands. It is not advised that you drag a seedling out since that can damage it.

  • Dip gently into the first bucket and move it around slowly in water. Most of the soil would leave the roots of the plant by now. Then, rinse the root with water from the second bowl. Make sure not to wash the stem.
  • Then place in your Dutch bucket already containing growth media. Spread the roots to get support from the medium.

I hope that all your questions about this hydroponic system have been answered. You should now be ready to effectively grow homemade plants using the Dutch Bucket System.


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Hi there! I'm Penny a Marketing Guru turned Hydroponic Researcher and Farmer. For some time, I have been successfully growing & enjoying nutritious greens by applying hydroponic vertical farming technique. Now I want to share all the knowledge and skills I acquired through my many hours of research, experiments and mistakes so that maybe you don't have to.