How to Make a Micro Self-Watering Wick System from Styrofoam Cups

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Styrofoam Wick System

Styrofoam Wick System inside bottom


This is a very small scale version of other self-watering wick systems similar to Earth Boxes. This tiny very I will describe uses the exact same principles as the EarthBox, and can be easily scaled up. It is very easy and inexpensive to make. You can use mostly (or entirely if you get creative) recycled materials. The system in my example here is ideal for plants ranging from spouts or seedlings up to small plants that will fit in a 20 ounce cup (for this example). The plant and supporting medium (potting mix, coco fiber, etc…) will sit at top of the cup inside a 3 inch net pot. A strip of wicking material will touch the supporting medium and affix to the bottom of the net pot. It will hang down and wick nutrient solution up from the bottom to the plant. The plant will draw water/nutrients as it needs. Once it is setup, the grower will need to fill the reservoir as needed.

Materials Needed

  • 2 x 20oz Styrofoam cups
  • 1 x 3 inch net pot
  • Potting mix (or similar) enough to fill the net pot and upper part of the Styrofoam cup
  • A 1/4″ – 1/2″ wide strip of wicking cloth a little less than the length of one of the cups. Strips of microfiber cloth worth really well. Just test a piece first by holding the end in some water and see if it wicks up to the top.
  • Knife
  • Nutrient solution – Mix to a strength appropriate for the plant. To start with, use something no stronger that what the plant was in previously.


  1. Cut the inside bottom out of one of the Styrofoam cups.
  2. Tie one end of the wick cloth to the bottom of the net pot, making sure some of the cloth is exposed to the inside of the net pot.
  3. Push the net pot down into the top of the cup that you cut the bottom out of.
  4. Determine the distance from the bottom of the net pot and bottom of the Styrofoam cup that it is in. Then add to it the offset between the bottom of the two cups when one is placed inside the other.
  5. Make a mark of the combined lengths on the outside cup (one that doesn’t have the bottom cut out) from the bottom. Then make a mark below that about 1/2″. This second line (lowest one) is your max fill line. This will allow an air gap between the bottom of the net pot and the top of the nutrient solution. If the nutrient solution is too high and touches the net pot, the plant will drown.
  6. Transplant your seedling or small plant into the top of the inside cup and make sure to water it in.
  7. Fill the bottom cup with nutrient solution up to the max fill line determined above.
  8. Place the cup that contains the plant and wick into the cup that has the nutrient solution, making sure the wick hangs down into the solution.
  9. Place the plant under a grow light.


Periodically lift the inside cup out and check the nutrient level, adding more as needed. As the plant grows it will consume at a faster rate, so you’ll need to check and fill more frequently. You could optionally place the inside cup or cups into a tray and fill up to the max fill line. You’ll just need to make a few small holes in the bottom of the plant cup up to the fill line so that nutrient solution that’s in the tray can enter. If you use this method you won’t need the bottom cup.


As soon in my video, you can use other materials to craft small self-watering wick systems.  One example is a large 32 ounce cup with holes make in the lower portion and wick attached. This is placed in a 20 ounce up, and it leaves plenty of room for nutrients. Another example is a plastic ocean spray bottle cut in half with holes drilled in the nozzle end and in the cap. Wick is tied through the cap and this is inverted into the lower part of the bottle. The point is you can be creative and use what you already have if you don’t have the exact materials mentioned above. All of these examples make excellent and effective wicking systems.


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How to Clone Peppers Using the AeroGarden – Easy and Reliable Method

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This method of cloning peppers (and most other plants) is very easy, cheap and effective. It requires no special rooting hormone.

Materials needed

  • Sharp snips or razor blade for cutting stem and leaves (disinfected)
  • Scissors for cutting the sponge material
  • Nutrient solution – If using the AeroGarden nutrients, use the strength you would for everything else. If mixing your own, use a little less than full strength. If unsure, do a trial run first, before committing all of your cuttings. Information on mixing your own nutrients can be found here.
  • Net cup/pot/basket – If using the AeroGarden just use a white basket like the ones that seed kit pods have. You can buy just the baskets from AeroGrow or Amazon.
  • Sponge material – For AeroGarden, this can be the peat based kind that come with seed pot kits, or something similar like the Park Seed Biodome sponges. This is what I use. Rock wool should work fine as well. For non-AeroGarden or Kratky just use something that will fit the net pot/cup/basket. You can use the AeroGarden baskets and sponges too if you want. Again, that’s what I use.
  • Container – For non-AeroGarden or Kratky use any food safe container that will hold water. The top needs to have a hole that can fit the plant basket. The AeroGarden baskets fit really well in containers that have 1.5 inch openings.
  • AeroGarden (although you can improvise applying the same principles). I use the following in my video:


Prepare sponge material and container

  1. Cut the sponge material lengthwise down the center (not all the way through) so that it can be opened up and folded around the stem.
  2. Make sure the AeroGarden or Kratky vessel contain nutrient solution. For the Kratky method the solution will need to touch the bottom of the sponge material by 1/4 to 1/2 inch. The solution will wick to the top via capillary action. For AeroGarden just fill to the max level you normally would use.

Prepare cutting

  1. This seems to work best with a relatively young, tender side shoot (sucker). The bottom will need to be just under a node at a 45 degree angle. Initially cut a little ways below that.
  2. Cut off the first few leaves from the bottom. Cut any larger leaves off or in half. Make sure there are no buds or blooms present. Cut at a 45 degree angle just below the bottom node.
  3. Spread the sponge material apart with one hand and lay the bottom part of the cutting inside. Close the sponge, folding around the stem.
  4. Place sponge in the basket/cup/pot and put in the growing system.


Within a few weeks start checking for roots. Just lift it out and look for any roots coming out of the sponge material. Once you see this you’ll know the cloning has been successful.

After the roots have grown some you can leave it in there, or transplant it to something else.

Video of my process:

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Using the Kratky method to start or germinate seeds and transplant seedlings and sprouts

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Materials needed

  • Sponge for holding seeds or sprouts. I like the Park Seed biodome sponges, but you can use aerogarden sponges, rapid rooter plugs, rock wool, etc…
  • Container for holding the sponge. This has to let water/air through, small net pots work great, as do AeroGarden baskets. The AeroGarden baskets will fit perfectly in bottles that have a 1 1/2″ mouth.
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution – I use MasterBlend mixed with MgSO4 and Ca(NO3)2. More information on that here. There are many options, check with your local grow store or search on Amazon for something like DynaGrow. Mix about half the strength you’d normally use, but test first. For my Masterblend mix I use
    • 1.6 grams/gal 4-18-38 MasterBlend
    • .8 grams/gal MgSO4 (Epsom Salt)
    • 1.6 grams/gal Ca(NO3)2
  • Container for holding the nutrient solution. This can be anything really as long as it securely holds the net basket. You might half to carefully cut the top down to make it fit. You can also put these into flat lids for containers like totes. Just make sure the hole is just the right size to prevent the net basket from falling through.
  • Seeds or a sprout

Process steps

  1. Fill the nutrient container to the point where it touches the bottom of the grow sponge up to 1/2″ from the bottom.
  2. Place the seeds or sprout in the grow sponge and place it into the net basket/cup.
    • With seeds, just place them in the top of the sponge. If there is no indentation in the top, make one about a 1/4″ deep by 1/4″ wide.
    • With sprouts, cut the sponge halfway lengthwise. Spread it apart and place the sprout stem inside.
  3. Place the net basket in the growing container.
  4. Place the grow container under a grow light or outdoors if the weather permits.

Video of this process:

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How to replace the nozzle/aerator stem on the AeroGarden Sprout

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Older models of the AeroGarden Sprout have an aeration nozzle with three small holes. These easily get blocked with time resulting in poor aeration. I reported this to AeroGrow and they gave me detailed instructions on how to remove the nozzle and clean it. But they also told me if I continued to have issues with it, they would send me a new nozzle that has one large hole, instead of the three smaller holes. So I cleaned the nozzle and it worked fine for a while, but the issue persisted. I contacted them again, and they sent me the new nozzle and repair tool free of charge.

What’s included

  • New version of the nozzle
  • Tool for removing the old nozzle. It looks like a piece of pvc with notches on one end.
  • Instructions

Steps to fix

  1. Use the supplied tool to twist the existing nozzle out by lining up the notches and turning counter-clockwise.
  2. Screw in the replacement nozzle and use the tool to tighten it back in, turning clockwise.


I’m very happy the customer service from AeroGrow. They’ve always been very responsive to issues and questions. They stand behind their product.

Video of the replacement process:

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How to grow lettuce using the Kratky method

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How to grow lettuce (and anything else) using the Kratky method of fill and forget non-circulating hydroponics.

Kratky grown lettuce

Materials needed:

  • Tote – The capacity needs to support a minimum of one gallon per plant. Also take into account you will lose some volume between the lid and net cups, unless have a tote with a raised lid. So, for a 10 gallon tote, six plants is good.
  • Lettuce seeds – You can get these anyway, lowes, walmart, etc… or amazon and ebay. They are very inexpensive, usually 1-3 thousand for two or three dollars.
  • Net cups – I like using the three inch net cups, but you can use whatever you have.
  • Hole saw – If using the three inch cups, a three inch hole saw (and arbor) cuts the perfect size. This is not necessarily true for the two inch cup and two inch hole saw, unless you get two inch cups with wide lids.
  • Grow sponges – This is to hold the seed until it germinates and sprouts. You can use peat based sponges like what AeroGrow and Park Seed sell, or rockwool. Rockwool needs to be pre-treated to lower the pH. I using the 6-0 refill size biodome sponges that Park Seed sells. These cost around 18.00 for 120.
  • Growing medium – This is to anchor the plant, you need something with good aeration. Clay pebbles (hydroton) or coco coir chunks work great.
  • Nutrients – Check with your hydroponics store, or search online. Most will work fine, like Maxibloom, Maxigrow, Dyna Grow, etc… I use a mix of MasterBlend, MgSO4 and Ca(NO3)2. More information on that here.
  • Grow light – T8 shop lights are fine. I personally like the Utilitech brand that Lowes sells, because the housing is so narrow that you can fit three side by side on an 18″ shelf. Try to get the daylight spectrum bulbs. CFL and LED lights work great too.


  1. Drill holes in the tote lid using hole saw. For three shallow 10 gallon tote I made six holes.
  2. Place sponge in the net cup and fill around it with grow medium, i.e. Clay pebbles, coco coir, etc…
  3. Place a small pinch of seeds (3-5) in the top of the sponge. It should have a small hole in the top for seeds
  4. Put the tote in place where it will stay and fill with nutrient solution. It should come up to a half inch to an inch from the bottom of the net cup. You can place an empty net cup in there to check the water level.
  5. With the lid secure, place the filled net cups in the lid.
  6. Turn on the grow lights and leave them on 24/7 until the sprouts come up and produce at least one set of true leaves
  7. Once the sprouts are strong enough to stand on their own, start thinning them down, eventually to just one per net pot. If there are several, this should not be done all at once.
  8. When the individual remaining sprouts have matured and have at least a couple sets of true leaves, put the light on timer and run 10-12 hours per day.

* The links to Amazon are affiliate links.

Here’s a video of the process:

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How to make an alternative AeroGarden type system for starting pepper seeds

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I made a very inexpensive system that functions similarly to some AeroGarden models, out of a 5 gallon bucket. It uses 16 of the standard AeroGrow white baskets and sponges. You can save money by using the biodome sponges from Park Seed.

Parts needed:

  • 5 gallon bucket with lid – Get at Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, etc…
  • Air pump, stone and tubing – this is to oxygenate the nutrient solution. A cheap one from Walmart or Amazon will work fine.
  • 1.5 inch hole saw – 1.25 inch works too. It’ll be a little tighter and sit higher up.
  • AeroGarden grow baskets
  • AeroGarden sponges – Or save some money and get the biodome sponges from Park Seed.
  • Nutrient solution – You can use the stuff AeroGrow sells which works fine. In the long run, something like MasterBlend is cheaper. Here’s more information on buying and mixing that.

For germinating, seeds can be placed directly in the sponges and baskets, and set in the lid with nutrient solution touching the lower third/half of the sponges. In my testing, sprouts come up within two weeks. It would probably speed up the process to heat the water some, but I haven’t tried that.

* Links to Amazon are affiliate links.

I made a video showing how I put this together:

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Easy solution for changing hydroponic nutrients in standalone DWC system

I’ve worked out an easy way to refresh nutrients in stand alone DWC systems. It involves using a container within a container. The internal container has holes drilled in it and houses the plant and aeration stone and tubing. When changing nutrients simply add fresh solution to a new clean container. Then lift the internal container out and transfer it to the new container. The benefits of this are:

  1. Ease of changing nutrients reduces barrier to proper maintenance.
  2. When changing nutrients, roots are not disturbed.

I’ve been changing nutrients for my year+ old Jamaican Hot Chocolate every two weeks, but the rate of consumption has increased and more solution needs to be added in between weeks.

Here’s a video I made showing the process:

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How to start your own lettuce seeds in the AeroGarden

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If you don’t have a seed pod kit, the process for seeding your own AeroGarden pods is very simple. You can reuse an old pod basket/cage, and replace the sponge. If you have to buy sponges, it’s cheaper to use the BioDome type that Park Seed sells, specifically the 60 cell refill size. If you buy the AeroGrow brand, it costs about the same as the Park Seed, but you get less than half as much.

Replace the sponge, and place a small pinch of seeds in the hole at the top. You can use the nutrients that AeroGrow sells, but I make my own with a combination of 4-18-38 MasterBlend, Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt), and Calcium Nitrate. I describe these nutrients in more detail here.

The strengths (and order of mixing) that I’m using for lettuce growing are:
1.6 grams/gallon 4-18-38 MasterBlend
.8 grams/gallon Magnesium Sulfate
1.6 grams/gallon Calcium Nitrate

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Pom Bomb – Blueberry Pomegranate Pepper Jelly

Jar of pepper jelly

This jelly turned out great. I’m sharing the recipe as it can be followed as is, or adapted using different fruits and peppers.

11 oz mixed peppers (Cereja da Amapa, CGN-20800, CGN-20800 cross and one Jay’s Red Ghost Scorpion)
4 1/2 cups of cane sugar
1 package of Sur-Jel powdered pectin
1/2 cup lime juice
Fruit from two pomegranates
1/2 cup blueberries


  1. Puree the peppers, fruit and lime juice.
  2. Add mixture to a large sauce pan and stir in powdered pectin.
  3. Bring mixture to a rolling boil (can’t stir down).
  4. Stir in cane sugar and bring back to rolling boil
  5. Boil for one minute
  6. Remove from heat and ladle mixture into sterilized jars.
  7. Hot water bath jars for approximately 20 minutes.
  8. This yielded 11 4oz jars.

    This is the equivalent blender that I used.

    Video of the process:

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How to make hot pepper popcorn with the Westbend Stir Crazy

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Westbend Stir Crazy popcorn popping machine

Hot pepper popcorn making should never be done in an enclosed area with no outside ventilation. It’s best to do outdoors, or in an open area that has ventilation to the outside. This is because the vapor that comes out during popping has capsaicin which can be harmful to breath, or at the least very distressing.

This could really be adapted for stove top cooking, but you would have less options regarding ventilation. Whereas a Stir Crazy can be moved to whereever you need it. If you have a strong vented-to-the-outside hood above the oven, that would probably work fine. It would still be a good idea to not cook near anyone who might be sensitive to the vapor.

For a full batch of popcorn use:

  • 1 cup of kernels (3/4 cup if using larger kernels)
  • 3 tbsp of high oil like canola, vegetable, etc…
  • pepper slices. Adjust the type and number of peppers to suit your tastes

The Stir Crazy can be purchased at Amazon. I bought ours at a local Goodwill for about 1/2 the price. It was a salvage item, unused, but a small piece of plastic had broken off. Doesn’t affect usability though. We’ve made several batches with ours and it works great, easy to clean up too.

We used two yellow superhots and that made a very hot batch.

Pepper slices in oil

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