The Beginners Guide to the Kratky Method of Hydroponics

Kratky method supplies

Growing vegetables, whether for yourself or a business, can be quite the endeavor. Hydroponics, or the growing of plants without soil, is becoming increasingly popular in our modern world. The Kratky Method is one of the simplest ways of doing this.

Here is our step-by-step beginner’s guide to the Kratky method of hydroponics:

Gardeners love the Kratky method of hydroponics because it involves no electricity or attention as the plant grows. Read on to learn how to set your plant up and let them grow, and in a few short weeks, you can have luscious plants ready to eat. 

Step by Step Guide to the Kratky Method of Hydroponics

By following these guidelines carefully, anyone can have a garden growing in just a short time with the Kratky method. Before beginning, collect the following supplies:

  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Net pots
  • Uncontaminated water
  • pH test and control kit
  • Hydroponic nutrients
  • Growing medium

Using these materials, you can have a DIY hydroponic setup in just a few hours.

1. Building Your Reservoir

While there are many different ways to make a suitable container for the Kratky method, using a five-gallon bucket is a great place to start. Each five-gallon bucket can hold a plant as it grows to maturity. But, you will need an additional bucket for each plant you want to grow. 

After procuring your bucket, cut a hole in the center of the lid to the size of your net pots. Most people choose a 3” pot and, therefore, cut a 3” hole. You can make the hole with a large drill bit or with a small drill bit and saw. 

2. Adding Water and Nutrients

Now that the bucket is ready, you need to add the water and nutrients, so the plant has something to drink from. The plants will need good, uncontaminated water. Often, town and city water has a high concentration of particulates that can have a detrimental effect. So, opt for filtered water or buy inexpensive distilled water from your local grocery store.  

Next, fill the bucket up with your clean water until it is three inches from the top. Follow the instructions on your hydroponic nutrients bottle to nourish the water. Make sure to stir each nutrient in well.

3. Checking the pH

The pH tells us how acidic or basic a substance is. On a scale from 0 to 14, 7 is considered neutral. For growing leafy greens, the desired pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. This slightly basic solution produces optimum performance for the root system. 

To check the pH, you will need a pH test kit. This will allow you to test the pH, but it will also give you precise chemicals to raise or lower the pH as needed. Most pH tests will be a small strip that you dip into the water. Then, it will change color to blue, green, yellow, or red. By comparing the test strip color to a provided chart, you can determine the pH and adjust accordingly.

4. Planting & Inserting the Plant

The Kratky method is a hands-off method once you get the system going. This means that it is simple, but also is not able to keep up with plants that have high nutrient demands. So, it is best to focus on growing leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, or arugula. 

Start your seed or a small plant in the growing medium in the net pot. One of the best choices of growing medium for hydroponics is clay pebbles. As a natural and pH-neutral element, it can provide a clean and healthy growing environment for your plant. 

Once your seed or plant has started growing in the medium, insert the net pot and plant into the lid of the bucket. The nutrient-dense water should cover the bottom third of the net pot. This will allow it to nourish the plant and keep the medium moist while it is still small. The water level will decrease as the plant grows, but the plant’s roots will follow the water at the same rate.

This hands-off method keeps air circulating among the roots as the water level drops, and it allows the plant to keep getting water and food as needed. 

5. Waiting as Your Plant Grows

Perhaps the most challenging part is waiting for the Kratky method to do its magic. Leave the plant somewhere warm (generally room temperature) with good sunlight, or a grow light. As there is no moving water in this method, it is vital to protect your plant from insects and changing temperatures. 

The most common pests found sneaking around these pots are mosquitoes, crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders. To keep these pests minimized, make sure there is no standing water or other damp spots around. This typically isn’t an issue indoors but keep an eye out. Also, it is crucial not to let any rain get into the bucket. This could drown the plant’s roots or adjust the carefully curated pH levels. If able, put a roof, such as a greenhouse, around your system. 

6. Harvesting Your Plants

Harvesting your plants is the exciting part! While you can choose precisely when to harvest, make sure the plant has water at all times. If the water runs out, you can add enough to touch the bottom three to four inches of roots. 

Most people choose to harvest before the first batch of water is completely gone, though. Smaller greens, like baby spinach and arugula, are very nutrient-dense and tender, too. 

7. Rinse & Repeat

There is stagnant water in the Kratky method, so the pots must be sanitized in between growing cycles. If you kept your pots in a greenhouse and there were no signs of pests or bacteria growing, you can do between three to five cycles before having to sanitize. Instead, a good rinse before repeating is all you would need.

If, however, you began to suspect any bacteria or had any issues with growth, it is critical to sanitize the bucket before restarting. To do this, dilute bleach according to the bottle directions and sanitize both the bucket, lid, and net pot. Let them dry completely before beginning again. 

Pros and Cons of the Kratky Method

The Kratky method is a simple way to get started growing plants with hydroponics, but every method comes with advantages and disadvantages. Here are some we have found:


  • Energy-efficient. No electricity is needed to keep water or air moving.
  • Hands-off. Whether you have a heavy work schedule or want to go on vacation, the plants will continue to grow even if you do not attend to them.
  • Super simple. The Kratky method is an excellent introduction to hydroponics. 


  • Attracts pests. The stagnant water is hard to resist for many unwanted critters.
  • Only useful on a small scale. Once you have too many buckets going, it can be cumbersome to regularly clean and sanitize them from the stagnant water.
  • Individualized variables to control. Checking and adjusting every single bucket’s pH and nutrients can be time-consuming. 

Now You Can Grow with the Kratky Method

In a few short hours, you can have a garden growing without any soil or upkeep. This is why the ingenious Kratky method has gained so much momentum over the years. This is an excellent project for someone hoping to supplement their grocery bill or start a CSA. 

Hopefully, this beginner’s guide has given you the boost you need to get started. Feel free to experiment with other containers to maximize your plant and leafy green output!


Hi, I’m Fred! Recently, I had the desire to learn more about growing my own food in order to be a little more self-reliant. Also, it eases my mind a bit to know exactly where it came from.

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