Once the top lighting frame is complete we can make the cardboard reflector. Make sure the top frame fits onto the base/legs before tracing and cutting your reflector to avoid incorrect dimensions. I flipped the top frame over and set it on a large piece of cardboard. I traced an outline of the frame, including the mounting tee holes, and cut it with a box cutter. I then covered it with aluminum foil/tape and made sure it fit nicely on the top frame mounting tees. If you bought the four optional couplings (which I recommend in order to adjust the height of the lights during your plant's growth) you should also cut four ~7" pieces of PVC to use as extensions. I then attached my air pump to the frame to keep this unit compact. I used two zip ties and a small piece of cardboard to attach my pump.
The first thing you want to do with your brand new hydroponic system is SANITIZE EVERYTHING with some diluted bleach solution. I've had previous systems get completely covered with mold because I did not sanitize the growth medium and water reservoir first. I was impatient and went out and bought a basil plant, but you can start something by seed or cutting. I sprayed off as much dirt as I could with the hose and planted the basil. Before adding your plant to the water reservoir, you will need to prepare the water. First, you need to measure the pH of your water. As you can see, the water out of my tap is around 8.0. I usually shoot for the 5.0-6.0 pH range. I adjusted my 2 gallons of water with about 1 ml of GH pH down solution. For nutrients, I had leftover GH Flora Series nutrients. On the back of the bottles, there are charts to follow to mix your nutrients. I think I ended up using 10 ml of each nutrients for the "general growth" ratio but I have heard 1/2 the recommended amounts will provide the same effect (they just want you to buy more nutrients). IMPORTANT: Measure the pH once more to make sure your nutrients did not throw off the pH too much! I've read that basil needs around 10 hours of light a day so I set my lamp timer to that duration. I then attached the pump to the air stone with about 1-1/2' of tubing from the drip irrigation kit and that's pretty much it! I have pictures of both Basil Box setups - one with 16" legs and one 16" legs + 7" extensions. The final two pictures show the progression of growth after just one week. After a few weeks, I plan to add a short animation showing the growth over time.