This is Why Hydroponic Tomatoes Split

One of the best crops any hydroponic grower can grow is fresh tomatoes. These can make a huge dent in any grocery bill, and they are in most cases larger and tastier than store bought varieties. Not only this, but they can be grown throughout the year instead of just being enjoyed throughout the summer months.

One of the most frustrating things for any hydroponic tomatoes grower is to see their fruits ripening nicely, and the next thing they see is they have split.

Here, we will look at the reasons why hydroponic tomatoes split. Gardeners shouldn’t be frustrated and think this is a problem with hydroponics because the exact thing can happen with solid grown varieties as well.

Before looking at why they split, here is a quick summary of what affects their overall growth, and possible factors that lead to split tomatoes skins.

  • Nutrients: Tomatoes require specific nutrients in comparison to other crops. They can be heavy feeders, so they require nutrients they can easily absorb, and have an equal balance, which are nitrogen rich.
  • Temperatures: Tomatoes need a temperature of between 55-85 degrees Fahrenheit; they can however handle higher temperatures up to no higher than around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Light: This can be one of the most vital things for good tomato growth. They will need around five or six hours of good strong light, be it sun or artificial lighting.
  • Environmental conditions: Tomatoes suffer if they are in windy conditions, vast temperature swings or there are cases of insects or other plant disease. Many of these can be negated in indoor gardening, yet the possibilities are still present.
  • Pollination: For growth, fruiting tomatoes do need pollination. If a grower won’t be manually pollinating, they do need to use wind or the presence of insects to do this.

Types of Tomato Splits

Growers can be faced with two different types of splits or cracks on their tomatoes. These you can see here:

  • Radial cracking. This type of split will run down the length of the tomato from its stem to the bottom blossoming end of the fruit.
  • Concentric cracking.  Circular cracking at the top of the tomato and make their way around the stem. These splits don’t appear too appetizing yet they are not as serious as the previous splits.

Growers will find that if their first few tomatoes show splits, and then there is a high likelihood that all their fruits will start splitting in the same manner.

Why do tomatoes split?

Tomatoes most often split when they begin to ripen; however, the main reason is they have a huge intake of water. Once they do this, the skins are not elastic enough to allow for these excess fluids and will resist as much as they can before giving way and finally splitting or cracking.

Another reason they can split is a sudden temperature change, the way this causes fruits to split is the increase of gasses inside the fruits. This then has the same issue as too many absorbed fluids, there is no skin elasticity and splits or cracks form.

One final area where tomatoes are prone to splits is a sudden drop in the EC levels of nutrients. This is more common with outdoor gardens, and occurs if it rains heavily for prolonged periods just as the fruits are ripening. This sounds similar to the plants taking on more water, yet it is because the nutrient levels are lower.

You may be thinking how you can stop tomatoes absorbing too much water in a hydroponic system. The actual system itself will affect how tomatoes grow because these kinds of plants are not suitable for every kind of system.

Here we will take a look at all you need to know about everything which relates to growing healthy tomatoes without high chances of splitting or cracking.

First, we will look at the best kinds of tomatoes to grow in hydroponics as this also has a bearing on splits and cracks.

Best Hydroponic Tomato Varieties

One of the errors that new growers can make is by not understanding the best types of tomatoes to grow. While there are countless varieties, all of these fall under two kinds.

  • Determinate: These are bush kinds of tomatoes which rather than growing upward, they spread across the ground. This kind is better for hydroponic growers because they will grow to certain heights, which can be around two to four feet. Once these flower and bear fruits, the growth of the plant will be reduced
  • Indeterminate: This kind are what we usually see and are vining plants that like to grow upward. These don’t have any upward limit for their growth, and with the right pruning, there is no limit to the length they can grow, or how much fruit they can bear.

Lighting for Hydroponic Tomatoes

Because tomatoes are often grown outside, they will stop bearing fruits, as the winters get ever closer. Fruit size on tomatoes plants is a direct reflection on the amount of light they receive. This in turn decides the degree of photosynthesis that can occur for each plant, and thus affect size and quality of fruits.

For good growth, tomatoes like between eight and ten hours per day of light. Nevertheless, some varieties produce high yields when they have up to eighteen hours per day of good light.

Once your plants mature, they need eight hours of darkness so they can fully respire, and following this, you can give plants sixteen hours per day for maximum fruit production.

When it comes to lighting choices, Metal Halides are proven to deliver the best growth because of the powerful light output. Fluorescent tubes and LED’s can be used, yet the grow isn’t as much.

Best Temperatures for Hydroponic Tomatoes

Tomatoes are warm weather crops, so they like temperatures between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the day. They are quite hard and can stand a temperature that falls no lower than 55, or reaches up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperatures that fall or rise outside this range can kill tomatoes, so as a grower, you will need to maintain consistent temperatures in this range. One way to be sure you keep these temperatures is by using a grow tent. These enclosed spaces make it easier to warm, easier to control and more cost effective to do so.

Nutrients, EC and pH Levels for Hydroponic Systems

Tomatoes are fussy for their requirements, and it is this reason why they are often skipped for new growers. To obtain the best, they do need a few different elements that are in the correct ratios.

Growers can use 3-pack nutrient mixes, yet if they wish to maximize the yields, there are also some specific mixes solely for use with tomatoes, or 2-part mixes which are more geared to these plants.

Tomatoes require high levels of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous, and for the pH they like the range of 5.8 to 6.3 which is a little higher than for other plants. Nutrients will need to be mixed correctly because the EC levels for optimum growth need to be between 2.0 and 3.5 milliMhos.

Tomatoes will show you quickly if they are deficient in anything. By any of the following:

  • Yellowing leaves signal low nutrients or high pH
  • Curling leaves or red stems are a low pH
  • Leaves which curl down are signs of high nutrient levels
  • Flowers which begin falling early show a potassium deficiency

Growing Media and Hydroponic Systems

This one area can lead to too much water in your plants. Not only this, but the growing medium will need to deliver support for these plants as they will be heavy once they begin bearing fruits.

  • Hydroton clay pellets – used in DWC, NFT and drip systems
  • Coco coir – use in passive systems
  • Rockwool – ideal for ebb and flow, and drip systems
  • Vermiculite and Perlite – Used in drip systems. NFT or can be mixed with any other medium

All systems can be suitable for tomatoes, yet as they feed heavy, and the growers need to be sure they can control the amount of water at harvest time, the best two systems can be the drip system and the flood and drain system.

Both of these are ideal as a grower can have more control over the amount of water tomatoes can receive.

Conclusion

It can be almost impossible to prevent tomatoes splitting; yet being on top of everything can reduce the effects. Once they start, it can mean they are prone to rotting and parasites can get inside.

If they split, the good news is they are still edible, although they may not look as appealing. Growers can look forward to healthy fruits, and as soon as they see a sign of any split, it could be a sign to begin harvesting early as this can be one way to be sure they won’t grow any bigger and suffer from this issue.

Can You Use Tap Water for Hydroponics?

Many individuals understand that hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. Rather, the root systems are either supported in a growing medium, or suspended with the tips of their roots dangling in the nutrient rich water.

One of the most common mistakes new growers make before they fully research hydroponics is the use of tap water. Therefore, this begs the question of whether or not; you can use the water from a faucet in a hydroponic system?

The answer to this question is yes, water from the faucet can be used, but not as it is. Growers need to carry out additional steps to protect your plants from the chemicals and minerals, which are present, and will negatively affect the health of plants.

Here we will look at the reasons why water from a faucet isn’t ideal, what can be done for its preparation so it can be used, and what are the other water options open to growers.

What is in Tap Water?

In most areas, it can be safe to drink water from the faucet; surely, this means it is good enough for plants? However, this may not be the case. In soil gardens, it may be because they are taking the nutrients they need from the soil. In a hydroponic system, the nutrients will be provided in the solution from the grower.

It is because of this that growers need to understand what is in regular faucet water, and why it makes such a difference.

Tap water is treated to remove bacteria and all the impurities. This makes it safe for our use, yet it is these treatments, which render it no use to a hydroponic plant.

Here is the process they generally use to clean and purify water before it is available for home use.

  1. Chlorine and or Chloramines are added to kill off harmful waterborne bacteria
  2. Aluminum sulfate is added which makes impurities coagulate (stick together)
  3. Impurities settle where the clear water is then removed and filtered by various means
  4. The water has its pH levels adjusted that are safe for human use

Chloramines and Chlorine

Chlorine is the most common addition to water to kill off waterborne bacteria. However, this is also one of the micronutrients that is needed by plants, yet in minute quantities. As a result, this would mean a grower would not have to add any; the problem is, in concentrated nutrient mixes, these chloramines and chlorine are already present.

This addition means plants will absorb too much. Results of this mistake can be stunted growth, and the beneficial bacteria on roots will be killed off.

Hard Water and Soft Water

These two terms are often heard and can have a major impact on hydroponics. Hard water is where you can see the accumulation of hard crystalline substances on the ends of faucets and showerheads. It is also the hard water, which leads to the breakdown of dishwashers and washing machines.

When you live in a hard water area, this contains more minerals, and it is these which bind together to form these deposits. When you look at how it affects hydroponic plants, there will be a much higher level of minerals in the water, some of which they only need small amounts.

Two primary culprits are magnesium and calcium. While these are necessary for plants to thrive, they are only required in small amounts. With the increase of these two minerals, the PPM (Parts per Million) can increase dramatically. For the majority of water from the faucet, the PPM will be 150 part per million as a minimum of salts that are unwanted.

This causes problems with nutrient absorption in plants. Most of the nutrient mixes you can purchase are all designed to be mixed in pH neutral water. When the faucet water has an increased pH, this can cause nutrient lockout. Issues you can see are wilting plants or worse.

If growers attempt to adjust the pH levels for hard and soft water, they can complicate matters for themselves. The pH adjusters will contain potassium and phosphorous which are common nutrients in the mixtures.

To deal with hard water problems, there is usually only one course of action. That is the use of a Reverse Osmosis system or other filtration system to remove impurities and bring water back to a neutral pH level.

Hydroponics and the Use of Chelates

When companies make the nutrient solutions, they need something to make sure these are suspended in the solution. This is the purpose of chelates. If it weren’t for these, there would be some of the system elements that begin to latch onto each other. Once this happens, they become useless to the plants.

Chelates are formed in several ways and can be chemicals such as ETDA or an organic compound like humic acid. One of the key problems here is that as Chlorine is a micronutrient and will be affected by the chelates. Once it meets them, there is more likely an uptake of this from your tap water into your plants.

Preparing Water for Hydroponics Use

There are a few ways you can prepare water from the faucet for use in a hydroponic system. This does depend on what you are looking to clear from the water, and each element could take another step of preparation.

Removing chlorine from water can be quite simple yet it is a lengthy time consuming process. The first step for any of the processes is to find out what your local municipal water supplier does to their water in way of adding chlorine or chloramines.

Here are the ways to begin preparing water from the faucet for use in your hydroponic system.

Removing Chlorine

Although this takes time, it can be one of the easiest things to remove from tap water. All you need to do is let your water sit in strong direct sunlight for a period of 24-hours. Here the UV rays break this down and the chlorine can escape from the water. This off gassing is easy yet if you have large amounts of water to deal with, then it could be difficult to accomplish.

Removing Chloramine

This compound doesn’t break down in the same fashion. However, it can be easy to treat water if it has been treated with chloramine. You can buy Campden Tablets, which you add, one tablet per every 20 gallons of water. The good things with these ae they can also remove both chloramines and chlorine. Other ways are to run your water through an activated carbon filter. These are similar to water filters you purchase to cleanse drinking water.

Hard Water and PPM

This treatment can be one of the hardest as it takes repeated testing. The aim is to remove the calcium and magnesium. A basic water filter can suffice for small systems, yet you will need to change these quite often. The nest way if by using reverse osmosis filters. These can be fitted to home plumbing systems, so you can gain benefits in other areas.

If you buy one that is specific for hydroponics use, these come with carbon and sediment filters in place. While these can be costly, they work out cheaper than losing crops because of using tap water in your system. Another downside is they can produce wastewater while they are producing the clean water.

Additional Water Solutions

Here are a few other ways you can get safe water for use in your hydroponic system.

Harvesting Rainwater

This can be one of the most cost effective ways of collecting water for your indoor garden, but a water collection system will needs some construction to be sure it leaves you with the cleanest possible water. Building a system can be as easy as placing large drums at the bottom of downspouts. Nevertheless, you will still need to make sure excess water can escape down the drains as you can cause flooding around the home if you bypass your drain system.

One thing to note is there are some local laws, which dictate how you can go about collecting rainwater. Before commencing for any rainwater collection system, check local and federal regulations.

Distilled water

This can be purchased almost anywhere, and is seen as a great option for its ability to provide a sterile environment for hydroponics. None of the previously mentioned contaminants is found in distilled water, yet you may need to be wary of the lack of calcium and magnesium, as all traces of this will be removed. If your nutrients don’t contain enough of these two minerals, you can purchase a dedicated calcium and magnesium solution to help adjust these levels. Care should be taken as you can be just be creating hard water again.

Deionized Water

This is created by taking regular water and exposing it to electrically charged and processed to remove all of the excess salts from the water. It is very pure and after treatment leaves you with a solution which is very similar to distilled water.  

Conclusion

New growers need to understand that water from the faucet is very different from other forms. In some areas, it may be suitable for use, yet a few miles down the road can be a very different story. Water is the lifeblood of any hydroponic system, and if this isn’t right to begin with, then there will be no going forward to have a successful garden.

How to Transfer Plants from Hydroponics to Soil

Many growers who have hydroponic gardens are happy with the plants and crops they grow, and that is sufficient for their needs. There are however others who use hydroponics as a means of growing plants and then transferring them to soil.

This can be for several reasons, yet no matter what the reason for doing so, there are some steps and things growers need to do to ensure their plants make the transition without receiving a shock to their system and suffering as a result.

The same can be done in reverse where plants are moved from soil to a hydroponic system, however, for a method it can be easier to accomplish, as there is no soil to contend with on your plants.

Why Would I Transplant into Soil?

One of the primary reasons for doing this is to use hydroponics as a means of having a healthy start to an outdoor garden. When outdoor growing seasons begin, there is the choice of growing from seeds, or from seedlings.

Seeds take time and there can be some failure rates encountered, commercially bought seedlings can be expensive and on certain occasions, they can be hard to find.

Any grower, who has an outdoor garden, can take advantage of growing their own seedlings in a fraction of the time so they can make the most of their outdoor garden and the growing season with fewer failures.

These indoor systems can also help alleviate any issues that crop up with the unexpected forces of nature, which can interrupt what should be a successful start to a growing season. Not only that, but using hydroponics to start off your seedlings means you are ready to go as soon as you harvest outside after some slight soil preparation.

It doesn’t matter if you are transplanting out of choice, or because it is essential you do so, there are some things to be wary of. From what can easily be a daunting task can become straightforward for any different hydroponic scenario that you face.

Transplanting Hydroponic Clones and Cuttings

While seeds are an option for gardeners, there is more of a swing toward using cuttings and seedlings, hence the increase in the need for transplanting from a hydroponic system back into soil.

The two most common areas of hydroponics that take place before these transplants are the domed incubation grow trays where small rockwool starter plugs are used, or the more complicated mist propagation systems.

The great news for gardeners is that both of these systems are perfect for outdoor gardeners to use, and are compatible with their soil systems once the seedlings or cuttings have begun to show a good healthy rooting structure.

One primary reason this is a good option apart from getting a kick-start, and missing the chances of bad weather is that growers can over time find an ideal mix of environmental factors, genetics and mix of nutrients. For this reason, many experienced growers preserve the donor plants. Here they can carry on the genetics of the plants and thus they are ensured a level of consistency for good harvests.

One other factor that growers have no need to grow from seeds which could deliver either male or female plants. This is another level of consistency as they will be aware of what they have when they begin growing their seedlings or cuttings.

Steps for Transplanting into Soil

Here are the easy to follow steps for transplanting into soil from your hydroponic system.

  • Take a suitably sized pot, the larger the plant, the bigger the pot you will require. These should be roughly four to six inches wide. Plants being transplanted into soil will need more space for their roots. Give them around four to six inches of space to allow them to grow.
  • Fill it with a growing medium that adds some buffer for your plants until they are ready to be fully transplanted into gardens. Many growers opt for soilless peat mixtures, which have a better pH than planting directly into soil.
  • Make a hole in the center of the pot, which is larger than the plants rooting system, and the starter plug if used. If you have plants, which are growing together, you will need to separate the roots carefully as this can cause plant shock easily.
  • Sprinkle the hole with mycorrhiza. This beneficial fungus helps as a growth enhancer. This helps plants absorb nutrients from soil as it helps to increase the area of absorption.
  • Place the plant in the hole and then cover with additional dirt
  • Once you have planted, you do need to water immediately. Hydroponic plants are accustomed to being watered regularly to help minimize plant shock levels they will experience. You can use a quarter strength nutrient solution in the beginning until they start finding their own nutrients from the earth.
  • After about a week, you can cut back on watering until you only have to water as the top inch of soil is dry.

One you have done this your plants will need to be in areas with plenty of light, yet they may not be directly accustomed to the outside temperatures. There will be a period of hardening off they need to go through for a week before they can last in outdoor temperatures.

Soil Transplanting Tips

If your plant is large, it can help to trim back some of the foliage. This pruning will help the plants, as they don’t need to search for nutrients for more leaves and can start to grow steadily.

Most gardeners who use rockwool cubes or plugs intend to transplant into soil. A gardener that uses the larger cubes around the six-inch size won’t be looking to move plants into an outdoor garden or soil filled pots.

Net pots will be entwined with a plants rooting system if plants are more than a few weeks old. If these do need to be planted in soil, it can be a case of planting the entire net pot as well as the plant. Trying to remove the intricate rooting system can kill the plant.

Plant Shock When Moving into Soil

If you have done everything right, your plants will take hold and begin growing as they should. However, if they are suffering from shock, there are some signs you will notice. This can happen quickly, or it can happen over the first couple of weeks after moving into soil.

Leaves can turn yellow to brown and may wither up and darken. These can fall from the plant with a light touch. At this stage, leaves and stems begin to wilt and dry.

There are some things you can do to try and cure plant shock, yet these may not work in every case.

  • Trimming back the plant by at least one-third can help plants focus on their roots.
  • Keep rooting systems moist is vital. Because there is a difference in the watering, there will be more onus on good drainage through the soil. It can be easy for plants to find themselves in standing water.
  • Add a water and sugar solution. While this isn’t 100% proven, it can help and even if it doesn’t work, it won’t harm your plants.

Conclusion

Moving plants from a hydroponic system is a feasible option for many gardeners. By taking this route, even if it can be a little hard for new growers can be worth the effort. Growers can have seedlings or growing cuttings that offers up more plants to move outside.

Rather than using seeds and having to wait, plants will be instantly growing. This offers the chance to plant more crops throughout the year they may have previously not been able to.

If things don’t work out as intended, there is still the option for growers to carry on growing in their system. It can be a win-win situation, and there will be less overall wasted effort in the outdoor side of a garden.

How Does Hydroponics Not Drown The Plants?

Hydroponics systems are based around plants being grown in water, so why don’t plants drown? This is one of the first things, which confuses possible hydroponic growers, and it can be enough to prevent them from starting their own garden.

While there is quite a lot to understand about hydroponics, one of the very first things any growers comes to learn is the reason why their plants won’t drown in a functioning system. There is of course some reasons why plants will suffocate and drown, yet these are in many cases not the fault of the grower and are the fault of an outside influence.

Here we will look at why plants generally don’t drown, and how they grow in each kind of system.

Why Plants Don’t Drown in Hydroponics – The Simple Answer

Hydroponics systems do not drown plants because the water is constantly oxygenated, circulated, filtered, and refreshed. The system is designed to keep plants from becoming oxygen-deprived.

At this point, it is worth making a comparison against soil and hydroponic systems. Drowning plants isn’t something new, as you will see.

Any plant in soil can be over watered. Growers may be worried their plants are not receiving enough water, and this is more the case if they see dry soil around their crops. After irrigating them with the hose, they can be leading their plants to a premature death if they are not careful.

In soil, this over-watering stops any oxygen from penetrating the soil and getting to the roots of the plants. It may seem obvious that they absorb oxygen through their leaves, but this just isn’t the case. The pockets of air underground will be gone, and this leaves the plants no way to carry out the respiration they need for survival. In a best case, they will still be suffering from stunted growth, wilted leaves or both.

After a short period, fungi begins growing on the roots as the water and nutrient uptake slows. Now the roots are covered in water, they are in the perfect conditions for this fungus to take hold. The more common strains are Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Phytophthora, and all of these will grow on roots, which are under water.

From this, there is the one thing gardeners of all types hate to face, and that is root rot. If you check the roots in your hydroponic system, they should be white. Colors can change from brown, to gray and black depending on the degree of rot.

In hydroponic systems, the way they are designed, roots are never wholly submerged for extended periods. The ebb and flow system can be the one system where all the root system is submerged, yet this is on a timed schedule and can be for a limited period a few times per day. Aside from that, the roots are exposed.

This isn’t to say plants can’t drown and suffer from root rot. Many variables in hydroponics lead to this. Now, we will look at more reasons why plants don’t drown in a correctly functioning system.

How Hydroponic Systems Oxygenate Water

There are a variety of methods hydroponic systems use to keep the water oxygenated, allowing the plants to breathe efficiently. This does depend on the system because some rely on electrical pumps to do this while some simple systems don’t oxygenate the water as such, yet they make sure oxygen is available to the plants.

Depending on the way the system is set up, some of these methods include:

  • Air Stones – Many gardeners use air stones regardless of the type of system they are running. You can’t have too much dissolved oxygen in your system. These stones fit in the end of plastic tubes, and these fit onto a pump that sits outside the reservoir. This will suck air in and create thousands of tiny bubbles. Smaller bubbles are better as they dissolve into the water easier.
  • Diffuser Tubes and Rings – These work in much the same way as air stones but cover a larger area. They are made of bendable tubes that are filled with evenly spaced holes. These produce streams of small bubbles just like air stones.
  • Automatic Water Recycling – This method is seen in Ebb & Flow setups. At regular intervals, water is pumped into the flood table by means of a water pump. Once the pumping period is over, the water drains back into the reservoir. This action can create oxygen, yet many growers still use the above to be sure there is dissolved oxygen in the water. The main source of oxygen will be as the water drains and leaves the roots exposed between flood cycles.
  • Hanging Roots – What many people don’t realize is that not every inch of the plant roots are submerged. In some systems such as Kratky or DWC, it is only the tips of the roots that are continually touching the water. The remaining portion is exposed so there is an uptake of oxygen. Aeroponics systems go one-step further and leave the roots suspended in mid-air. These are misted at intervals. This delivers water and nutrients while the rest of the time roots hang and soak up oxygen.

Different Kinds of Hydroponics Systems

Here we will look at each system, how they work and why plants don’t drown in them under normal conditions.

Wick Systems

A wick system works by capillary action. You will have two containers, one that sits on the top of the first. The bottom being the reservoir, and the top containing the growing medium and plants.  The growing medium needs to one that will absorb moisture from the wick. Coco coir or perlite being two of the more common. Plants need to sit close to the water, as there are limits to how far water can move before gravity stops it. Plant roots will have constant access to oxygen, as the growing medium never becomes overly saturated.

Water Culture Systems

These are one of the simplest systems to build and use, and the simplest being the Kratky method, yet this doesn’t use any pumps. The plants remain suspended above the reservoir in grow pots or in foam collars. Under the lid of the reservoir will be an air space where the roots hang before their tips submerge into the nutrients. The rest of the upper roots are free to absorb oxygen.  These systems make use of air pumps, yet the water doesn’t circulate via a water pump.

Drip Systems

These can take on many forms when growers build their systems, yet the principle is the same. Plants will be in a growing medium such as Hydroton pebbles. Small tubes from drip emitters will feed small amounts of water around the roots. This keeps the growing medium moist but because the water drains so well, this passes straight through and makes its way back to the reservoir. 

These are suitable for larger plants and one of the most popular being the Dutch Bucket System, which is very easy to build.

Ebb & Flow Systems

These systems take a periodic approach by use of an electrical timer. It is this, which will deliver nutrients and water to the flood table. In this is a drain valve that stops the water running too high and submerging all the plants. This drains the solution back to the tank until the pump stops.

Once this happens, the flood and drain system automatically drains back to the reservoir where it will wait until the next cycle. Roots can take up oxygen in between these cycles. These can be one of the easiest systems to maintain.

Nutrient Film System

Nutrient Film Systems use closed channels like downspouts. These have holes in the top where net cups sit which hold the plants. A thin stream of solution continually runs down these while the tip of the roots are bathed in the solution. The upper most part of the roots are exposed to oxygen. These are made on a slope so that once the pump pushes water to the highest point; gravity pulls it back to the reservoir.

These NFT systems are easy to build and great for smaller plants and are one of the most popular because of the fast turns these kinds of plants deliver.

Aeroponics Systems

In an Aeroponic System, the plants are suspended with the roots remaining free and open to oxygen. The roots are only misted with a fine nutrient solution intermittently to provide the resources needed for growth. The inside of an aeroponics system is typically humid and delivers some of the best conditions for maximum growth. While aeroponic systems make sense, they can be challenging to build and maintain. There is also an array of factors growers need to calculate like the rate of misting, water droplet size.

Conclusion

Most of the hydroponic systems mentioned are designed so they can prevent plants from drowning. The exceptions being the DWC and the Kratky systems. These are the only two where water levels can be too high and too much of the rooting system can be submerged.

The main problems growers face is plant suffocation, and one of the fastest ways for this to happen is the air pump breaks or there is a power outage for long periods. If this happens, it can render a hydroponic system useless and it won’t take long for plants to suffer.

With regard to drowning, the major thing a grower needs to calculate is how fast and how frequent to pump the solution to their plants. These things aside, most of these systems will run happily, and the plants can make most use of the nutreint rich solution.

How to Make Liquid Fertilizer for Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a great way to grow plants at home. New growers can quickly recover initial build costs, and their power bills are not as bad as they initially anticipated. One cost they may wish was cheaper, or there were alternatives is the price of liquid fertilizer.

Because these mainly comprise of water, shipping can be more expensive, and they don’t last very long once they are in use. This repeat purchasing can make a big hole in anyone’s budget.

However, it is possible to make your liquid fertilizer, so you save some money! You do need to be sure you include all the required nutrients that are in the store-bought alternatives so plants can thrive without deficiencies.

How do you make liquid fertilizer for your hydroponic system? The quickest way is to follow these simple steps:

  1. Place one gallon of organic compost or a pound of worms castings into a large bucket with a lid
  2. Stir in water and agitate the contents well
  3. Aerate the mixture with an aquarium air pump
  4. Set the bucket aside for three days. Stir every day

The strained liquid is your fertilizer and is ready to put into your hydroponics system. You can use animal or plant byproducts to make a liquid fertilizer as well.

Here we will show you all you need to know about making liquid fertilizer that is suitable for use in a hydroponic system.

Why is it Possible to Make Liquid Fertilizer?

The nutrient mixes and the boosters and deficiency formulas are straightforward to make. New growers may wonder why individuals like them can do something so simple without harming their plants.

There is one primary reason for this, and that is that plants may be fussy about the nutrients they receive and the ones they don’t. However, they don’t care where they come from.

Plants don’t even care if your liquid fertilizers are organic or man-made. They just want the nutrients in the right amounts.

When plants grow in the soil, the plants will be able to absorb anything that they want, but in hydroponic systems, the grower has to make sure all these nutrients will be available in the proper amounts?

For each plant, macronutrients and micronutrients are necessary for flourishing. However, the proportions of these required are very different in the types of crops you will be growing. There are several variations in these home-made formulations, so making one batch of one kind can deliver a very different proportion to that of the next.

You can create a liquid fertilizer solution from nutrient salts, and these may be easier because you can adjust your blend to the weight of the salts you add. If you do use these, you must maintain their freshness and dryness, since the moisture absorbed will affect their weight.

The other thing to be aware of is that you need measuring spoons, a decent set of scales as well as rubber gloves when mixing any commercial formulations. The crystalline compounds can either burn or have another kind of reaction on the skin.

Finally, the nutrients you buy will usually have the inclusion of additional pH buffers. Since you are in the process of making your own, you are going to need a digital pH pen and solutions of pH UP and pH Down.

While measuring your pH levels, you can see your EC levels may be out of synchronization, so one other device you may also need is an EC meter.

How to Make Different Kinds of Liquid Fertilizer

There are multiple ways to make liquid fertilizer. Some methods you may have close to hand, or you can decide to purchase which components you need and begin making your own.

In the following sections will be all the formulas and steps you require to make a few different liquid fertilizers for your hydroponic garden.

Necessary tools for making Liquid Fertilizer:

  1. 5-gallon bucket
  2. Aquarium air pump
  3. Disposable filters
  4. Measuring spoons

Compost Tea/Worm Tea

Ingredients

  • Water for mixing – don’t use faucet water. Use rainwater or aquarium water if you have access.
  • 1 gallon of compost or 1 pound of worm castings
  • Aquarium air pump for mixture aeration
  • Disposable filters for straining the compost or casings

Directions:

  1. Place the compost or the worm castings into a large bucket
  2. Fill the bucket with water and mix well, so everything is combined
  3. Set the bucket aside for approximately three days, however, keep the bucket out of direct sunlight so the slurry will not evaporate.
  4. Add an air stone and run while the mixture ferments for this period. The aeration breaks up the matter and helps nutrients spread through the liquid mixture.
  5. Stir the contents daily to make sure the nutrients spread through the mixture.
  6. Run the resulting liquid through disposable filters to filter out all the solids. You can use the resulting liquids to add to your reservoir for fertilizer.

You can continue making this in batches as you will require about half-gallon for every 50-gallons of water in your reservoir.

Sea and Animal Byproduct Formulation

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of water as a base for the mix.
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of fish emulsion for nutrients
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of seaweed extract for nutrients
  • 1 tablespoon of blood meal for nutrients

Directions:

  1. Add 1 gallon of water to a large bucket
  2. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of fish emulsion
  3. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of seaweed extract (You can use dried seaweed if not roasted)
  4. Add one tablespoon of blood meal as extra nutrients to promote plant growth.
  5. Stir well and use it as fertilizer for your plants.

You still need to filter this in case there are any large lumps in the blood meal. Also, if you use seaweed, you will need to let this steep a while before use. Tie it in a cheesecloth and let it sit before straining.

Fertilizer-Water Mix

Ingredients:

  • 3 gallons of water
  • 2 teaspoons of nitrogen fertilizer
  • 2 teaspoons of phosphorus fertilizer
  • 2 teaspoons of potassium fertilizer
  • 3 tablespoons of Epsom salt, unscented

Directions:

  1. Pour all the gallons of water into a large 5-gallon bucket (use rainwater or pond or aquarium water)
  2. Add the three fertilizers into the bucket and make sure there are no lumps
  3. Be sure the fertilizer contains both macronutrients and trace elements, such as copper, zinc, and molybdenum.
  4. Add Epsom salts to the water to provide magnesium sulfate. This is one of the more essential steps.
  5. Mix the solution until everything dissolves.  
  6. You can add this to your system when you next flush and are ready to mix your new batch.

Before adding, like the other formulations, it will require filtering before use. Any lumps can block your system unless you are not using a water pump.

There are many other formulations of fertilizers you can make, yet these above are proven to be beneficial to any system.

Liquid Fertilizer Growth Boosters

While the above formulations can help save some money in comparison to purchasing hydroponics nutrients, there are times when plants can do with that little extra boost.

This can be if they begin showing signs of deficiency, or the plants are at a different stage of their growth. The following liquid fertilizer boosters are straightforward to make and can be just the thing to help your plants when they need a little extra.

Deficiency Boosters

Calcium Deficiency

Plants that show signs of calcium deficiency can benefit from this simple addition.

Crush six washed eggshells in a pestle and mortar or a blender. Add to 1 1/2 liters of water with a few drops of hydrochloric acid. Let stand for 24-hours before filtering out the shells. Test the liquid to make sure it has a pH of around 5.

In the growth stage, you can use it with nitrogen-rich fertilizers. In the flowering stage, you can use it with fertilizers high in potassium and phosphorus.

Potassium Boosters

In the flowering stage, this can increase growth by 20%. This can help plants use sugars, carbs, and starches they absorb.

To make this, boil three to four banana skins in a liter of water. Add a little sugar or even better molasses. Let cool and use a few drops as needed.

Growth Enhancers

Coffee Ground Booster

Add used coffee grounds to water and let them soak for 24-hours. Filter and add the liquid to your tank during the growth stage. The bacteria that develop on the waste coffee grounds contain 2% nitrogen as well as many other organic nutrients.

Root Growth with Bean Tea

Beans and lentils are full of compounds called Auxins. These are fantastic for root growth along with stems and leaves as they reach up toward your grow lights. All you need to do is soak beans in water until they are hydrated. At this stage, blend them into a paste.

Strain this with a fine cloth. This is perfect for cuttings or seedlings to promote root growth.

Multipurpose Fertilizer

Take one small spoonful of Brewer’s Yeast and add it to a literof water. When this dissolves, it will produce potassium and phosphorus-rich liquid fertilizer. You can add this at any stage of growth for your plants.

Using Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

One of the most significant problems with making your own is that each time, you can end up with a different degree of nutrients in each batch.

However, when the blends are too high in the concentration of some nutrients. Your plants will be unable to absorb sufficient water. The salts will need to dilution, and if the nutrient mix is too high, your plants will start to shed water and not absorb it.

This results in the dehydration of your plants while the salts suck up the moisture from your plants. When you first start adjusting formulations, you need to do so with some restraint and caution. If you are wrong, you may destroy your entire crop.

Here are some common signs of nutrient deficiencies in your hydroponic plants.

  • Nitrogen: This produces plants with stunted growth that have more extensive root systems. Leaves may be smaller and light-colored. The growth will be slow.
  • Phosphorus: This will lead to stunted plants that have dark, discolored and dull leaves. Stems will be abnormally hard, and they will have a weak root system. Also, you will see a little branching.
  • Potassium: The older leaves will turn yellow and curl. Newer leaves fall off as they grow. The blossoms become dull, and the plant stems are soft and unable to offer full support.
  • Calcium: This makes the roots not develop much, and you have curly edges of the leaves.
  • Manganese: This leads to weak growth and poor flowering.

The only time you can be sure of the same levels is if you used powdered nutrients and mix them with water.

One other thing to be cautious of is that your plants don’t get any nutrient burn. Even with filtering, you can find your containers have sediment at the bottom. You need to be wary of this as it can quickly clog systems, especially your water pump.

Testing Your Liquid Fertilizers

It doesn’t matter which kind of nutrients you use for your system; you always need to check your system to make sure the TDS, PPM, and the pH levels are all in line.

The same issues can arise with homemade nutrients as they can with bought bottled nutrients, and the problems may manifest slightly different.

Here are the necessary procedural steps to test any nutrient mix you decide to make and add to your system. One thing you will note is the water is warm. This means it will be more in line with your system temperature when running, and it can help any powdered compounds to dissolve.

Test the pH of your water and the TDS/ PPM before you follow the next steps.

Your pH levels are sure to change when you add your compounds. Keep these initial readings because you will need them to find the precise concentration after you take your final reading.

With your measured out liquid fertilizer, add this to your reservoir and allow it to mix before you add any other booster fully.

Once you have added all your liquid fertilizers, let the solution stand until it sufficiently cools. With warm water, this should take around 2-hours. Once cooled, test the pH a second time and make a comparison with your first reading.

If it is outside the range that is right for your plants, you can adjust this with pH UP or Down until you reach the correct level.

You will need this second EC reading, as you will be diluting these mixtures at the time you are ready to add them to your tank.

While all the formulas for liquid fertilizer here don’t use many compounds, you can make liquid fertilizer from many of the same compounds as commercial farmers. These take much more experience, and you will need to adhere to the steps above.

Organic Liquid Fertilizers

Once growers begin making their liquid fertilizers, they may be thinking about making them organic. Most of the fertilizers above use compounds or elements that are already as good as organic. This again may make a grower feel better in themselves, yet their plants won’t care.

The issue with man-made and organic is that it can be challenging to reach the high levels of calcium and nitrogen needed to feed plants. The formulations provided here do their best, and there is a good chance you will need to make the boosters for supplemental feeding.

There is still a big debate on whether or not hydroponics can be organic at all. Using one of these, or any of the other liquid fertilizers is an excellent way to lean towards organic farming in time to make the switch when it best suits.

A good base for organic gardening is vermiculture, and with the worm castings, you can see this effective formulation pushes the meaning of organic to the limits.

Conclusion

These formulas may appear to be hard work for small amounts. However, the recipes can be scaled up so that you have sufficient liquid fertilizer for a couple of months. The upside with this is when you come to test because you will have a batch that is equal strength.

This doesn’t just make the formula easier to test, and it means your garden will be running the same with fewer fluctuations than ever before.

Making your own liquid fertilizer can seem to be hard work, yet the effort is well worth what you get out of it when your plants are blooming, and your crops have high yields just as if you were using regular store-bought manmade nutrients.

One thing which is often overlooked, when you make liquid fertilizer, is that you’re fruits and vegetables will taste better and won’t come with that hydroponic bitter taste some crops can.

Can You Replant Hydroponic Basil?

Some herbs are very easy to grow at home, yet there are many individuals who are put off by growing from seeds. However, it can be easy to bypass this step if you are looking to take a basil plant and transfer it to a soil garden.

There can also be the case where you want to take basil from a soil garden and place it into a hydroponic garden. The good news it is possible, yet replanting hydroponic basil isn’t just a matter of taking it and placing it into a pot or a hydroponic system and hoping it grows.

There are some things a grower needs to understand no matter which way they are looking to transplant basil.

Here we will look at all there is about transplanting basil both ways. It can be much easier than you think, and in the end, it can be a good way to have a continual source of healthy fresh basil for your kitchen.

Replanting Hydroponic Basil into Soil

In the local supermarket, you may often pick up bunches of basil without paying much attention to it. Next time, see if there are still roots on the plants, and if there is, then there is a good chance they have come from a commercial hydroponic farmer. You may also find the same if you have a local farmers market, because basil is an easy grow crop, there can be many places it is grown using hydroponic systems.

You will notice these roots are clean, and this is a good sign they come from hydroponics as there won’t be any soil and they have grown in nutrient rich water.

You can take this home and re-plant these into soil or if you already have your own system, then you can with some care plant them into your system.

Here are the straightforward steps to replant hydroponic basil into soil.

  1. Make sure you have some pots ready with good potting soil. The pots should be four to six inches wide.
  2. Check the basil roots and see how many plants you actually have. If there are more than one, you will need to divide these carefully. This stage can cause plant shock as you try to separate the roots and stems from each other.
  3. If your basil bunch is large, you can prune back some of the stems and leaves. This shouldn’t be more than either six or eight inches of green growth. This helps the plant because water and nutrients can focus on a smaller area for growth.
  4. Take your pot and poke a hole where you can place the roots and the bottom part of the stem. Cover the roots with the potting soil and pat down gently.
  5. Because your plant has changed system, its roots won’t be used to the new growing medium. Water every day for between five and seven days (plants from hydroponic systems will be used to lots of moisture), because a sudden change of watering pattern can cause shock.
  6. After this time, cut back on watering until you can move to watering once the top most inch of soil is dry.
  7. Be sure to keep your plant in a sunny window before you think about placing it outside. This hardening off should take around a week after replanting.
  8. From this point, you should see a steady growth, and you can slowly begin plucking leaves, as you need them.

Transplanting Basil from Soil to Hydroponics:

If you are looking to replant soil-grown basil into your hydroponic system, then you do need to take more care because of the germs or bacteria that may be in the soil. The steps are not that much different from planting into soil, but they are in reverse.

Because there can be a lot of soil around, it is safer to do the first steps outside your grow room. Doing so inside can lead to plant diseases creeping in when you least expect them.

Get your net pots ready and already half filled with your growing medium. Hydroton clay pebbles or Rockwool blocks are good growing mediums, though this will depend on the system you are planting into.

  1. Carefully remove your basil plant from the pot it was purchased in and gently shake let any loose dirt fall away from the roots.
  2. Once nearly all the earth has been removed from the roots, dip the root system into clean water so you can rinse away the remaining dirt. This is where you need the roots as clean as possible without vigorous rubbing.
  3. Place the roots gently into the pot and cover with more of your growing medium.
  4. All you need to do is now place your growing pot into the system, but there are a few things to check before everything will be okay for your plant.

Basil Growth Tips for Hydroponic Systems

  • Basil will require a temperature of around 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants also require moderate humidity for the best growth.
  • Because you will have transplanted indoors, you will be pleased to know basil doesn’t require intense light, and T5 fluorescent tubes will suffice. However, if you are using LED or HID, these are also suitable as long as you are sure to have correct spacing from the tops of your plants.
  • Basil needs between 14 to 16 hours of light per day for the best growth.
  • The pH levels of your system need to be between 5.5 and 6.5. For the nutrients, you will need to make sure these are not full strength in the beginning. In soil, basil will have had to work to find the nutrients, and now they will have an abundance delivered to their roots in one go.
  • Basil is prone to attack from Pythium, be sure that the growing medium doesn’t become too wet.
  • When pruning for use, a healthy basil plant can have the top third to two-thirds removed from the upper leaves and foliage. This will continue to grow back where you can use it again. It should be around three times you can do this before needing to change your basil plant.
  • Before discarding your plant the final time, you can use this to take cuttings for propagation. 

Basil Propagation in Hydroponics

No matter if you purchase soil grown basil, or basil which has been grown by a hydroponic farmer, this can be a great way of not just getting your garden going with a plant you can use a few times rather than just ones. You can take cuttings from this, so the need to purchase any more or grow from seeds is negated.

Here is the process for replanting hydroponic basil from cuttings:

  • A couple of days before cloning, leach out nitrogen from the plants by watering with pH adjusted water and no nutrient mixture (Too much Nitrogen retards the rooting process).
  • Choose your growing medium. One of the most accessible and popular is Rockwool starter cubes. Make sure to pre-soak these with pH-adjusted water for 24 hours.
  • Make a hole in the top of the starter cube that is a little smaller than the basil-cutting stem.
  • Fill your small glass with rooting hormone
  • Once you make the cuts, you need to dip the cutting portion into the rooting hormone as fast as possible. The reason for this is to prevent air being drawn inside the stem.

Steps for taking hydroponic basil cuttings:

  1. Toward the tip of your basil, take a growing tip, which is between three and six inches in length. If you have one with two leaf internodes, all the better yet one can be enough. The internodes are where leaves connect to the stems.
  2. With the razor, carefully remove the one or two leaves as close to the stem as possible.
  3. Under this internode, make a cut quarter of an inch across the stem at a rough forty-five degree angle. Make the cut as fast and as safely as possible. The sharper the blade the better so you don’t crush the stem.
  4. Insert the cut angle into your hormone solution. If you have a liquid solution, let the end soak in there for up to one minute. If it is a gel, then dip and then insert straight into your Rockwool starter cube. A powdered hormone needs you to dampen the stem first before rolling.
  5. Be sure not to push the cutting through the bottom of the medium. Roots need space to develop. One other thing is the leave internodes need to be under the top surface of your growing medium.
  6. Pack Rockwool around your stem while making sure there is contact between the two.
  7. Mist cuttings with a spray bottle and place them in the humidity dome.
  8. Mist a couple of times per day and keep lights on for between 18 and 24 hours per day.
  9. Once you begin watering, use 1/4 strength nutrient solution. Do this every couple of days for the first week.
  10. Check if roots are starting. If they can support themselves without the humidity dome, and are fully rooted, you can move them to your system to carry on your fresh supply of basil.

Is Aeroponics Really Cost Effective

When growers begin looking at hydroponic systems, they need to take into consideration how cost effective they are. There is little reason in building a system that won’t pay for itself after the initial outlay.

One such system that growers often think about is an aeroponics system. So, are these hydroponic systems cost effective for the average grower?

Here, we will take a look at what aeroponics is, and the areas where there can be cost savings, or if it is out of the reach for many growers altogether?

What is Aeroponics?

While the majority of hydroponic systems use growing medium in one way or another, an aeroponics system does away with the growing medium and suspends the plants so all their roots are fully exposed. From here, there is a mist of water and nutrients that is sprayed or misted onto the roots.

This allows them to absorb all the nutrients and water they require as well as being able to absorb massive amounts of oxygen.

There are many kits you can purchase, and these come in a vast range of sizes. However, even the small systems can be quite costly. Here is a good example with the AeroGarden Farm Plus.

There are many more things to consider when looking at the cost effectiveness of an aeroponics system. They are proven to grow vast amounts of crops quicker than many other types of system, even if they can be more complicated to build and maintain.

How Aeroponics Works in Detail

Although we just took a quick look at how an aeroponics system works, here is a more in depth take on the system.

Plants are secured into the top part of the system by means of a flexible collar. These are often made from neoprene foam rubber. As the rooting system will hang under the lid of the system, the crown (the leafy part) will sit on top of the platform or the top of the tank.

In the misting chamber underneath will be an array of misting nozzles. These will be positioned all around so once the solution is pumped around, it will reach every part of the rooting system for the number of plants you are growing.

Any water solution and nutrients which don’t become absorbed by the rooting systems merely falls back into the reservoir to be fired up by the pump at another time.

The theory behind the function is that the growing medium is actually being restrictive to the plants. By preventing nutrients hitting the roots directly, they are not absorbing as much as they could. The same goes for oxygen uptake.

Systems are not restricted by design, and as long as all the roots get their supply of nutrients, then a grower can have a system of any shape or size, and they can be scaled as desired.

Osmosis is more efficient, and plants growth rate can be up to 30% faster than usual. Not only this, but as plants are not fighting for space, a system can be even smaller than a regular hydroponic system. In the simple form, you can have your growing space the exact same size as your reservoir in footprint, yet depending how tall you wish to go, all you need to do is ensure your nutrients can be sprayed efficiently.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Aeroponics

Like all systems, there are upsides and downsides to this kind of system. If there were just plus points, then every grower would be using these rather than the others.

Here we will take a look at the upsides and the downsides of using an aeroponics system.

Aeroponics Pros

  • Faster Growth – many growers use aeroponics as their seedlings system of choice, and with good reason. Aeroponics plants will grow fast and with more predictable results. Growers can add more crops by extending growing seasons and have the chance to clone new plants with fewer failures.
  • Higher Crop Yields – As long as your solution is being sprayed to your crops, they have the chance to absorb many nutrients and lots of oxygen. This aids in larger yields at a faster rate.
  • Using Less Water – Even with some crops needing lots of water, there have been savings of around 40% in water usage compared to other hydroponic systems.
  • System Flexibility – There are lots of areas where an aeroponics system is flexible. It is much easier to flush out your system as there is no growing medium, and it can be far easier to check for rooting problems. Generally, an aeroponics system will be lighter as there is nothing weighing it down, so they can be moved at the same time as you are cleaning your system.
  • Reports of enhanced flavor – Many gardeners are claiming their crops taste richer than being grown by any other means.
  • Space Saving – while a regular hydroponic system can grow more crops in the same space as soil. Aeroponics systems are said to be able to grow the same number of crops in a tenth of the space a soil garden uses. Plant considerati0on does change this claim, because something like cucumber or tomatoes will be a limiting factor. Small plants like lettuce, and it may well be true.
  • Lower Running Costs – Over time, you will see lower running costs because of less water, fewer nutrients and less space requirements.

Aeroponics Cons

  • Higher System Cost – These systems in theory use very few components. However, in reality the type of equipment you need does affect the initial cost when building a system. We will list the separate components after this section.
  • Breakdowns  – if you have a pump which breaks down or you have a power outage, you won’t have very long before your plants will begin to die. Unlike other systems, these have no buffer of growing medium holding moisture.
  • Not Every Aeroponics System is the Same – Because the systems can be so flexible, this can actually be a downside until growers understand what they are doing. The mist needs to reach every part of the root zone for every plant. It may not all be nozzle placement because pump size does have a large bearing on this.
  • Growers Need to Learn – Aeroponics isn’t a system you can jump straight into and make it work. There are things that are very different with this kind of system than all the others. Nutrient type, feeding schedule, to mist droplet size are all things which can make a difference. To top all this, there is limited information around because it is still a technology which is in its infancy.

Main Aeroponics System Components

One of the main considerations will be the container you will be using for your aeroponics system. While you can use large totes, these will limit you to the number of plants you can grow. Some growers have developed their own system utilizing a 50-gallon drum and drilling many holes in the sides. In these they sit 2 inch PVC elbows which will hold the pots.

Other growers have large towers which function in the same way, yet they have a separate tank for their reservoir. These tanks can be one of the components which costs around the same as a regular hydroponic system.

High Pressure Water Pumps

An aeroponics system doesn’t deliver water in the same way. Rather than GPH it needs to work under pressure. You can be looking at pressures of 80 psi or above depending on the size of your system, and the number of misters you have.

Systems can work at low pressure or high pressure, and many home gardeners opt for the low pressure for a number of reasons. While this works out cheaper, the effects of atomizing the water in a high pressure system outweigh merely misting it.

If you wish to go the high pressure route, then you can be looking at a water pressure boost pump which costs around three times the price of a regular hydroponic pump as well as suing the following bits of equipment.

Accumulator Tanks

It is the function of these accumulator tanks to ease the burden on your pumps. These can prevent the need to continually run a pump, this means you have lower costs and a longer lifespan of your pump.

Solenoids

These are what starts and stops the flow of water in your system. This can help maintain the pressure so you have constant misting action as soon as your pump kicks into action again.

Pressure Switches

These are needed because they will tell your pump when to start, and when to stop. All this will be determine by the pressures you set. It is worth noting that some aeroponics pumps come with this feature built in.

Misting Nozzles

These misting nozzles are inexpensive yet you do need quite a few of these as well as all the necessary tubing which goes with it. The most important factor is you get ones that can withstand high pressures, and you can easily swap them if they become blocked. There are many which come with a quick release and metal nozzles. This makes them more durable than ones made from all plastic.

Conclusion

So, when you look at the above, you may still be wondering if aeroponics is cost effective. After seeing the initial investment is a little more, because you do need to pay for higher quality materials. All of these should last much longer because they are more durable.

Couple this with the lack of growing medium, and that you can increase your output using an aeroponics system, then it can be a cost effective system to use.

The only downsides being it can take a lot more work and knowledge to run effectively. There are countless benefits, and even just the thought of a grow room which can be clean without even trying, then this has to be a great reason for anyone to consider this kind of system.

Can You Use Tap Water for Hydroponics?

Many individuals understand that hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil. Rather, the root systems are either supported in a growing medium, or suspended with the tips of their roots dangling in the nutrient rich water.

One of the most common mistakes new growers make before they fully research hydroponics is the use of tap water. Therefore, this begs the question of whether or not; you can use the water from a faucet in a hydroponic system?

The answer to this question is yes, water from the faucet can be used, but not as it is. Growers need to carry out additional steps to protect your plants from the chemicals and minerals, which are present, and will negatively affect the health of plants.

Here we will look at the reasons why water from a faucet isn’t ideal, what can be done for its preparation so it can be used, and what are the other water options open to growers.

What is in Tap Water?

In most areas, it can be safe to drink water from the faucet; surely, this means it is good enough for plants? However, this may not be the case. In soil gardens, it may be because they are taking the nutrients they need from the soil. In a hydroponic system, the nutrients will be provided in the solution from the grower.

It is because of this that growers need to understand what is in regular faucet water, and why it makes such a difference.

Tap water is treated to remove bacteria and all the impurities. This makes it safe for our use, yet it is these treatments, which render it no use to a hydroponic plant.

Here is the process they generally use to clean and purify water before it is available for home use.

  1. Chlorine and or Chloramines are added to kill off harmful waterborne bacteria
  2. Aluminum sulfate is added which makes impurities coagulate (stick together)
  3. Impurities settle where the clear water is then removed and filtered by various means
  4. The water has its pH levels adjusted that are safe for human use

Chloramines and Chlorine

Chlorine is the most common addition to water to kill off waterborne bacteria. However, this is also one of the micronutrients that is needed by plants, yet in minute quantities. As a result, this would mean a grower would not have to add any; the problem is, in concentrated nutrient mixes, these chloramines and chlorine are already present.

This addition means plants will absorb too much. Results of this mistake can be stunted growth, and the beneficial bacteria on roots will be killed off.

Hard Water and Soft Water

These two terms are often heard and can have a major impact on hydroponics. Hard water is where you can see the accumulation of hard crystalline substances on the ends of faucets and showerheads. It is also the hard water, which leads to the breakdown of dishwashers and washing machines.

When you live in a hard water area, this contains more minerals, and it is these which bind together to form these deposits. When you look at how it affects hydroponic plants, there will be a much higher level of minerals in the water, some of which they only need small amounts.

Two primary culprits are magnesium and calcium. While these are necessary for plants to thrive, they are only required in small amounts. With the increase of these two minerals, the PPM (Parts per Million) can increase dramatically. For the majority of water from the faucet, the PPM will be 150 part per million as a minimum of salts that are unwanted.

This causes problems with nutrient absorption in plants. Most of the nutrient mixes you can purchase are all designed to be mixed in pH neutral water. When the faucet water has an increased pH, this can cause nutrient lockout. Issues you can see are wilting plants or worse.

If growers attempt to adjust the pH levels for hard and soft water, they can complicate matters for themselves. The pH adjusters will contain potassium and phosphorous which are common nutrients in the mixtures.

To deal with hard water problems, there is usually only one course of action. That is the use of a Reverse Osmosis system or other filtration system to remove impurities and bring water back to a neutral pH level.

Hydroponics and the Use of Chelates

When companies make the nutrient solutions, they need something to make sure these are suspended in the solution. This is the purpose of chelates. If it weren’t for these, there would be some of the system elements that begin to latch onto each other. Once this happens, they become useless to the plants.

Chelates are formed in several ways and can be chemicals such as ETDA or an organic compound like humic acid. One of the key problems here is that as Chlorine is a micronutrient and will be affected by the chelates. Once it meets them, there is more likely an uptake of this from your tap water into your plants.

Preparing Water for Hydroponics Use

There are a few ways you can prepare water from the faucet for use in a hydroponic system. This does depend on what you are looking to clear from the water, and each element could take another step of preparation.

Removing chlorine from water can be quite simple yet it is a lengthy time consuming process. The first step for any of the processes is to find out what your local municipal water supplier does to their water in way of adding chlorine or chloramines.

Here are the ways to begin preparing water from the faucet for use in your hydroponic system.

Removing Chlorine

Although this takes time, it can be one of the easiest things to remove from tap water. All you need to do is let your water sit in strong direct sunlight for a period of 24-hours. Here the UV rays break this down and the chlorine can escape from the water. This off gassing is easy yet if you have large amounts of water to deal with, then it could be difficult to accomplish.

Removing Chloramine

This compound doesn’t break down in the same fashion. However, it can be easy to treat water if it has been treated with chloramine. You can buy Campden Tablets, which you add, one tablet per every 20 gallons of water. The good things with these ae they can also remove both chloramines and chlorine. Other ways are to run your water through an activated carbon filter. These are similar to water filters you purchase to cleanse drinking water.

Hard Water and PPM

This treatment can be one of the hardest as it takes repeated testing. The aim is to remove the calcium and magnesium. A basic water filter can suffice for small systems, yet you will need to change these quite often. The nest way if by using reverse osmosis filters. These can be fitted to home plumbing systems, so you can gain benefits in other areas.

If you buy one that is specific for hydroponics use, these come with carbon and sediment filters in place. While these can be costly, they work out cheaper than losing crops because of using tap water in your system. Another downside is they can produce wastewater while they are producing the clean water.

Additional Water Solutions

Here are a few other ways you can get safe water for use in your hydroponic system.

Harvesting Rainwater

This can be one of the most cost effective ways of collecting water for your indoor garden, but a water collection system will needs some construction to be sure it leaves you with the cleanest possible water. Building a system can be as easy as placing large drums at the bottom of downspouts. Nevertheless, you will still need to make sure excess water can escape down the drains as you can cause flooding around the home if you bypass your drain system.

One thing to note is there are some local laws, which dictate how you can go about collecting rainwater. Before commencing for any rainwater collection system, check local and federal regulations.

Distilled water

This can be purchased almost anywhere, and is seen as a great option for its ability to provide a sterile environment for hydroponics. None of the previously mentioned contaminants is found in distilled water, yet you may need to be wary of the lack of calcium and magnesium, as all traces of this will be removed. If your nutrients don’t contain enough of these two minerals, you can purchase a dedicated calcium and magnesium solution to help adjust these levels. Care should be taken as you can be just be creating hard water again.

Deionized Water

This is created by taking regular water and exposing it to electrically charged and processed to remove all of the excess salts from the water. It is very pure and after treatment leaves you with a solution which is very similar to distilled water.  

Conclusion

New growers need to understand that water from the faucet is very different from other forms. In some areas, it may be suitable for use, yet a few miles down the road can be a very different story. Water is the lifeblood of any hydroponic system, and if this isn’t right to begin with, then there will be no going forward to have a successful garden.

Understanding Conductivity Factor (CF) in Hydroponics

Many new hydroponic gardeners get confused with all the readings they need to take. With EC, pH and TDS, it can be boggling. To make it worse, there is another reading growers should be aware of.

CF and how to control it is can be daunting, luckily though, these readings are not so hard to fully understand.

Here, we will explain what CF is and how it can affect your garden. We will also see how it relates to other readings you need to take from your solutions

What is CF?

CF stands for conductivity factor, and like the EC of your nutrient mix, it is a way of telling you how weak or strong your formulation is.

If it is too strong, you can quickly overfeed your crops, and if it is, too weak and you can find your plants are suffering nutrient deficiencies.

To make things even simpler for new growers, the CF (Conductivity factor) and the EC (Electrical Conductivity) are basically the same thing.

There is one slight difference, and that is CF is a 10 x multiple of an EC reading. You may wonder why there is a need for another reading, which is the same as another albeit in a different format.

It is true; a CF reading is just your EC reading and multiplied by 10. It can be used because it eliminates any requirement for a decimal point.

To simplify this, you can use the following:

  • 1 EC equals 10 CF
  • EC multiplied by 10 equals your CF
  • CF divided by 10 equals your EC

Understanding Your Target CF

When you purchase any hydroponic nutrients, you will find that the majority of suppliers give a target EC or CF. this will of course though assume that you are setting out with an EC/ CF of zero.

About your water, this can only come from pure water, which has a CF/ EC of zero. Water from the faucet contains minerals, and will vary depending on if it is soft water, or it is hard water as you can see here.

Soft Water – is generally CF 2 (or EC of 0.2)

Hard Water – is generally CF 8 (or EC 0.8)

There are two steps to find out your actual target CF.

  1. Take a reading of your base water to find the CF
  2. Add this reading to your manufacturers target CF

As an example, if you have water from your faucet, and it is soft water. You will have a CF of 2. If your nutrient manufacturers target CF is 16, you will have an actual target CF of 18.

When manufacturers offer these target CF’s, they will do so for plants that are at various stages of growth.

  • Young plants – CF of between 4 to 10
  • Established plants – CF of between 10 to 18

Just like EC readings, an ideal CF will vary. The CF can be seen as your nutrient to water ratio. This means if plants are hungry, they will require more nutrients, and likewise, if they are thirsty, they will take up more water.

Just like other readings in hydroponics, there can be many factors, which affect things. With this, there are many things that can make crops and plants thirstier or hungrier throughout their life.

  • Types and size of crops and plants
  • Season and temperature of grow room
  • Water hardness used
  • Method of growing

Taking a reading may not deliver the chance to find an exact CF. It is for a reason that you will need to take readings at regular intervals.

Just like your pH levels, you will find your CF levels go up or down, and you will need to respond to bring these back in line.

Checking Your CF

To test your CF in your solution can be much the same as taking any other reading. There are various meters, which can take readings of CF along with EC, pH and others. Most of these require manual calibration in comparison to one device called the Truncheon by Bluelab.

These are factory calibrated, but they do come with a higher price tag than the other digital meters.

  1. Leave a pale/ bucket of water from the faucet outside to dechlorinate for at least 24-hours.
  2. Use your CF meter to take a background reading
  3. Add your nutrients at the manufacturers recommended doses
  4. Once they have dissolved and settled, take another reading
  5. If it is too high, add water to lower the CF level

One thing that is worth remembering is that a one-degree rise in temperature can raise your CF reading by 2%. Because of this, you should aim to take your readings at the same time every day.

Correcting CF Levels

Ideally, you will want your CF levels to remain the same as your plants feed. If this happens, it means you have your CF set correctly.

However, in the instances, it has gone up or down, the first thing not to do is panic; you can adjust this as required.

When CF levels rise, this means plants are taking up more water than you expected them to. This can happen when the environment is warmer, and plants become thirstier. This will leave the concentration of TDS increasing in strength.

To lower this, you should top off your tank with plain water only. This is the standard way of making sure your plants don’t suffer from nutrient burn.

If your CF levels drop, many growers will advise in adding more nutrients to raise these levels. However, there are more growers who advise to never add nutrients at this stage. It is better to let plants have access to less than to begin over feeding them.

If you want to be sure they get enough nutrients, the easiest way can be to flush your tank and add a new batch of nutrients with the correct CF.

Warning Signs Your CF Levels are Wrong

The signs that levels are not correct are very similar to EC levels that are out of balance.

If you are underfeeding, you may see

  • Phosphorous: Stems and parts of large leaves begin to purple
  • Nitrogen: Leaf tips yellow and begin moving toward the step of the plant
  • Potassium: The yellowing moves from the tips toward the main leaf veins

If you find out you are over feeding, you may spot the following signs

  • Your plants leaves begin curling downward
  • Leaves have stunted growth and are too small
  • Leaves are dark and lack any vibrancy

Conclusion

There may be a good many growers who find out that CF isn’t used very often when taking readings of their solutions. It is however better to understand what it is, and how to calculate it if needed.

It is good to know that one CF is equivalent to around 65 PPM (Parts per million), and the EC with be around 650 PPM as an equivalent. Because there are lots of confusion with these figures, new growers follow the simplest of methods, which works for thousands of gardeners with hydroponic systems.

Keep things simple and run half-strength solutions in the vegetative stage of growth. Once your plants reach the fruiting and flowering phases, you can then deliver a full strength set of nutrients when they can handle them.

Aside from this, flush your tank and replenish with new nutrients on a regular basis, and you will see great results.

Associated Questions

Why is a CF/ EC level important? While some growers don’t use these readings, knowing what they mean does allow you to understand more what happens in your system. Your CF and EC can stay the same, or go up and down. If plants are taking up water, then you should always see a CF that increases as nutrient concentrations increase.

What does PPM mean? Parts per Million means one part of your nutrients in one million parts of your solution.

Which is the best meter, an EC or TDS meter? Many new meters can read multiple things and will make the conversions for you. However, it does depend on your plant nutrient recommendations. If your scales are in EC/ CF then a meter which reads these, is ideal, however, if you are using PPM, then a sodium chloride TDS meter will be easier to use.

How Much Electricity Does Hydroponics Use?

Many keen gardeners look at hydroponics as a way to grow crops all the year round. However, for new growers, they may be wondering how much it costs for such a system. Systems can be built from regular products, yet once it comes down to the power, then this is very different.

The question of how much electricity does hydroponics use can take quite a bit of calculation to find the answer, yet doing so is a necessary evil before finding the next utility bill for electric has doubled.

There are plenty of factors that will affect the outcome. These can include crop type, system size, and all the equipment needed to run the system effectively.

How Can I Measure My Hydroponic System Power Usage?

When considering electricity use, there are meters you can purchase that you plug in the socket, and then your device. This reads power usage of said device, yet there is one major flaw. This means you will already have the equipment.

Growers who are looking to build a system need to know beforehand how much power each device will use. From there they can calculate their running costs.

One thing a grower will find is that pinning down a cost is almost impossible. There are so many variables, and some of these may not be related to the system in a direct manner. Just quickly, there will be the device wattage use, the running time, cost of electricity, and cost at different times of the day.

There is plenty that can affect the result, yet there are ways for gardeners to find out a rough estimate of their power use and cost.

Calculating Grow Room Electric Use

Here are the straightforward steps you can follow to estimate your power use for your grow room.

  1. Find out how much each device uses per hour in watts.
  2. Multiply the watts of the device by the number of run hours for the device (some devices can use different power at varying times of the day). To calculate this, do the math for each wattage which matches the daily period and then add together.
  3. Do this for all the hydroponic devices you may want to use and any electrical devices you already have.
  4. Find out how much you pay per unit. This should be on your utility bill (1 unit = 1,000W or 1KW). Divide the cost of your units by 1,000 to calculate your cost per W. Some suppliers may charge less at night; this can be one way to save power consumption.

Once you do this for all your devices, you can then calculate your daily power use. To do this only takes one-step.

  1. Multiply the daily wattage (this was in steps 2 and 3) and then multiply by the cost per Watt you calculated in the fourth step.

You can even find some online sites help even more. One such example is GreenTrees Hydroponics. They have constructed a cost calculator for HID Lamp running costs, which can be a great help when you wish to understand lighting costs specifically.

One of the biggest things that will happen is if the gardener is looking at a commercial venture, or just growing for personal use. If for home growing, there will have to be an analysis carried out of the electricity use in comparison to groceries purchased. It doesn’t make any economic sense to spend more in power than if you were to do all your grocery shopping in the supermarket.

Commercial ventures in all essence can be profitable after the initial system build. One website that has a good piece on this is Zipgrow; they break down the costs for larger farmers and then equate it to crops sold.

If you are pricing out a hydroponic garden, no matter if, it is for personal or commercial gain, and then the following section can be useful.

How to Price Out a Hydroponics System

For those more interested in growing hydroponically as a form of income, the operational costs of their system will go beyond just the cost of electricity to run it. If a garden is designed and can run at a profit, then there is no better way to work than being surrounded by healthy vegetables and the sounds of babbling water.

Here is a quick breakdown of factors that can find their way into the equation of costs for hydroponic systems. If they won’t affect you, just delete that item from your calculation.

  • Rent/Mortgage – For a hydroponics system designed to yield some income, the cost of the space it occupies should be considered as part of your overhead costs. If you’re renting a space specifically for this purpose, knowing that number will be easy. If you’re allotting a portion of your home, just estimate the amount being devoted to growing.
  • Water – While likely the cheapest operational cost that will be associated to your hydroponics system, it shouldn’t be overlooked when budgeting out your operation. Remember to consider the amount used to replenish and potentially clean the system on a regular basis in your calculation of the costs.
  • Seeds and Growing Medium – Knowing which growing medium your system will be using will help you to gauge the cost of this aspect of the operation. Prices will vary by the material, as will the price for the type of seed you need. Knowing what your growing medium will be and what crop you’re growing will help you estimate these costs.
  • Nutrients – For most people growing for commercial purposes, the scale of the operational will make buying nutrients in bulk more advantageous than buying premixed formulas. CO2 may also be a consideration for increasing the yield of your crop.
  • Electricity – As mentioned before, an estimate of this cost can be easier to find than you might expect. Knowing the specifications of the equipment your system will utilize will help in finding this number and knowing what your monthly electricity costs will look like.
  • Miscellaneous – While the above list is the essentials for growing hydroponically and will be able to carry you through a grow cycle, each grower has their own extras that they feel are essential. The most common expense in this department is for pest control. Whether it’s netting or neem oil, these costs should be factored into the budget.

By budgeting out what your costs will look like, you can make a more informed decision when setting up your hydroponics system. The overhead costs of running the system may even effect what crop you decide to grow.

When you take all the above into account, you can quickly see that high value crops may be required. Totaling up all of the above, you can be looking at a cost for nine weeks of around $3,500 to produce a crop in a system with a 10,000W power usage.

This may seem a lot, yet this is for commercial growers, and they will hopefully have calculated all of this to see what their crop can deliver. There are ways you can be smart and decrease some power costs along the way. Here are some tips, which may help.

Power Consumption Reduction Tips for Hydroponics

Hydroponics is still in the boom stages, but there are concerns for some growers it isn’t cost effective for them to begin a garden. While there are many costs as above, a lot of these will be reduced when gardens become smaller and the space is at home.

There are other ways growers can reduce costs by being smart when it comes to powering their systems.

Rainwater capture can be one way of reducing water bills. This takes very little treatment for preparation, and it can save a lot in comparison to using other water sources.

Lighting will be the most significant cost in any garden. Depending on the crops, it is worth a gardener either making the most of natural sunlight when possible, or just supplementing this with artificial lighting. Additionally, there are lighting fixtures that are more cost efficient than HID blubs, yet the gains received may not be as large.

LED lights are a good solution if the growing area is small enough, or there is the fallback of T5 Fluorescent tubes, which are effective and not overly expensive.

Conclusion

A large garden may consume a lot of electricity, yet smart gardeners will know that what a hydroponics garden can churn out over the length of a growing season can negate this cost. This is true when vegetables are out of season, and there is a price hike in the stores.

There is a fine line, but when a gardener looks at all aspects and sees they don’t need to be suing electricity all day every day, then a system won’t be using too much electricity, and the small cost is worth it for fresh produce.