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.

4 Common Hydroponic Plant Problems (With Solutions)

It doesn’t matter how experienced a hydroponic grower is, there can be many occasions when they have plant problems and they need fixing. This is worse for new gardeners because they may never have faced these issues and wonder how they can fix them.

Here we will look at some of the more common problems, which occur with plants, and how growers can set about tackling them. What are the most common hydroponic plant problems? Some of the most common problems come from diseases, pests, grower mistakes and problems with the system environment.

Growers are tasked with making sure their plants have the exact amounts nutrients, water and light. This goes a long way to make sure there are no deficiencies yet it can still happen without a grower knowing. All of these factors play a very important role, and a grower doing something in response to another action can have a reaction in a very different area.

We will now look at the key problem areas in plants and how you can go about resolving these.

Hydroponic Plant Diseases

One of the more frightening problems growers face is plant disease. They may think there is little hope and in their mind, they are more than likely thinking of tossing out their entire crop.

In some cases, this may be the case, yet this is in the extreme times. Most times, there is something growers can do to resolve the plant disease issue and save their plants.

A grower should already understand, a growing room needs to be a sterile environment, and even entering it in dirty clothes can be enough to trigger some of these diseases. The same goes for necrotic plant tissue that stays in a system. This dead tissue rots and is the ideal starting place for deadly bacteria and pathogens.

Here are the primary plant diseases growers need to be wary of:

Powdery Mildew – This stunts plant growth and reduces yields considerably. Once it gets into a garden, it can be a struggle to prevent it from spreading. When you see this, leaves will be covered in white blotches as if someone has dusted them in white powder. Two key factors allow this to infect plants, first is the strength of the plant, and second, the environment.

The best speedy solution to fix this is remove infected leaves, and ensure there is lots of airflow and lower the levels of humidity. Plants, which grow stronger, have thicker cell walls, and it is this, which prevents powdery mildew from sending down its feeding tubes. You can also rinse the spores off the leaves, but give your plants the best chance of drying afterward.

Downy Mildew – This kind of mildew is found more on agricultural plants rather than the powdery variety, which is found on flowering plants most often. The tops of the leaves will be covered in yellow patches; while underneath there will be a fain frosting of gray, violet or blue. To stop this, you will go through the same as above such as pruning infected leaves and tissue, and making sure plants have lots of room for good airflow.

Steps to Prevent Plant Disease

Prevention is the best cure for plant disease. Even with these, a grower can face many more such as Gray mold and other varieties.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your plants stay clean and healthy.

Clean Clothes – It can be easy for disease to travel around on your clothes. Spores are microscopic, and can latch onto anything before falling toward their prey when they feel the time is right. Grow rooms should be sterile, and the best way to begin this practice is wear clothes which are somewhat clean and haven’t been used for working in the outdoor garden.

Keep a Clean Grow Room – There are many different molds and mildews, we have only touched on a couple, yet they can all find their way into your grow room. Keeping a clean area is vital as is making sure any ventilation is properly filtered, and there is not dirty or dead plant debris laying around. Any tools need wiping down at regular intervals, and there should be no sign of soil anywhere inside your growing area.

Algae Plant Problems in Hydroponics

Because the spores of algae are microscopic, they can enter your grow room in the same way as the spores that lead to plant disease. However, in hydroponics, the conditions are perfect for algae growth because they are so similar to plants.

There are a number of growers who say to starve algae of what is feeding it, yet doing this means you will be starving your plants of the goodness they require.

It is more a case of what are the degrees of algae in a system? This will determine the level of plant problems growers’ face. If you catch algae growth early enough, it won’t be as big a problem, yet the longer it goes on, more significant factors take place.

First, there is a drop in nutrient levels as the algae uses these for its own growth; second, the amount of dissolved oxygen is reduced. From here, you can have plants suffocating and then there will be the onset of root rot.

Preventing Algae in Hydroponics

Preventing algae can be an ongoing saga, and it will mean keeping your growing area as clean as possible. Algae doesn’t like dry surfaces, so this is why you only see it around the water line in your system. Commercial algaecides are of little use, and there is no better way of ridding a system than flushing it and giving a good clean.

It is best to do this when you are changing your batch of nutrients, because you will then know your system is as clean as it can be.

To do this, drain your system of liquid. You can then use hydrogen peroxide at a ratio of 3 milliliters per gallon of water. Before topping your system with this solution, check for debris and remove this. Top your system above your regular water line and run this peroxide solution for up to six hours without plants. Drain and rinse then drain again, and wipe down every surface you can reach.

Two ways to slow the growth of algae is to use opaque materials on your system. Light is one thing that algae loves as it tries to grow in your tank. Second is to cover any exposed water. This is to slow the algae from entering your system as well as blocking out light.

One other tip is to use a UVC light in your filtration system. These can be costly, yet they can kill microorganisms. A more natural way is to administer up to 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract per gallon of water, these low doses don’t harm plants, yet they are effective at fending off algae.

Hydroponic Plant Problems from Pests

There are many who think that hydroponic gardens are free from pests however this isn’t the case. While they are free from some, it is nearly impossible to keep pests from an environment that is as warm as an indoor growing area.

Plant pests are unfortunately developed to travel between crops even if these are indoors. Growers do need to be vigilant because an infestation of pests can quickly ruin crops before they are aware of the problem.

Here are some of the more common indoor garden pests growers can encounter.

Spider Mites– Spider Mites are probably the most common of all the indoor garden pests. Because the mites are so small, you probably won’t notice them into its too late. There are two very easy ways that you can spot spider mites. One way is to keep an eye out for a webbing material that kind of looks as if it came from a spider. The second way is to wipe the back of the leaves with a cloth and see if there are any traces of the bugs on it.

Thrips- Thrips are a hard pest to identify, but with a good eye, you will notice small black speck on your plant’s leaves. The leaves will usually turn brown in color and become dried out.

Aphids– Another name for these pests is plant lice. They will be either green or black in color. The aphids will severely weaken your plants by sucking all of the juices out of them. This will cause your leaves to turn yellow and then brown. They are mostly located on the stem.

Whiteflies– They resemble small moths that are all white in color. Their color makes them very easy to find, but they can fly, so they are very hard to catch.

Fungus Gnats- Although the adults of this species aren’t harmful, the larva form can be very deadly for your plants. These pests can slow down the growth of your plants by feeding on the roots. These appear to be small white worms in the growing media.

Plant Pest Prevention Methods

Although there are many technologies for the prevention of pests, some of the better ones are still the older natural ones. One of the favorites of growers is the compound neem oil. This has been used for centuries, but has only been available in the past few years in an easy form for application.

Neem is also a longer-term approach because it is an insect growth regulator. This means it will work better over the long-term to break the life cycle of the insects. The one good thing with neem is that as it is a plant extract, it is nontoxic in smaller doses, yet care does need to be taken.

Sticky Traps are another great means of controlling these pests. When you hang sticky traps around the room, you can trap the pests, and this will make it easy to identify them. Blue stick cards are good for catching thrips. Yellow cards attract fungus gnats and whiteflies. It is important that you make sure some cards are at the soil level and the medium level of your plants.

Another natural means of protecting plants against these pests is the introduction of beneficial pests. Outdoor gardeners know all too well about these and they can also work for indoor gardens.

Ladybugs are a prime example, as are lacewings, preying mates while there are also Hypoaspis and Encarsia Formosa, which eat greenhouse whiteflies, fungus gnats and springtails. The problem using these in some gardens is that they themselves struggle to survive over long periods.

Nutrient Deficiency Plant Problems in Hydroponics

New growers may think there are many plant problems such as the above, yet the one thing they are delivering to their plants can be one of the major areas where there are plant issues.

Either delivering too many nutrients or not enough can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This can leave gardeners frustrated, as they are not sure what is causing their crops to suffer. Symptoms can be saying one thing while the cause is actually from something else.

Nutrient Lockout can come from many areas in a system. Water can be a culprit especially if pH levels are out of the ideal range. It is vital for growers to know the ranges that are suitable for good plant growth and the things that can affect this. Faucet water can have a bearing on pH, as there are many compounds in this water depending on the region you live.

Heat stress can also lead to nutrient deficiencies as can an insufficient amount of lighting.

Growers need to know how to diagnose deficiencies before they can fix the issues. Leaves should be an even color all the way across and they should have a uniform shape. Once leaves begin showing a shape, which is not the same as older foliage, or the colors are patchy then these are the first signs there is a problem.

There are many signs of nutrient deficiency yet most come from the macronutrients because they are the ones plants use the most of. To fix and prevent these is not as hard as it appears if they are caught soon enough.

Fixing Nutrient Deficiency Plant Problems in Hydroponics

Two of the main areas growers need to attend to when fixing these issues are the pH levels. It is vital to monitor these levels daily, as it is to measure the EC levels of the solution. This is straightforward with a good digital EC tester, and a pH testing device.

Growers should also understand that just because a plant is showing signs of a nutrient deficiency, it doesn’t mean their solution is lacking this nutrient. Phosphorous levels, which are too high, can block plants taking up other nutrients.

An iron deficiency can be something as simple as a nutrient solution being colder than the recommended temperature. The range of temperatures for a solution should be around 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Iron deficiencies can also be caused by a solution, which is rich in manganese. This shows why adding more nutrients isn’t necessarily the best approach.

The best approach for fixing any nutrient deficiency can be to flush the system. It may sound counterproductive to take all the nutrients away from the plants, yet in almost every cases, the solution doesn’t lack the nutrients and the deficiency is caused by a secondary factor.

To do this, remove any leaves that are showing large signs of discoloration or they are badly damaged. In severe cases, you may need to go back as far as the stem. Removing any leaf matter that may die is vital because if this rots, it allows pathogens to enter the system.

Pots and growing medium should be flushed with pH-balanced water to remove any salt buildup, and then the system should be topped up with fresh water only. At this stage, it should be run for a period of 24-hours before measuring pH and EC levels again.

Once both levels are back in line, you can mix a new batch, yet it is advisable to only use a three quarter strength of the manufacturer’s dosage. One final addition can be some organic liquid tea as a supplement. This is beneficial to your plants without increasing certain nutrients to the point of causing lockout.

Conclusion

Growers do have many things to contend with, and in some instances, they may wonder if it is worth having a hydroponic garden because of these problems.

While these can hit at any time, once the right precautions are in place, the actual chances of these problems hitting a garden are dramatically reduced. Growers quickly understand how their systems and gardens work, so they will be taking precautionary measures as a matter of course.

A hydroponic garden is worth the extra effort it takes to control these problems, because if it weren’t the number of growers would be declining rather than increasing.

Indoor or Outdoor Hydroponics? How to Decide?

Hydroponics has been around for thousands of years and began to make its way into recognition before the second world war. Since then, it has been seen as a way to grow crops in areas where it isn’t usually possible. Many places can be used, such as in cities, on rooftops, and in basements.

Whether you want to this on a small scale or want to grow crops for profit, there are a few key things you need to decide on when it comes to hydroponic farming and what would work best for your needs.

One of the most significant decisions any new grower needs to consider before starting their hydroponic garden is whether to do it indoors or outdoors? There are the growers who swear by indoor growing and have control over their gardens. On the other hand, there is something to be said about those who grow plants outdoors and reap the full benefits of what mother nature can bring to the party while still following the core hydroponic principles.

There may be no apparent clear winner as to whether growing indoors or outdoors works best with hydroponics, but there are some advantages and disadvantages of each method that you must consider. Here we will take a look at both options so you can see which may offer the best solution for you and your plants.

Pros and Cons of Outdoor Hydroponic Systems

Here we will see what the top ten plus points are for hydroponics gardening in the outdoors, and we will see as a comparison, the top ten downsides of taking a hydroponic garden outside.

Pros of Outdoor Hydroponics

The Ultimate Grow Light

Outdoor hydroponics offers you the chance to utilize the best possible light source there is without spending anything, the sun. You don’t need to be bothered about the quality or the intensity, because nature can cover it. The sun delivers the full spectrum of light to your plants.

To have the capacity of using sunlight as your first lighting fixture is a significant cost saving. It also enables you to work with systems that may have been more challenging to illuminate indoors. Vertical towers or long gutter gardens you can build on the sides of sheds are good examples. These are nearly impossible to do well in an indoor environment. They will grow, yet they require a large growing area and will need illumination from a horizontal position.

More Working Space

Almost everyone knows that hydroponics can grow more food in a smaller space than outdoor soil gardening. However, when you have an outdoor hydroponic garden, it offers significantly more space compared to growing indoors.

Such systems can be more prominent, and crops can be allowed to grow longer, too, making harvests more abundant.

Outdoor hydroponic gardening is terrific because you can have many systems, growing crops of all kinds and vegetables at the same time. That is often difficult for amateur indoor hydroponic growers to do.

Reduced System Build Costs

Any seasoned hydroponic gardener will know that initial system costs can be on the extreme side. Much of this comes due to the lighting fixtures, ventilation, fans, and many other add ons that are required to make a system a replacement for being outside.

Once a hydroponic system is outdoors there, there is less reliance on lighting and hardly any need for ventilation. Mother nature can take care of everything a plant needs, and leave the grower to worry about delivering the nutrients.

No Need for Manual Pollination

When certain plants and crops are being grown indoors, these have to be pollinated manually. With the lack of insects to do this, the grower will need to find some ingenious means of moving the pollen around so the plants can be pollinated.

An outdoor hydroponic garden won’t leave the gardener dusting his plants with small brushes or other means he uses to disturb the pollen and move it around. When the time is right, there will be plenty of bees around who will relish doing this kind of job.

Cons of Outdoor Hydroponics

While there are many advantages to an outdoor hydroponic garden, there are just as many disadvantages. Here are some of the main downsides to taking your plants back into their natural environment.

Extreme Heat

Two primary areas are affected by heat in your gardens. This can be the same indoors, but because you can control the environment, there is less of an issue. Nutrient solutions and the overall environment when outside can, to a degree, be uncontrollable.

Air temperature can be the main one, and a grower will somehow need to take precautions. Plants will start absorbing more water in a warm air environment. This has the knock-on effect of salts and the EC levels increasing in a system. To counteract this, a lower concentration of nutrients will need to be used. If the EC has a range, then the bottom end needs to be followed.

Shading or shade cloths can be sued to block out the harsh sun, yet these can’t do much about the air temperature. If you are using a greenhouse, then vents and electric fans will also be required.

Nutrient solutions will be the next area, and the knock-on effects of this warming can be more severe. Warm solutions are unable to hold as much oxygen. It may be the inclusion of additional air pumps, an insulated reservoir, or you may need to use a reservoir chiller to maintain the temperatures.

There are other means, yet these will take repeated applications, and they are not as reliable as a chiller, even if they are cheaper.

Shorter Growing Seasons

One of the primary reasons for indoor gardening will be that plants can be grown all year round. Once you head back outside, this advantage is somewhat reduced, depending on your local region. If you have a greenhouse with heating, then it may be possible for some crops to grow, but even this can limit what you can grow with the same yields.

If you live in a region where the temperature doesn’t drop below 40 F, then it is possible to continue growing the coolest weather crops that will be thankful for the colder climate.

Systems Face More Wear and Tear

Many systems are constructed using PVC plastics and tubing. Even your reservoirs can be some form of plastic. When these face the elements, they can suffer and degrade. UV rays being the key culprit for this. Plastics will appear dry and can crack over time.

It is possible to shield your system, yet this can only do so much. Adding to this, when it comes to cleaning your system, you may find joints leaking when you assemble again, hoses are cracked, and the system is much harder to clean.

Lack of Control

Hydroponic growers love the control an indoor garden delivers. However, all of this will be lost when they are outside. Aside from hot and cold spells, you need to consider rain. If your plants are in an area where they are subject to rainfall, then so is the concentration of your reservoir.

You can be unlucky that water gets in, and it overflows, and if you have a DWC, flood, and drain or bucket system, then this can severely damage your crops by there being too much water. Along with this is the fact a large amount of rain can weaken your solution, so then you need to make additional checks of EC, pH, and any cases of root rot.

One area which may not stand out, to begin with, is the support for larger plants. As these are not in soil with solid footings, large gusts of wind can easily blow them over.

Pests, and Lots of Them

It is true that plants outdoors will pollinate more naturally. However, all the bugs that can be harmful to plants will also be making headway in the direction of your plants. This will be true because all your crops should be growing much larger than the soil grown varieties.

It is times like this where a greenhouse comes in handy, yet growers do need to be sure they don’t underestimate the beneficial insects that can come to a garden. These things, like ladybugs or lacewings, will feed on some of the nastier ones.

There are also other things to be wary of. Depending on where you live, you may find rabbits or birds taking advantage of your healthy and tasty crops.

Suitable Systems For Outdoor Growth

Almost any type of system can be suited for outdoor hydroponics if the grower takes a few steps to ensure they are geared up for facing the elements.

There are, however, some systems better suited to this, and hence why you find some systems on rooftops and built-up areas.

With all the above negatives about being unable to control the outdoor environment, systems which have a proportion of the plants root mass submerged in water, such as DWC are better avoided at being used.

However, flood and drain systems or aeroponics systems are often used with lots of success. The thing with growing outdoors is that these systems may take on a different look to their indoor counterparts. Reflective insulation will be used as a means of protecting the reservoir from harsh light as well as helping to protect plants in some instances.

One other thing that is often done is where there is an area where water can evaporate. These are covered to prevent this. In troughs or holes where cups sit, these are all sealed to avoid evaporation. Adding to this, if the plastic is covered in reflective materials, it can prolong the life of a system.

If it isn’t possible to put the system in a greenhouse, a roof across the top with a transparent covering can be ideal to stop unwanted rainfall dilution of the nutrients or to flood the system. They can also be perfect to hand shade nets from if it becomes too hot and as a means of keeping insects at bay.

With all these changes, growers had to do something to avoid unnecessary work and to use systems that can benefit from being outside. Over the last years, this led to specific systems making their way to the forefront of outdoor hydroponic systems.

Here is a brief look at each in more detail.

Vertical Hydroponic Systems

These are set up as towers and sit vertically rather than horizontally. These deliver the advantage of using less floor space than a conventional system. These can also grow more plants than a regular system in any given area.

These are one of the conventional system types we now see on rooftops and other areas that have limited space. Although they can be used indoors, it isn’t the type of garden that many growers choose to adopt. Some plants can thrive better in a vertical system better than others. Strawberries being one of the best examples.

Aquaponic Systems with Fish

These are more than a system and are an ecosystem. With the combination of fish, these can eliminate the need for nutrients. The fish waste is used as fertilizer for the plants and then plants clean the water to prevent it from becoming toxic for the fish.

These will take up much more space, and they don’t require as much protection from the rain because there are no nutrients to weaken. Most systems in these are an adaption of a hydroponic system, and a tank full of fish change the reservoir.

Simplified Hydroponics for Developing Countries

From the beginning, hydroponics has been seen as a way to solve the world’s hunger problem. This can be feasible, yet there are numerous countries where the people who live there don’t have access to electricity.

The oxygenation and watering schedule are all done manually throughout the day. While this can be hard work, it does mean these people have access to fresh vegetables.

Floating beds are one such system. These have their solutions aerated by hand at intervals throughout the day. Because the water is stationary, these can fall foul of rises in the temperature of the solution. If these can be situated in colder environments, this isn’t then an issue, and they can deliver fast-growing healthy crops.

Flood and drain (ebb & flow) are an easy system to run manually. While the automated system makes use of a pump to flood the bed, these are filled manually before the solution is allowed to drain back to the reservoir.

Both of these simple systems give gardeners in the not so fortunate regions to provide for themselves and their families. This self-sufficiency allows them to survive where they could face starvation under normal circumstances.

Both these systems will use the same sorts of nutrient mixes as are available to regular hydroponic growers. The only difference being the operation of the system.

The cost of nutrients can be returned ten-fold in food. As an example, if the bottle costs $25, then the food value would be around $250. In some regions, this can be most of the food for the month.

One Final Outdoor System

Aeroponics

This system can be used outdoors because of the way it works, and the solution sits underneath the growing area. This is a closed system so with a little protection there isn’t much chance of the rain diluting the nutrients in the reservoir.

Roots of the plants are misted with the nutrient-rich solution as the plants are suspended in the air. When using the aeroponics method, there are two ways that you can ensure growth and give the plant nutrients as needed:

The drawback of these systems is they can be complicated to set up and to build. However, once they are up and running, they can deliver fantastic results in growth.

For the newer gardener, these may be a little out of reach because there are a few complicated factors that need to be right.

Conclusion

Choosing between indoor hydroponics and outdoor hydroponics at the end of the day will be down to the gardener and what they expect from their system. There are even gardens that are either situated at the sides of properties and can be enclosed when colder weather comes, or there are easy ways to move them undercover.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, especially when it comes to running costs. While growing lights can give total control, it does seem to be a waste of the sun, especially considering it is free.

If there were one way to look at it, it would be to take the best of both and combine them into one. The system will be much the same, yet the location will be different.

No matter where your location, be it indoors or outdoors, you can easily be a part of the new gardening revolution in your very home own. There is also one thing many individuals overlook, and that is who says you can’t have one system indoors, and a secondary system outdoors.

How to Grow Bamboo with Hydroponics

Bamboo is an excellent plant to keep around your home; not only is it beautiful but it is pretty easy to care for and can increase the oxygen levels in your home significantly. You then have the Lucky Bamboo, which individuals like to have in case it will bring extra luck to them.

When you trim your bamboo or want to add more to your home, you have a few choices available to you for proper growth.

One question often asked bamboo owners is whether or not they can grow bamboo using hydroponics? In the most basic way, you can do this by planting bamboo cuttings in any decorative container filled with water. This is a similar method to how many grow their bamboo when they plant the clippings in soil; however, no soil is needed for quality growth as bamboo will not rot in water like many other houseplants.

You can use cuttings of a well-established bamboo plant and cultivate them in a basic hydroponic system, and we will see how you can create a better hydroponic container. You need to be sure your bamboo cuttings remain erect in the water base and establish a proper root system to begin growing. When the roots are in place, the caring process is reasonably straightforward for new gardeners.

Best Bamboo to Grow Hydroponically

Indeed, some certain bamboo species are not suited for indoor growth because they can grow fast in a short amount of time.

With this, some indoor species of bamboo are hard to maintain and grow hydroponically.

The trendiest form of bamboo you’ll ever see grown hydroponically is Lucky Bamboo. These are most commonly seen on office desks, in businesses, or even just in many homes. They are much a part of Feng Shui, and it is believed they bring good luck and fortune to their owners.

One great reason many choose Lucky Bamboo, particularly as a starter plant, is that it is both easy to grow and hard to kill. Their sturdy stems are perfect for growth in water and can survive in many lighting conditions. While not devoted to the care of your plant, it will live for some time with little supervision.

One other reason many choose Lucky Bamboo is that it is so easy to find and relatively cheap to buy. Many of these plants are from Taiwan or China, where professional growers braid and twist stems to create elaborate shapes. You can, of course, purchase uncomplicated stems which are cheaper and equally beautiful. Or you can grow your won, and then learn how you can twist and braid to deliver these ornate shapes.

Bamboo Grow and Care Guide

If you are ready to start growing bamboo hydroponically, it is a relatively straightforward process and does not take a lot of extra work. However, there are a few key steps that you need to take to ensure that your bamboo grows appropriately.

You do need to be sure you have a suitable donor plant, to begin with. The following steps take you through all you need to start growing hydroponic Lucky Bamboo

Finding the Right Donor Plant

Step One

Find a donor plant that looks appealing. Rather than selecting the first one you come across, it is worth seeing one that is healthy in the beginning. It should be easy to source these from a local garden center or nursery. You can even pick these up at larger supermarkets if they have a flower section. Depending on where you look for them, they may have a different name. This can be the generic Lucky Bamboo or Ribbon Plant. On occasions, you may find them with their Latin name of Dracaena Sanderiana.

Be sure to look for one, which is a vibrant green. Even as much as caring for bamboo can be easy, you don’t want to begin your journey with one that isn’t healthy. It may be tempting to select a larger plant, yet this doesn’t mean it will be the best option. Some plants give better cuttings when they are going through their growth rather than being mature.

Bamboo selection tips:

  • It should have even green color with no yellowing, bruising, or spots.
  • Stalks need to be a consistent color from the tip to the base where they are planted.
  • Leaves shouldn’t have any brown on the tips.

Step Two

Check around the base of the plant to see it has been planted correctly. You can also smell around the lip of the pot to make sure there isn’t any funny smell. While these are resilient, if they have been planted incorrectly, or they are suffering, there can be an aroma which smells sour. This is a sign of a sick plant that may not grow any further.

If there is a smell, it won’t be the same smell you get from flowers. Bamboo doesn’t have any of the same scents, but if they are overwatered, you can begin to smell the bacterial buildup, which makes the sour smell.

You will need to check for signs of watering. Depending on how it has been planted, you can find them in the soil as well as the more common hydroponic method of just a growing media and water. If in soil, check it is damp but not waterlogged, and if it is in pebbles or an alternative, check there is water, yet the pot isn’t too full.

Planting Your Lucky Bamboo

Step One

Because you are taking the hydroponic route for your bamboo, you will need to be sure it has the right kind of water. Water from the faucet can contain chlorine or chloramine, depending on where you live and how the water has been processed.

Rainwater or aquarium water is ideal, yet if you need water from the faucet, you can leave some in an uncovered bucket in sunlight for 24 hours. Chlorine breaks down at this time and leaves the water, which will be suitable.

Chloramine is harder to get rid of, and you will need to purchase Campden tablets. A more straightforward option can be to cut a lemon in half and leave this in your water for 24-hours. This can also eliminate any chlorine

You will need a firm growing media to hold the stems in place. Depending on your pot, you may be able to use hydroton pebbles. You can use a mix of these with small stones as they retain moisture while stones offer support.

For water, be sure your plant has enough to cover the bottom or the base of the roots. You will need to change the water regularly, as this can help prevent root rot. It is a good practice to give your pot and pebbles a rinse with your plant each time you do this.

Step Two

Your chosen pot will need to be around 2-inches larger in diameter than your plant. While you will have a container that your donor plant comes in, it may not fit in with your decor or offer the right sort of drainage.

One of the best pots when using pebbles is a clear one; this lets you know the watering level, yet you will need to keep it out of direct sunlight, or your plant will suffer from air pruning once they spread outward and reach the glass.

Although the above is like one of the basic hydroponic environments, this stage can be seen as even closer. You will need to add light fertilizer to aid faster growth and to be sure your Lucky Bamboo obtains all the nutrients it requires.

As with any hydroponic growing, too many nutrients will cause more harm than do the plants any good. You can easily make your liquid fertilizer, or you can purchase bottles of nutrients that are specific for hydroponic plants. If using these, you will need a weak solution, and even 1/4 strength may be too strong. One or two drops may be enough, considering you will be changing the water frequently.

Propagating Lucky Bamboo

The above steps will need to be followed when you are growing any bamboo, yet if you have followed the above for your donor plant and changed the pot it is in, there will come the time when you begin to propagate your plant and take cuttings to grow more.

This is after all the object of Lucky Bamboo. You can spread it around your home or hand it out to friends or family.

As your bamboo plant begins growing, there will be a stage where it starts to come too tall. This is the stage where you can now take cuttings and replant them. This also has the benefit of stopping your plant from becoming overcrowded.

Here, you take the most extended stalk and carefully remove the smaller leaves from the top of the new shoot. Using a sharp, sterile knife (wipe in alcohol), cut the offshoot so there are still two plant nodes (these are the raised lumps on the stem) that will remain on the cut stem. You can use scissors, yet there can be the issue of crushing the stem.

Place the cut end in a bowl of clean, distilled water. You keep this in a shaded area for one to two months until there are signs of roots forming.

When you see these new roots, you can follow the first steps you went through with your new pot and your pebbles. It is precisely the same for cuttings as it is for the original donor plant. With these new shoots, you will need to be very careful with the number of nutrients you deliver. Because they are young, a solution that is too strong can kill them straight away. One drop may be sufficient until your bamboo plant begins to grow on its own.

Lucky Bamboo Care

When your plant begins growing, there isn’t much care and attention you need to give it. There are just a few things you need to be aware of to allow it to grow to its full potential and make sure it doesn’t die in the early days of growth.

Be careful when watering. Bamboo plants don’t need lots of water. Too much will be harmful and can lead to suffocation, and thus leading to root rot.

Once a week, watering should be sufficient, although there does need to be water present around the rooting mass. This way it can take what it needs without becoming dry, or it is left sitting in a puddle of water.

Bamboo of this variety, as well as many others, doesn’t like bright sunlight. If you see it growing in its natural habitat, it will be growing in shaded areas and protected from the sun by trees or other taller plants. Nevertheless, you can leave your plants in a well-lit area, be sure it won’t be hit by intense sun.

In many cases, bamboo of this nature isn’t placed directly in windows, and it can happily sit in other areas around the home where there is lots of natural light. Kitchens and some bathrooms are often areas where you see these sitting luckily.

You should keep bamboo away from vents or doorways where there can be wide fluctuations in temperature. Moderate temperature changes are okay if they are internal like a room opening, yet if it is from an exterior door, then your plant can suffer from shock. The ideal temperatures for optimum growth is a range of 65°F and 90°F.

While tending to your bamboo, you may often see some leaves which are yellowing or already dead. One of the leading causes for this is the plant isn’t getting enough water, or it has been sitting in too much sunlight. The light issue is easy to rectify; however, this can affect the water problem. The bamboo may be drinking more in compensation for being in bright sunlight, and because of this, the water level drops lower than where its roots can reach. You can trim any parts which are yellow or remove the entire leaf.

While using some sterile shears or scissors will enable you to remove the yellow parts, removing the full leaf means the plant won’t be wasting energy on a deformed leaf.

To remove the full leaf, gently pull it down on the stalk while supporting your plant. The foliage should remove itself from the stem once you do this.

Styling Bamboo to Make it Lucky

Bamboo may be an everyday kind of plant, yet when you have lucky bamboo, which is formed into swirls curls and many other shapes, it offers a look that no other plant can deliver.

This is one of the reasons why it is so popular, and once it has been formed into these intricate shapes, that may be where people think the luck comes from.

The way you do this is to take younger stalks and stems, which are still developing, and these will be soft so that you can manipulate these around each other.

The easiest way you can curl your bamboo is to take a cardboard carton and cut off one side and the bottom.

Place the box on one side of your plant, so the open side faces the source of light. Because plants always lean toward the light, your bamboo will begin arcing in the direction of the sun.

Once you see your plant is bending, you can rotate the pot so it will twist in another angle as it again tries to reach the light.

Another more forceful way to get tight curls is to wrap wire around the stalks after crisscrossing them gently. These will grow following the lines you set, so the bigger they get, the more wire you will need to add.

Good fortune can be had by tying a gold ribbon around the stems to hold them against each other. Once your plant is growing, it will take on the shapes you have set, and will look like a lucky trinket wrapped in its gold ribbon.

Conclusion

While this kind of plant isn’t making full use of a hydroponic system, there is no getting away from it that you are using the most basic hydroponic techniques. If you are using plain water for most of the time, the inclusion of fertilizer every couple of weeks can be enough to keep it adequately fed.

However, if you do have an aquarium, this water is abundant in goodness, even if it may be a little murky.

Bamboo may brighten up the home, yet because you can propagate from it freely, you may even consider making it into a part-time occupation to help pay the running costs of your full-sized hydroponic system.

If anything, it is an excellent way to get anyone interested in home gardening. It may take a little care now and again, but it won’t suffer if you forget once and a while.

9 Vegetables You Can Grow In Hydroponics (with pictures)

Hydroponics is a booming means of growing produce at home. New gardeners who are thinking about this often wonder what are the best crops to grow, which are easy and will deliver the best yields.

There are many reasons why individuals are turning to this way of growing, and it doesn’t matter if it is because they want to help save the planet, or cut down on their grocery bill. Hydroponics is a great way to do this and much more.

While not every vegetable thrives in a hydroponic environment, many do. So here are the top, nine any new hydroponic grower can grow into their system. Some are very easy, while others take a bit more effort and space, but nonetheless, all of them are worth adding to any hydroponic garden.

Here, we will look at each of these top nine hydroponic vegetables and which systems are best suited to their growth.

Best Vegetables for Hydroponics 

Lettuce

Leaf lettuce makes an outstanding option for hydroponic cultivation. It grows in the simplest systems and requires minimal attention. As you grow, you can harvest the external leaves from your lettuce, meaning you will end with a prolonged crop of fresh, crunchy lettuce. As the leaves are cut, the internal leaves will grow rapidly to take their place.

There are many varieties to choose from, and most of them are suitable for growing this way. The more common types are:

  • Tom Thumb
  • Boston
  • Iceberg
  • New York
  • Romaine
  • Buttercrunch Bibb
  • Simpson
  • Waldman’s Dark Green

Lettuce are suitable to grow in NFT, DWC and Ebb and Flow systems. If the temperature gets too hot for them, lettuce can bolt and may taste bitter. They are a cool weather vegetable and like temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees fahrenheit. Lettuce are also fond of high nitrogen levels.

Kale

Kale is one of the top vegetables that is grown because of its health benefits and is delicious flavor. This can be germinated from seeds and once it begins growing, it can handle a wide range of temperatures from 45 to 85 degrees fahrenheit.

From seed to harvest takes around ten weeks, yet like lettuce, you can pluck up to 30% of the plant leaves. Again, new leaves will grow back and you can extend the time your crops are in your system. If you transplant, you can cut the time to harvest down to around 6-weeks. One good thing with kale when grown indoors is that many pests don’t target it. Aphids being the primary culprit, yet they can suffer from powdery mildew.

The main varieties are Curly kale (common type sold in grocery stores), Lacinato kale (sweeter and have longer leaves), and Red Russian Kale.  This variety is the sweetest you can grow and has a reddish appearance.

Spinach

Being another cool weather crop, this is perfect to grow along with lettuce and kale. Any temperature over 75 degrees fahrenheit will see the plant suffer. It can be grown from seeds and many hydroponic growers will place their seeds in the refrigerator for up to three weeks before planting. This creates a plant that is hardier and thus a healthier plant. They do like around 12 hours of light daily, however, because they are cool weather plants, T5 fluorescent lamps may be the better option for lighting.

When it is almost time to harvest, you can lower the temperatures because this has the effect of making the crop sweeter. However, because of this, growth will slow. It is advisable to go for quality over quantity to prevent a bitter tasting leaf.

Most systems are suitable for spinach, but just remember to plant them a few weeks apart so you can have continual harvests. A raft system can be perfect for these as it can be for lettuce and kale as well.

Cucumbers

Growing cucumber in hydroponics can be so rewarding. These vegetables love the conditions they are given. Warmth, nutrients and lots of moisture are perfect. Growers are amazed at the yields because they quickly become one of the highest yielding vegetables you can grow.

The ideal temperatures for optimal growth are just outside the ranges that the above leafy greens like. Saying this, they can grow in a range from 60 to 82 degrees fahrenheit. This makes them ideal for growing alongside the next two crops in the list.

Cucumber likes a pH of 5.8 with an EC between 1.8 and 2. Growers can find seeds expensive for a good hybrid strain, yet when you see what fruits one seed can bear once it is growing, this cost per seed is more than justified.

The hardest thing with cucumber growth is they are vining plants and will need trellises. This makes them more suited to flood and drain or other bucket type systems, where there is plenty of growing medium to help support. This being said, coco coir is one of the better mediums to use as long as the plants are supported well.

Be on the lookout for pests like mites, thrips, whiteflies, and aphids. These insects love to take advantage of cucumber crops.

Nutritious Tomatoes

Tomatoes

When growers move on to tomatoes, it shows they understand their system and wish to go on to the next level. Having a continual supply of fresh tomatoes is what hydroponics is all about.  

These are a warm weather plant and like the temperatures like cucumbers. They do however prefer an EC level that begins at 2 and goes up to 5, so any system will need to be separated to allow tomatoes to grow on their own, or at least with other plants that like this level.

The ideal pH is between 5.5 and 6.5 and the temperature is between 58 and 79 degrees fahrenheit. The upper end of the range more preferable.

They can be planted from seeds, yet cuttings or seedlings are advisable because it takes too long to grow fruiting plants from seeds. There are many varying types, yet the vining varieties are popular because they are easier to control and harvest from.

Tomatoes as if cucumbers require trellises so they can grow upward, and they will deliver a steady stream of fresh fruits you can part harvest.

Tomatoes can suffer from various pests and diseases like spider mites, aphids, mosaic virus and much more. One other thing that can occur depending on tomato variety is they can be prone to splits. This is when the inside of the tomato grows faster than the skin. This often happens when they take up too much water in a short time.

Radishes

Although most root vegetables are not ideal for growing hydroponically, radish are different. These are a cool weather crop so they can accompany the first few plants in the list. They also mature rapidly, and just happen to be one of the easiest plants to grow.

The pH is bets around 6 to 7, and the temperatures between 50 and 65 degrees fahrenheit. If you are growing a longer radish variety, these can withstand a bit more heat than the short bulb kinds. EC levels should fall between 1.6 and 2.2.

Lighting requirements are minimal, and at least 6-hours are needed. Optimal levels are between 8 and 10 hours of light.

Seedlings are not recommended, and they are better grown from seeds. From germination to harvest can be as little as three or four weeks. Add to this, if you stagger your planting, you can harvest all the way through the year. This cool-weather vegetable grows excellent in hydroponic systems where the temperature hovers between 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit.

The most common problems with radish is they can easily bolt if they are not kept mist, and if they are too wet, they can suffer from root rot.

Beans

Nearly every kind of bean can be grown in a hydroponic garden. There are hundreds you can choose from yet the most common are runners, string, pole beans and bush beans. These are easy maintenance and very productive for the effort which goes into growing them. Some types do take more effort because they are climbing/ vining plants so they will need support trellises.

When growing from seed, they are speedy germinators and can take less than two weeks. You may even see some varieties start in as little as seven days.

When growing and you can see they have two true leaves, then they are the right size to go into your garden. Depending on your system type, although ebb and flow being the better option, however, a drip system is also ideal. Plants should be planted around 4-inches apart when they are the bush variety. Pole beans should be spaced a little wider apart at around 6-inches.

One good thing with beans is they self-pollinate. Growing medium should be loose so hydroton pebbles or a mix of perlite and vermiculite are good options and have several advantages. With a neutral pH, perlite won’t affect your levels and expanded clay pebbles offer enough moisture and oxygen to the roots.

Twelve or thirteen hours of light is enough, and the daily temperatures should be between 70 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. If a temperature falls below 60, or rises above 60, then there will be a knock-on effect to the plants pod growth.

Beans don’t need many nutrients and when spacing them apart when planting, you can have a continual harvest. This can come in as little as 50 days for each plant.

Peppers

Peppers are a great addition as they can be grown in any season. Not just this, but yields growers can experience are much larger than if they are grown by conventional means. This means fruits are larger and a better quality as the plants are delivered what they need to allow them to grow to their genetic potential.

Ebb and flow systems are best suited to this kind of vegetable, although they can be comfortable being grown in others which have a good base of growing media for support. These plants can grow quite large, so they need additional spacing of between 7 to 9 inches between plants. This can limit a pot to two plants only.

Lighting needs to be around six to eight inches above the plants and will need adjusting as they mature. If the bulbs are closer than this, it can cause scorching, and if further away, it can affect the yield or potential growth.

Lighting needs to be up to 12 hours per day, and no less than 10. Additionally, they will need sufficient amounts of nighttime hours as well. Daily temperatures need to be between 73 and 80 degrees fahrenheit, so they are perfect companions to be with cucumbers and tomatoes.

Extra attention is required during their growth where stem buds need pruning as the plants are about 8-inches in height. This helps the plant devote its energies into larger fruits than lots of smaller ones.

The pH levels need to be between 5.5 and 7, and the EC should fall in the range of 3 to 3.5.

Celery

Celery can be one of the harder vegetables to grow in a hydroponic environment, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Celery seeds take up to two weeks to germinate, which is pretty long compared to other vegetables. A quicker alternative is to use the stalk of celery you purchased from the store.

If you take the stalk and cut 2 inches from the bottom, then place the base in a plate of room temperature water, it will actually start to grow after only a week. Celery needs a lot of water, so the proper system to choose would be a deep water system. Along with germinating seeds, harvesting celery can take up to 4 months total after the seeds are planted.

Celery likes a pH level of 6.5, and the EC level of the nutrients should be 1.8 to 2.4. This can be an accompanying plant in a grow room which is geared up for lettuce and cool weather crops. The daylight temperatures should be between 58 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. Lighting isn’t extreme and they only need around 6 hours per day.

It can take a long time to maturity and harvest, and they can test a grower who will need patience, however, growing this crop can be one of the most rewarding considering how expensive it can be from the supermarket.

Benefits of Hydroponics to Grow Vegetables

Using hydroponics to grow vegetables can be highly beneficial, especially in regions where conditions are not suitable, or those times of the year when nothing will grow. Many of the crops above can be grown around the year, or you can grow these while planting any of the many others, which aren’t on the list in a different growing season.

There are countless benefits no matter what you choose to grow, and here are a few you will see:

Larger Yields

Hydroponics can’t make vegetables grow larger than their genetics lets them, however, they can grow to their full potential and in a much smaller space than they can in soil. Being able to control the nutrients and pH levels in the water also ensures only optimal growth for the vegetables leaving little room for failure.

All Year Round Crops

As we just saw, because the gardener is in total control, they can use artificial lighting and warner indoor growing conditions to grow through the year. Crops that are out of season become expensive when they are shipped in, but having them a few steps away from your kitchen makes all the difference.

Less Space

Hydroponic systems can be built almost anywhere. They can be indoors away from any natural light, or they can be in outdoor areas undercover, or in a greenhouse in the garden. However, with a much smaller space, they can churn out many more crop harvests which is possible than if the garden was in soil.

Conclusion

When a hydroponic garden is up and running, they can easily produce more than enough food for a large family.

While some crops are not suited, there can be little need to purchase some vegetables ever again. Many growers begin by just growing for consumption, yet as they go along they find they expand and need to begin getting rid of vegetables because they are producing too many.

Family and friends will be thankful of tasty fresh vegetables, yet there are the shrewd growers who turn their gardens into small home enterprises.

The vegetables above are just the tip of what is possible with hydroponics. The choice of what you grow is up to you, but just the ones above mean you can have a wide variety of choice. Start with these and as soon as you gain more knowledge, or you find you have that extra little space, you can expand and tackle herbs, strawberries or anything else you find is hard to come by where you live.