Can Cereals be Grown Hydroponically?

With many countries looking to solve food shortages, hydroponics has been seen as another way to maximize crop output without using more arable land, which is diminishing each year.

The main staple crops in many countries are wheat, oats, barley, rice and others. This leads to the question, “Can cereals be grown hydroponically?”

The answer to this isn’t as clear-cut as yes or no. With a carefully built hydroponic system, almost any crop can be grown, yet there some plants, which by their very nature are not designed to grow in hydroponic systems, and others which take more effort than the gain form their yields.

Here we will look to see if this question has an answer one way or the other.

What Can You Grow in Hydroponic Systems?

Many growers have systems inside their homes and make use of growing lights. However, there are also gardeners that are lucky enough to have enough space and can utilize a greenhouse to be the home to their system.

This means they can make use of the sun during the day, and then use grow light as an artificial supplement to the natural light.

Greenhouses can offer a gardener more room, yet these can quickly be outgrown with the wrong crops. When you use a greenhouse, you can see larger yields and it is these, which causes the issues.

Some crops, which are ideal for hydroponic growing, are:

Tomatoes: These thrive if grown in a hydroponic system. Depending on the variety, they will need support for their vines. This is the same if you were growing cucumbers, peas and beans.

Strawberries: These are another great crop to grow in hydroponic systems; however, they can be hard for new growers. There are many varieties, some vine while others are bush growers.

Herbs: Many herbs can be grown and take up very little space.

Leafy greens: Lettuce, kale and many other crops are ideal for growing in a system. These shallow rooting plants thrive in these growing conditions, and it is these, which began the hydroponic boom.

Many other vegetables are suitable for hydroponic growing. These can grow throughout the year, so the chances of fresh food all the time is a distinct possibility. Many smaller plants will grow faster than larger ones and take up less resources and effort.

What Not to Grow in Hydroponic Systems

Even though there are many plants, which are shallow rooted and perfect for hydroponics, there are as many, which are not suitable. These can be for differing reasons.

The first category of plants are those that don’t grow very well in a hydroponic system. Potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and turnips will all thrive better in soil grown condition than in a hydroponic system.

Even if you are a gardener who has a greenhouse, there are still crops that can outgrow these spaces. Squash, melons and many other crops that grow across the ground are not suitable because of the space they take up. These can be grown in hydroponics, yet you will need plenty of space, and then the crops grown per square foot ratio will plummet.

There are a few vining plants that are not suitable for home growers. Depending on the variety, tomatoes and cucumbers can fall into these groups. With trellising and the amount of space needed, they can overwhelm a gardeners growing space.

Adding to this, these large vining plants can drain systems of nutrients, and finally, there will be a continual need for grow lights to be adjusted as the plants grow along their vines. The extra work required can make these plants more effort than the gains that can be achieved.

Plants Which Don’t Make Economic Sense

There are many crops, which don’t make economic sense to farmers and their hydroponic system. Cereals fall into this category although there is a way where growing some cereals can make sense. This we will see later.

If you take wheat as the example, this is one of the most widely consumed cereals around the world. While not being genetically suited to hydroponic growth, there is the factor of the amount of electricity required to grow it.

To grow enough wheat to make a loaf of bread can cost upward of $20 if it was in a warehouse setting. Add to this the amount of space that is needed to grow enough wheat germ to make this loaf. There is no real feasibility for doing so.

Hydroponics is about saving space while growing more. In contradiction, wheat would take more space to grow a sufficient amount of crop, which is any use.

To break this down into a scale that is easier to relate to for a small garden, if you were to have nine square feet of growing area, this would produce around 4 cups of wheat for every harvest. This equates to making a loaf of bread every five months or so.

While this may write off the chances of growing cereals using hydroponic methods, there are ways where hydroponics can be used for cereal production.

Cereals and Hydroponic Water Purification

The American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Science carried out a study back in 2008. While this wasn’t solely about growing wheat, barley or oats hydroponically, it was about using aquaculture wastewater.

This is dependent on the size of garden, and will be geared more too commercial ventures. Taking the wastewater from system flushing can be used for irrigation of these cereal crops. The study showed the seeds were germinated in a hydroponic system where they then received the wastewater from the aquaculture system.

The resulting crops grew faster and didn’t show any sign of mineral deficiency. They did lack any significant amounts of protein, and even for fish food, they would need a supplement to correct this.

Although this isn’t essential growing cereals in a hydroponic system, it does show they are not adverse to absorbing hydroponic nutrients, so the possibility is there is other factors are ideal.

Hydroponic Cereal Sprouts and Microgreens

Sprouts and microgreens are taking the world by storm. These are highly nutritious and tasty. One of the ones which is touted as being a wonder food is “Wheatgrass.”

This is the first few inches of wheat as it begins its growth. Growing wheat or other cereals to maturity may not be cost effective, yet when you grow them to this stage only, they make a lot of economic sense.

You may see wheatgrass around in juice bars or health food stores. It comes with lots of possible health benefits and can be harvested in around 7-10 days.

Any cereal which is grown in this way will be packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. These can be used to help fight inflammation, diabetes and many other ailments.

Most of these can be grown with a weakened nutrient solution in coco coir while stacked on shelves with a grow light above them. They may take minimal watering, yet they still need all the same elements as the rest of a hydroponic garden such as temperature, ventilation and light.

A grower who ventures down this road may be surprised how much demand there is for this kind of small crop. Microgreens are in high demand from restaurants to the health conscious, even if the garden isn’t a commercial venture, it can lead that way, or just deliver many healthy things to spice up the dinner table.

Conclusion

Asking the question of whether or not cereals can be grown hydroponically does leave plenty open to debate. The reasons for not growing wheat is more down to the sense of doing so rather than it can’t be grown to a mature plant hydroponically.

Once you look at sprouts and microgreens, nearly all cereals can be sprouted or grown to a certain age that makes the minimal effort of doing this well worth it for every grower. This way, you can grow more crops in a smaller space and faster than plants reaching maturity.

A defining answer for growing cereals would be yes, but just not in the ways, you expect plants to grow. As you can see above, at the current time, there are many other crops that can be grown in hydroponic systems, yet the ways systems are set up, they are not a viable crop to do so.

Be it for growing constraints or the economic side rules them out, it doesn’t mean they can’t be grown using these methods.

Why Do Hydroponics Need Flushing?

New growers will often become confused when flushing is spoken about. It isn’t so much how to flush that becomes confusing, it is the “Why do hydroponics need Flushing?” which can catch them out. One of the first reasons is purely and simple as a means of maintaining system cleanliness.

The second is a little more in depth because it occurs at a different time, and for a very specific reason.

Here we will look at both kinds of system flushing, why there is a difference between flushing a system after a harvest as opposed to before a harvest, and how you can flush systems quickly and easily.

In a quick summary, here is what routine flushing of systems can help with:

  • Removes excess of salts and harsh compounds
  • Ensures a balance of nutrients
  • Allows you the opportunity to clean a system
  • Restoring crop growth in dying plants
  • Leading to better growth and flavor

Flushing Plants for Maximum Yields and Flavor

This can be the area that confuses new growers, and can cause them to make mistakes which affects the final growth of their plants and crops.

Flushing before a harvest doesn’t need to be complicated, and it doesn’t matter what brand of nutrient mixes you use, it can still offer you many benefits.

Why flush before a harvest?

What growers may not understand is that flushing systems before harvest is an easy method of increasing the final crop quality, to top this, it is free to do.

The reason this helps is, the process plants go through in the vegetative phase where they absorb the nutrients can actually cause them to have a buildup of salts or other compounds, which are not beneficial.

If these are left in the system during harvest phases, it can lead to a compromise in the outcome of the crops. This final flushing has some potential benefits like reducing harshness of the product and removing traces of chemical taste from crops.

This leads to a final improvement in overall plant quality as the plants are not wasting any energy to absorb nutrients as they would usually.

When and Why to flush before harvests?

It does take some consideration when to begin flushing before a harvest as it can have repercussions. If you do this too early, you won’t be just removing these excesses, you will start to deprive your crops of nutrients and leave yourself with nutrient deficiencies.

Growing medium in use can also make a difference. DWC growers can have the shortest flushing time as whatever they do will have an immediate effect. If using coco coir, then this can have the longest flushing time because the medium retains a high level of nutrients.

The ultimate goal is to rid your plants from the excess salts, however, when you use plain water, you are relying on this to cleanse your plant, growing medium and root system of these salts. You are actually starting to starve plants right before a harvest. While this may sound counterproductive, it does force the plants to use any excess nutrients they have in their system.

It is here where plants take on a more natural flavor and smell. There are solutions you can purchase which contain chelates. These can remove the harmful residues from all the areas of plants and systems, as they contain a broad type of chelates for this purpose. End results of crops can be bountiful and these solutions are shown to be effective, yet some can cause shock to plants.

Flushing to Correct Nutrient Lockout and System Cleans

While we have this kind of flushing second, for many growers, it can be the more common kind of flushing they will ever do. It is this flushing, which can be very useful when plants have nutrient deficiencies, or they are showing signs of toxicity.

Growers may be doing everything right, and still they find their plants are exhibiting these symptoms. It can be frustrating, and as they try to correct these problems, they make matters worse and risk losing all their crops.

In most cases, it is the mineral buildup as seen above which causes these issues. There are different methods you can use depending on system type. As we saw, a DWC system or an aeroponics system doesn’t have any growing medium. Flushing this can be as easy as draining your tank and making a complete swap of solutions.

The reason being, there is no growing medium to hold these excess nutrients. If you are using coco coir, Rockwool or any other soilless growing media, then this can be more intensive. To do this, you will need a solution to be pulled through your medium to flush out the excess salts.

As we saw above, you can purchase dedicated flushing mixes, although, you can do this with a diluted solution. A diluted solution may be advisable, as your crops will already be accustomed to this, albeit in a stronger ratio.

Fertilizers can be weakened to 1/8th strength, adding to this, you will need between five and ten times the regular amount you feed to your plants.

Many growers may skip this step, carry out a full system flush, and start again. While this is the definitive way of knowing what your nutrient levels are, and what your pH level is, this can be a solution to correct your nutrient lockout or deficiencies without putting a halt to your system and cleaning while it is full of plants.

Do I need to flush with Organic Fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers work in different ways when they are in a hydroponic system. Many growers do make their own rather than option to purchase the regular three-pack-solution of nutrients.

If you use organic fertilizers, it will be a case of monitoring systems to check the TDS, the PPM and the pH level. In many cases you can find out there is no need to flush during transition as the type of nutrients being administered isn’t changing to such an extent.

Generally speaking, organic will have microorganisms which are breaking down before being fed to plants. This does however take place in soils or growing mediums. Some growers will still flush their system with fresh water in the final week to be sure there is no ill effect.

One thing to notice is there will be no salt build up when using organic nutrients as there isn’t the same composition of salts that normally causes issues.

Flushing Systems for Cleansing Purposes

If you are flushing to keep your system clean, you will find the steps are the same regardless of nutrients used. The only difference being the kind of system you have. Here are the basic steps of flushing to keep your system clean:

Draining your reservoir

If using a water pump, drain down suing this and a run-off hose. Water levels should reach the top of your pump where you then scoop out the remaining couple of inches. Some reservoirs come with drain valves, if you have a drain area, you can drain directly by using this.

Cleaning the Reservoir

Remove any sediment or algae and then top up with water and use the hydrogen peroxide cleaning method for sterilization. This will be easier to clean than using bleach as this needs triple flushing to remove all traces.

Fill the Tank

When cleaned, rinsed and wiped dry, you can fill your system and let it run before checking the pH levels. You can then add your new batch of nutrients and re-check your readings. When these are in line, you can begin adding your plants to your system.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a couple of reasons why and how you can flush your systems. Not every method works for every grower because no two crops are the same. Many growers experiment to find the optimal flushing methods.

This is more the case during transition as there is more of a final effect on the resulting crops (crop dependent); however, this kind of flushing can leave crops tasting more natural.

This alone makes flushing during the final week of growth worthwhile. Having a bumper crop that doesn’t contain any taste of nutrients will be hard to beat in anyone’s book. Not to mention, it can make cleaning your system easier once that time comes around.

Is it Possible to Overwater Hydroponics?

Many growers understand that their plants will be growing in a sterile system that is based on water, and without soil. Therefore, when they are asked the questi0on whether or not it is possible to overwater plants in these kind of systems, it can cause some serious thought.

Is it possible to overwater hydroponics? Yes, it is possible to overwater hydroponic plants. There many different facets and reasons why this can happen. Much of it down to the type of system. However, this is what we will look at here.

We will see the areas of weakness in each system, and highlight what new growers need to do to be sure they don’t overwater their plants and cause problems.

What are they types of hydroponic systems?

There are six basic types of hydroponic systems, and the process for delivering water, oxygen, nutrients, and light can be very different between each of these.

  1. Deepwater Culture (DWC) – A DWC system is simple in construction. The system comprises of a reservoir and a lid or raft, which has holes cut into it for the plants to be suspended. The tips of the roots will hang into the nutrient solution while there is an air pocket where the upper roots can absorb oxygen.
  2. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) This system comprises shallow tubes or troughs where water is pumped through a water pump up to the highest point. From here, the troughs angle downward, and by the force of gravity the solution runs back down and makes its way into the reservoir. The tips of the roots are bathed in this thin stream of solution as it runs under the net pot and the root tips.
  3.  Aeroponics – This method doesn’t use any growing medium like other hydroponic systems. Rather, plants are suspended above water jets, which spray or mist the roots with nutrients and water.
  4. Wicking SystemsPlants are rooted in a growing medium, which can absorb water. This upper container sits above a reservoir where a wick passes through the bottom of the container into the solution. Water makes its way up the wick and will soak into the growing medium where the plants can make best use of the nutrients.
  5. Ebb & FlowThese are also known as flood and drain systems. In operation, a flood bed will be filled with a water and nutrient solution, which soaks into the growing medium. Once the pump cuts off by use of a timer, the solution drains back into the reservoir.
  6. Drip Systems – With these systems, water is pumped through small tubing where it drips onto the growing medium and the plant roots. From there, it drains to the bottom of the pot and makes its way back into the reservoir.

Overwatering in hydroponics can take a couple of different forms depending how you look at it. If you take each system, it is easy to point at areas where it appears a grower is over watering. Here is a quick look at how they could be overwatered.

  • DWC the reservoir can be filled to high with nutrient solution. This leaves the growing medium saturated all the way through rather than moist at the bottom. One other thing is why plants don’t drown, and that is thanks to an air pump and air stones where the water is filled with dissolved oxygen.
  • NFT Systems can suffer from the same problems as DWC. If they have cups, which sit to a certain level, and the nutrient solution is pumping to fast so the height reaches the growing medium, then this will be saturated as well as the roots being submerged.
  • Flood and Drain systems can easily overwater plants if the incorrect growing medium is used and it retains too much moisture. Add to this the frequency of flooding the bed. Do this too frequent and plants won’t be able to absorb enough oxygen. Any media needs to drain sufficiently while remaining moist enough between soakings.
  • Drips systems can be one of the easiest to control water, yet if your pots don’t have sufficient drainage or the drain hole blocks, these can fill full of water and subsequently overwater your plants.

Growing Media for Hydroponics

One of the primary reasons plants are over watered is because the incorrect growing medium is used in a system, or it is directly exposed to the solution and remains too wet. The easiest way to prevent this is to understand how each of these mediums perform in retaining moisture, and how they can let oxygen find its way to the roots.

Hydroton Pebbles

These expanded clay pellets are manufactured under high heat. The resulting balls are porous and will retain moisture while offering plenty of support for larger plants. These soak up moisture, yet they don’t remain saturated once the source of the water leaves the growing area. The large gaps between the balls allow water to drain off quickly. You can find these in flood and drain and drip systems more than other systems.

Rockwool

This is one of the more common growing mediums in use, yet Rockwool has the downside of soaking up lots of water. It is this, which when touching a water source can leave plants sitting in water, and leads to rapid suffocation. This will drain, yet it remains moist for longer periods. These can be found in starter plugs or larger blocks. In use, they are often used to cut back on the use of electricity to feed solution to the plants.

Coco

You can find this in either fiber or chips, and each type offers different water retention properties. Both were once considered a waste product of the coconut industry, yet they were found to be one of the best materials for hydroponic gardens. The coco chips allow more oxygen between, so they have a greater degree of drainage. The fiber will hold more moisture and drain slower.

Perlite and Vermiculite

These are two different compounds yet function in a very similar way. They can both wick moisture easily, and are often used as a mixture with another growing media. If these are watered too frequently, they can retain too much water and suffocate plants. Also because of their small size, the amount of oxygen, which can penetrate, is reduced.

River Rock

You can find this in any good garden center or home improvement stores. While they don’t offer any capacity for soaking up moisture, they can be used to create good drainage. You often find these used in containers where they are mixed with coco chips. This can retain moisture and will allow lots of oxygen to plants. Many growers use these in the bottom of pots or containers so the growing media doesn’t sit in a puddle of water and remain saturated. If using smaller rocks, it is possible to use these by themselves such as in drip systems, yet watering schedules will have to be adjusted to prevent root drying out.

Oxygen is Key to Prevent Over-Watering

Many growers understand that plants absorb carbon dioxide and throw out oxygen when they photosynthesize. This they do in the right environment during the day, however, they also need to respire. This is where they absorb oxygen through their rooting systems.

Once roots end up standing in water, they suffocate. This means they are unable to breath, and as the roots are unable to do anything, they can quickly begin to rot.

It is this reason why the choice of growing medium is vital for each kind of system. Growers will need to find the best for their needs as well as make sure that any water levels or frequency of watering are adjusted accordingly. Knowing what to do here can vary between gardens, and a grower will need to carry out careful research to find the best settings.

There are things growers can do to help, and that is by the introduction of extra oxygen. Flood and drain systems and deep-water culture will allow plants pockets of oxygen, yet these are administered in different ways. However, they can still benefit by the introduction of air stones or air diffusers. These use an air pump to fill the water with tiny bubbles, and thus deliver this to the roots.

There are two things that can reduce the impact of this that grower’s need to be aware of. First is the buildup of algae. Live Science defines Algaeas a “diverse group of aquatic organisms that have the ability to conduct photosynthesis.”

These will absorb oxygen from the water for their own growth. Growers can help rid systems from this by the addition of some hydrogen peroxide. This is also a great way to kill other bacteria.

Next is the temperature of the solution. It causes other problems if it is too high, yet a temperature that is too high will reduce the solutions capability of retaining the dissolved oxygen.

Conclusion

Growers may not intentionally over water their plants, and they may be doing most things right, yet as soon as the amount of oxygen in the water reduces, be it from a lack of air pump, or the growing medium isn’t suitable for their indoor garden, then plants will suffer.

These are the two primary reasons plants are over watered, and with some careful thought and experimentation, every grower can eradicate these issues to make sure overwatering is no longer an issue.

This is Why Hydroponic Tomatoes Split

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Tomato Splits

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

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

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

Why do tomatoes split?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Hydroponic Tomato Varieties

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

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

Lighting for Hydroponic Tomatoes

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

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

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

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

Best Temperatures for Hydroponic Tomatoes

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

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

Nutrients, EC and pH Levels for Hydroponic Systems

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Media and Hydroponic Systems

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Can You Use Tap Water for Hydroponics?

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

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

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

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

What is in Tap Water?

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

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

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

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

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

Chloramines and Chlorine

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

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

Hard Water and Soft Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hydroponics and the Use of Chelates

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

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

Preparing Water for Hydroponics Use

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

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

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

Removing Chlorine

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

Removing Chloramine

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

Hard Water and PPM

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

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

Additional Water Solutions

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

Harvesting Rainwater

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

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

Distilled water

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

Deionized Water

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

Conclusion

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

How to Transfer Plants from Hydroponics to Soil

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

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

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

Why Would I Transplant into Soil?

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

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

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

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

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

Transplanting Hydroponic Clones and Cuttings

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

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

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

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

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

Steps for Transplanting into Soil

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

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

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

Soil Transplanting Tips

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

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

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

Plant Shock When Moving into Soil

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

How Does Hydroponics Not Drown The Plants?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Hydroponic Systems Oxygenate Water

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

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

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

Different Kinds of Hydroponics Systems

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

Wick Systems

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

Water Culture Systems

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

Drip Systems

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

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

Ebb & Flow Systems

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

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

Nutrient Film System

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

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

Aeroponics Systems

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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.