How To Grow Cauliflower In Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a growth industry that is easily available to every level of experience for the avid aquaculturist, whether their goal is to set up a gargantuan commercial farm, to start up a small to medium size going concern to supply at the local market, or simply to grow a few veggies at the bottom of the garden to feed the family.

Tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, onions are just a small selection of crops that can be reared under this system, but there is also a very wide variety of leafy plants that can be cultivated under the farming initiative that is aquaponics.

One of those is cauliflower. Underappreciated, it is loaded with essential nutrients, flourishes within the aquaponics environment, and is gaining in popularity.

Why Cauliflowers In Aquaponics?

Growing cauliflowers in aquaponics is a comfortable and sustainable way to grow this vegetable in a controlled environment that promotes faster growing times, resulting in a more frequent harvest of an often-overlooked vegetable that itself has a wide variety of uses for many a tasty dish.

The botanical family that the cauliflower belongs to is called Brassicaceae, and its siblings are cabbage, broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts. What differentiates it from its brothers and sisters are the cream-colored stems that it is renowned for.

This compact head, known as the curd, is packed full of vitamins and minerals as well as being loaded with fiber and antioxidants. The white coloration is due to an insufficient quantity of a substance called chlorophyll, which is the cause of the green pigment in plants.

In nature, there are many types of pigments yet Chlorophyll alone is the key to photosynthesis. What this process does is allows plants to absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide efficiently, naturally, and then to convert those rays of light into energy, which finally releases oxygen into the air to sustain life on earth.

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Despite the white stems on the head of the cauliflower, it contains more than enough chlorophyll to provide all the benefits derived from this molecule. For example, eating this vegetable can aid in reducing inflammation and the risks of cancer due to its anti-carcinogenic properties, and it even has a natural deodorant that helps with bad breath.

What is not widely known about cauliflowers is that there are actually over 100 varieties, which can be broken down into four main categories: Italian, Northwest European, Asian and Northern European.

Historically, the Italian cauliflower is the mother of all cauliflowers, the other varieties derived from this original. The Northern European variant became popular in the 18th century in Germany while the Northwest European cauliflower flourished a while later in the 19th century in France.

Unlike the two European varieties that take longer to bring to full maturity, the Asian offshoot has a more flexible resilience that enables it to grow in warmer temperatures with an added bonus that it stands up well to weather fluctuations.

Fortunately, the climate in an aquaponics farm is controlled and remains consistent. Under these circumstances, the choice of which cauliflower to plant is down to personal choice, goals, and local availability.

The Practical Way To Grow Cauliflowers in Aquaponics

To grow cauliflower in aquaponics several stages have to be followed, with certain considerations factored into the equation from the outset to make a success of the project.

First, the seeds need to be selected with care and close attention. Genetic manipulation is common with cauliflower seeds to create a hybrid vegetable, and that alteration can produce a resulting harvest that is different than what was expected.

About 10 years ago cauliflowers with different colored curds started to appear, orange, green, purple, to name a few, and soon became quite popular, adding a splash of color to the kitchen table without altering the traditional taste significantly and only marginally affecting the nutritional values.

Hybrid cauliflowers have no different discernable taste to the traditional cream-colored head variety, fortunately, but the hybrids do need to be planted from new every year.

Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the seeds purchased are open-pollinated, meaning that they have not been altered scientifically in any way and that they have been fertilized by bees, moths, and birds, for example. Aquaponics is all about mimicking nature so it’s always better if the seeds and plants are as close to natural as possible.

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To start, newly purchased seeds are in an elongated pod and are only ready to be harvested from the pod when it turns brown. That indicates that they are now mature and ready to be stored in a dark place temporarily before being sowed into a growing medium where they will reside for between 4 to 5 weeks to complete the slow germination process.

Proper watering and care are important to promote optimum growth and guarantee healthy seedlings. When the germination process is completed, they will then be ready for transplantation into a permanent growing medium.

In aquaponics, choosing the media bed is crucial so there is a good movement with the flooding and draining system employed to encourage the roots to expand outwards, especially since cauliflower is a heavy plant. Expanded clay pebbles are probably the most versatile media to use, allowing enough air and moisture for the needs of this vegetable.

Fortunately, cauliflowers need very little maintenance and, being a water-based plant, are one of the best vegetables to grow for beginners as they easily thrive in the aquaponics world.

Also, being a fairly easy and hardy vegetable to grow, it is possible to speed up the formation of the heads of the cauliflower by reducing the air temperature range down to between 50 to 59° from its normal range of between 66 to 77° for autumn crops; for spring crops that air temperature range can be elevated to between 59 to 68°.

If the temperature is too cold, or the cauliflowers do not receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, either directly or from grow lamps, the heads will not properly mature. Overexposure to sunlight, on the other hand, can adversely affect the harvest by causing the curd to separate into rice-like grains, so care has to be taken.

That same amount of care has to be allocated to the choice of fish due to these specific temperature ranges that can be too cold for some species of fish. One of the best varieties to complement cauliflowers in aquaponics is trout as they do well in cooler water temperatures, and will supply all the nutritional needs of the burgeoning aquaponics vegetable garden.

Afterward, when some of the fish have matured and outgrown their surroundings, some of the trout can be harvested themselves to provide a very healthy meal, being a good source of protein and loaded as they are with omega 3s.

When initially setting up the growing system for cauliflowers in aquaponics, it is important that the water temperature is monitored constantly and that the nutrient demands are met. Cauliflowers react favorably to high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus so nitrate levels also have to be kept and the correct levels.

With a commercial farm that has other vegetables apart from cauliflowers, separation has to be adhered to in regards to nutrient hungry plants if they are grouped together, as supplying the nutritional needs of all of them in the same zone can be challenging.

However, with proper initial planning, and an efficient system put in place, growing cauliflowers in aquaponics can be very rewarding with a regular harvest possible every few months despite the seasons and surrounding weather conditions.

The Blanching Of Cauliflowers

Once the head of the cauliflower achieves a diameter of about 1 – 2 inches, the outer leaves need to be tied together over the expanding head of the plant. An elastic band or a piece of twine is sufficient for this task, as long as a certain amount of flexibility is left to allow for further growth of the head and leaves.

This technique is known as blanching and if overlooked the traditional cream color of the curd can be lost, turning it into a not-so-attractive greenish-brown color instead. Not only will it appear unpalatable to the eye, but the taste will become stronger and very bitter as well.

Blanching is not necessary from day one, but about 30 days after transplanting the seedlings it is advisable to start checking the development of the head. When the curd is about the size of a chicken egg, the process of blanching can begin.

Conduct tying the leaves loosely over the head at this stage to allow leeway so the head can grow freely without being constricted by the leaves. After that, continued regular attention needs to be paid to all the plants as the heads on different cauliflowers will expand at varying growth spurts even if they were all transplanted at the same time.

Using different colored elastic bands can aid in differentiating which plants are ready for harvesting and which need a few more days to further mature.

This process is slightly time-consuming, but it is 100% worthwhile to take this extra step to ensure that the head forms perfectly and, more importantly, has that sweet taste that you’re striving for.

Amazingly, thanks to dedicated plant breeders, there are some varieties of cauliflowers that perform self-blanching so the leaves do not need to be tied manually over the growing curds. This time-consuming endeavor undertaken by the plant itself relieves the farmer of this burden, with the leaves curling over the developing head automatically as it continues to grow.

In about twelve weeks, when the heads are compact and firm, they will reach full maturity and be ready to harvest. The indicator that the cauliflower is ready is when the head is firm, white, and compact. Excise the head with a knife, taking care not to damage the leaves, and enjoy.

The Benefits Of Cauliflower In An Aquaponic Garden

A fact about the humble cauliflowers that is easily overlooked when compared to other, more popular trending vegetables, is just how healthy they can be. Studies have shown that obesity can be tackled by introducing this vegetable that is packed with fiber into your regular diet. It also has a wealth of other nutrients and a single serving of 100g contains:

  • Vitamin C – 24.7mg
  • Dietary Fiber – 2g
  • Calcium – 24mg
  • Phosphorus – 44mg
  • Potassium – 299mg
  • Zinc – 0.27mg
  • Copper – 0.039mg
  • Manganese – 0.155mg
  • Selenium – 0.6µg
  • Fluoride – 1µg
  • Vitamin B-6 – 0.184mg
  • Folate- 57µg
  • Choline – 44.3mg

An extra bonus is that these vegetables are low in carbohydrates. That makes them even more attractive from an aquaponics farmer’s point of view, with the cauliflower being featured worldwide as a replacement for high carbohydrate foods in popular dishes or even as a complete replacement item to healthify a staple meal.

Innovative ingredients are popping up all over the internet on how to make cauliflower rice, soups, pizzas, and many other healthy food items suitable for the popular keto diet.

Aquaponics And The Sustainable Cauliflower

As a farming method for raising fish and growing vegetables, it is hard to find a system that is better than aquaponics. It has the potential to be able to feed the world in a sustainable way that can be adopted and transported to virtually any country in the world, to the four corners of the earth.

This form of farming is becoming universally popular with individuals, business people, entrepreneurs, and even governments, all impressed by the substantially increased food production capabilities within a controlled, indoor environment that uses less water, requires less land, and has reduced labor needs compared to traditional outdoor farming.

Furthermore, the resulting harvests, devoid of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, have a tendency to produce crops that provide better nutritional benefits, a bonus in countries where affordable nutritional foods are in short supply. Accompanied by the fish as a source of protein and it’s plain to see how aquaponics can feed the world.

The wide range of produce that can be grown in aquaponics is incredible. Cauliflowers can be reared under the same umbrella as peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and even tropical fruits such as bananas, oranges, and lemons to add a wider range to the harvest

This recirculating enclosed aquaculture that spawns a better cauliflower, combined with the raising of fish, can provide nutritious food to feed a family or a village in any type of climate, hot or cold, dry or wet for the foreseeable future.

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What Is A Fogger In Aeroponics?

Hydroponics is an established form of growing crops with the roots immersed in water that has been around for a number of years now and is a highly successful and environmentally friendly method of growing a wide range of harvests.

Aeroponics is a similar method but without immersing the roots completely in water, the roots dangling freely in the air, unencumbered by soil or water. A fine mist of water is periodically sprayed to deliver the essential nutrients and hydration with equally impressive results.

And now there is Fogponics.

This method takes nutrient delivery to the next level, enshrouding the plants in a fine cloud of water that works extremely effectively, bringing additional benefits through this all-pervading fog.

So How Does Fogponics Work?

The established framework of aeroponics acts as the base for this revolutionary system, but the fog doesn’t just appear by itself. Water has to be siphoned from a source and vibrated through a system of electric foggers to create a haze similar to what is encountered in rain forests, and that haze forms the new humid climate conditions for optimum crop growth.

These ideal conditions found in the atmosphere of rainforests are in a constant cycle of being hot, humid, and extremely wet. Under these conditions, it has been found that vegetation becomes very lush and becomes very abundant very quickly.

The fog created artificially in fogponics, however, is generally dry and laden with minute droplets of water. In fogponics, the contents and the fog itself can be controlled in regards to its size, the frequency of its appearance, dispersion, and the variety of nutrients contained within it. And the beauty of it is that establishing a farm is not too difficult.

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If already established, converting a large commercial aeroponics farm into a fogponics one can put a squeeze on the finances, but a smaller installation doesn’t have to break the bank and can be done on a budget.

Once the scale of the operation is settled upon and goals established in regards to crop selection, the apparatus can be reconfigured, scaled up or down to conduct a series of trials if necessary to confirm whether this growing method is the right direction for your farming ambitions.

What would be required to either conduct a small experiment or to start a small-scale operation within a budget, is a construction-grade storage container. The size of the container will be dependent on what goals are set in regards to operational parameters and the growing potential of the plants to be installed.

To incorporate the plants, several rows of approximately 2-inch holes need to be drilled into the lid of the container, evenly spaced out in a grid formation to allow for plants to grow unencumbered by neighbors set too close.

Before being able to insert the plant stems, foam-filled net cups need to be glued into the holes with notches cut into them to support the cloning plants themselves, and allow the stems to dangle within the container in anticipation of the sprouting roots.

Water then needs to be added to the container along with the nutrient mixture, and finally, the fogger can be added to the equation to complete the set-up.

Choosing the right fogger is the key to success and its installation either into a small-scale operation or into a larger commercial endeavor is crucial.

First, it is important to understand that there are foggers for fogponics and foggers that are used for different applications, such as the elimination of bugs with pesticides, for example. These fumigation foggers use aerosol propellants to create the fog to eliminate pests such as cockroaches.

The fogger that is to be introduced for a fogponics network works differently from those types and has to have the capacity to go ultrasonic, its role being to convert water into a specialized vapor.

What enables the fogger to convert the water into the much sought-after fog, is its high oscillating capacity to reach a crescendo of 2MHZ, which equates to an incredible two million vibrations a second. By generating this level of ultrasonic frequency, the water becomes nebulized, which is another way of saying that it becomes a fog.

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These specialized foggers are the key to fogponics, and the small droplets that are generated within the fog are then either blown slowly over the plants or are fed into an enclosed space where the roots are encased.

This is an extremely efficient form of delivering ultra-low volumes of nutrients and water for hydration and supplementation and is impressive in its simplicity.

In this environment, plants tend to absorb the maximum level of nutrients required to thrive and grow. This is due to the ability of the fog to penetrate and seep into every nook and cranny of the crops, unlike spraying, ensuring a constant supply and complete delivery to all the plants so they all grow uniformly.

In Fogponics Size Matters

The droplets of water in aquaponics used in the misters typically have a water psi pressure sufficient to produce water droplets of 50 microns or larger. These size droplets wouldn’t work in the system of fogponics, being way too large to float in the air as part of the fog.

To reduce the size of the droplets and create the fog itself, the water pressure is dialed up to 800 to 1200 psi to atomize the droplets and reduce the size of the droplets to 5 to 30 microns. At this size, the fog can be created using a high-pressure pump, distribution piping, nozzles, controllers, timers, and then basically the system is ready to go.

This precision high-pressure reduction in the size of the water droplets is the key to the effectiveness of fogponics, and is especially suitable for seedlings and cloners from cuttings owing to their undeveloped roots which are susceptible to not absorbing sufficient nutrients in other methods.

Fortunately, fogponics tends to be gentler and more pervasive. This means that the appropriate level of moisture can be delivered, and more importantly be controlled to deliver the right amounts of water so the roots do not dry out from being overlooked by the spraying system, or become waterlogged because they are on the front line.

With the correct timers and monitors installed, the fog can be emitted at a level of frequency desired by the grower to provide the necessary quantity of the mixture for plant sustainability, for all the crops.

Herbs and green vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuces, and spinaches also flourish under this fog-covered environment.

Why Choose Fogponics?

Being a sub-technique of aquaponics, the adjustment to Fogponics isn’t a great leap in regards to equipment or structural changes. But why make the change, why go that route?

The answer, surprisingly, lies in oxygen delivery, and the size of the water droplets.

For optimum oxygen delivery to the plant roots, the water droplets ideally need to be within the range of between 5 – 30 microns. In aquaponics, the water emitted from the sprayers is between 30 – 100 microns. They can be reduced to the lower range but the density of the water has to be increased, so in the end, it is not a practical solution.

Something that is not widely known even aquaculturists, is that the bigger the water droplets the less oxygen is contained within them, and the less oxygen that is delivered to the plant roots. To counteract that deficiency, even in such an efficient system as aquaponics, more water has to be utilized to provide enough oxygenation. 

Alternatively, if the droplets within the fog are too small then not enough nutrients will be delivered for the plants to grow.

With Fogponics, the ultrasonic nebulizer takes those reduced-sized water droplets and converts them into the fog that hangs in the air, fully loaded with oxygen and nutrients, ready for the plants to absorb what they need.

And there is an even more beneficial by-product of these nebulizing foggers.

With the smaller droplet sizes, there is a more efficient and faster nutrient solution absorption by the plant roots, resulting in a much faster growth rate and a quicker harvest. Due to this abundantly high level of oxygen and the constant supply of water saturation, a dramatic boost to the metabolism of the crops occurs.

How does this work exactly?

Under this environment, the roots develop what’s known as trichoblasts, fine hairs that sprout along the stems. It is these fine hairs that are responsible for turbo-boosting the metabolism and increasing the plants’ ability for a heightened level of nutrient absorption.

These fine hairs on the roots thrive within the atmosphere of the dense fog, extracting oxygen, water and nutrients at increased levels compared to other farming methods.

This hyperactivity doesn’t oversaturate the roots, fortunately, it just allows them to absorb a greater amount of nutrients efficiently from the constant presence of the fog, with the results that the plants grow at a faster rate.

Overall, the introduction of a fogger elevates an impressive farming endeavor to the next stage of evolutionary growth. It becomes more cost-effective and more profitable, no matter what crops are being grown.

Marijuana growers especially appreciate the faster growing times under this system. The additional boost to profits accumulated at harvest time as well as the savings on water bills is also an important factor in the decision for them to change over to growing their produce in this manner.

This water-saving aspect is accomplished because the fog is trapped within an enclosed space, and the minute water droplets are utilized more conservatively in comparison to other farming methods.

 Under this environmentally friendly farming umbrella, the water used is also not lost to evaporation, and that lack of wasteful evaporation saves on crucial nutrient depletion that could be detrimental for the plants.

Additionally, in this system these nutrients are evenly dispersed to the roots of all the plants to ensure equal growing capabilities across the board, so no favoritism is shown.

A Fogponics System

Fogponics is a revolutionary, energy-efficient indoor farming system that is more than worth the investment in terms of money and time. Just ask NASA.

Through experimentations and in-depth research, the technicians at NASA have practiced and trialed a plethora of growing scenarios with various plants and crops, such as potatoes, to gauge the most efficient growing methods in an effort to reduce cargo costs for future space missions.

They discovered that it could be a game-changer for the future exploration of space, the efficiency of the foggers easily boosting the capacity to actually grow produce faster without installing heavy, cumbersome equipment. In space, the only missing component, however, would be sunlight and photosynthesis.

In the fogponic farming system, this photosynthesis is encouraged by the use of LED lights to imitate the life-giving properties of the sun itself. A process of conversion is then initiated with the artificial light being converted into chemical energy.

Further reactions within this process instigates the separation of the oxygen and hydrogen molecules to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for the crops to soak up.

All of this is undertaken automatically within the system that is fully controllable, scalable, and starts from a simple fogging machine.

So, if it’s good enough for NASA…

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The 5 Best Water Pumps for Aeroponics on a budget

Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics that goes a step further than the conventional way of growing without soil. While you still use a closed-loop system, yet the plants don’t use any growing media.

The way aeroponics works is to suspend your plants on top of a dark chamber where they are periodically sprayed or misted with a nutrient-rich solution comprising tiny droplets.

You can build an aeroponics system using a minimum of materials. However, if you are on a budget or want to try this form of gardening, you may wish to know the best water pumps for aeroponics under $100. We have done all the hard work and gone through an abundance of suitable water pumps you could use for building an aeroponics system. They are merely submersible pond pumps, yet they meet specific criteria.

Aeroponics Droplet Size

Plants are more likely to consume nutrient water when droplets are in the 5 to 50 microns range than any other size.

The size of water droplets is vital to maintain aeroponics growth. Should the water droplet be too large, it restricts the oxygen to the root system. Also, if the water droplet is too fine, as created by ultrasonic misters, these lead to an excess of root hair, and the plants don’t develop a lateral root system to sustain development.

HPAs (High-Pressure Aeroponics) need a high pressure to function correctly and produce an ideal 50-micron droplet size from misters.

When building your own, you typically use low-pressure aeroponics (LPA), which comes with a far lower cost for construction. For this, you would run your system on a timer 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.

Aeroponic Water Pump Specification

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For choosing a pump for your aeroponics system, the brand name isn’t as vital as the specifications and the reliability of your pump.

Any pump you choose should be capable of generating 40-60 psi or higher. It needs this pressure to push the nutrient solution through tiny holes in the spray nozzles.

Besides the PSI it can generate, you need to remember it should have a high GPH (Gallon Per Hour) range of 1,250 – 1,600 or around 1/3 – 1/2 HP. It will be the size that determines the pressure it will generate.

It is essential to use a manifold to work alongside your high-pressure pump of this caliber in your system. By doing this, you can apply the right amount of fluid pressure to your roots, prevent spray heads from clogging, and prevent the pump from overheating.

Best 5 Water Pumps for Aeroponics

VIVOSUN 800GPH Submersible Pump

One of the best low-end submersible pumps you can get is the VIVOSUN. It can be mounted in either a horizontal or vertical position.

To limit the flow, there are three nozzles of sizes: 0.51″, 0.62 ” and 0.74″ as well as a control known for more controlled adjustment.

The pump allows you to dismantle its tools free and clean by running in clean water. You also have the backup of the 1-year warranty, all at a very budget friendly price.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.6 x 3.5 inches.
  • Max Flow (GPH): 800 GPH.
  • Lift Height: 10 Feet (adjustable flow rate.
  • Voltage: 24W; Voltage:110-120V.
  • Warranty: 1 year.

The VIVOSUN is a decent pump designed to face the rigors of aquariums, ponds or small aeroponics system.

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VIVOSUN 2600 GPH Submersible Water Pump 120W Ultra Quiet Pump

Moving up the VIVOSUN range is the far superior 2600 gallon (min-max flow) per hour model. For a decent-sized aeroponics system, you’ll find this kind of energy-saving pump more suited.

Although powerful, the VIVOSUN pump runs at 30 – 40db, so you can hardly hear it in operation. It delivers a massive 2700 gallons of water per hour, although the range of pumps in this series can go up to 9200 GPH, yet they consume more power than the 120W of this model.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 11.57 x 8.58 x 8.19 inches.
  • Max Flow (GPH): 2600 – 9200 GPH (from a range of 5 pumps).
  • Lift Height: 14.8 Feet (fixed flow rate.
  • Voltage: 120W; Voltage:110-120V.

With a guide price of less than $85, you get a pump you can use as a submersible or as an inline pump, thus offering flexibility in your system design. You get an adjustable nozzle angle, and you can remove parts for easy cleaning.

JEREPET Aquarium 24V DC Water Pump with Controller

The JEREPET offers a six-speed adjustment of flow control from 30% to the max flow. If used in aquariums, you also have a wave mode and feeding mode. All these are set from a controller that sits outside your water source. In an aeroponics system, this means you won’t have to open the system to adjust.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 3.5 x 4.8 inches.
  • Max Flow (GPH): 1250 GPH.
  • Lift Height: 13.1 Feet (fixed flow rate.
  • Voltage: 32W; Voltage:24 V DC (Input voltage 100 – 240v.

Operation is less than 30db thanks to the sealed impeller and ceramic shaft. You can use the pump submersible or inline, and it offers an auto shut-off in case it runs dry.

With a budget friendly price, you’ll find a high-performance pump that offers excellent flexibility for your aeroponics system.

HYGGER Quite Submersible and External

The Hygger offers excellent performance and can be used in small to medium-sized aeroponics systems. It comes with auto shut-off if there is a lack of water and offers two types of water intakes.

One is for normal water levels, and the second for low water, where it hugs the bottom of your reservoir. You’ll also find they can stop different sizes of debris being sucked in the pump with these.

To control the Hygger pump, you have an external LED controller that offers 71 flow settings from 30% to 100% max flow. It is easy to use and only has three buttons. Up, Down and Pause.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 7 x 4.1 x 6.4 inches.
  • Max Flow (GPH): 1350 GPH.
  • Lift Height: 13.1 Feet.
  • Voltage: 40W; Voltage:24 V DC (Input voltage 100 – 240v.

With a guide price of just under $100, you get a more than capable pump, yet you are paying for it. It offers many features and simple controls and can be a submersible or inline pump.

VIVOSUN 1982 GPH Submersible Water Pump

The VIVOSUN is the final pump on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least capable. It offers a solid construction where the drive ring piece is made from silicon carbide material.

The VIVOSUN pump offers energy-saving designs and ultra-quiet operation design at 30-40db when running. It can pump 1982 GPH, so this is more than ideal for a medium-sized aeroponics system.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: 15.24 x 8.03 x 7.09 inches.
  • Max Flow (GPH): 1982 GPH.
  • Lift Height: 14.8 Feet (fixed flow rate.
  • Voltage: 110W; Voltage:24 V DC (Input voltage 100 – 240v.

For a very reasonable price, you have a high-capacity pump that offers many features. It is a fixed rate, yet you have three hose adapters to change the flow of water.

You get a pump designed for around the clock operation, and the company offers a decent warranty as a backup.

Conclusion

Here are some of the most popular pumps you can find for aeroponics, hydroponics and aquaponics. Each offers lots of power and water flow, yet they can be more suited to various sized systems than the others are.

You will discover higher capacity pumps offer more dependability. In the way aeroponics work, you need reliability more than anything.

Should your pump fail, then you have no other means of watering your plants, and they can suffer almost immediately compared to any other type of system.

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Do You REALLY Need A Biofilter For Aquaponics?

Any beginner entering into the aquaponics sphere at one point or another will have this question or topic raised. Being newbies, they simply won’t know what to do at this early stage of their learning curve. But to be honest, there are many experienced growers who are also on the fence, hearing many conflicting voices for and against its usage.

The need for a biofilter is bacteria-driven. Beneficial bacteria are an integral component in the recycling system in aquaponics and help to harmonize the existence and wellbeing of the fish inhabitants and the burgeoning plant life. For a harmonious co-existence, a biofilter is a must have

Why Is A Biofilter Needed In Aquaponics?

Imitating nature is the underlying tenet of aquaponics, creating an environment of co-dependency between fish life and plant life. To flourish symbiotically, each relies on the other for nutrients, food, filtration, the conversion of waste materials into nitrates, and the ability to recirculate cleaned water back into the system.

This self-sustaining environment combines the benefits of aquaculture with the system of hydroponics, but it wouldn’t function quite so harmoniously and seamlessly without bacteria. To understand the need for bacteria it is necessary to know how aquaponics work, and that will determine whether a biofilter will be required or not.

The overriding principle with aquaponics is that there is no reliance on fertilizers to aid in plant growth. That chore is undertaken by nutrients. But where do they come from and how are they replenished?

A closed-circuit system like aquaponics utilizes the water from the fish tank to transport nutrients and water in a closed-circuit cycle. known as the nitrogen flow cycle, to the roots of the plants and back again.

The process is initiated by the waste of the fish and as this waste material begins to decay it starts to be broken down into ammonia. If left unchecked, this ammonia will turn toxic to the underwater dwellers and eventually lead to their demise. Adding to this build-up of ammonia will be the decaying organic matter of leftover food and dead plant segments.

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In aquaponics, a conversion process starts to occur due to the interference of beneficial nitrifying bacteria, where the mounting toxic ammonia is converted into nitrite compounds. At this phase, the danger to the fish has been eliminated but the nitrite is still not usable for the nourishment purposes of the plants. What they need are nitrates.

A friendly bacterium called Nitrobacter is the leading protein in the oxidation process that will ultimately convert nitrites into nitrates, so the nutrients can now be absorbed as plant food. Without this beneficial bacterium, the aquaponics farm would fail.

So, if this system functions so seamlessly without any intervention required, why would a biofilter be needed?

The aquaponics closed-cycle system works when there are sufficient beneficial bacteria to complete the conversion cycle. If there is a shortfall due to a lack of surface area for the bacteria to grow, then more bacteria have to be introduced somewhere along the conversion line to make the world go around.

How A Biofilter Works In Aquaponics

Biofilters are essentially a large surface area attached to the aquaponic farm where additional bacteria can set up a colony and grow, increasing the efficiency of the nitrification process if it is underperforming.

Bacterial conversion, from ammonia to nitrites to nitrates, occurs in all aquaponics systems. The need for a biofilter can become necessary if there is an increase in the fish stock in the tank. This can be the result of a spike with breeding, and if so more fish generally equates to more poop, and proportionally more waste means more ammonia.

If this accumulation continues unchecked, the aquaponics farm can enter into the forbidden zone very quickly. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize when the biosphere is in jeopardy and act accordingly to expand the playing field. Fortunately, a biofilter will correct this imbalance automatically if connected to the circuit.

The setting-up process of interconnecting the two and expanding the surface area is not that complicated. It consists of another tank with one or more air pumps that are used to push water from the new side to the old, so they now operate on the same circuit.

Sand or gravel is most commonly used as the growing medium as it allows the colonization of the bacteria to progress easier. Nitrifying bacteria start to proliferate on the expanded surface area and, because bacteria require oxygen to grow and thrive, the biofilter should be set for additional aeration for maximum growth.

Plants will now be able to perform their duties after receiving the nutrients, by cleaning the water which is then returned back to the fish tank to start the cycle all over again. This expansion increases the efficiency of the nitrification process considerably.

All of this process is important to the chemical stability of an aquaponic biosphere, the wellbeing of your fish, and the successful growing of your crops. And the good thing is that nothing goes to waste, recycled as it is again and again.

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A Biofilter in All Aquaponics Systems?

An aquaponics farm is in essence its own filtration system. And an efficient one at that. But with two living organisms to co-exist together a balance has to be reached or one will thrive and the other will decline. There are several factors that need to be considered.

The pH balance is front and center among them. A reading of 7.0 to 7.5 is considered neutral and is ideal for both organisms. If that level drops below 6.0 the nitrification process will slowly grind to a halt and become toxic to the fish and the plants will not receive enough nutrients.

Regular monitoring will detect the pH imbalance which can then be corrected before it gets into this danger zone.

This recalibration occurs naturally in a system that has a growing medium of gravel, clay or lava stones as long as the surface area is large enough to encourage bacteria growth. In this case, a biofilter will not be necessary, the grow beds themselves being the ultimate biofilter.

Problems occur, however, when this natural filtration system is overwhelmed by fish waste. This imbalance arises if more fish are added at a later date, or more fish are birthed in the tank, or even if too much fish food is being entered into the habitat, not eaten, sinks to the bottom and starts to decay. Either one of these will spike the production of ammonia.

Types of Biofilters

When installing a biofilter the location has to be situated after the mechanical filter as it is not designed to handle large fish waste deposits which can become trapped in the pipes. If this happens, the waste will continue to accumulate, creating an aerobic zone that will encourage excessive bacteria growth away from the expanded surface area which will not be utilized, and that will reduce the efficiency of the biofilter.

The mechanical filter acts as a screening filter to control this build-up of solids so the level of ammonia will not become too much for the biofilter to cope with.

There are various models of biofilters but these three are the most frequently used:

A Moving Bed Filter, also known as a Moving Bed Biological Reactor (MBBR), is a biofiltration model that is constantly in motion and at its core revolves around K1 media and constant aeration.

K1 media are made of small plastic discs and are ideal at trapping particles suspended in the water, and their large surface area encourages the growth of bacteria. With their virtual neutral buoyancy ability, they are subjected to a steady stream of air pressure that aerates the water and pushes them around.

This type of biofilter is essentially a constant flow system that uses an air pump to keep well-oxygenated water churning over, essentially creating a biological reactor. This system keeps the K1 media floating and in motion, assisting in the collection of good bacteria, and is especially effective in a raft aquaponics system.

Due to the collision of the media, each disk performs a continual self-cleaning process and this helps by keeping the nitrifying bacteria rejuvenated for optimum ammonia and nitrite nitrification.

A Static Filter biofilter has the advantage of the ease of use and ease of setup. It is essentially a flat tray in a separate container next to the plants, filled with a media mat to provide a sufficiently large enough zone to grow the necessary bacteria needed for the biofilter to work to its fullest potential.

The deeper the media incorporated, the more beneficial bacteria will be nurtured. Here, the principal theory is the water flows through the tray at one end into the media, the conversion from ammonia to nitrates occurs, and the cleaned water flows out through the opposite side back into the closed system.

With a Drip Filter, the water drips into the system from the top, passes through the bio medium at a slow rate, performing the vital conversion process from ammonia to nitrates, and flowing out the bottom on its way back to the fish, completing the cycle.

The Need For The Biofilter

A biofilter doesn’t have to be a part of the aquaponics system from the initial set-up. It can be integrated at a later stage as and when needed. The good news is that its inclusion isn’t a costly addition, and some would say it’s better to have it in place on standby if needed urgently. It is always better to have a quick fallback solution on hand if a nasty build-up of ammonia surges unexpectedly.

The fact that a biofilter requires very little maintenance is a reason all in itself to have one. There is no downside to having one even in this self-sufficient aquaponics biosphere. It can be implemented at any time to regulate ammonia, supplying enough oxygen for additional bacteria growth when required.

Sometimes adjustments in the aquaponics system can create an imbalance between ammonia build-up and lack of nitrates. This can occur due to plants being replaced, reduced and the opposite reactions can occur if the fish population is increased.

What has to be considered, and is often overlooked by beginners and some experienced aquaponics farmers, is the age of the fish being added into this bio-sphere. To maintain the equilibrium a specific stocking method has to be adopted.

This includes having a staggered age range of the fish throughout the same tank and employing a harvesting regime every three months. A recommended approach is to harvest the more mature fish who are now weighing about 500g and restocking them with new fingerlings or juvenile fish weighing about 50g each.

This staggered approach is to avoid swapping out of all the fish at the same time and to alleviate the sudden impact on the system. If a full fish exchange took place at the same time, out with the old and in with the young, then that would result in too much of a drastic adjustment requirement in regards to the filtration process.

Another reason for implementing this rotation is because larger fish tend to eat more than their juvenile co-inhabitants. And when larger fish if eat more they are going to excrete more waste. If this re-stocking process is not utilized, ammonia can reach unfavorable levels, rising completely unnoticed until something starts to die off.

Monitoring and reacting to this fluctuation can take years of experience as well as constantly keeping a close eye on the ph level. With a biofilter connected, these fluctuations are automatically adjusted as the water and the waste are washed through it, maintaining the delicate balance of this bio-diverse system.

The bottom line, the final word, on if a biofilter is necessary for a self-sustaining system like aquaponics, is yes.

Without one, time-consuming re-calibration tasks would need to be incorporated into a more frequent maintenance routine.

With one, your aquaponics farm will be a problem-free dream to run, and your plants, your fish, and your precious time will be the happy beneficiaries.

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How to Use Peat Moss in Hydroponics and Why

Hydroponics is a growing method that disregards the use of soil yet it still requires an aggregate system to support the roots of the plants. Nutrient-rich water is then delivered through the medium selected to create a cohesive system that works extremely well.

But which grow media is best?

Peat moss or perlite are the two most common types used in hydroponics. Out of the two, peat moss has the highest capacity for holding water and is often used as the primary media. Although not ideal for all hydroponics set-ups, it can be balanced out to be a one size fits all media.

But what exactly is peat moss and why use it for hydroponics?

Peat Moss and Hydroponics

The formation of peat moss actually takes millennia to form, composed as it is from dead fibrous materials and the decomposition of other living organisms, specifically in peat bogs. The decaying material slowly creates even wetter conditions as the peat continues to absorb more water. This in turn leads to the expansion of the peatlands and encourages the growth of more peat.

These waterlogged areas are ideal for peat bog production and, due to the low oxygen content in the accumulation of the peat layers beneath the surface, the decompression rate is slowed down. This reduction in oxygen is a contributing factor in the length of time it takes for the peat to form, and why only about a millimeter of surface growth is recorded each year.

Due to this growth rate peat moss is not classed as a renewal resource. Peatlands do encompass large swathes of land, however, and, even though the zones are under almost complete water saturation, do allow regular harvesting because of this wide land coverage.

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The countries that have the ideal conditions for peat growth and the landmass are few and far between. Among them are Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Canada, which is the principal supplier to the United States.

For decades the method of gathering the peat involves taking the living moss from the surface of the peat bog while it is alive, in its entirety, which then leaves the next harvest only available in the following year.

A newer technique, mainly used in Europe, does not skim the surface completely bare, but leaves partial spores behind that will regrow the new peat at a faster rate.

This technique enhances the growing cycle and enables a bigger and more frequent harvest. The shoots that are left on the surface can continue to accumulate and multiply faster, while at the same time buds on the layers below the surface can continue to proliferate.

With the advent of this new technique, sustainability can become more of a reality, allowing more peat to be harvested, which in turn will make it more readily available, slow depletion on a global scale, and should also lessen the price to the end consumer.

Now, although peat moss didn’t become more readily available until the 1900s, it went on to revolutionize the way plants were grown in soil due to its numerous beneficial properties. Its usefulness became apparent because many part-time growers or homeowners didn’t have the ideal soil for growing the full range of crops they wanted.

This soil erosion occurred either due to layers being scraped away during the construction process or compacted by the heavy machinery and building materials piled on top of it.

With the introduction of peat moss mixed into their soil, they found that those obstacles to improving their poor growing difficulties were overcome, and they could now transform their garden into a thriving farming endeavor.

And then peat moss found its way into hydroponics.

Peat moss as a medium in hydroponic cultivation is a perfect fit not only because of its efficient capacity to maintain water but crucially its ability to hold on to nutrients, precious nutrients that can easily be washed out of other types of aggregates in a hydroponics system.

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Yet at the same time, there are certain challenges that have to be weighed up when using this medium.

Peat moss is an organic substance and its decomposition doesn’t stop when it is harvested. That continuing decay plays a major role in its stability as a substrate, owing to its chemical nature constantly being in a state of flux.

Another contributing factor in this chemical instability is the source of where it was harvested and the particular species of moss that was used to produce the peat moss in the first place. Fibric, hemic or sapric are three of the different material compositions for peat, and each has its own level of decomposition; fibric is the least, hemic has partial decomposition and sapric is the most decomposed.

For hydroponics, stability is a crucial component and for this reason, it is better to have peat moss that is more decomposed. The higher level of decomposition will ensure a higher chemical stability ratio, and that will make your hydroponic cultivation life go smoother and make life easier.

To find out its decomposition ratio, place a small amount of wet peat moss in your hand and gently squeeze. By the amount of water fallout and the malleability of the lump between your fingers, will tell you all you need to know about its stage of decomposition.

Basically, the less water that is squeezed out and the more of the peat moss that pushes out between your fingers, indicates a higher level of decomposition. And the opposite results are true. If there is more water and less peat moss that squeezes out, the less decomposed it is. This is known as The von Post scale and registers the decomposition rate from H1 to H10.

Apart from the possible chemical instability, peat moss has a small level of acidity in it that can assist in equalizing and maintaining the correct ph range in a hydroponic network. The significance of this means that constant monitoring of the ph balance isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as with other media.

Due to this feature nutrient absorption by the roots will not be negatively affected.

Another beneficial feature is the water retention property that peat moss has to absorb large amounts of water, and eliminate any amount not needed. Amazingly whatever excess water is initially absorbed is naturally drained away like an overspill to flow throughout the hydroponic system, transporting much-needed nutrients to the plant roots.

In hydroponics, peat moss is a light-medium and to set it up in a hydroponics system is fairly straightforward.

Have on hand a solution mixture of nutrient-rich water suitable for your seeds, and fill your seedling tray with peat moss. Add sufficient solution so that the peat moss is wet throughout before planting the seeds, then cover them with another ¼ inch level of peat moss. Then add more water.

At this time, place the tray under grow lights and cover it with a plastic sheet to contain moisture to encourage faster germination.

After the seeds begin to sprout the sheet can be discarded, then it’s just a matter of daily monitoring to prevent drying out from lack of water. If you notice a slight lack of water, a gentle misting spray is normally sufficient to take up the slack.

If and when necessary, it is advisable to thin out the plants if needed to create more growing space, and then when they are large enough, transplant them into small pots. As they continue to grow the smaller pot can be placed completely in a larger pot already filled with peat moss.

How to Overcome the Challenges of Peat Moss in Hydroponics

As with any grow media there can be challenges when used in hydroponics, and with peat moss that manifests itself when it is used as a standalone product. This occurs because peat moss is anaerobic in nature, holds on to more water than most other aggregates and, now that it is exposed to nitrogen, starts to degrade and compact.

This can then lead to the roots being choked by the compaction process which will lead to oxygen deprivation.

The solution is to add an amount of perlite to the peat moss. With the correct mixture, this will increase the aeration and solve the problem.

Another obstacle that will potentially need to be overcome is the ph level. When first harvested, peat is outside the range necessary for optimal hydroponic farming. Initially, it will actually be below the recommended ph range and that will create issues in your hydroponic setup.

So, a speedy solution is required at the beginning to stop the problem before it can become a headache.

To alleviate this potential lurking issue is possible as long as the rating on the peat moss itself is on or above level H7 on The von Post scale.

Once tested, and the low ph level is discovered, it is advisable to have the peat moss treated with calcium carbonate(lime). It sounds complicated but if you use the palm squeeze method, over a small period of time you will be able to judge where the decomposition level lies. And then understand how much lime needs to be added.

A useful tip is to treat the peat moss yourself for usage in hydroponics. Remember that peat moss is also used as a mixture with garden soil for non-hydroponic purposes and therefore will have different additives and may actually already be fertilized, which is detrimental in hydroponics.

If unable to do your own treatment, then purchase an unfertilized peat moss that has only lime added. This will save you time, ensure a successful hydroponic farm system, and will allow you more control over the nutrients delivered to your plants.

Types of Peat Moss in Hydroponics

There are many different grades of peat moss, with the varieties dependent on the location of harvesting, and that will reflect on which you select for your hydroponics system.

But that is not the only factor that should be considered.

Once the harvested peat arrives at a processing and treatment facility, the next steps will determine which one will be right for you.

At the facility laboratory analysis tests are carried out on the peat for ph content, moisture, temperature and bulk density, to name just a few. The peat is then graded and separated according to color, smell and purity.

At this stage, some additives and fertilizers can be accurately added and blended in before being converted into the growing media you are searching for, and that will be suitable for the crops you intend to grow in your specific hydroponics setup.

The reasoning for using peat moss in hydroponics are numerous, as long as the minor drawbacks are resolved from the beginning.

The correct decomposition ratio has to be determined from the outset. Once that is revealed, the peat moss needs to be dried out and mixed with perlite, for example, depending on your hydroponic requirements. Once dried out it is surprisingly light and manageable, with open pores that allow good aeration and good drainage.

With the correct mixture with perlite, the issue of compaction is removed, and because the peat was originally formed in low oxygenated conditions, it won’t contain any fungus or harmful bacteria.

Peat moss is easy to work with so won’t cause dust fallout like some other grow media can. And, of course, making life easier should always be appreciated.

And one of the benefits of peat moss, depending on which peatland it is sourced from, is its microbial composition. These friendly microbes inhibit the growth of unhealthy pathogens that could negatively affect crop health and nutrient absorption.

The Reasons for Using Peat Moss in Hydroponics

When at first the decision is arrived at to start a hydroponics farm or extend a going concern, regardless of size, the ultimate goal is to grow the best crop possible in the fastest time. Hydroponics allows this to happen and combined with peat moss as a growing medium increases the harvesting capabilities and the ease of maintenance.

Hydroponics allows a wider range of growers the flexibility to set up their very own organic indoor farms in a variety of locations previously unheard of. This flexibility provides a wide array of options to choose the best and most cost-effective substrate suitable for the crops they intend to grow.

Peat Moss should be at the top of this list.

It has the flexibility as a grow media to give plant support, while at the same time absorbing sufficient water to maximize nutrient delivery to the roots. If mixed with perlite, it increases aeration and water drainage, alleviates compaction, and makes crop production more stable, and harvests more predictable At the end of the day, Peat Moss may not, at first sight, be the go-to media for every situation or crop selected for Hydroponics farming, but it has the ability to be morphed into the ideal substrate to deliver a perfect harvest every time.

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How to Fix and Prevent Nutrient Burn

When growers first start running a hydroponic system, one of the first problems they encounter is what we call ‘Nutrient Burn.’

The problem sounds much worse than it actually is, and manifests from growers who give their plants too many nutrients or fertilizer. The way it manifests comes in a couple of differing ways. The first being leaves which appear scorched on the tips, and the second area, which isn’t as obvious, is that of root burn.

This can be more severe on your plants as there will be the drying rims of the leaves. Roots, which are turning brown, will accompany this and plant growth will be slowed quite considerably.

Here, we will look at all you need to know about the exact causes of nutrient burn, and what you can do to fix the problem and prevent it occurring again.

Why Do Plants Get Nutrient Burn?

Because it is down to the grower to provide the correct nutrients to plants in a hydroponic system, the problem ultimately comes from the grower.

A logical thought when first beginning a system can be, the more nutrients, the better my plants will grow.

Unfortunately, this is far from the reality. When growers overfeed their plants, it will lead to them being ‘burned’ in either of the two ways previously mentioned. To fully understand why this happens, it is good to know what these burns are.

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These spots are not physical burns as if the plants were on fire. These are more like burns you get on your skin from a toxic compound. Nitrogen is one of the major compounds that makes up hydroponic nutrients.

Even though overfeeding plants is the main cause of this problem, it can stem from other areas.

  • Mixing nutrients too strong
  • Over-watering – plants need dry periods where they can absorb oxygen
  • Boosters for blooms – used on some plants, and when used too often or too strong it causes toxicity
  • Plant growth stimulants – if these are used to frequent, it can cause dwarfism in plants and they will try to absorb too many nutrients

Once you begin overloading your solution with these compounds, your mixture quickly turns into a toxic substance. Hence, this is where leaves begin burning. Any grower who overfeeds their plants can spot the following.

These are early indicators their plants are over-fed and will end up with nutrient burn.

  • Tips of leaves burn and turn yellow
  • Leaf tips turn bright green
  • Leaves turn darker green
  • Stalks and branches may turn dark red. Purple of magenta
  • Leaf tips bend at 90 degrees

How Do I Fix Nutrient Burn?

We saw Nitrogen is one of the main compounds, which leads to these issues; it isn’t though the only one. Once plants are reaching the end of the vegetative stages of growth, plants will be looking for more calcium and magnesium.

If these are overfed, the same symptoms will transpire in your plants. Fixing the problem may appear daunting to new growers, yet it is easier than they may think.

Following some simple steps can mean the difference between saving crops and losing a host of plants.

  1. Get rid of burned or damaged leaves
  2. For extra security, trace backward on the calyx clusters to their supporting branch and remove the entire floret.
  3. Discard any dead leaf matter as this will rot and cause contamination
  4. Flush your growing pots and the growing medium with clean pH balanced water.
  5. Check your tank’s pH and EC levels. Adjust this using fresh water only. You can drain your system to be sure you have no nutrient excess in your reservoir. Run for 24-hours with just fresh water and test EC. If high, drain and repeat the process, and check. Continue until your EC levels are acceptable.
  6. Depending on the extent of the nutrient burn, you can ease back on the nutrients in your mixture and supplement this with an organic liquid tea for around seven days.

Preventing Nutrient Burn in My System

This kind of problem usually happens by mistake, and for this reason, it can be something, which is easy to prevent happening again.

Taking on some, good habits can help prevent this. Here are some pointers, which will help prevent nutrient burn:

  • Use the right nutrients for the correct growth stage
  • It is advisable to use 3/4 strength, which is given on the packaging – manufacturers are not always right.
  • Use digital pH/ EC meters to check your nutrient strength at regular intervals or when you are topping up your reservoir.
  • Always flush your growing medium and pots with your system to stop salt buildup.
  • Use the best measuring device for the nutrients. A kitchen-measuring spoon, which is exact to the dose, makes things easier.
  • Never look down on the line of measuring jugs. Always look at eye level when reading measuring lines.
  • Be sure to use distilled water, as this won’t aggravate the problem by adding more nutrients.

As you go through all of these steps to eradicate the problem, you need to try to figure out what caused it in the first place. Fixing the issue is only any good if you know what not to do next time.

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Additional Steps for Prevention

One of the main things new growers do is to not fully understand their plants requirements. Each type of plant differs. Understanding this as well as what is already in your solution are the very first steps in prevention.

Different crops do have different requirements. A good rule to follow is that leafy crops like herbs, spinach or lettuces need higher levels of nitrogen. If you are growing fruits like cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes, then these will be seeking lower amounts of Nitrogen.

If you attempt to grow any root vegetables, these require higher amounts of potassium.

Regardless of which plant type you are growing, there are different nutrient requirements for different development stages. Understanding what plants need in their flowering or bloom phase as compared to their growth or vegetative stage can make a massive difference.

One final thing, which has an effect, is where your plants receive their light source. If you are using grow lights indoors for your crops, these will again be looking for different nutrients and levels than crops grown outdoors.

Generally speaking, crops require more nitrogen if they are receiving full amounts of daylight, or they are being exposed to high doses of artificial lighting. This has more of an effect when crops are outdoors.

If your plants are following regular growing seasons, crops which produce fruits will be looking for more potassium in the late fall or winter when levels of light are reduced. Although the levels of Nitrogen and Potassium can be increased to double the requirement in wintertime, this will not be the case under grow lights where conditions will be consistent.

Problems with Concentrated Nutrients

It can be a good cost saving to use concentrated nutrients. However, the use of these needs plenty of due care and attention. These concentrated formulas are often where new growers become mixed up and don’t fully understand the bottles instructions. 

Not making a conversion in your quantity can leave plants open to burn straight away. As well as this, if these nutrients go anywhere near your plants in their undiluted form, they can quickly kill your crops. No grower should be mixing concentrated formulas in their grow room.

Conclusion

Adding too many nutrients won’t deliver bigger plants and larger fruits. This is a common mistake, yet when you look at all the above information, you can see it can be resolved quick, and while saving your plants.

The good thing is that any grower can learn from their mistakes, so for this to happen a second or a third time? There is no excuse.

There is only so much you can give you plants before you smother them. It is like being a regular parent with your child. Give them what they require and they will blossom, give them too much, and the results are never what you expect.

Related Questions:

Is nutrient lockout the same as nutrient burn? The two are similar, and some of the symptoms may appear to be the same. However, nutrient lockout is where your plants are unable to absorb the nutrients you are giving them.

What causes nutrient lockout? Over time, your pots and growing medium will have an excess of salts that build up in certain areas. If these are allowed to carry on accumulating, they can bind some of the nutrients and prevent them from being available to your plants.

How do I fix nutrient lockout? The good thing is you can solve nutrient lockout by following the same steps as for nutrient burn. Although these two things are different, they cross paths and begin to show similar symptoms. The main thing is to use plain water to dissolve and flush this salt accumulation from your system. If these remain, the problem will occur as soon as you begin adding more nutrients.

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Determining the Best Air Pump Size for Hydroponics

One of the most daunting things for a new hydroponic gardener is in maintaining their hydroponic reservoir.

With many factors to consider, it can be overwhelming, yet it isn’t as challenging as it first appears. Gardeners may comprehend the influence temperature has, and the amount of nutrients they require. However, they often struggle with the concept of oxygenation levels in their solution.

You may know it is beneficial to use an air pump; however, you may find yourself not fully understanding, how to determine the best air pump size for hydroponics. While an air pump may not appear to do too much, plants need to receive oxygen from the water to survive. An air pump, in many cases, may not be too large, yet it can harm your crops if it is too small.

Why You Need an Air Pump in Hydroponics?

In a hydroponic system, the gardener must deliver everything their plants require.

Many gardeners know about water, light, and the nutrients, yet equally important is oxygen. While there may be some oxygen taken up by the upper portions of the plants, the majority is taken up by the root system.

If you grow in soil, there are pockets of air between the grains of soil, so your plant won’t be sat in just water.

Once you look at Hydroponic systems and you don’t use an air pump, water loses the oxygen and stagnates. Once this happens, your plants quickly drown as a result.

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With the introduction of an air pump, the bubbles add dissolved oxygen into your water. if you could look close enough, you would see these tiny pockets in the same manner as those found in soil

You can also find another couple of benefits of using air pumps. First is to keep your solution mixed, and second is that it can help to reduce the temperature of your solution, particularly if your pump is sucking in cool air.

When you look at some systems, you can get by without using an air pump, yet even these can benefit significantly as plants love all the oxygen they can get. More oxygen means they can take up more nutrients, and they can grow to their full potential.

The Noise of Hydroponic Air Pumps

One drawback of an air pump is that of the noise they produce. While it is the function of your air stones to create the bubbles, the air pumps function is to suck in air from outside the reservoir.

In contrast, a water pump has the noise suppressed by the water. While all air pumps will make a noise, you will find some quieter than others. When checking your pump, you will see the manufacturer places a level on the packaging.

Any pump you purchase should be 45 decibels or lower, and then it will blend with the surrounding noises.

Other Air Pump Considerations

The function of an air pump is simple, yet there are a few other things you need to consider to get the best from it.

Tubing from your pump into your tank should be black as a way of stopping light getting into your reservoir. Most are often supplied with clear, and you may need to change these.

The second thing to consider is the size of your system and the reason for calculating the size of the air pump you require. You can find air pumps that offer one outlet, or others comprise up to eight outlets.

With multiple pipe connections, you have the chance to place air stones in different areas of your reservoir, or you can run multiple systems from one pump.

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Many larger-scale growers may opt for two pumps rather than one to act as a failsafe. If one fails and it can cope with your system, then your plants won’t suffocate.

Lastly, it would be best if you were sure your pump matches your air stones. An air stone that is too large may have air coming just from one location, and thus other areas may block prematurely. In addition to this, any air stones you use ought to produce smaller bubbles.

With this, you find the oxygen dissolves easier as the bubbles travel slower, and more of the water surface is disturbed. Larger bubbles merely rise to the surface faster and will break the water surface less.

Air stones come in multiple sizes, yet once you have a pump that can drive air through all of the stone, you can find a four-inch size is ideal.

You may not hear much about this, and the issue stems from aquariums more than hydroponics, though it could be an issue.

If you have a deep tank rather than shallower horizontal, there can be back pressure and water can seep back through the tube into your pump. You will find this can be another reason to have a larger pump than you may think you require.

Calculating the Size of Air Pump for Hydroponics

You can look at purchasing an air pump in many ways, although there is one rule of thumb that a few gardeners use, it is often seen as leading to overkill for your system.

Buying an air pump that has a wattage equal to your number of gallons in your reservoir can lead you to purchase a pump you don’t need. You will see this happens to be a none technical way of selecting your ideal pump.

While you can follow this method, a lot depends on the size of your tank to the extent of the pump you require. One good thing to know is that it is almost impossible to have too much air in your water. The only time this would be an issue is if the water was being thrown from the top of your reservoir.

It is a pump that is too small that causes issues because it can’t oxygenate your solution enough for all your plants.

A pump you need has to deliver at least 500-600 CC (cubic centimeters) per minute. If you see 500-600 ml per minute, the volume of air is the same, and it is a quick 1 to 1 conversion.

For home gardens, even the cheapest pumps can deliver this, although you need to think about your pump in operation.

It is possible to turn your pump off on occasions for limited periods though it isn’t advisable, and your pump ought to be on 24/7. Commercial grade air pumps often come with a single outlet that can connect to a larger hose, and from this, you can connect multiple branches of smaller hose connectors.

Even though these are more costly, they are not overly expensive and will be more durable than smaller air pump variants.

Conclusion

When it comes down to the purchasing decision, unless you have a larger than average garden, you can find most of the available pumps will deliver a steady stream of air to your system.

How long the cheaper models can do this is questionable, so it can be a better option to move upmarket and purchase one that you know will deliver the reliability you require.

Besides this, if you want to go with the failsafe method and opt for two air pumps, you can easily find two middle of the road size pumps that offer plenty of air throughput without reaching the top end of your budget.

Even if you think the pumps appear to be overpowered, you can quickly reduce the number of air stones, although your plants will appreciate the additional oxygen.

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How to use Rockwool to Kick start your Hydroponic Growing

One of the toughest challenges for any new hydroponic gardener is to determine which is the best growing medium that will meet their needs. With several to choose from, it can be daunting, yet one keeps rising to the top.

Rockwool is a versatile material and has been used for well over 40 years. It is ideal for seedlings and for use in some systems, yet there are still concerns how to get the best from this material.

Here, we will look at everything you need to know about Rockwool, and how you can benefit from its use in your garden.

What is Rockwool?

Many people will have seen Rockwool, or a very close relative of it without realizing. What was once used as insulation for roofing or building projects was found to be an effective growing medium for hydroponics when there was a slight change to its structure.

Rockwool comes under a couple of different names, and one of the common ones being “Stonewool.” This is man-made, and to do this, they take basalt rock, which is an old volcanic rock, and melt it at high temperatures along with limestone.

Once it reaches a molten lava stage, this is spun into fibers much like cotton candy. Once these fibers are made, they add a binder into the mix and compress the resulting material into a mat. From here, it will be cut into a variety of shapes and sizes that meets the needs of hydroponic growers.

Sizes you can often find are slabs, cubes, croutons, granulate blocks and starter plugs. These are found to retain moisture to almost ideal conditions, it will retain oxygen and because of the fine structure, it never impedes the growing of plants rooting systems. Rockwool can actually promote a strong vigorous growth.

What Can I Grow Using Rockwool?

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There are all manner of plants and vegetables, which can be grown in Rockwool. While commercial growers use it for germinating lettuce before they transplant them to NFT systems, home growers can use larger Rockwool blocks for growing all manner of leafy greens, herbs, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers among others.

Growers who use their system for cut flowers find that both Gerberas and Roses grow well when planted in Rockwool.

Once new growers see the benefits of Rockwool, they begin to look at how they can benefit from using it in their garden. For many, the uses do fall down to either germinating seeds, or when cloning new plants, however, larger blocks are more versatile than just using Rockwool starter plugs for this purpose.

No matter what the use, the properties of Rockwool make it an almost perfect growing medium for plants. In comparison to its size, it can hold a large amount of water. This makes it ideal in systems where there are dry periods, and growers don’t want their growing medium to dry out completely.

This feature also acts as a security measure in case there are power outages, or there is a pump or timer failure.

If water retention wasn’t a good enough reason, then the ability to hold almost 20% oxygen between the fibers is. This delivers lots of oxygen to the root zones and makes it hard to actually over water their plants.

Larger 4-inch cubes are used for the bigger plants we saw above, yet the plugs of around 1.5 inches are often used for germination and cloning.

Rockwool makes it easier for new growers, in what could be a stressful time. Using Rockwool, they can keep their seeds damp enough without them sitting in a waterlogged environment.  When it comes to cloning, part of the old plant will be taken from another and planted so it can grow into a new plant all of its own.

This can be a more successful and cheaper way of growing plants for many growers because it will be an identical clone of the original plant, which was the donor.

For this method to be successful there does need to be lots of humidity around the cutting. If it dries out too much, then a plant will revert to self-preservation mode and stop trying to grow new roots.

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Any method of growing needs to be in a sterile environment, and the way they manufacture Rockwool means it is 100% inert. The heating process it goes through during the manufacturing process means there is little chance of fungi or bacteria entering into Rockwool.

Steps in Using Rockwool for Planting Seeds

It may appear daunting when planting seeds for the first few times; however, it can be very straightforward and successful when using this growing medium.

Here are the steps to follow when planting seeds.

  1. Rockwool preparation – soak your cubes well in pH adjusted water. They should have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
  2. In the hole in the top of the plug, insert two seeds. Using a fine object such as a toothpick push the seeds toward the bottom of the hole.
  3. Pinch the top of the hole closed or cover with a small piece of Rockwool.
  4. Add all your starter plugs to a nursery tray and place a humidity done over the top. Keep the temperature around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Check every couple of days and make sure the cubes are not drying out. Either water sparingly or mist them with a water bottle.
  6. Once you see your seeds sprouting, remove the plugs from under the dome and place them under your growing lights.
  7. Once you see a dominant seedling, trim back the smaller one to prevent growth. Never try to remove this smaller shoot as it can damage the shoots of the larger seedling.   
  8. Once these reach between two or three inches in height, you can transplant them to your system. When doing so, there is no need to try to remove the starter plug; this can go directly into your growing medium of choice.

Steps for Propagation Using Rockwool in Hydroponics

Propagation of plants can be harder for new growers until they understand where they need to cut from the donor plant. However, the steps for using the Rockwool cubes are no harder than doing so when growing from seeds.

  1. Make sure your Rockwool cubes are soaked will in pH-adjusted water.
  2. Make sure to water your donor plant well the night before you begin propagation
  3. Take the main stem of the donor plant and cut 3 to 4 inches of leaf stem from as close as you can to the main stem of the plant. Be careful not to damage the node.
  4. Take the cut end and dip it into some rooting hormone
  5. Take the cutting and place it into your cube, but make sure it doesn’t start to emerge from the bottom.
  6. Take your nursery tray and half fill with vermiculite of perlite.
  7. Place the cubes on top of this growing medium.
  8. Close the moisture dome to lock in the moisture and maintain a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Once roots begin emerging, open the lid slightly and increase more the day after.
  10. Remove the dome completely a few days later once the first roots appear.
  11. Once roots are showing through the bottom of the cub, transplant to your system.

Preparing Rockwool for Use

When using Rockwool, it is important to prepare it before use. While there are other growing mediums, which are pH-neutral such as coco coir and clay pebbles (Hydroton), Rockwool has a naturally high pH of around eight.

This occurs because of the limestone that is mixed with the basalt during manufacturing. If you don’t make sure you adjust the medium before use, then this high pH will prevent plants being able to uptake these nutrients.

Plants prefer conditions that are more acidic, hence the adjustment of the pH before use.

The steps for doing so are easy, yet they can be a little time consuming, so allow yourself a few days before you need to use your new batch of Rockwool.

The first step is to soak your cubes in water, which is acidic. This will dissolve the lime, which forms during manufacture. Distilled water is the best option because you know what the pH will be. Water from the faucet can vary depending if you are in a soft or hard water area.

You should adjust the water so the pH drops to around 5.5. If it goes below five, then this can begin damaging the fibers. Once you do this, allow them to soak up this pH-adjusted water for 24-hours. If these blocks are for use in your system, then locate them in position and run your system without plants until your system pH stabilizes at around 5.5 to 6.0.

Things to Do, and What Not to Do With Rockwool

Using Rockwool can be straightforward, and this can be seen from the amount of growers, which use it. However, there are a few things you need to do, and some things you should to gain the full benefits of this growing medium.

Here we will look at all the things you do need to do:

Pre-soaking Rockwool

When you purchase this growing medium, it will feel very light, as it will be very dry. It is crucial to first wet it sufficiently before you use it. To know it is ready for use, you should submerge the medium in water that is balanced to a pH of 5.5 until there are no more bubbles emerging from the blocks.

By this submersion, the water can penetrate all the tiny pores and holes that are on the inside of the medium. While some growers soak for extended periods, it can be enough to be from seconds or minutes for the starter plugs, or several minutes for the larger 4-inch blocks. It is better to leave it as long as you can to be sure it is thoroughly soaked.

Once you have made this pre-soak, then you need to let it stand and drain. Water will flow and then stop, the medium will still be damp as the moisture only comes from the larger pores where it lets oxygen inside. This gives you the ideal water to oxygen ratio for your plants.

Before using for your plants, you should be sure to wet them with your nutrient solution. After the initial drain, the remaining nutrients will be directly available for your plants. Soaking with just water will weaken the nutrient concentration inside the blocks.

Never Unwrap Your Cubes

The larger blocks will come wrapped in a kind of plastic foil. This won’t let any light inside, and it is there for a reason. This has the same function as your other growing pots. Not only will it prevent air pruning by keeping the light out, it will keep the roots inside.

One other reason this covering needs to stay on the block is it helps prevent algae on the sides. In the case of slabs, these will be fully covered. Because you can’t fit these into buckets, you can soak them from the top with your nutrient solution, and after they have stood, you can make drainage holes on the underside.

Make Sure You Have Good Drainage

All plants will absorb more water than nutrients. You will have a buildup of these salts in your growing medium over time if you don’t allow for a full run-off. As your root zones are irrigated, this new solution pushes the previous slats closer to the bottom of the growing medium.

If there isn’t enough drainage or run-off to allow these salts to drain away, it will become unhealthy for your plants. You need to allow between 20 and 30% of the solution volume going in, and draining from the bottom as a maximum. This will help retain the ideal conditions in the plants rooting zone.

Reuse or Recycle Your Rockwool

When you are using horticultural Rockwool, you may read or hear myths, which say you can’t reuse it or recycle it safely after use.

You can in fact use the larger blocks again as long as you are sure there are no roots remaining. These will rot, but you can purchase enzymes that will help get rid of these, and after you do this, you can reuse them again for a different type of crop.

Rockwool in essence is a rock and it can be broken up and added to compost or added directly to soil garden beds. The only area you should be using Rockwool a second time is for starting your plants.

Here are a few things you should never do when growing with Rockwool:

Never Squeeze Rockwool

Because this growing medium retains so much fluid, new growers may be under the impression there is too much water in the block. Growers should never squeeze their blocks to remove excess water. Squeezing removes too much water as well as damaging the structure of the blocks.

The structure is already ideal for plant growth, so all it needs is wetting and letting it drain naturally before use.

Never Over Stack Your Pots with Rockwool

If your system irrigates from the bottom, you should be cautious of how tall your pots are. Water will never wick more than five or six inches, no matter how good the medium is at absorbing water. Gravity will prevent it from rising higher than this. If you are using a bottom feeding system, be sure the tops of your pots are no higher than this.

Top feeding systems are not as much of a problem because the solution waters from the top. This will fill all the fibers sufficiently before it comes to the time to drain.

Rockwool Usage Tips

There are a few things growers should understand before they begin using Rockwool for the first time.

Health Concerns When Using Rockwool 

Because there is such a similarity with home insulation and Rockwool, many growers are led to believe it can be dangerous to inhale any dust or particles.

For any growing medium, it is advisable to wear a mask when handling these in their dry state. This can relieve any discomfort, as can wearing rubber gloves in case there is any skin irritation. The initial soaking should wash away any of these particles, and from that moment, the blocks should always be damp so the particles will never rise into the air.

Preventing Algae on Rockwool

Like any growing medium in a hydroponic system. A surface, which is moist and exposed to light, can be the ideal conditions for algae growth. Many growers know this all too well, and even if it doesn’t cause problems, it doesn’t look very nice.

To prevent this, they may cover the tops of their large Rockwool blocks with dark plastic to stop light hitting the damp surface. This can be the same for any area of your system where light gets to where your solution sits. Tanks, tubing and grow troughs being prime examples.

Conclusion

After you have taken the initial steps to prepare your Rockwool for use, you will find that it will not affect the pH of your system like many growers think.

Because there is such a good water holding capacity of Rockwool, it is easy to see why growers begin to think this. It is the accumulation of salts in the growing medium as the plants absorb water. Rockwool is one of the easiest and most effective growing mediums to use.

Growers who are concerned with their system pH can easily adjust this by reducing the amount of nutrients, or when they top off with fresh water. There can be fluctuations between just over five all the way to just over a pH of seven, and plants may never show any ill effects. There is a reason why so many growers use this man-made material, and once every grower understands the simple rules above, they too can experience great plant growth by using this easy to use and inexpensive growing medium.

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Beginners Guide to Vertical Farming at Home

Whilst reading about hydroponics, potential growers may become confused with the term “Vertical Gardening.” This is just another term for indoor gardening, yet it can take on many different forms. What they all have in comparison to each other is they are recognized as being a sustainable way to grow healthy plants and vegetables in the home.

Here we will take a look at all you need to know about this gardening method, and how you can benefit from beginning any of the gardening methods, no matter how large or small your growing space can be.

Vertical Gardening Concepts

This kind of gardening can be carried out in any space you can imagine. Commercial growers are using tall buildings, old warehouses, or even old converted shipping containers. Home growers are finding places that are ever more ingenious where to set up these systems, from basements, sunrooms to spare rooms and attics.

What they all have in common is that the plants they grow are all grown in layers. Every method, which is used, will fall under the same umbrella of controlled environmental agriculture.

Following these concepts, growers will be controlling everything from administration of nutrients, the humidity, temperatures and artificial lighting. While in some cases there is the use of natural sunlight, this isn’t the only means of lighting, and it will be supplemented by artificial means.

One other thing all these growing methods have in common is they will all be based around hydroponics in one way or another. Once we begin looking at growing upward with a central system, which uses far less water, we can begin to see why these methods of growing are beneficial.

The amount of arable land reduces every year, so there does need to be alternative methods of growing crops for the ever-increasing world population.

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Adding to this, there are some quick benefits when using these vertical gardens with hydroponics:

  • Can grow seventy-five times more food per square foot than in soil
  • No need for pesticides or fungicides
  • Food can be healthier and safer to eat
  • Food can be grown all year round
  • Food can be grown in regions where it wasn’t previously possible

What is Controlled Environment Agriculture?

This we saw is an umbrella of technologies that are all geared toward the production of food. CEA has the aim of delivering crops the utmost protection while delivering the optimal growing conditions through the entire growing cycle of the crops.

These enclosed growing areas go much further than just using a hydroponic system to make use of a smaller space. The entire growing methods will be optimized where everything is taken into consideration such as water, space, energy consumption, labor and the capital investment.

While this means of growing can also utilize aquaponics, and aeroponics, for the home grower, these systems may not be as feasible as they are for commercial ventures.

One area which is under continual development is that of “Biofortification” where crops are bred to increase their nutritional value. This can be accomplished by selective breeding from different strains of plants, or through genetic engineering and cloning.

These methods vary from regular fortification as they focus on making the food healthier and more nutritious as the crops are growing instead of adding additional nutrients to the crops while they are being processed.

How Does Indoor Small Scale Indoor Farming Work?

Growers who are thinking of utilizing these methods of growing crops will need to go through several factors, which dictate the way the system will work, and how successful it can be.

Unlike a regular hydroponic system, there are plenty more things to consider. Because many crops will be grown in layers, this means that there is not as much opportunity for taller plants in this system type. When you add into this the types of plants which are ideal, it may be the growers ends up growing too much of the same.

It is for this reason, there does need to be some form of a feasibility study conducted. This will show if what the growers wishes to achieve is cost effective, or they may need to design a growing space which allows them to follow the racking growth system for some crops and a separate area for a more conventional system.

Here are some of the factors, which will determine the viability of vertical farms for the home gardener.

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1# Layout

The goal of indoor farming is to make full use of the available space. It is here where growers need to maximize the growing capacity per square meter or foot. To do this easily, growing upward is the key.

2# Light Sources

Growers can use natural light sources, and supplement these with grow lights; however, this may not always be possible. There may be a need for reflectors, rotating beds or another means of making sure the same amount of light falls on all the plants for the specified time.

3# Growing Methods

It is here where the different system types come into play. These can be hydroponics, aeroponics or aquaponics. This will be dictated by the growing area and the type of system used.

4# Sustainability

Everything needs to be supplied by the grower, and if this isn’t done in the right manner, or the right amounts, then it won’t be possible to sustain the garden. Included in this can be rain catchment tanks, wind turbines or growing spaces that can be used for other things as well. A vertical garden will also need to be running all year round to maximize crop growth and reduce overall running expenses.

Small Scale Vertical Gardening for the Home Grower

For home growers, there are many ways they can make use of the concepts and build systems. These come in some very ingenious forms, with one of the simplest and most effective being the window garden, which was developed by a professor from Belgium. Willem Van Cottenham came up with a simple kitchen garden system that makes use of natural sunlight and recycled plastic bottles.

This method takes a number of bottles and strings them together; these hand from the upper most part of the window frame and have a small window cut into the sides of the bottles where net cups can be placed on a growing medium of choice.

At the top of the window is a small reservoir where nutrients are pumped with a small pump, from here they then make their way out of drip emitters into the top most bottles. This acts like a regular drip system, yet the nutrients pass through the first bottle and into the second, and then the third.

At this point, they return to a second catchment reservoir to be reused and circulated back to the top at set intervals.

The same simple concept can be used with plants being placed outdoors rather than inside windows, yet this is ideal for people who lack space.

This concept will be limited to what it can grow, yet there is another form of vertical gardening, which has taken the world by storm almost as much as the interest in hydroponics. Micro-greens are the first shoots from plants and are often used as a garnish in restaurants.

However, they have been found to contain many more benefits, such as an increase in the nutrition they deliver. The popularity of these is the way they grow, and how quick they can be harvested.

Micro-greens follow the vertical gardening ethos down to the finest of details. They are grown in shallow trays and will be stacked on shelves with a set distance between each. Hanging above will be a grow light that is used once the seeds have germinated. Once these greens are ready to harvest, they can be any height from around one inch to around three inches, yet this will depend on the seeds used.

Crops in Micro-greens can be harvested in between ten and fourteen days. Such is the popularity and the ease of this kind of crop and the growing setup required there are many businesses formed on the back of this concept because it is something, which can begin small and scale up in any area of a home.

Vertical gardening around the home doesn’t need to be difficult. The concepts can even be used to supplement regular growing spaces because of the limited space they use. When it comes to the feasibility, this method will help growers save money on groceries, whilst delivering healthier foods onto the table.

These systems are sustainable and make it easy for anyone who lacks a suitable area for a full sized hydroponic system to do their part in growing their own food and putting less strain on the environment.

What Can Be Grown in Vertical Farming?

Depending on the base structure of your vertical gardening system, it is possible to grow near enough anything. However, just because it is possible to grow almost anything, doesn’t mean it makes sense to do so.

There is a point where some crops are not worth growing, or they are not suitable for a family. One other thing, which needs consideration, is for growers who are seeking a commercial venture, and are looking at crops that they can sell. The chances of selling your crops and the cost of production are the most crucial factors at this stage.

Regardless of whether you are growing to sell, or for personal consumption, you will need a feasibility study to understand you are heading in the right direction.

At the end of the day, making the right choices of crops is the best way to make sure you will make you vertical garden a success.

Here is a breakdown of how to look at the determining factors, and then a look at some of the best crops you can grow in vertical gardening systems.

1# Economics & Viability

There are many crops that make sense to grow, yet from a financial stance, they make little sense to grow. This is true if you plan to sell, because if you can’t make money from one of your crops, there can be a few reasons for this:

  • Limited profit due to no demand
  • Production costs are too high
  • Wrong kind of climate – heating, lighting and cooling costs are too much

This can be the same for the home grower, but to a lesser degree. However, you don’t want to find you are spending more on producing your healthy vegetables, than it would cost to purchase them.

2# Timing of Harvests

This can affect small commercial ventures as much as it can affect a home grower. When you take the time from your seedlings to the time, they can be harvested and marketed “A Turn,” this needs to make sense.

Crops, which grow fast, or have a fast turn such as mint, basil, collard greens lettuce and other similar growing vegetables, will help growers reduce their liability. From the start, a grower will already know they are no more than six weeks from a harvest.

If you are looking to grow crops that have a slow turn, they will have a higher value when selling. A recommendation for a split to balance each other out is a high percentage of greens to herbs.

For a home grower who is after enough for consumption, the same will ring true. It makes no sense to grow more lettuce than you can consume, likewise, you don’t want to grow too many slow turn crops where you will be waiting for a harvest, and you may need to resort to going back to the supermarket.

Here are some of the best crops for you to grow in your vertical farm at home.

Best Vertical Growing Crops

Kale

There are several varieties you can choose from, although Tuscan kale is one of the more popular. These will take a larger vertical system as they can grow quite large. Aside from that, they can take care of themselves and don’t need too much attention.

Lettuce

Once you understand how fast your lettuce will grow, and how much you can consume, or sell? You will see there is a consistent demand throughout the year. With dozens of variety available, it will never become tiresome when you can have a fresh crispy salad at the times of year you least expect it.

Collard Greens

If you have the right setup, these are ideal for growing at home because you can pluck these rather than harvest the entire plant. Chard is a smaller variety of collard green and can be easier to control. This cooks similar to spinach, and can be harvested on a number of occasions if you only take around a third of the plant as a maximum. This will grow back and deliver a larger yield.

Basil

Many growers find that when they have a vertical garden, Basil shines as it grows better in these methods than many other systems. There is also a steady demand for Basil, so it can be a decent crop to grow for home consumption, or to be the first you grow for a small commercial enterprise. It can be harder to grow, and harvest, yet the benefits of doing so are well worth it.

Woody Herbs

The smaller woody herbs such as Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary can be a little choosy when it comes to growing. Because of their nature, they do prefer a drier footing when growing. They also have a slow turn in comparison to other crops, yet these are so distinct in aroma and flavor, it can be worth dedicating a small portion of a vertical garden to these. Growers can also find there is always a strong demand for these in many different markets.

Mint and Chives 

For beginners, there is nothing easier to grow than mint and chives. These are generally grouped with herbs, yet they have a quick turn. Chives looks like grass and is very easy to harvest as a whole, or you can cut what you require. Mint can take over a system as it has a rapid growth, so it is advisable to not plant too much to begin with.

Conclusion

Vertical gardening may just be a term for indoor gardening, yet there is much more to it than that. With the number of unique designs growing where the most unusual spaces are used. These are pushing vertical gardening to the limits.

Home growers may already have a system in mind, or in place, yet taking a step back and having a rethink can dramatically increase the yields they can expect from their garden as a unit. Something as simple as Micro-greens don’t require too much to set up in terms of cost, or in care, yet what they deliver far outweighs the little space they take up.

Vertical gardening is seen as the way forward to solve the world’s problems for an increasing population, and the reduction in farming land.

It is never too late for any grower to begin using the concepts from above to increase their yields without increasing their impact on the environment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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