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 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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How to Make Liquid Fertilizer for Hydroponics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is it Possible to Make Liquid Fertilizer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make Different Kinds of Liquid Fertilizer

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

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

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Necessary tools for making Liquid Fertilizer:

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

Compost Tea/Worm Tea

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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

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

Sea and Animal Byproduct Formulation

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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

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

Fertilizer-Water Mix

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Liquid Fertilizer Growth Boosters

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

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

Deficiency Boosters

Calcium Deficiency

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

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

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

Potassium Boosters

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

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

Growth Enhancers

Coffee Ground Booster

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

Root Growth with Bean Tea

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

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

Multipurpose Fertilizer

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

Using Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Your Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organic Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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How to Grow Bamboo with Hydroponics

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

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

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

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

Best Bamboo to Grow Hydroponically

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

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

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

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

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

Bamboo Grow and Care Guide

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

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

Finding the Right Donor Plant

Step One

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

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

Bamboo selection tips:

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

Step Two

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

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

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

Planting Your Lucky Bamboo

Step One

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

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

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

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

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

Step Two

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

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

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

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

Propagating Lucky Bamboo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Bamboo Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Styling Bamboo to Make it Lucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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How to Keep Water Cool in Hydroponics: 8 Easy Ways

One thing growers should never overlook in their hydroponic system is the temperature of their nutrient mixture. As soon as the temperature reaches over a certain point, the solution can’t hold the dissolved oxygen as long.

Add to this, when there are unhealthy root masses mixed with these temperatures, it creates the perfect place for pathogens like root rot to take a foothold. To combat these problems, you need to make sure your nutrient solution remains between 65 and 75 degrees.

Here we will look at ways to cool your hydroponic reservoir and solution. While these can make the difference, some of these methods come with their own downsides when in use.

In summary, according to other sites such as NoSoilSolutions and Epic Gardening, here are the main eight ways to cool a nutrient reservoir.

  1. Keeping your reservoir in the shade
  2. Paint your reservoir to reflect light
  3. Increasing the size of your reservoir
  4. Top off your nutrient solution
  5. Bury your reservoir in the ground
  6. Making a swamp cooler
  7. Making your own cooling coil
  8. Purchase a water chiller

How Can I Cool My Hydroponic Reservoir?

Here we will take an in-depth look at the above methods. The first couple of entries in the list should ideally be done as a matter of course. Aside from controlling temperatures, they help prevent light entering and the growth of algae.

1# Keep Your Reservoir in the Shade

Any grower should be doing this one thing by default. Being able to minimize the amount of light which falls on your reservoir will help prevent it from warming up in the first place. Aside from this, you also need to be sure no light is entering your reservoir, this will warm it quicker, and it does allow algae to form along the water line.

2# Paint or Insulate Your Reservoir

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There are two things you can try in this solution. The problem doesn’t just come from tanks, which are in a warm environment. Nutrient tanks can catch the heat from grow lights. As soon as this starts to hit the dark colors of your tanks, then the solution inside begins to warm up.

Solutions for this are to either paint your reservoir a light color as a way of reflecting the light and the heat, or you can cover your tank in a reflective insulation material. Even regular insulation can be enough to help maintain cooler temperatures in your tank, yet reflective insulation comes with an added benefit.

Once your grow lights hit the top of your tank, this reflective material bounces light back, which can reach the undersides of your plants.

In summary, here are things to know about painting or insulating your tank:

  • Don’t choose a light plastic to save on painting, this can lead to algae growth when light passes through
  • Dark plastics absorb more heat while light colors reflect
  • Reflective insulation helps cool, and throws light back onto your plants

3# Increase Your Reservoir Size

Depending where hydroponic gardens are located, this often dictates the size of reservoir in use. For small gardens, growers tend to go for a smaller tank to match, however, these warm up quicker than larger reservoirs.

If you add a larger reservoir, your nutrient mix becomes more stable. This doesn’t just mean you can keep lower temperatures, but also it helps balance pH levels, PPM and other concentrations in your mixture.

  • Small reservoirs fluctuate easier
  • Large reservoirs add stability for controlling temperature and other factors
  • PPM, EC and pH are easier to control in larger tanks

4# Top Off Your Solution

If you need a quick fix, then this can suffice to drop your temperatures down a few degrees on hot days. This method shouldn’t be used too often because either you will be diluting your nutrient mix, or you will be using more nutrients than you need to.

It is better to use this method in case of emergencies because if you have temperature fluctuations, they will always be there, and this method doesn’t do much to eliminate them.

  • Not to be used all the time
  • Add cooler solution slowly so not to shock plants

5# Bury Your Reservoir

This method only works if you have an outside hydroponic garden. You can prevent several problems with your nutrient tank by burying it. This helps to maintain cooler temperatures but using the natural coolness of the earth, and it is sure to stop any light from entering your tank.

The main things to remember with this method are you may struggle when you come to flush your tank between growing. If it is already under ground level, you may not have a suitable drain point.

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6# Make Your Own Swamp Coolers

Swamp coolers are effective, and very simple to make. All it requires is to take a suitable fan and blow this across the top of your nutrient solution. As a result, you may see temperature drops of around 5 to 10F.

The downside to this is you can be topping off your reservoir more often to compensate for evaporation. Second to this, your EC and PPM levels will rise that will require continual adjustment. You may also find using this method, you are allowing light into your tank.

7# Make a Cooling Coil

While these can be effective, they do take more work and they have the downside of wasting water. To make one of these, you can take copper or stainless steel tubing and form it into around 20 coils. This will then sit inside your reservoir with a hose connected to both ends.

One fits on the faucet while the second drains. In operation, the water trickles through the tubing and will pull heat from your reservoir into the liquid inside.

  • Wastes water
  • Can offer unlimited cooling at a cost
  • Doesn’t need any power

8# Buy a Water Chiller

One of the most efficient ways to cool your reservoir is to purchase a water chiller. These deliver a hands free approach and give you lots of control. These do become more cost-effective if you have more than a couple of tanks where you need to control the temperatures.

These water chillers can be a hefty investment, and they do consume electricity for their operation. There are varying sizes so scaling up to any sized garden can be straightforward.

  • Most expensive option
  • Still requires water pumps
  • Can be a set it and forget it solution
  • Ideal for larger gardens

Ideal Hydroponics Temperature 

Plants thrive better when they are in a constant environment. While nutrient temperature can fluctuate, the main problem can stem from the grow room itself.

For ideal temperatures for good plant growth, the surrounding environment should be around 70 to 80F. For optimum root growth, the ideal temperatures of the root zone should be around 66F. 

Once the temperatures are above these, then stress starts to show in your plants. Heat stress can cause plants that are spindly in the early stages of growth, and mature plants can fail to fruit or flower correctly.

Most of the above methods focus on cooling a nutrient mix which is already warm. However, to have the perfect grow room will mean that your tanks temperature doesn’t climb in the first place.

Here are some of the best ways you can help maintain your grow room environment.

Air conditioners: This works as well as a water chiller, but for the surrounding environment. The environment will warm because of grow lights, or any natural light, which spills in through windows. You can purchase window type air conditioners that are ideal to cool your grow room enough without breaking the bank.

Relocate or Insulate Grow Rooms: The biggest culprit for tanks heating up will be your grow lights. If your grow room faces the south, or your grow room is under a hot roof, you may be fighting a losing battle with your tank temperatures.

Insulating your grow room can prevent hot weather having an impact. Additionally, if you can move a grow room into the basement, you will find it is naturally cooler than above ground level.

Increase Humidity: If your grow room suffers from low humidity, then your plants will take up more water to keep cool. This is where your tank levels drop faster and thus warm up quicker. Misting your grow room can keep plants and the surrounding areas cool, and as a result, your nutrient mix will remain stable.

Improve the Air Flow: Plants require good air circulation for healthy growth. This will also help prevent your nutrient mix from warming in the first place. Plants will benefit with circulating air, and it stops pockets or warm zones from forming around the grow room.

Run Lights at Night: One-Way of cooling a grow room which many growers often overlook is using their grow lights at night rather than in the day. Using supplemental lighting at night not only offers cheaper electric in some cases, but a grow room will be cooler at this time. The overall temperature of the room may not reach a level that will push your reservoir up to the higher limits to cause problems.

However, doing this will mean you need alternative counter measures in the day to cool your grow room. This will depend on the location as to the extent you need to go. If your grow room has access to natural light, it can be just a matter of extra shading, additional misting and fog to keep lower temperatures.

Calculating the Size of Water Chiller

One of the most crucial factors when choosing a water chiller is how well it will perform on your system. It isn’t just a matter of choosing one and expecting it to cool sufficiently. When it comes to the sizing of your water chiller, the following method allows you to determine the size of chiller unit that is sufficient for your garden system.

  1. Calculate your system volume – this includes all buckets and tanks
  2. Run your system with everything turned on – all grow lights, fans, etc.
  3. When your grow room has reached its max temp, take a reading before cooling your system using ice packs or frozen plastic bottles of ice.
  4. When your system mix cools, remove the ice and run for another hour.
  5. After this time, take the water temperature
  6. Subtract your ending temp from the starting temp
  7. Use the formula to find the minimum BTU required.
  • System volume: 80 gallons
  • Desired Temp: 65F
  • Running Temp: 76F

Formula: 80 x 8.34 x 11 = 7,339 BTU (gallons x weight of water x temporary difference).

A water chiller should run around 20% above your BTU requirement minimum to counteract performance loss.

Pros and Cons of Using a Water Chiller in Your Garden

Like many things for your hydroponics system, there are pros and cons of using a water chiller.

Pros of Hydroponic Water Chillers 

  • Cooler temperatures enable your solution to hold a higher degree of dissolved oxygen. This is the key basis of increased nutrient uptake and explosive root growth.
  • Highly oxygenated environments, which come with cooler temperatures, can help deter pathogens from taking hold.
  • A cooler reservoir will act as a heat sink in your grow room. This can draw ambient heat and help to cool the whole room

Cons of Water Chillers in Hydroponic Gardens

  • Expense is one of the largest primary cons for a water chiller. Although you can find affordable models, it can still be a cost that many growers can’t justify.
  • Noise – in operation, these will sit outside of a reservoir like air pumps. They will make the same sort of noises as air conditioning units.
  • Heat: Water chillers do generate heat when they cool water. Either they require ducting to transfer this heat out of the grow room, or they have to sit outside the grow room to not introduce more heat.

Why Do Roots Need Cool Temperatures?

Root zone temperatures affect overall shoot growth. Not only this, the impact from the root zone temperature will have more of a bearing on development and overall growth than the ambient air temperatures.

This occurs because the tissues of the roots send messages to the shoots. This will have an effect of how the shoot reacts to the environment. Growers see that there are many functions that occur for the plant in the roots, and thus, the root zone temperature becomes crucial.

Such is the effect of this, even thirty minutes of heat buildup in your nutrient mixture and in the root zone is enough to have a negative effect on your plants. One thing to note is that a daily cool average isn’t sufficient to counteract this.

As soon as your temperatures rise above 86F, then crops, which are sensitive to heat, will quickly falter such as lettuce or parsley.

When you look at something such as lettuce, the cooling of your nutrient reservoir does allow these crops to face higher than usual/ optimal temperatures above the surface.

While there are many biological happenings because of cooling roots lower than the ambient air temperatures, it is easier to know it reduces heat stress in the leaves of plants.

Root Zones and Different Hydroponic Systems

Cooling your nutrient solution to the optimal temperature isn’t all the equation. The remainder comes from the types of system you are running.

The root zone temperature needs to remain the same all the time. The cool mixture has a big influence on this, yet the system type and how it is built can affect this dramatically. A good example being the only system, which will have the same temperature root zone as the nutrients, will be a DWC system.

The roots are in constant contact with the solution. In all the other types of system, there is a degree of separation between the root zone and the reservoir.

A good example of how this can affect plants is in an ebb and flow (flood and drain) system. As your cool solution rises in the flood tables, the plants gain the advantages of oxygenated water and the roots are comfortable because of the lower temperatures.

However, things change as the cycle stops and the solution begins to drain back into the tank. Warm air from the grow room can be pulled through the growing medium as the solution drops. If the environment is warm, it can heat up your root zone considerably until the next flood cycle.

Unless you have a good means of cooling your solution, this will transfer heat back into your tank and thus warming it with each fill and drain cycle. Depending on your cooling solution, you may find that this is insufficient and as much as you are trying to cool your water, it increases in temperature regardless.

Not only will your water increase in temperature but also the root zone can be at a damaging temperature between your flood cycles.

Size of Your Hydroponics Reservoirs

One of the first things to be sure of is that you have a large enough reservoir. Rather than just being large enough for the size of system, you have, you are better to have a much larger one than you require.

Hydrotek, who are one of the largest names in hydroponic equipment recommend the following for reservoir sizes:

  • Small plants – ½ gallon for each plant
  • Medium plants – 1 ½ gallons for each plant
  • Large plants – 2 ½ gallons for each plant

Hydrotek recommends you choose a reservoir that is at least double the size.

You also need to consider how thirsty your plants will be. This can use your water and nutrients faster, such as is the like of tomatoes in comparison to lettuce.

This will use your mix faster and thus cause a warm solution once the level starts to drop.

Using all the above information can help to maintain cooler temperatures for your nutrient solution. However, if you find your grow room comfortable for yourself as you are working in that environment, then you are halfway to knowing how it feels for your crops.

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How to Get Rid of Algae in Hydroponics for Good!

Algae can cause major problems in hydroponics systems. It can build up and cling to any surface. This means there isn’t any system that can be safe from it once it gets a foothold. It sticks inside tubes, it can work its way into pumps, and it can bring a system to its knees.

Once it begins to decompose, it can bring with it a horrible odor. However, it is when you have a heavy infestation things get worse. This mass of algae can form a barrier against your growing mediums.

When this begins to happen, two significant things will happen. First is the precious nutrients are depleted from the system as the algae uses them itself to grow. Second, there is a severe drop in the dissolved oxygen in the system. This causes your plants to start suffocating, and means they are weaker to fight off any other pathogens.

What Is Algae and How Does it Get Into My Hydroponics System?

Algae is a simple, plant-like aquatic organism that can grow in just about any aquatic environment. Because they are so similar to plants, they require the same basis for growth; sunlight, water, and nutrients.

Algae can be an incredibly versatile and durable organism and can take hold wherever there is a minimal amount of these three basics. It’s because of their similar needs to the plants you are trying to grow in a hydroponics system that makes them difficult to prevent and address once they’ve arrived. You can’t starve them of their needs because your plants also need the same things.

In terms of how algae ever reaches your system in the first place, that is also explained by the versatility and durability of algae as an organism. While you might think that, your system is sterile, well contained and free from potential contamination sources during the setup process, algae can, and likely will, find a way into your system.

Algae gets into hydroponics systems through microscopic airborne spores. Because these spores can be so durable, it can be almost impossible to prevent them from getting into your hydroponics system. Many growers try to fathom how they get algae in their system when they have a sterile environment. The spores from algae can be carried by the wind, and it only takes one to latch onto your system. Growers themselves can even be a carrier of spores without realizing.

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Once in your system, algae finds the perfect conditions for growth – assuming you’ve set up a system that’s also perfect for the plants you’re meaning to grow! This is why algae can be so problematic. They are almost impossible to keep out of your system, and once they find a home in your system, they populate incredibly rapidly.

In this light, you should expect some level of algae growth within your system. Keeping a completely algae free hydroponics system is essentially impossible, and therefore, should not be the goal you’re aiming for.

By acknowledging that come amount of algae will be present, the focus of your efforts should be to prevent it from getting out of control and overtaking your system. While a healthy system can cope with small amounts of algae, as soon as the levels increase, it will be time to harvest your crops and take drastic action before starting another growing session.

By focusing your efforts on preventing algae growth getting out of hand, you can help to make sure that algae growth remains at an acceptable level. Any strategy for algae problems should be with control rather than complete prevention, because this can be nearly impossible to do.

How to Clean Algae Out of Your Hydroponics System

A lot of this will depend on the stage of your system, you may already have an infestation, or you are building a new system and want to prevent algae from occurring. Either way, it is better that you understand what causes algae, and how you can prevent it from taking hold.

Two things to note are that algae doesn’t grow on dry surfaces, and preventing as much light as possible from reaching your nutrient solution can help minimize the risk of an algae outbreak. All your channels and conduits will have covers, which prevents light from entering. Likewise, your media beds or pots can be covered to prevent light from hitting the surface.

Growers who face algae infestations may be tempted to turn to a commercially available algaecide. While these appear to be a good solution to control an algae problem, they are in fact of very little use.

An algaecide can help to control the blooms of algae, yet, if they are misused or overused, they can damage your plants delicate rooting systems. This is more the case if your plants are small, and have not long been planted into your system.

The worst thing with these commercial products is that once they are used, they weaken in the system, and then the algae just begins to grow again. This means you need more of the product, and you end up in a cycle that shows no end.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to assess the amount of algae in the system. If it seems to be a small amount, you need to determine where this is getting into your system. It could be some light finding its way into your reservoir, or into another part of your system.

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If it doesn’t become worse or affect your pump and air stones, you may be able to tackle the problem with some preventative measures until you come to the end of your growth cycle. At this stage, you can go through the following to give your system a thorough clean.

The following steps explain how to give your system a full clean. This can rid it of any traces of algae before you commence your next growing cycle.

System Clean and Sterilization

Because of how easy algae spores can be passed around via the air, it will be important to give your growing room a good clean as well as your system. There will be little benefit in cleaning your system to find you are up and running, and there are algae spores lurking on the walls or your lighting systems.

It will be your system, which is more important because it is this that is in direct contact with your plants. Growing medium and pots need their own cleaning, also if you are using clay pebbles, (Hydroton) be sure this doesn’t dry out and stays moist.

Step #1 Draining the System

Ridding your system of the old nutrient mix will be the first step. Some systems may not be using pumps; this would mean manually emptying your reservoir. If you have a recirculating system, then there are two ways to drain your tank.

If your tank has a drain valve, you can open this and let the water run out naturally. However, you will need a run off area, which is lower than your tank. If you are using the pump return method. Be sure to isolate all the electrics before removing the pump from the tank.

Remove the outlet pipe, and then connect the female connector onto the pump. You can now feed the outlet hose to your desired drain point. This will remover the water via the pump rather than naturally draining.

Once you reach the lowest point before the pump begins to run dry, you will need to turn it off. This method and the other will have a couple of inches of water remaining. Manually remove this using a sponge and a bucket.

Step #2 System Cleaning

Even though you are tackling an algae problem, these steps will be the same for a system clean after each harvest. This can be one way to be sure you have eliminated any traces of algae, pathogens or bacterial growth.

You can use two chemicals at this stage:

Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide: This should be a 35% concentration. 3 milliliters (mls) for each gallon of water.

Unscented Bleach: The ratio of this should be 1:100. This would work out as 1.3 oz. to each gallon of water.

  1. Drain your system by either of the methods mentioned
  2. Remove pumps and air stones, these may require cleaning if algae growth reaches that far
  3. Remove any parts of your system which are hard to access
  4. Check for debris, broken roots and further algae growth
  5. With your cleaning solution of choice, use green scrubbing pads and wipe down all the areas where you see algae growth. Bottlebrushes can be used for hard to reach areas.
  6. Wipe clean and then assemble any system parts you dismantled
  7. Fill your system higher than usual as this covers the line where the algae was forming
  8. Add your sterilizing solution (bleach or hydrogen peroxide)
  9. Run your system for between 4 and 6 hours
  10. Scrubbing channels and conduits will flush this algae and debris back into your tank
  11. Drain your system and rinse with fresh water. Be sure to remove all the debris
  12. If using bleach, you need to triple flush your system
  13. Drain a final time and wipe down with clean towels
  14. You can turn on your lights as this can stop any algae starting to form and residual water

System Components

Although the algae may not be growing on your pumps or air stones, there may be traces on your growing medium and the pots. To clean all of these including pumps, the recommendation is to use hydrogen peroxide. You can though use a bleach bath to soak all of these small components. This will be a 1:1 mix, and you still need to carry out a triple rinse to remove all traces.

How to Prevent Algae from Growing in Your Hydroponics System

Algae growth in hydroponics systems is unavoidable to come extent. Anytime you’re working with nutrient rich water and sunlight, you’ll have ideal growing conditions for algae. As these are, the two main essentials needed in algae growth, and because you can’t avoid having a nutrient rich water solution, the best prevention method is to cut down on light exposure.

The best way to prevent out-of-control algae growth in your hydroponics system is to reduce your reservoir’s exposure to light as much as possible. This can be easier said than done, but there are a few ways to help with this.

  • Use Opaque or Solid Colored Materials
    One way to cut down on the potential light exposure is to use opaque and solid colored materials wherever possible. This will help prevent any light from penetrating into these parts of the system, thus reducing the potential for algae to photosynthesize and grow.
  • Cover All Exposed Water
    This step is similar to the previous step in that it’s predicated on prevented algae from ever getting started in the first place. Again, if algae can’t receive light to photosynthesize, it can’t grow and populate within your reservoir.

    There are a number of ways to cover your water, all of which depend on how your system is set up. For smaller rigs, it might be as simple as using a solid colored material to build your plant supports into. In larger systems, you may need to fashion a sort of tarp or plastic cover with holes cut out for your plants to grow through, but that covers all other areas.

Alternative Options for Preventing Algae Growth

While the most effective way to prevent algae growth in a hydroponics system is to cut off any potential light sources, there are a few alternative measures that growers can take to avoid this nuisance. These options vary in their effectiveness but can have good results when applied properly.

  • UVC Light
    One method for this is to install a UVC light in your water filtration system. This light will help to kill and eliminate potential microorganisms, algae included, that could have found their way into your system. This can be costly, and they will need to be powered as long as your system is running. However, if you have serious problems with algae, a UVC light can be a good solution.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract
    Some studies have found that grapefruit seed extract in the correct dosages can be an effective measure for killing and preventing algae growth. Grapefruit seed extract is a powerful anti-parasitical, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compound. When used in low doses, it has been proven to very very effective in hydroponic systems while not being toxic to plants. The dosage recommendations will be around 5 to 10 drops per gallon of water in your system. This can be sufficient to prevent algae growing.
  • Barley Straw Rafts
    This solution should only be considered if growing on a large scale in a larger rig but has also shown effectiveness in fighting algae growth. Studies have found that the aerobic decomposition of barley straw release a chemical solution which inhibits algae growth. Again, this is a slower process, and isn’t ideal for smaller growers. You do need to be sure there is lots of dissolved oxygen in your water so only aerobic decomposition takes place. You can now purchase liquid barley straw extracts for use in the prevention of algae growth, but you do need to be careful of the amount of algae death as this can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen.

No matter which method you use to clean and control the growth of algae, in your hydroponic system, there is nothing better for prevention that limiting light exposure onto your nutrient mixture.

Algae and pH Fluctuations

One area not mentioned is how algae growth can have a severe impact on your pH levels. While methods such as ebb and flow systems are more prone to algae growth, there isn’t one system that will be free from it forming.

Algae is resilient and as soon as the conditions re almost ideal, it will get a foothold and can lead to issues. In this case, pH fluctuations. Algae uses carbon dioxide in the same way as plants, this coupled with nutrients and light help produce photosynthesis during daylight hours. As this period nears its end, the pH will usually be at its peak.

During night hours, the opposite happens. It is here the algae consumes dissolved oxygen from the water to release carbon dioxide. This itself is released back into the water via respiration. The problem here is this carbon dioxide will create carbonic acid, and as such, it causes a drop in pH levels.

These swings do nothing but cause more problems as they progress. Plants can end up suffering from nutrient lockout, or they can slowly drown through lack of oxygen in the water.

Conclusion

Because there is no way you can eliminate the chances of algae from forming, it is better to expect its presence and take precautions to limits its exposure. By following all the above, you stand the best chance of being algae free, and having a system, which performs at, is best.

Prevention is the best medicine because if nothing else, it will save hours of cleaning to eliminate the same problem repeatedly.

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Learn How to Keep pH Stable in Hydroponics

When new growers first start a hydroponic system, they often hear terms that sound confusing. One of the hardest to fathom is the pH, while you may not fully understand it in the beginning, it is something, which in theory can be learned quickly.

In summary, to keep pH levels stable, it can take a few steps and a little effort from the grower. These are the key areas you need to understand.

  • Delivering the right supply of water
  • Performing water treatment methods in response to the tested levels
  • Understanding how the addition of nutrients can affect pH levels.
  • Understanding what pH levels your given plants require

When you begin to understand what pH levels are, you quickly learn that they will never remain stable on their own accord. There are too many variables, and many external influences that will change the pH level.

It does take effort to monitor and alter your systems pH; however, this isn’t hard once you understand the core principles.

To know what pH means to your plants, and how it can affect their growth is the first area you need to understand. After looking at what pH is, we will see how it affects your system, and how you can maintain the correct levels.

What is pH?

First, up, there is a scale that runs from zero to fourteen. Every liquid will have a different reading against this scale. Plain water as an example has different pH levels depending on the source. Plain water from the faucet will have a different pH to the water in your system; this is because in many cases it is better not to use faucet water when possible.

This scale has zero, which is the most acidic, this runs up to the top (number fourteen), and this is the most alkaline. Most living things like a middle of the road balance, so this is around 7. Not only is this a good starting pH for most plants to thrive, but it is also the right level for the human body.

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For plants to thrive at their best, they do favor pH levels, which sit around 5.5 to 6.5. Nevertheless, there are some plants and vegetables which like to go the other side of neutral to a pH of 8. Alkaline substances are soluble salts made up of potassium and sodium carbonate. Alkaline is the scale of the alkali within the solution.

When you have favorable pH levels in your system, this enables your plants to take up all the micro and macronutrients through the root systems. Add to this, you see faster growth in your plants because they have an increased intake of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium).

To go further in depth on this matter, you can head over to the pH levels Wikipedia page for a detailed breakdown of what these levels mean. This may appear interesting, yet it reaches a little outside what you need to know as a grower.

Acidic Solutions pH Alkaline Solution pH
Battery acid 1.0 Blood 7.35 – 7.45
Gastric acid 2.0 Hair shampoo 8.0
Lemon juice 2.4 Sea water 8.0
Cola 2.5 Permanent wave 8.5 – 9.2
Oxygenated water 2.5 – 3.0 Hand soap 9.0 – 10.0
Vinegar 3.0 Hair dye 9.5 – 10.5
Orange or apple juice 3.0 Magic straight 11.5
Beer 4.5 Household ammonia 11.5
Coffee 5.0 Household bleach 12.3
Milk 6.6 Household lye 13.5
Pure water 7.0 Drain cleaner 14

One thing, which is worthy to note, the closer you get to each end of the scale, and the liquids will burn. It doesn’t matter if it is acidic, or alkaline, so you will need to take caution when dealing with any pH level treatments.

Why pH Levels are Important in Hydroponic Systems?

We have seen when pH levels are outside the ideal range for your plants, they run the risk of not absorbing enough nutrients to help them grow. On top of this, it also helps you understand how soluble the salts are in your nutrient mixture.

Every mineral has a different tolerance when it comes to the respective pH level. As a rule of thumb, plants need high amounts of macronutrients. If the pH level is too high or too low, then these become immobile, and it is this that restricts their uptake, and leads to nutrient deficiencies.

Micronutrients on the other hand are required in smaller doses. These will be affected on either end of the pH scale. Once your pH is too low, then this means your plants can absorb too many as they are highly soluble. This doesn’t lead to nutrient deficiency; it actually leads to a solution that is toxic to your plants. If you go to a pH that is too high, then you will see a deficiency in micronutrients.

One of the first signs you need to be aware of is young foliage, which is yellowing or pale in color.

In order to keep the pH levels balanced in your hydroponic system, first, you really need to understand the elements that will affect the pH levels.

Growing Medium

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Almost everything can affect your pH level in your system. One of the most significant areas will be your growing medium. A good example being calcareous rock, this will release magnesium and calcium into your solution. As soon as they leech into your water, you will need to adjust. Luckily, this isn’t a common growing medium.

Coco coir is very popular, and this can affect pH as they contain sodium chloride. Because of this, this needs to be soaked thoroughly to wash out any residual contaminants.

One other common growing medium is perlite. The pH of this is between 6 – 8, this means it can be added with no significant pH swings in either direction. Rockwool is another favorite and has a pH of between 7 – 8.5. This does require washing before use and an adjustment of the pH once it is in your system

Temperature

There is a lot to learn about solution temperatures, so without going into too much detail hydroponic solutions should be around 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If it gets much warmer than this, water starts to evaporate faster than the mineral salts.

One this happens, these begin clinging to the side of your reservoir, and thus increase nutrient to water ratio. You can also find that systems, which have smaller reservoirs, suffer more than a larger reservoir. Depending the region you live, you may require either a water heater, or a water cooler to keep your mix at the ideal temperatures.

Plain Water

Hydroponic systems need a sterile environment to function at their best. Water from the faucet isn’t recommended because of the amount of treatment it has been through. Different regions can have hard or soft water, so the base pH will never be standard.

It is a recommendation to use distilled or reverse osmosis water when possible. If this isn’t readily available, you can purchase these reverse osmosis kits which sit in your plumbing system. While these can seem to be a small investment, they can pay for themselves over time.

Here is an example of a reverse osmosis filter system. It can deliver pH neutral water for drinking, as well as for your hydroponic system.

Setting Up Your Hydroponic System Correctly

Now you understand all the reasons that pH levels are important to your hydroponic system, and the plants you’re growing, it’s time to test your pH levels and get your hydroponic system running before introducing plants into the environment.

If you are still researching, the following will still apply because pH testing isn’t a one shot thing. In the beginning, you can be doing this on a daily basis until you understand how your system works. To test your pH levels, there are various ways you can do this.

By the use of litmus strips, or digital testers, you can quickly find whether you need to adjust levels up or down.

One thing to note here is that some of the better hydroponic nutrients come with a pH buffer. This takes away any sudden level change to your plants. While you still need to adjust, the extent of what you do will be minimized.

Litmus Strips

Litmus strips are one of the quickest and simplest ways to test the pH in your system. Although they are easy to keep on hand, you shouldn’t rely on them without another means of measuring in place. The way these works is the paper contains a dye, which is sensitive to any liquid it comes into contact with.

To test your system, take a sample of your water in a sterile container. Dip one of the strips into this wait until the color changes. Once there are no more changes, you compare this against a chart, which comes with the litmus pH testing kit.

You may find some of the colors can be hard to distinguish from each other, so trying to guess which one it is, isn’t the best way to be safe. Many plants may not bother with this little difference, yet this half a reading in either direction can affect plants that require a tight tolerance.

You can also find liquid testing kits, which work in the same way. With these, you add the dye to your sample, and then once the sample finishes changing color, you compare this against your chart.

Hydroponic pH Pens

The most reliable option works out the most expensive, however, this is not overly expensive, and it can last much longer than your litmus testing kits. On top of this, you will have a digital readout, so there is no way to make a mistake.

One of the common designs is the digital pH pen. Once you place the nib in your water sample, you get an exact reading, which is precise. One downside with these is that over time, the readings may fluctuate, this means your pH pen requires calibration. If you perform lots of testing, this can be a weekly exercise.

We have written a complete guide to testing the pH of your water, we highly recommend understanding the full process to stop your plants wilting.

Continual Water Treatment and pH Balancing

Now you see the equipment you need to use to test your nutrient solution; we will look at how the varying hydroponic systems can have varying pH levels. One of the more straightforward are NFT (Nutrient Film Techniques) as your solution is in direct contact with the plants root systems.

Media based systems can have readings that vary one way or the other. It is for this reason; you need to take two separate readings. The first needs to be taken from your nutrient reservoir, and the leachate, which is the chemical runoff.

This is necessary because you will have different readings before and after the rooting system. This may not vary too much if you have smaller plants, yet larger plans will mean the variance is much higher.

When adjusting your solution pH levels, the base adjustments in the reservoir need to be adjusted to the readings you obtain from the readings you come up with from the runoff solution. The reason this needs doing is that your plant roots will be facing the pH levels in the solution, which passes them, and not the solution in the reservoir.

Adjusting Your Hydroponic pH Levels

Your pH levels rise and fall for all manner of reasons. Luckily, we have seen how easy it is to fix some of these. We also saw that your nutrients would come with pH buffers when you purchase them from reputable suppliers.

These buffers are a great way to prevent spikes or drops which may shock your plants. Aside from this, these suppliers also offer chemicals that you can use to raise or lower your pH levels. One of the more frequently used comes from General Hydroponics. These have pH UP and pH down you can purchase. Because of the pH sensitivity, you do need to follow recommended doses and take separate readings, in case you need to adjust again.

The aim when making your adjustments is to make sure there is no nutrient lockout. This takes daily readings to be sure your pH level is going in the right direction

When you come to make your adjustments, there are only a few steps you need to take to make these adjustments. The main thing is to be observant of what your readings are.

  1. Take your first sample and then a reading Depending on the result you obtain, all you have to do is add between 1-2 ml of the pH Up or pH Down solution for each gallon of water you have in your reservoir.
  2. Once you add this, stir your solution with a clean implement and wait a minimum of 30-minutes so the solution can run around your system. At this point, you can take your next reading.
  3. You need to repeat these steps as required until you reach the required level. Never be tempted to add more of either chemical to reach the results faster. This will, shock your plants because you may swing too far in either direction.

When you add new nutrients, they will change your pH levels, which is why you will always need to do a new test once these have been added to the new reservoir. Other than that, it is recommended to run your tests more or less the same time each day. There are a number of natural approaches to tuning your pH if you have no pH Up or pH Down.

This is a very short-term solution and you should only use this if it is absolutely essential. Either white vinegar or citric acid may be used to reduce the pH, whereas baking soda is used to raise your pH levels. When doing this, you will need to know how much of a change there is for the amount you add.

Maintaining pH Level Recap

To summarize all the above, here is a quick recap of everything we have shown. Following these, you can maintain your pH levels and have plants that are continually thriving.

  • Check your levels daily until you get to know your system. When you see how things are running, you can reduce your testing to 2 or 3 times per week.
  • Even if you can’t afford the best testing kit there is, you should look for the best one you can afford. Litmus tests are handy to use, yet when you attempt to adjust your readings a few times, these are not as quick as pH pens.
  • If you spot your pH, levels fall between 5.8 – 6.5. You should not be tempted to make any adjustments. This reading is ideal for most plants that you may be growing.
  • Solutions which have a high pH need adjusting with pH Down.
  • Levels, which are low, need adjusting with pH UP.
  • Keep records of your testing and how much solution you add into your reservoir.

Overdosing with pH adjusters or nutrients is highly harmful to plants. On top of this, if you have a solution that drops in your reservoir, the pH change at the same time. Even topping up with water will have an effect, so be sure all your readings are when you have a full tank.

Growers who understand what their plants need, and how to adjust to keep them healthy will have some of the best crops when harvest arrives. Any grower who thinks this isn’t important may face a catastrophe.

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How to Clean Air Stones for Hydroponics (In 5 Easy Steps)

Any grower will want to deliver the best for their plants. There is nothing better than highly oxygenated water. This helps to deliver more oxygen directly to the roots, and it keeps all the nutrients mixed correctly rather than settling to the bottom of the reservoir.

It is just as vital for the plants as your system to have air stones that are clean and in good working order. Nevertheless, over time, these can become clogged for a number of reasons. When you have an air pump, which has more than one outlet, one will be receiving more air than the others will. It is these others, which are liable to clog over time.

Air stones are quite cheap, and there are many growers who just replace them, yet there are many growers who don’t have this luxury, and do want to recycle them and clean them. Here we will look at how to clean air stones so they perform like new, and can deliver lots of oxygen rich water to your plants.

First, we will see why you need air stones, why you need to keep them clean. We will then take a quick look and see when you need to should be cleaning them. We will also take a quick look at a couple of alternative methods there are, to give your air stones a deep clean to be sure there is no residual build up inside.

Why Should You Use a Hydroponic Air Stone?

Everyone knows that plants need water to survive. They also know they require oxygen, yet in a hydroponics system, the latter factor can be harder for plants to achieve without the help of the grower.

Plants can drown, and this will come easier in hydroponics than other forms of gardening. Air stones form thousands of tiny air bubbles. This makes the water oxygen rich, and although it appears roots are in water, the ratio of oxygen is high enough to prevent plants from drowning.

While plants can get oxygen from the atmosphere, it is beneficial for them to obtain it directly from the solution. When used with an air pump, an air stone diffuses the air into the water; it is this that oxygenates the water in your hydroponics system, and not the stones themselves

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Air diffusers are very similar in function, yet they are often made out of rubber or plastic tubing and can be bent into various shapes. In comparison to air stones however, they are often larger and more expensive.

There are air pumps which come with multiple outlets. This means air stones have the advantage of flexibility. They can be placed in several areas of the reservoir, so there are no stagnant zones, or you can even send air streams to separate tanks off the same air pump.

Air stones are a fairly simple technology, and all it takes for them to work is connect them to your air pump (which sits outside your tank) and then flick the switch. It is this less complex hardware, which makes them so attractive to growers.

Apart from clogging, there is nothing that can go wrong with an air stone; the only point of failure will be the pump itself. While air diffusers can last longer than air stones, they are not as flexible, such as using them in other tanks, and it may not be possible to clean them to the same extent as you can to an air stone.

Benefits of Cleaning Air Stones

As we saw, there are many growers who never contemplate cleaning an air stone, and will just change them. This can leave you with a perfectly functioning system, yet you may find that cleaning air stones isn’t just to keep them clean so they work properly. There are environmental benefits of cleaning and also cost savings to be made.

Here is a deeper look into why it is a good practice to clean your air stones, outside of caring for your plants and system.

  • Extend the Lifespan of Air Stones
    When you clean and reuse your air stones, you can essentially make their lifespan endless. This is a significant advantage they have over other forms of aeration such as diffusers. While this leads into cost savings, it will also mean your initial setup costs are paid for repeatedly when you clean your stones.
  • Save on Costs
    Air stones are relatively cheap, nevertheless, if you change them at regular intervals, this recurring cost will add up, and can make a difference to your cost effectiveness of hydroponic growing. Aside from this, there may be times when your stones clog outside of a regular cleaning schedule. Changing them without seeing if they can be cleaned is just an extra cost you can never recover.
  • Reduce Waste
    Hydroponics by nature is sustainable growing, and discarding of air stones is somewhat contradictory of what it stands for. By cleaning and reusing your air stones is another step toward helping the environment and not being wasteful

When Should I Clean My Air Stones?

One of the functions of air stones aside from delivering oxygen to plant roots is to aid in the prevention of pathogens taking hold. These can make plants sick and will spread through the entire system. Plants, which are unable to get the correct uptake of nutrients, produce stress hormones.

Once this happens, they lose strength to fend off any bacteria and illness, and can suffer faster. In a worst case scenario, your plants cannot just drown from lack of oxygen, but they can die from these pathogens.

Once you know how your air stone performs, you should monitor the performance, and as soon as this lessens, then it can be time for the stones to be cleaned. You may find parts of the surface are covered in slime or if using a growing medium such as coco coir, the fibers have settled and causing a blockage.

Even if your stones appear clean, this buildup can occur inside the small pores. It is here they need a thorough clean as there can be a buildup of mineral salts, which won’t wash out without some attention.

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Cleaning before you begin a new growth cycle can be the ideal time. Not only will your system function, as it should, it will also mean you are not introducing any bacteria into a clean system.

There is one reason where many growers find they have blocked airstones, and they are unsure of the reason. This can be as simple as air escapting from the plastic connectore into the tube. Once this happens, the air is not forced into ther stone.

One way to overcome this problem is to add small amounts of silicone sealant around where the connector meets the tube. This will make sure all the air blows through the stones as it should.

5 Simple Steps for Cleaning Hydroponic Air Stones

Cleaning your air stones doesn’t take too much effort, yet one of the best ways to make sure they are clean is to clean them at regular intervals. This means your plants are not likely to suffer before you reach the stage of gunked up stones.

With just a few simple steps, you can keep them clean and functional. This helps eliminate waste and extend their lifespan considerably. Here is a quick summary of the five steps it takes to make sure they are clean.

  1. Rinse completely and pre-scrub
  2. Boil for 10 minutes
  3. Soak in a cleaning solution
  4. Remove from solution and rinse
  5. Allow to completely dry

Air Stone Cleaning Process

When you look at an air stone up close, it is made up from thousands of small holes. It can appear daunting when first thinking of cleaning them. Luckily, this can be easier than it appears without too much manual effort.

Most of the gunk, which accumulates, can be easily removed using the following steps. With this process, you can get your stone working like new ready for your next growing cycle. Follow this process, and you can almost eliminate the need to purchase new air stones again.

  1. Rinse Completely and Pre-Scrub
    The first step takes nothing more than letting your air stones soak in clean water. Just disconnect them from the pipes and soak them in fresh water, this will saturate deep into the stones so the water can reach the inner most parts where there are blockages.

Once they are soaked all the way through, you can gently brush them with a soft toothbrush. This is often enough to remove any outer buildup. Be careful not to brush too hard as the stone could easily break. Allow your air stones to air dry before step 2.

  • Boil for 10 Minutes
    Carefully place your air stones in a saucepan and let it boil on low heat for ten minutes. This will help break up internal gunk and help sterilize the stones at the same time. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove and let them air dry again.
  • Soak in a Cleaning Solution
    When dry, you can move on to step three. Take a small container and mix one-part bleach to three parts water (1:3). Your stones need to soak for 24-hours or up to two days depending how dirty they appear. Bleach can also help kill any microorganisms that are nestled deep inside as well as helping to clean it ready for the next step.
  • Remove from Solution and Rinse
    Because of the use of bleach, this step can be one of the most important. It will need a thorough rinsing to make sure there is no dirt or traces of bleach remaining. Once you remove it from the bleach solution, you can reconnect one of the air pipes and place it into more clean water. Once you have done this, run it for five minutes in the fresh water. This helps dissolve the final internal buildup, which will easily work its way out of the stones.
  • Allow to Completely Air Dry
    In the last step, all you need to do is remove the stone from the clean water and let it run for a further five minutes. This helps dislodge any last remnants of buildup in the pores of the stone, and they have a chance to thoroughly dry before use. After this period of drying with the pump running, remove the pump and let your air stone dry for at least 24 hours. This is crucial if you cycle through several air stones. Putting them in storage while they are damp can allow mold to grow on them.

A fairly straightforward process, cleaning your air stone can be a great way to extend its life. While it may take some time, it’s certainly worth it to avoid having to always buy a new one every time the stone begins to lose functionality.

One thing to note is the repeated soaking and drying helps to break up mineral deposits or dirt. As the stones soak up the next liquid, the dirt is expelled from inside.

Alternative Methods to Cleaning Hydroponics Air Stones

While being the best way to clean your hydroponic air stones, this is far from the only way to do it. Many hydroponic growers who elect to clean their stones instead of replacing them with new ones may opt for alternative methods. A lot of this can be because of bleach in the cleaning process. Here are some bleach free alternatives.

  • Soak your stones in hydrogen peroxide overnight. Once you do this, remove them from the solution and blow air through until completely dry.
  • Some growers add their stones to clean water and add in several denture-cleaning tablets. With an overnight soak, and then a good rinse before blowing them out with air to dry is a common method. The effervescent action and the ingredient of sodium hypochlorite bleach is safer than chlorine based bleach.
  • Soaking in water and vinegar can be an effective way to break down slat buildup namely calcium lime deposits. You may often see this in hard water regions. This method can be included in the five steps above in case you are in one of these areas.
  • Rinsing and gentle scrubbing can be enough if it is just the outer part of the stones are dirty. However, this won’t kill any bacteria.

One thing, which is often overlooked when cleaning air stones, is the plastic tubing, which connects them to the pump. While these are not fully submerged, a part of them will be. This part that sits between the water and the top of the reservoir can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

With this in mind, it is worth using one of the above soaking methods to clean these tubes before giving them a thorough rinse, and drying them. Any clear plastic tubes that allow daylight in can help algae form, so not clearing this at the same time can be a source of pathogens being passed to your sterile system.

If any algae forms on the inside, and breaks free once you begin running your air pump, all your cleaning efforts will be in vain as it will quickly block from the inner core rather than the outside.

Baking Air Stones in Ovens or Microwaves

While doing some research on cleaning air stones, you may see some individuals recommend baking them in an oven or placing them in a microwave. Neither of these options are a recommended way to clean your air stones because you will damage them as well as not clean them effectively.

Air stones come with small plastic couplings, which connect them to the air pipe. If you attempt to put these in an oven, there is no way these can withstand the heat. Once these effectively begin to melt, it will render an air stone useless. So, by doing this, you will need to discard it because of attempting to clean it in a method which isn’t suitable.

Conclusion

There is more to cleaning air stones than saving money. Plant health is the primary consideration, and the more you clean your stones, the healthier and more abundant your plants will grow.

It will be an exercise that is well worth the endeavor, as you will see better growth, which doesn’t cost you anything. That is one thing which now hydroponic grower would miss the chance of being able to achieve.

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