How to Transfer Plants from Hydroponics to Soil

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

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

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

Why Would I Transplant into Soil?

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

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

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

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

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

Transplanting Hydroponic Clones and Cuttings

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

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

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

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

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

Steps for Transplanting into Soil

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

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

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

Soil Transplanting Tips

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

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

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

Plant Shock When Moving into Soil

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

How to Make Liquid Fertilizer for Hydroponics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is it Possible to Make Liquid Fertilizer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make Different Kinds of Liquid Fertilizer

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

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

Necessary tools for making Liquid Fertilizer:

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

Compost Tea/Worm Tea

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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

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

Sea and Animal Byproduct Formulation

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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

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

Fertilizer-Water Mix

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Liquid Fertilizer Growth Boosters

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

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

Deficiency Boosters

Calcium Deficiency

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

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

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

Potassium Boosters

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

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

Growth Enhancers

Coffee Ground Booster

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

Root Growth with Bean Tea

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

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

Multipurpose Fertilizer

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

Using Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Your Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organic Liquid Fertilizers

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

How to Grow Bamboo with Hydroponics

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

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

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

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

Best Bamboo to Grow Hydroponically

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

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

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

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

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

Bamboo Grow and Care Guide

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

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

Finding the Right Donor Plant

Step One

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

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

Bamboo selection tips:

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

Step Two

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

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

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

Planting Your Lucky Bamboo

Step One

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

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

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

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

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

Step Two

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

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

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

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

Propagating Lucky Bamboo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Bamboo Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Styling Bamboo to Make it Lucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Learn How to Keep pH Stable in Hydroponics

Testing water pH

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

How to Recycle Hydroponic Water: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Recycle Water

There are so many options to support a thriving garden and hydroponics is one of the most recent systems I’ve read about. I’ve read that recycling hydroponic water can help save me money.

How to recycle hydroponic water: a beginner’s guide: Recycling water is a relatively simple process but can cost quite a bit of money between the initial investment and maintenance cost. You can use one of three main systems to recycle hydroponic water. Here’s a look:

  • Pasteurization
  • Ozone Sterilization
  • UV Disinfection

If these systems sound as foreign to you as they do to me, I’m here to help. Take a look at a beginner’s guide on how to recycle hydroponic water.

The Importance of Cleaning Recycled Hydroponic Water

You’ll see many benefits from hydroponic growing but one thing you’ll quickly realize is that the system produces huge amounts of wastewater. Rather than just toss the wastewater (which is a bad idea anyway), many growers are starting to recycle their hydroponic water.

Recycling hydroponic water is a great idea. It cuts down on your water use and cost and helps prevent damage to the environment. That’s right, what’s good for your plants may not be good for the environment.

The nutrients that help your plants grown quicker than normal and produce more fruit can negatively affect the environment and groundwater that is turned into drinking water for humans.

Hydroponic solution is normally made up of at least a few of these nutrients:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Iron
  • Boron
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Zinc

(If you haven’t read our articles about DIY nutrient solutions or if nutrients can go bad check them out)

Certain studies have found high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in hydroponic water that was dumped. Those two nutrients, along with sunlight and slow-moving water, are what create algae blooms.

Algae blooms have a number of negative effects on our environment. Here are the four main issues:

  • Algae blooms produce dangerous toxins that can sicken or even kill animals or people that come in contact with them
  • Algae blooms create dead zones in the water. A dead zone is an area with low oxygen levels (low oxygen levels can lead to root rot). Eventually all the animals in the “dead zone” die.
  • Consumers see higher treatment costs for drinking water affected by algae blooms
  • Algae blooms hurt industries that depend on clean water.

While I’m sure you’re concerned about the effects on the environment, the other appealing reason to recycle your hydroponic water is the cost savings to you by not using as much water.

Plants grown in hydroponics already use 80 to 90 percent less water than standard plants grown in soil because the solution passes over the plants’ roots many times before you have to get rid of it.

Before you start reusing and recycling your hydroponic water, it’s important to clean and sterilize the water. It can carry bacteria, viruses, and other diseases. If you put this back into your system, you could potentially infect and damage your plants.

As I mentioned before, there are three main systems used for sterilizing your hydroponic water:

  • Pasteurization
  • Ozonation
  • UV Disinfection

There are pros and cons to each system. Take a look at this table comparing the systems.

System Pros Cons
Pasteurization No need to pre-filter water, minimizes buildup of minerals in water Causes mineral buildup in pasteurization machine
Ozonation Most effective form to sterilize water, environmentally friendly, prevents disease Expensive, highly corrosive- can damage equipment
UV Disinfection Highly effective, chemical-free, cost-effective Doesn’t remove heavy metals, salts, or chlorine

Now, that you’ve taken a brief look at the pros and cons of each system, let’s dive in and take a deeper look to figure out which system might be best for you.

Pasteurization

You might be familiar with the term pasteurization because it’s used in many of our everyday foods: milk, juices, egg whites, etc.

The process of pasteurization kills harmful, pathogenic bacteria. Removing the bacteria prevents diseases such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, polio, and dysentery.

Of course, these diseases aren’t an issue for your plants, but using pasteurization on your hydroponic water removes other bacteria that might harm your plants.

So, how does pasteurization work? Take a look at this process.

  1. The used water is run through a 50-70 micron filter reducing the pH to 4.5 (learn how to monitor your water pH levels)
  2. The adjusted solution is pumped to the first heat exchanger
  3. This heat exchanger preheats the water while recovering heat from the sterilized solution
  4. Sterilized solution leaves the first heat exchanger and is pumped into the second heat exchanger
  5. An external heat source heats the nutrient solution to a certain temperature, ideally at least 203 degrees Fahrenheit
  6. The nutrient solution is exposed to the high temp for at least 30 seconds
  7. The sterilized solution is returned to the first heat exchanger to cool

It sounds complicated but you don’t actually have to do much.

As I showed in the table above, using pasteurization to sterilize your water prevents excessive mineral build up in the water, but can lead to mineral build up in the machine. This can decrease how well your machine works.

Your best bet to find a pasteurization machine for recycling your hydroponic water is in a specialty garden store or catalog.

Ozonation

Ozonation uses ozone to sterilize the water. Ozone is just oxygen with three molecules. During ozonation, the water is infused with ozone. The gas ozone is created by ozone generators in your grow room.

There are two types of ozone generators: corona discharge and ultraviolet. They work by splitting oxygen molecules into individual oxygen atoms. The atoms then bind to oxygen molecules creating ozone.

Here are all the steps to complete ozonation.

  1. The water is filtered with a 50-70 micron filter.
  2. Check the pH level of the water to make sure it’s between 4.0 and 4.5. This gives you the best results.
  3. Your hydroponic water is pumped into the ozone generator.
  4. The amount of ozone and length of sterilization depends on the level of nutrients in your water.

The benefits of ozonation as shown above are that it’s very effective and environmentally friendly. The downside is that ozonation can be costly and it’s highly corrosive so you have to be careful when dealing with it.

UV Disinfection

One of the final methods of high tech sterilization is ultraviolet or UV disinfection. UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

There are three types of UV radiation and they’re defined by frequency and wavelength. The best type of UV radiation for disinfecting your hydroponic water is UV-C. This type has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy.

UV-C radiation very efficiently kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Based on various studies, it looks like 250 millijoules per cubic centimeter is the appropriate radiation dose to totally disinfect the water.

Here’s a look at how UV disinfection works.

  1. Pour the water into a disinfection unit.
  2. The hydroponic water passes through a radiation chamber.
  3. High pressure UV lamps contained in a quartz tube in the chamber disinfect the water.
  4. A computer controls the process. If the UV dose is too low, the process is blocked and the water is returned to a drain water tank.

UV disinfection is pretty cost-effective compared to pasteurization and ozonation. It’s also natural. The only downside is that it doesn’t neutralize organics, chemical contaminants, or inorganic compounds in the water. This means it doesn’t remove heavy metals, salts, or chlorine that may have built up in the water.

Whatever sterilization method you choose, it’s essential to recycling your hydroponic water. You have to kill any destructive microorganisms that may have grown during the previous cycle.

Other Possibilities for Recycling Hydroponic Water

If the recycling options we talked about above sound like they’re out of your financial abilities or too much of a time commitment right now, you can consider just using the water on your other plants.

It’s important, though, to check the levels of the nutrients in your hydroponic water to make sure they’re not too high. If they’re too high, don’t use the water on any plants that are directly in the ground because the nutrients could affect your local water table.

A good way to check the nutrient levels in your hydroponic water is to check the potential (pH) and electrical conductivity (EC) levels. If these are within a certain range, your hydroponic water should be safe.

A good pH level is between 5.5 and 6.5. An appropriate range for EC levels is 1.2 to 2.0. You can read our full guide to EC and why you should monitor it here.

Plants in one study even showed better growth using recycled hydroponic water than those without. Here a look at the plants that performed well:

  • Tomatoes
  • Red peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Melons
  • Cucumbers

There are a few other options for recycling your hydroponic water that you may hear talked about. While they have some effectiveness, they’re not recommended because none of them completely disinfect the water.

These are the other methods you might hear about:

  • Ultra-filtration
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Iodine

Ultra-filtration

Ultra-filtration is also known as membrane filtration. It includes the process of reverse osmosis. These types of filters have more porous membranes that allow solids, bacteria, and other large particles to be filtered out.

The main problem with this process is that the pores in the filter tend to clog making it an unreliable choice. The other problem is that the filters also remove fertilizer salts from the water, which are helpful for plant growth.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works in much the same way as ozone does but it’s weaker. Because of this, it’s effective against fungi and viruses but not so much against bacteria.

If you recycle your hydroponic water but it’s not totally disinfected from the bacteria, you’re asking for trouble as soon as your plants touch the water again.

Levels of hydrogen peroxide that are too high can also damage your plant if they’re not neutralized before you return the nutrient solution to your plants.

Iodine

You may be familiar with iodine because it’s used in drinking water to kill human viruses, but it doesn’t actually kill horticulture viruses. This means that it’s not effective for disinfecting your hydroponic water.

Recycling hydroponic water back into your other plants still ends up saving you money and might even give you more plant growth.

A Key to Successfully Recycling Hydroponic Water

You can set yourself up for success in recycling your hydroponic water right from the start. Keeping your nutrient solution levels under control is key to extending the life of your hydroponic water before you even need to recycle it.

The best way to keep the nutrient level under control is to make sure you’re only putting in clean water. This means when the water level dips, refresh it with totally clean water. If you don’t, trace elements in the water will eventually accumulate to toxic levels.

If you were thinking you have to dump your entire nutrient solution any time the level drops, it’s time to do a little research. You can actually refresh the nutrient solution with clean water until you’ve replaced half of your system’s water capacity.

For example, if you have your hydroponic system has a 20-gallon water capacity, you don’t need to empty all of the water until you’ve replaced 10 gallons. This means that keeping meticulous notes is super important so that you do know when it’s time to recycle your water.

Rain water, city water, and well water are all possible options for clean water to replace water that is used. It’s always still important to do a water analysis, especially on city water and well water, to ensure that all elements are within a reasonable level.

Cities sometimes have to “shock” water with large amounts of chlorine to get rid of some sort of biological contamination. These high levels of chlorine can harm your plants.

Well water sometimes has very high levels of bicarbonates. Phosphoric acid is used to lower these levels, but sometimes a byproduct of the treatments is calcium phosphate. This can clog drip lines and submersible pumps and affect your nutrient solution.

You’ll quickly learn a key to success in hydroponics is very routinely analyzing the mineral levels in the water.

What Exactly is Hydroponics?

If you’re looking to recycle hydroponic water, I’m assuming you’re already aware of the ways of hydroponics. If not, though, I can give you a brief explanation so you know what you’re getting into.

Hydroponics is a way of growing plants in a water-based solution rich in nutrients. This type of growing doesn’t use soil, but an inert medium instead. An inert medium is one that doesn’t have any nutrients. Here’s a look at some possibilities:

  • Perlite
  • Rockwool
  • Clay pellets
  • Peat moss
  • Vermiculite

Hydroponics works when the plant roots come in direct contact with the nutrient solution.

There are quite a few benefits to hydroponics. One of the main ones is that your plants grow quicker, up to 25-percent quicker. They’re also more productive, sometimes producing up to 30-percent more than plants grown only in soil.

The quicker growth and production happens because plants can access nutrients quicker and expend less energy. Because of this, they don’t have to grow a super big root system and can instead focus on growing quicker above the roots.

Along with the advantages of positive growth and production, hydroponic gardens do have some downsides. Here’s a look at some of them:

  • Initial cost
  • Time and commitment
  • Technical knowledge
  • Threat of power failure

Initial cost

You’ll spend some money upfront to get your hydroponic system up and going. You need containers, light, a pump, a timer, one of the growing mediums mentioned above, and nutrients.

Try to keep your initial investment under a few hundred dollars if you just have a small home garden. The good news is after your initial investment, your only costs are water and lighting.

Time and commitment

If you’re looking into hydroponics, you’re probably willing to invest some time in your garden. If not, hydroponics may not be the best choice for you.

You can’t just set up your hydroponic system and leave it. It requires monitoring the water level and the nutrients and adjusting the levels as needed. Unlike using soil, if the levels are off, the plants won’t just adjust to the changes, they’ll die.

You may eventually be able to automate your hydroponic system, but not initially. First, you need to get a feel for the needs of your plants.

Technical Knowledge

A hydroponic system isn’t just a simple pot with some soil. It requires putting the system together, figuring out which plants grow best with which nutrients, and making changes as needed. The elements are crucial to your garden’s success.

Threat of power failure

Finally, your whole system runs on electricity. This means if there is a power outage of any length, your system stops running. If the power doesn’t come back on within a couple hours, your plants will dry out and die.

A back up power source and a plan for if the power goes out helps minimize this disadvantage.

Despite the disadvantages, it’s worth giving hydroponics a shot. Eventually, you’ll save money and a great way to do that is by recycling your hydroponic water like we talked about above.

How to Set Up Kratky Hydroponics

Kratky Hydroponic Jar

For people just getting started in the world of growing plants using a hydroponic method, the various systems and methods can create a daunting environment. That said, the Kratky method is an incredibly simple set up for the novice hydroponic grower to begin with.

So, how do you set up a Kratky hydroponics system? Building a Kratky system for growing food hydroponically requires six simple steps.

  1. Get a resealable, food-grade container with a volume of at least a gallon.
  2. Drill a hole in the lid large enough to accommodate your growing pot.
  3. Fill your container with water and add a nutrient solution designed for the plant you’re growing.
  4. Adjust the pH level of the water to one that is conducive to your plants. You will have to research this, either online or at your nearest garden center.
  5. Fill your growing pot with a growing medium such as perlite, rockwool, or clay pebbles.
  6. Place a few seeds in each pot to maximize chances of getting a successful germination. If more than one seed sprouts, pare down to the most dominant one.

From here the Kratky system will self-sustain. Simply monitor for any drastic changes in the health of your plants and enjoy the yield!

Hydroponic growing can be a great entry way into growing your own produce at home. For people without access to a community garden or a patch of land for their own use, hydroponic growing can be a way to bring the yield of a personal garden into your kitchen.

For many looking to get into growing food hydroponically, the Kratky system is a great introduction to the method.

How Does a Kratky System Work?

For beginners, hydroponic growing means growing plants in a way that involves suspending the plants over a water source without them being planted in a soil. Designed by Dr. Bernard Kratky at the University of Hawaii, the Kratky method is a passive system for growing plants hydroponically.

The Kratky method is based on the idea of providing plants the essentials they need for growth in the most low-maintenance way possible. These essentials include oxygen, moisture, and light. To maximize the plants’ growth potential, additional nutrients are added to the water.

First, the reservoir helps to provide the plants with the water and additional nutrients they need to grow. As the plants grow and absorb more of the solution, the water level will drop. This will expose some of the roots to the air, allowing them to absorb the necessary oxygen.

By making sure the plants are in a properly lit space, either with UV lamps or near a window with proper sun exposure, you are providing the final necessity in the growth of your plants.

What are the Pros of the Kratky System?

There are a number of pros to using the Kratky system, including it being a passive system, its simple setup, and the fact that it doesn’t require any power equipment to run. All these make it a great system for those just getting started with hydroponic growing.

  • Passive System
    Being a passive system means the Kratky method is a set it and forget way of growing plants. Once the initial set up is done and you’ve made sure the pH and nutrient level of the water is correct, you can sit back and let the plants grow on their own.
  • Simple Setup
    The set-up is also exceedingly simple, from both a hardware and a labor standpoint. Most other hydroponic growing systems will require more materials, as well as a more intensive in terms of building and assembling the rig.
  • No power equipment needed
    The Kratky system also doesn’t require a motor or pump to circulate and filter the water. This means no noisy equipment that always needs to be running, great for at home growers. If the rig is set up near a source of sunlight it could be run without any electricity consumption. This will help to keep your utilities bill down.

These pros help to make the Kratky system a great option for any at-home growers that are just getting started. The low start-up costs, minimal need for technical know-how and skills, and the ease of process all make it a great option.

What are the Cons of the Kratky System?

While the Kratky system is a great, low-maintenance option for those just getting started in growing hydroponically, it doesn’t come without its downsides. While not enough to outweigh the pros, the cons to using a Kratky system are the limited range of plants that work well with it, lack of scalability, and the potential for pests.

  • Not ideal for all plant types
    The Kratky method works really well for fast-growing, short cycle plants. Things like leafy greens and herbs, both small and easily grown in most conditions, are ideal for this method.

    Fruiting plants like tomatoes and cucumbers can also be grown using this method, but will require far more maintenance than green and herbs. Constant monitoring of the water, both pH and nutrient levels, will be necessary, and a larger rig to support these larger plants will also be needed.

    While some have been able to do it, root vegetables are hardly worth attempting to grow using a Kratky system due to the maintenance and effort required to do so.
  • Lack of scalability
    The Kratky system is great for at-home and small-scale rigs, but not large-scale operations. They can be great for meeting the needs of your kitchen and impressing friends and family, but trying to meet any kind of large-scale production goals with this system is just impractical.
  • Potential for pests
    Because the Kratky system is a passive system it opens itself up to potential pests. If exposed, the standing water can attract various insects, especially mosquitoes.

    While this isn’t a problem for someone with an indoor rig, it can be an issue for people with an outdoor setup. In order to help avoid this you should look to avoid exposing your water any more than necessary.

    Additionally, the nutrients in the water combined with exposure to light can provide the perfect conditions for algae to grow. This can be prevented by getting a solid colored reservoir that will prevent any light from entering the water. While light is needed to grow your plants, only the parts above your rig should be receiving it.

The cons of the Kratky system are fairly minor in scale, and should hardly be the reason someone doesn’t make the plunge into growing food hydroponically. With a little extra care and diligence these can easily be mitigated.

What are the Best Plants to Grow with the Kratky Method?

As mentioned previously, the Kratky method isn’t ideal for all plant types. Leafy plants and herbs are ideal, as both of these plant types grow quickly and require little space. Things like spinach, kale, and various lettuces, as well as an herb garden, are great options for beginners to start their Kratky system with.

Some people will have success growing larger, fruit bearing plants, like tomatoes and peppers. While these are not impossible to grow using the Kratky method, they do require more effort and diligence.

These plants will require constant monitoring of the pH and nutrient levels of the water. Also, by nature of being fruit bearing, these plants will often require a refilling of the system’s water before the plants even yield and produce. While it can be done, these plants are not advisable for the novice grower.

How to Build a Wick System

Hydroponic wick systems are one of the easiest hydroponic systems a grower can make and operate. Because of their simplicity, they are the cheapest to set up. These are fantastic for growers who are new to hydroponics, or for veteran growers who have spare space and wish to make full use of the area.

A hydroponic wick system can comprise as few as five individual components; this even includes your plants. Although, you can expand on this a little if you so wish. These systems are super easy to build and use, but there are some things to know along the way.

Here, we will look at all you need to know about constructing and running a hydroponic wick system.

Basics of a Wick System

In the purest form, all you need to build a wick system is a reservoir, your pot and growing medium, some nutrient solution and some wicking material. This can be strips of old clothes, rope or anything else capable of absorbing moisture.

The way these systems work, is by capillary action this you see in everyday life.

Here are a couple of examples of this in action:

  • Clothes that draw sweat away from the body.
  • Paper towels soaking up spilled liquids.

Plants do exactly the same thing, when their roots absorb moisture through the growing medium.

Capillary action occurs, because by essence, water droplets are sticky, so when they enter thin tubes (or porous materials) they start clinging to the sides of the tubes. Once this happens, something called meniscus occurs. This merely means there is a curved surface on the top edge of the water droplet.

Water droplets cling together through an internal bond of its molecules. This creates surface tension. With the sticky force of the droplet and the walls of the capillary tube, the droplets move upward. However, there are limits of how far this can travel in reality.

When you build a wick system, capillary action goes into action. The wick sucks water and nutrients up from the reservoir to your plants, as they need it.

Pros and Cons of a Wick System

Like any hydroponic system, there are pros and cons to each. Here are the upside and downsides of this simple system.

Pros

  • A porous growing medium will increase oxygen absorption by your plants
  • A wick system is very easy to understand and to build
  • They are the cheapest to build and maintain
  • Wick systems can be made from anything and will fit in the smallest of places
  • Once running, they require very little maintenance or management

Cons

  • Although a wick system can produce great results, yields can be lower than other systems
  • Larger plants will require oxygenation of your nutrients
  • You will need to change your solution to keep nutrient levels constant
  • The likelihood of mold increases because the water is not circulating

One thing that links to the downsides, is plants, which are heavy feeders. These will take up more water, so your EC levels will rise. Not only this but also some large plants may take up water and nutrients faster than your wicks can deliver them to your growing medium.

These systems are more suited to lettuce or herb types of plants rather than tomatoes or peppers.

Components of a Hydroponic Wick System

Out of all the components in your wick system, the wick is crucial. The choice of material dictates how fast and how much liquid can travel through it to reach your growing medium.

Because there is a vast number of materials you can use, you can perform a simple test. If you place some food dye in water and then insert your material, you will be able to see how fast and how far it can travel.

This will give you an indication which material serves you the best. One other notable thing is to place two wicks for each planting area if you use larger buckets.

Items required

  • A container or bucket for your plant
  • A container or bucket for your nutrient tank
  • A suitable wicking growing medium. Coco coir, perlite, vermiculite are ideal choices for this system
  • Wicking rope or your chosen wicking material (about 2-3ft of 1-inch thick wicking material)
  • 3/4 inch drill bit
  • Electric drill
  • Air pump and air stones – optional

Wicks – when you have your wick, you need to wash them beforehand as this can improve their performance. Depending on your system size, you will possibly require 2 to 4 wicks. The less distance water needs to travel, the better the performance of the wick.

Reservoirs – these can be any size as long as they are big enough to cope with your plants. There is a limit how small, but there is no real upper limit of size. They will require topping up with water so the end of the wick never sits above the water level. The closer the water to the top of your tank the better your wick will perform. Like other hydroponic systems, no light should be able to enter your water tank.

Air pumps – you don’t need the inclusion of an air pump, although, there is nothing wrong with adding one. This will increase oxygen, and it will help prevent nutrients from sinking to the bottom of your tank.

Growing Medium – You will require a growing medium that is capable of holding moisture. It can take some trial and error to find the right combination of wick and medium that work well together. If you find your wick is very efficient in soaking up moisture. You may need to add some larger growing medium like perlite or gravel to your initial growing medium to prevent over watering. Sand, coco coir or vermiculite are ideal mediums to begin with. 

Building Your Own Hydroponic Wick System

After looking at the basics of a Wick system, you will see they are easy to build with very few components. With that, we will now go through the building instructions. This will be using a 3-gallon bucket, but you can use any size as long as you have a second container suitable for your reservoir.

Tip: Two buckets of the same size are often used. One sits inside the other and rests against the side of the first, or rests on a brick that you place in your water tank.

Step by Step

  1. Take your 3-gallon bucket and drill a 3/4 inch hole in the center of the bottom.
  2. Fill your reservoir with enough nutrient solution so it reaches to just below your growing bucket once it is in place. Reserve one jug of your solution for the final steps.
  3. Insert your wick through the hole and make sure it is long enough to reach the bottom of the reservoir. You will have around 1 foot inside your pot and 1 to 2 feet inside your reservoir.
  4. Unravel your wick inside your growing bucket and then fill with your growing medium up to 2/3rds full. (Wicks need to be close to the plants rooting system, and long enough to be covered in solution as levels drop).
  5. Insert your plant in the bucket and fill the top third of the pot with more growing medium or use Hydroton pebbles.
  6. You can place your growing bucket inside your reservoir. It is advisable to make sure no light can enter where your nutrients are, because this prevents algae growth.
  7. Gently top water around your plant with the solution from your jug. This prevents the growing medium from leeching moisture from your plant roots.

If you are using an air pump and air stones, all you need to do is make a small hole in the top edge of your reservoir and feed in the pipes (change clear for black tubing), this will add more oxygen to your water and aid in plant growth.

Maintaining Wick Systems for Optimal Performance

Wick systems require very little maintenance, but they do need some care an attention at some stages. A lot will depend on the size of your wick system to how much maintenance you do need to carry out. However, some of the principles are the same regardless of the size of system.

You may find plant growth slower than other systems. Nonetheless, there are a few things to help your plants along, like adding air stones.

These few pointers can help you get the best plant growth possible from this manual kind of Hydroponic system.

  • Use multiple wicks so plants receive optimal amounts of water and nutrients – this will depend on your bucket size. Larger than 3 gallon buckets as in our example can use two wicks.
  • Keep water levels as high as possible – the closer the water, the less distance it needs to travel.
  • After harvest, be sure to rinse your growing medium and rinse off any salt build up. These levels will increase as your water levels drop. Only add enough nutrients and top off with plain water.
  • You will need to measure EC & pH levels using your digital meters.

Conclusion

For some growers, they may think these types of systems are too simplistic and are unable to deliver the results they want. While these systems are simple in design and function, they are more than ideal for squeezing in small areas.

As for not delivering results, a Wick system is more than ideal for delivering great results for the right kinds of plants. This allows growers to free up space in a full system and use this system for plants that require less continual attention.On a last note, there is no other Hydroponic system that is more suited to new growers than these systems. They are the ideal training ground to learn all about hydroponics.