How to grow hydro is really about how to maintain your nutrient reservoir. After all, there is nothing you can do to MAKE your plants grow. You can only provide all the best conditions, sit back, and let plant growth happen.
Assume your plants are getting enough light and air and are kept at a good temperature. Plant growth will happen (often quickly) as long as you provide the best conditions in the nutrient solution (everyday).
Beginning Water Quality
Learning how to grow hydro starts with your beginning water quality. Check your tap water with a TDS meter. Anything over 200 ppm and you should probably use a reverse osmosis filter, or else use bottled spring water. While not necessary, it’s not a bad idea to treat your water using hydrogen peroxide.
If you really want to complicate things, you can get a complete water test. In this case, you can use tap water with up to 300 ppm as long as no more than 150 ppm of the total is from calcium or calcium carbonate and sodium.
How to Grow Hydro with Additives and Supplements
Through the water, the plants will receive all of their food. This water needs to contain primary nutrients (N-P-K), secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfur), and all trace nutrients. I recommend using a professional hydroponic nutrient product for this.
In addition to regular food, there are a few additives that make a huge difference in the healthy development of your plants. These are vitamins (like Thrive Alive B1), trace nutrient supplements (like Maxicrop liquid seaweed), and plant hormones (in any type of seaweed). Another useful additive is silica, which is used to boost the immune system of plants.
Many expert gardening articles I have read by people who know how to grow hydro recommend adding Thrive Alive B1 and Maxicrop to every drop of water you give your plants. Use 10 ml (2 tsp) per gallon of each. If you are using a seaweed based fertilizer, it is not necessary to add liquid seaweed.
Nutrient Solution Ph
If you want to learn how to grow hydro well, you must know about Ph. The nutrients are only good to the plants if the Ph is right. The maximum nutrients are available to the plants in a Ph range of 5.5 to 6.5. In hydroponics, the nutrients are often kept at about 5.5 because the plants absorb the nutrients slightly more quickly at this Ph.
Also, the natural tendency is for the Ph to creep up over time, and so it is your natural tendency to adjust the Ph down to the low end of the range when you make an adjustment.
Nutrient Solution Strength
People that know how to grow hydro use a total dissolved salts (TDS) meter or an electrical conductivity (EC) meter to tell how strong or how weak the nutrient solution is. The ideal strength of your nutrient solution depends on what type of plants you are growing, and also what stage of the plant life cycle they are in. Check this section out to find out what strength to keep your nutrient solution.
Maintaining your Nutrient Solution
In a ten gallon reservoir, you will need to check the strength (TDS or EC) and the Ph of your solution twice a day. With a larger reservoir, the changes in the nutrient solution take more time. I would still recommend you check your nutrient solution once a day, no matter what size reservoir you have. People that know how to grow hydro usually use a larger reservoir.
If the Ph is up, than add some Ph down. It is a good idea to check the Ph first, because the addition of Ph down will change the strength of your solution a little (TDS or EC).
If the nutrient strength is a little weak, add a little fertilizer. If the nutrient strength is a little high, add plain water. It is a good idea to let water sit out overnight in an uncovered container. This lets the water dechlorinate, and also lets the water become room temperature. Adding cold water will shock the roots, causing root damage as well as above ground damage.
Change it Every Two Weeks
After two weeks of using the same nutrient solution, it is time for anutrient change. The plants may have been using some nutrients more than others, and now you might be heading for a nutrient imbalance. Keep an extra nutrient reservoir full of plain water waiting for your next nutrient solution change. This ensures you will have dechlorinated, room temperature water that will not damage your plant’s roots.
It is a good idea to run a tank full of plain water (or 1/4 strength nutrient solution) for a day in between nutrient changes, to flush out any nutrient buildup. Some experienced gardeners do this every four weeks, or every other nutrient change. During every nutrient change, consider using hydrogen peroxide to keep things clean and healthy.
The Final Tweak
Once you have a simple feeding plan that is working well, you can try to maximize your results. The best advice here is to make small changes, one at a time, and to let each change show its effects before making another change. Sometimes this will mean waiting two weeks, other times it may mean waiting a whole crop cycle for the results.
My experience has shown that a simple plan with high quality results is what your goal should be. Many times, experimenting only leads to bad results. To make matters worse, if you changed two or more things, you have no idea what is causing the problem now. Anyone interested should learn about these fertilizer and soil additives.
The Final Flush
Pros that know how to grow hydro usually do a final flush just before harvest. This can be done by replacing the nutrient solution with plain water for the last 7 to 10 days. It will help if you change the water each day with fresh, plain water for these last few days.
Flushing the crop helps remove any fertilizers in the plant tissue. Flushing will improve the flavor and aroma of the produce in your garden.
In hydroponics, LED hydroponics light is the most recommended type of light source because it gives superior contribution to hydroponic plant growth. It does not only give favorable lighting for hydroponic plants because of the precise light energy it produces but it is also an economical and very easy to maintain. Because of the accurate light that it gives hydroponic plants, the harvests are said to be healthier and more nutritious. This type of grow light consumes less power because it does not require ballasts and produces just a fraction of the heat of high intensity discharge lamps. This is why more and more growers prefer to use it.
Read More: LED Grow Lights Save Money and Power
Hydroponics gardening is easy, once you learn the basics and have spent a little time fine tuning a system that works. Fact is, much of the work is in learning all the basic info, setting up, and adjusting your first system. These pages will help you do just that.
Hydroponics gardening boils down to simply this: The food is in the water. All considerations when designing a system will focus on this and on the types of plants you are growing. This includes…
How to get the food/water to the plants
How you keep the plants from drowning
How to make sure there are no problems
How to get food/water, also called nutrient solution, to your plants requires a look at the different hydroponic gardening systems. As you look over each type of system, you will see how each one addresses these three concerns.
Hydroponics Growing Systems
There are as many ways to deliver the nutrient solution to the plants as you can possibly think of. For our purpose here, lets take a look at the main ones. Visit the pages below for a crash course on each hydroponics gardening system.
The reservoir method
The flood and drain method
The drip system
The nutrient film technique
The wick system
No, I’m not talking about the paparattzi here. Except for aeroponics, you have to grow your roots into something besides air. The best hydroponic medias are…
Just as there are many hydroponics growing systems, there are many, many different types of grow media. Some types of media are better suited for certain grow systems, so you need to do a little research (the pages above will help). The best media that meet the above requirements and that people most commonly use are…
expanded clay pellets
perlite/ vermiculite mix
perlite/ coconut coir mix
Volcanic rock chips
Some homemade systems are more difficult to put together than others. Most aeroponics systems for example, I would recommend you just buy. A small flood and drain (aka ebb and flow) system, on the other hand, can be put together for less than $50 and will work just fine.
The Basics of Feeding
Besides the environment you put your hydroponics system into, success with hydroponics depends largely on one single factor…the quality of your nutrient solution. Your plants nutrient needs change as they grow, and the nutrient solution needs to change with them. You can find all the best guidelines on hydroponics feeding tips. This page covers…
dissolved oxygen levels
using hydrogen peroxide
The best of both worlds. Organic hydroponics is simply hydroponics in which the nutrient solution is made with organic fertilizers. You get all the benefits of hydroponics gardening, AND all the benefits of organic gardening. There are some special considerations with this approach, however.
A Fair Warning
When plants do not have to grow roots down into the soil to “mine” for food, they use that extra energy to grow fast above ground. These faster growth rates are the biggest attraction to hydroponics gardening.
However, if conditions are not kept right this can also be your biggest problem. The only way the plant gets to stay lazy is for you to keep giving it EXACTLY what it needs EVERYDAY. If you don’t, the plant has no other protection…no backup plan…there will be damage. Since growth rates are fast, the damage will happen quickly. For the best info on how to keep your hydro-friends happy, see hydroponics feeding tips.