Hydroponics growing support

What is the Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is the science of growing plants in containers without soil to which is added a carefully balanced water and nutrient solution. Historically, hydroponics setups included:
• Hanging gardens of Babylon
• Floating gardens of Kashmir
• Aztecs, Indians of Mexico on rafts
• US Government in WWII in South Pacific
• NASA in space
• European community turning to commercial hydroponics
Why is hydroponics better?
• Increased yield better use of nutrient =  growing tim =  better access to nutrient
• Increased density = plants closer
• Better quality = more marketable = more $
• Less water
• Less pests and diseases
• No weeds
• Quicker crop turn around
Disadvantages

• Initial set up cost increased
• Disease can spread quicker
• Nutrient management required
In soil, microbes and bacteria breakdown manure, fertilisers and organic compounds to allow the plant to access
nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other sub-elements to turn these into food.
In hydroponics, these are instantly available to the plant in the bottle as nutrient and in turn grow quicker, bigger and healthier. Also they access better O2 (oxygen) than in soil around the roots, thus “breathing” better. Root O2 is a major factor in hydroponic success.
Nutrients for hydroponics

Essential to plant growth and development include:
Carbon (C) Organic compound.
Hydrogen (H) Organic compound. Cation exchange between plant and medium.
Oxygen (O) Organic compound. Anion exchange between root and medium.
Nitrogen (N) Cell development = leaf, stem, root, acts with “green” chlorophyll to give protein to plants.
Phosphorus (P) Blooming, early growth and root development. Adds to hardness, increases maturity and seed.
Potassium (K) Disease resistance, develops carbohydrates, sugar and starch. Increases fruit production.
Calcium (Ca) Translocation of carbohydrates, healthy cell walls, strong stem, membrane and root development. Antioxidant to iron toxicities.
Magnesium (Mg) Absorption and translocation of phosphorus. Activates enzymes. Helps form fats and oils. Useful in CO2assimilation.
Sulphur (S) Oil production, cell wall, protein production.
Iron (Fe) Catalyst in photosynthesis, respiration. Forms sugars and starch. Activates enzymes.
Chlorine (Cl) For photosynthesis as an enzyme activator of oxygen from water.
Boron (B) Carbohydrate transporter.
Manganese (Mn) DNA and RNA formation through fatty acids. Gets oxygen from water during photosynthesis.
Copper (Cu) Internal catalyst, electron carrier. Involved in nitrogen fixation.
Zinc (Zn) Chlorophyll synthesis. Auxin metabolisation.
Molybetenum (Mo) Electron carrier in converting nitrate to ammonium. Nitrogen fixation and reduction.
Grow nutrients = increased nitrogen = leaf, stem, root growth
Bloom nutrients = increased potassium and phosphorus = fruit, flower development
Hydroponic Mediums

Must hold water yet drain and oxygenate.
Expanded Clay
Expanded Clay is a porous, lightweight, earthy clay aggregate. It is durable and has exceptional capillary properties. The internal structure absorbs nutrient solution, releasing it to the plant on demand. It holds the plant in place but is light enough to allow air penetration to the roots, which prevents excessive acidity and rotting. Expanded clay is pH neutral. Best used in recycling systems.
Perlite
Perlite is a volcanic mineral, small black crystal-like when mined. It is heated to 1100°C, then explodes like popcorn to form white/grey granules similar to rice bubbles in look. Very light, sterile and pH neutral. Best for recycling and non-recycling systems.
Vermiculite
A flaky material, when heated exfoliates, splitting the layers apart and giving light, spongy, golden granules. It can hold 67% by volume of water. Very light, sterile and pH neutral. Best used as 2 parts perlite to 1 part vermiculite to give optimal water/air ratio. Will break down over time. Best for non-recycling systems.
Rockwool (Cultilene)
Internationally used in around 80% of commercial systems. Rockwool is a fibrous material formed from volcanic rock, limestone and coke melted at 1500°C. The molten substance is spun, pressed and cooled into cubes and slabs. Excellent water/air ratio. It is pH alkaline to begin, soak in nutrient solution for 24-48 hour then run at 5.2 Ð 6.2 pH. Best in recycling and non-recycling systems.
Lighting

Photosynthesis – Converts carbon dioxide and water using light energy to sugars (plant food)
Photoperiodism – Day and night light cycle. Used in two phases, vegetative (grow) and reproductive (bloom)
Metal Halide (MH):
400 W = 20,000 hour life and 65% lumen maintenance
1000W = 12,000 hour life and 75% lumen maintenance
• Metal Halide generate 90-125 Lumens per watt
• MH are basically a mercury vapour with sodium and syconium iodide and a thorium coated electrode.
• Gives the correct spectrum
• Visibly a white light, but has a high blue and green content
• Blue and green light promotes healthy root, leaf and stem growth. Can flower but not effectively.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS):
• 400 W and 1000W have 24,000 hours life and 70% lumen maintenance.
• High pressure sodium generate 110-140 Lumens per watt
• Visibly and spectrally emits a yellow, orange, red light
• Yellow, orange and red light are highly desirable for better flower and fruit production

They work on a 60/90/120 degree beam angle, so the optimal distance is 39-90mm from plant canopy. Our LED’s for indoor growing, are developed in co-operation with companies based in Switzerland, Italy, and China and are representing results of long term on field testing and experiences. Our LED’s have many benefits:
• Super Low Power Consumption. High efficiency, save 30% on your power bill (when running 4 LED’s) compared with running costs of 600W HPS lamp.
• Low Heat Displacement. Virtually no heat emitted using smart technology to effectively dissipate heat.
• Extremely energy efficient, only consuming 3 Watts per LED.
• Conveniently brace mounted for additional side or indirect lighting.
• Easy to use. Just plug in and use. No other equipment needed.
• Discreetly suspended with stainless steel cables (included).
• Low noise operation. Quiet and discrete internal cooling method.
• No wasted energy or extra cooling equipment needed.
• Featuring LED lighting technology with a wide spectrum of light specifically targeted for plant growth and flowering.
• No harm to your plants through heat or harmful energies such as
• Ultra-violet and Infra-red.
• Each LED lasts for up to 50,000 hours of usage
• Environmentally Safe – contains no hazardous materials
Each LED produces light cones so that when they are clustered into arrays the light cones overlap, increasing light intensity and colour mixing, meaning your plants get the most diverse combination of blues and predominantly reds for better growth and flower stimulation.
Ballasts
All HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamps require a specific ballast. A ballast is a transformer with a core of thin metal plates wrapped in wire and coated with resin. A control box contains a ballast, ignitor and capacitors.
Reflectors
A good reflector can increase light intensity by up to 30% Points to consider when buying a reflector:
• Heat build up
• The closer the lamp to the reflector = increased reflectivity
• Horizontal lamps reflect more than vertical due to the inverse square law of light intensity (light fades rapidly as it moves from the source).
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Cloning

Cloning is taking a cutting from a mature plant in the vegetative stage and inducing it to grow roots. The clone is a genetic duplicate of the mother plant. The new clone can be induced to flower immediately or can be grown on. Rule of thumb. Don’t take more than 30% of the mothers vegetative material and not too old. Cuttings from stressed mother plants will produce disappointing harvest results. Ideally the mother can only be cloned 3 times. The real secret is to maintain a healthy, vigorous mother plant stock to take high yielding closes from.
Choose a mother plant with the following:
• Aesthetic qualities
• Heavy flower production
• Short compact growth
• Disease and insect resistance
• Early maturation
• Easily clones
Pest and Diseases

In hydroponics, soil-bourne pests and diseases are virtually eliminated. Nonetheless, plants grown in soiless culture are still suseptible to certain common pests and diseases. Vigilance and early identification are important in controlling such problems. The key to a healthy garden is cleanliness, favourable environmental conditons and proper cultural practices.
Virus
Are minute organisms that live within plant cells and cause abnormalities such as deformity, stunting and dwarfing. Immunity in plants cannot be developed, but some resistance may be bred. Leaves may show spots, blotches, rings, yellowing etc. No pesticides can combat a virus. A plant is stuck with this one.
Bacteria
Single cell micro organisms controlled through prevention and elimination. Examples are; bacterial blight, stem rot, bacterial wilt, leaf spot, soft rot and crown gall. Sterilisation of hydroponic systems using weak household bleach will cleanmost bacterial problems.
Fungi
Formed through spores, fungi are multi-celled organisms. The best example is powderry mildew, a whiteish powder on stem and leaves. Spores are carried via wind and nutrient moving through the system. High humidity conducts the disease. Use sulphur and copper based perticides to sertilise the system. Remove infection.
Botrytis is a common grey-mould fungus that attacks ornamentals. Symptoms include; soft rot and grey mould on older dead tissue. Common on carnations, chrysanthemums, roses, azaleas and geraniums. To prevent, reduce humidity by ventilating and sterlising environment. This reduces spot transfer.
Nematodes
Also called eelworms are parasites living in plants, soil, hydroponic media and water. Almost invisible to the naked eye, nematodes attack roots and leaf buds. Root knot nematodes stunt growth and wilt plants. Remove infested plants early and sterilise media next crop. Leaf and bud nematodes cause fruit or leaf distortion in ornamental and strawberries. Note yellow spots turning black on lower leaves. Can be controlled by pesticides.
Spider Mite
Also called two spotted mite and red spider mite are most common. Almost invisible they live on the underside of leaves sucking plant sap. Yellow speckles occur. Most prevalent in hot, dry months. Combat by spraying every second day once mites appear. Spray with natural pyrethrums or Clensel to kill the mites once they hatch. Spraying won’t kill eggs.
White Fly
A waxy white moth like insect about 3mm sucks sap from the underside of leaves and stem. Infested plants grow poorly and look yellow. Best control is biological using parasites (Encarsia formosa) to kill eggs. You can use natural pyrethrum sprays also.
Aphids
Soft bodied insects attack under tips and underleaves. They suck sap and spread disease. They spread shiny honeydew accumulating into a choking mould. Aphids are born as pregnant females and reach adulthood in 1 week. They are lethal. Control using lady birds and green lacewing.
Algae
Algae occurs when light, water and oxygen mix. To prevent algae growth cut off light to infected area. Algae robs the system of oxygen but some say it produces certain beneficial enzymes. The only serious problem with algae is when it builds up blocking drainage or feed lines or where is harbours insects and diseases. To clean use 10% bleach solution before planting next crop.
Predator Pest Controlled
Ladybird Aphid, mealy bug, citrus mealy bug, mealy bug eggs
Praying mantis Most insects
Lacewing Apid, citrus mealy bug, spirder mite, thrip and many worm eggs
Predatory mite Spider mite
Parasitic wasps Citrus mealy bug
Scale predators Scale insects

Hydroponics Feeding Tips

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.

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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.

LED Grow Lights Save Money and Power

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 Easily

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.

Hand watering

The reservoir method

The flood and drain method

The drip system

The nutrient film technique

The wick system

Aeroponics

The Media

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…

nutrient free

neutral Ph

retain water

retain air

drain quickly

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…

rockwool

expanded clay pellets

perlite

perlite/ vermiculite mix

perlite/ coconut coir mix

Volcanic rock chips

Homemade Hydro

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.

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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…

N-P-K ratios

secondary nutrients

trace nutrients

nutrient strength

Ph success

nutrient imbalances

dissolved oxygen levels

using hydrogen peroxide

nutrient temp

flushing

Organic Hydroponics

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.