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What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a unique method of growing plants without soil. All of the nutrients that a plant needs are usually supplied through specially mixed aqueous solutions, with or without the use of neutral mediums like clay pellets, rice hulls, pumice, wool, and wood fiber.

The etymology of “hydroponics” comes from the Greek words “hydro” (water) and “ponos” (labor). The term was coined in 1937 by William Frederick Gericke, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who pioneered the use of hydroponics for crop production. Gericke became known for growing tomato vines that were over twenty-five feet tall using water-based solutions mixed with organic nutrients instead of soil. His works were monumental in introducing hydroponics to the public view.

Advantages of Hydroponics

Through the works of Gericke and other researchers who came after him, hydroponics has now become a popular method of plant propagation. Here are 5 of the main advantages of hydroponics:

1. Plants can be grown wherever and whenever you want.

Plants will grow as long as they receive the proper amount of nutrition and light.

2. There’s no more need for pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals.

Since plant diseases and parasites are mostly soil-borne, the risk of damaged plants will be greatly lessened through hydroponics.

3. Plants grow faster.

Studies have shown that plants grown in hydroponics systems grow two times faster than their soil-based counterparts. Yield is also much larger; hydroponics can be a very cost-effective measure for growing plants and crops in cramped spaces like apartments and condominiums.

4. Hydroponics can help conserve water.

Due to the high amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous that it contains, agricultural run-off from soil based crops can be debilitating to the ecosystem. This is not the case with hydroponics. The water used in hydroponics systems can be reused multiple times while the plants use up all the nutrients that were dissolved in it.

5. Hydroponics require less work.

No more weeding, tilling, and fumigation. Most hydroponics systems work on their own using timers and automated pumps. Upkeep is minimal.

Getting Started With Hydroponics

Step One: Determine the kind of hydroponics system that you will use.

There are different kinds of hydroponics systems and each has its own pros and cons. For example, the water culture is relatively inexpensive to build and easy to maintain, but it is not suited for larger plants. Other examples of systems are: wick system, ebb and flow, recovery and/or non-recovery drip systems, nutrient film technique and aeroponics. Be sure to choose the right system for the plants that you are growing.

Step Two: Know Your Plants

Knowing your plants’ nutritional requirements is a must. This will help you prepare the right combination of hydroponics nutrients to use in solutions. Different plants have different nutritional requirements. A necessary nutrient for one plant may prove to be detrimental to another.

Step Three: Maintain Your Hydroponics Systems

The water used in hydroponics needs to be changed on a regular basis as all the nutrients are used up. Also, proper lighting must be maintained to ensure the optimal growth of plants.

 

Co2

Effective Use of CO2

Good gardeners say great things about C02. There's no question that increasing carbon dioxide levels in the garden has tremendous potential for creating faster, more productive crop plants. The trick is to use C02 wisely-knowing when and how to add C02 for maximum results. 

The first step is to create such great growing conditions in your garden that your crops will benefit from extra carbon dioxide! Careful attention to light levels, temperature, air flow through the garden, exhaust fan capability, air intake, crop spacing and nutrient supply will result - in a first class garden with healthy, vigorous plants; ready and willing to take up and use extra C02 efficiently. Overheated, crowded and bug-infested plants are so busy just trying to survive that adding C02 would be wasteful. Whip your gardens into shape first-then plan when and where to add C02 to get the greatest benefits.

Our plants go through several growth stages during their lives seedling/cutting stage, transplant, green growth, transition (to flowering and crop production) and production stages. Each growth stage has its own "cultural requirements" seedlings need different light levels and fertilizer strengths than established crop plants, for example - and extra C02 is more useful during some growth stages than others. Generally, adding C02 helps the most during periods of rapid growth, but researchers have discovered some surprising and useful facts about carbon dioxide's effect on specific stages of growth and how extra C02 early in a plant's life brings unexpected benefits months later! And once again, it was a Canadian team of University researchers and commercial growers who broke new ground in effective uses of C02 enrichment.

 

C02 APPLICATION:
Rooted Cutting/Seedling Stage

The Canadians discovered that adding C02 to plants at the seedling-rooted cutting stage - for about two weeks - produced two benefits: faster early growth and greater final crop yield, even without extra C02 during green growth or crop production! This is useful information for hobby gardeners since a little extra carbon dioxide for rooted cuttings and seedlings can help plants so much. If you use tall, clear covers over your baby plants, release a little C02 under the cover to raise the C02 levels to about 1500 PPM. Remove covers to let in fresh air after a few hours, and be sure plants have only fresh air (no extra C02) during dark periods. The two-week period leading up to transplanting is the most effective time for this C02 technique. If you are already using C02 for other purposes, try treating your 'small fry' with this proven growth and crop stimulator.

 

 

C02 APPLICATION:
Transplant Stage

Adding carbon dioxide during transplanting stage is not recommended, since plants are adjusting to new growing conditions and can make do with regular C02 levels in the air.

 

 

C02 APPLICATION:
Vegetative (green Growth) Stage

Once plants are 'established' in green growth stage (full light levels, full strength fertilizers, spreading roots and new top growth), it's time to consider adding C02 to your rapidly-growing green plants. Your decision should be based on the length of time your crop will be in green growth, as well as an impartial evaluation of the garden's growing conditions. Plants with a long green-growth period (30 days and more) would benefit from C02 enrichment, growing to the desired size more quickly. Growth hormone used along with extra C02 and increased food strength, results in faster, healthier green growth plants.

 

 

C02 APPLICATION:
Long Day Crops

Some crops, called 'long day plants', produce their crops during summer, while continuing to put out new leaves and stems-tomatoes and roses are typical long-day crops which benefit from supplemental C02 right through green growth/crop production stages. These plants do not go through a separate transition stage like short-day crops, so additional C02 can be applied (during the light cycle) through the life of the plants.

 

 

C02 APPLICATION:
Short-Day Crops

'Short-day' crops have a definite 'transition' stage before flower or crop production begins, affecting C02 applications. (Short-day plants produce green growth during spring and summer, and flowers and crop in autumn, responding to the longer nights by beginning crop production. Chrysanthemum and hardy hibiscus are examples of this category of plant). Since C02 is most useful when established plants are actively growing, shut off your tank until crops pass through this transition stage and save the extra C02 for use when crops begin producing flowers. Holding off on extra carbon dioxide while plants go through the transition from green growth to crop production should help keep plants bushy and compact while they decide what they're supposed to do next and reduce 'stretching' problems so common to the early transition period. In fact, if your short-day crop has a history of stretching, cut off the extra C02 two weeks before the end of green growth stage.

 

 

FLOWER AND CROP PRODUCTION
Short-Day Plants

Once crops are 'established' into crop production stage (full light levels, full strength food, plants actively producing crop) resume C02 enrichment - if all goes well you could consider increasing the nutrient strength gradually for periods of maximum growth during this stage. As growth slows and crop is finishing up, cut back on C02.

 

 

FINE-TUNING THE HORIZONTAL C02 DELIVERY SYSTEM
After 7-14 days, your crops will tell you: how many plants are gaining from the extra C02.

How much it is helping your crop plants. You can reposition oscillating fans, add C02 airlines to more oscillating fans, or increase C02 flow rate if growth rate is uneven or some plants need more C02. Usually growers become very enthusiastic about adding C02 at this point, since they can see how it's helping their gardens. If little or no effect on growth is seen, check growing conditions for limiting factors, high garden temperatures, poor air movement, bugs, disease or incorrect nutrient mix all interfere with C02 uptake and growth.

 

The disadvantages of this method are:

  • periods of high temperatures in the garden-with no air movement.
  • limited amount of C02 supplied to the garden.
  • excess humidity levels in garden.
  • questionable efficiency of this method

HINT:

use two or more small generators for a large garden. They will provide more even distribution of carbon dioxide - and less concentrated heat build-up than a single large generator. 

Although the C02 generators require planning and careful use, they are a much less expensive C02 source than the compressed C02 tanks. Growers can take advantage of our naturally clean natural gas, which contains low levels of sulphur- growers in eastern North America have to contend with natural gas containing high sulphur levels, which can be harmful to the garden. If crops are responding to C02applications well, consider using applications of "Growth Plus" and increasing nutrient strength gradually to take full advantage of excellent growing conditions.



FAQ

Q: How many hours should the grow light be on?

A: The indoor garden rule of thumb is 18 hours on 6 hours off for vegetative growth and 12 hours on 12 hours off for flowering period. Lighting schedules are easy to keep when you use a timer set at the correct intervals. 

Q: What are the benefits of using a carbon filter?

A: Carbon filter/fan combos are the best way to sterilize air and eliminate odors. With a carbon filter, you can either exhaust filtered air or “polish” and recirculate the air.

Q: Which is a better lamp to grow with MH or HPS?

A: I would recommend purchasing the MH kit, and when it comes into the bloom stage you purchase an HPS conversion lamp or a full spectrum MH lamp. If you are only going to use one type of bulb for flowering and vegetative stages the Sun Master neutral deluxe is an excellent lamp for both purposes. 

Q: What is a Lumen?

A: A lumen is a measurement of light. In simpler terms 1 lumen is equal to the amount of light that 1 candle will emit on 1 square foot, 1 foot away from the flame. 1 lumen = 1 foot candle

Q: How high should my lights be from the tops of my plants?

Answer:  The lamp should be 18 - 24 inches away from the tops. Use a clip fan to circulate air on the tops of your plants. This will help with the removal of heat produced by your lamp and also deliver fresh air across the undersides of your leaves which are where the plant breathes in through tiny microscopic pores called Stomata. 

 

Q: What is quicker and better, hydroponics or soil?

 A: Hydroponics produces much quicker growth rates and much better yields, compared to soil grown plants. Hydroponics growing systems and media offer a lot more available oxygen to the roots of the plants producing much quicker growth, and hydroponic systems also deliver water and nutrients directly to the roots of the plants, allowing the plants to put all their energy into the top growth. This is why a hydroponically grown plant, grown for the same amount of time as a soil grown plant, can be much bigger and better, with more yield.

 

Q: Can I make highly fertilized soil for my seeds or cuttings?

A: No, it's best not to use a highly fertilised soil as seedlings and cuttings will require very little nutrients to begin, plants will start to require higher nutrient levels when they are in their vegetative or flowering period. Choose a lightly fertilised soil for seeds or cuttings and when re-potting your established plants you can use a highly fertilised soil.

 

Q: How do I know if I have hard or soft water?

A: The easiest way to determine if you have hard or soft water is to look inside your kettle and see if you have any white scale inside. If you do you have white scale you are living in a hard water area. If you don't have white scale and the kettle looks fairly clean inside then you are living in a soft water area. This will help you to order the correct nutrients if you choose one that is available in a hard or soft water formula.

 

Q: How do I know if I underfed, and what do I do?

A:  If plants are lacking the nutrients they require they will kick into action themselves and take the nutrients from their bottom leaves and deliver it into the top new growth that is developing, this will turn the bottom leaves a pale yellow, a sure sign that your plants are underfed. Raise the amount of nutrients you have been applying just slightly (don't overdo it) over a period of a few days and watch for signs of the yellowing to stop, this should solve the problem of under feeding your plants.

 

Q: How do I know if I overfed and what do I do?

A: The first signs you will see that you have overfed your plants will be some curling of the leaves and deformed new growth that is twisted and curled, very dark green in colour. Immediately you need to flush your plants with just plain water or you can use a flushing solution in the water if the plants are really bad. When refilling your hydroponic system or watering your soil or coco make sure to only start with a half strength nutrient solution for a few days until you can see that the new growth is looking normal again.

 

Q: Why use additives?

A: Additives and boosts can be added to the water with your nutrients, and can assist plants in many ways. There are many additives and boosts available and most commonly they are designed to help a plant produce quicker growth and more yield from your fruits or flowers. There are also additives designed to assist plants internally and strengthen plant cells, helping to fight against attacks from pests or diseases. Using an additive or boost is definitely worthwhile if you wish to gain the maximum yield from your indoor garden.

 

Q: What is the ideal temperature for my nutrient solution?

 A: Temperature range of 21 - 24 degrees is adequate, if you have problems with reaching this temperature you will need a nutrient solution heater to help raise and maintain the required temperature.

Q: What is hydroponics?
A: Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. The plants thrive on the nutrient-water solution alone. The growing medium merely acts as a support for the plants and their root systems while the solution passes freely. The growing medium, if any, is totally inert. 
Q: What are the advantages of hydroponics versus growing plants in soil?
A: You can grow more plants per square foot in a hydroponic garden because roots are directly fed ~ therefore, there is no competition for root space. As a result, you can get higher yields per square foot, per unit of time. Your plants will grow faster because they will be getting all the nutrients they need and in the proper proportions. Their root systems stay smaller, so the plant can concentrate its energy on producing plant mass, rather than roots. 
Q: Isn’t hydroponic gardening complicated?
A: NO! If you can follow simple directions, you can garden hydroponically. A few simple steps must be followed on a regular basis to ensure that your plants thrive. Once you get used to the routine ~ it’s a snap. 
Q: What plants grow best hydroponically?
A: Anything can be grown hydroponically, but some plants prove to be more space efficient. Some plants we suggest are tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chilies, lettuce, spinach, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas, strawberries, herbs and flowers of all types. 
Q: What about taste? How will the flavor compare to my outdoor grown, organic produce?
A: Your own hydroponically grown herbs and vegetables will taste even better. This is due to the fact that the hydroponically grown plants are getting everything they need, when they need it. Don’t be fooled by “hot house” produce grown commercially. The grower’s primary concern is shipability and storage, not flavor. When you grow your own vegetables at home, you can expect nothing less than excellent results. Plus, hydroponically grown produce has the added benefit of a longer shelf life.
Q: How often should I change the nutrient solution?
A: Nutrient solution uptake will be determined by the type of crop being grown and how heavily they are feeding and the temperature of the grow room (the higher the temp, the more the plants will feed). It is extremely important that you have a TDS meter and a pH meter and that regular testing on the nutrient solution is carried out.
-If you follow a nutrient line's feed schedule, they will typically have it based on changing out the reservoir every week. Topping off with nutrients and water is possible, just be sure to do the proper math and use your meters to prevent over or under watering. See hydroponic feeding tips for more details. View our selection of nutrients.Q: What is hydroponics?

   Q: Isn’t hydroponic gardening complicated?

   A: NO! If you can follow simple directions, you can garden hydroponically. A few simple steps must be followed on a regular basis to ensure that your plants thrive. Once you get used to the routine ~ it’s a snap. 

   Q: What plants grow best hydroponically?

   A: Anything can be grown hydroponically, but some plants prove to be more space efficient. Some plants we suggest are tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot chilies, lettuce, spinach, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, broccoli, beans, snow peas, strawberries, herbs and flowers of all types. 

  Q: What about taste? How will the flavor compare to my outdoor grown, organic produce?

  A: Your own hydroponically grown herbs and vegetables will taste even better. This is due to the fact that the hydroponically grown plants are getting everything they need, when they need it. Don’t be fooled by “hot house” produce grown commercially. The grower’s primary concern is shipability and storage, not flavor. When you grow your own vegetables at home, you can expect nothing less than excellent results. Plus, hydroponically grown produce has the added benefit of a longer shelf life.

   Q: How often should I change the nutrient solution?

   A: Nutrient solution uptake will be determined by the type of crop being grown and how heavily they are feeding and the temperature of the grow room (the higher the temp, the more the plants will feed). It is extremely important that you have a TDS meter and a pH meter and that regular testing on the nutrient solution is carried out.
-If you follow a nutrient line's feed schedule, they will typically have it based on changing out the reservoir every week. Topping off with nutrients and water is possible, just be sure to do the proper math and use your meters to prevent over or under watering.