Hydroponic FAQ Help Guide
There are a lot of commonly asked questions about hydroponics now that its popularity is beginning to soar. This is definitely for the better since having control over one’s own crop production will definitely maintain a certain amount of expected quality. Once you get the hang of it, you can produce better herbs, vegetables and fruits than you’re liable to get from outside sources.
Here are some of the more common questions that tend to come up and their subsequent solutions.
What are the (ec) electrical connectivity requirements?
Maintaining a proper electrical connectivity (EC) will require changes as your plants evolve within their growing cycle. When your plants are in their early phases of growth, they will need fewer nutrients and the nutrient requirement will increase as the plants mature. Therefore, you can satisfy the necessary needs of your crop by merely increasing the food amount. For example: In the growth stage - 0.6 - 0.8 EC and in the flowering stage - 1.6 - 2.4 EC.
Optimal Coco pH Levels
In general, if you’re running a hydroponic system using coco coir (a very common setup), the pH should be sitting between 5.5 – 6.5. When the plants are in the growth phase, the optimum pH is 5.8 – 6.2. If you run into a pH fluctuation, your plants may be unable to absorb certain nutrients that are considered “slow moving”. Get yourself some pH measuring equipment such as pH pens to keep tabs on this.
When your plants are flowering it becomes very important to maintain the proper nutrient factor. Also, when this occurs, keep the pH between 6.0 – 6.4. Neglecting to do this will keep the plants from processing the necessary nutrients and will serve to lower the quality of your result and yields.
How many hours should my grow light be on for?
The basic time frame rule is: 18 hrs. on and 6 hrs. off (darkness). Once you see that your plants are beginning to flower, this should be changed to: 12 hrs. on and 12 hrs. off. But you need to keep in mind that once the plants begin to flower, you can’t allow the dark period to have any interruptions. If, somehow, some light leaks in to your crop during its dark period, it will reset the plants back to their vegetation state. It can even cause plant mutation – and you certainly don’t want that!
Should you heat the nutrient solution?
It depends. Keep the nutrient solution between 18.5 C and 21.5 C degrees. If your crop is in a cold room, you’ll need a heater for the water. Take note that the plants will cease growing and enter shock if the nutrient solution temperature dips below 15 C degrees. If the solution temperature is above 23.5 C degrees, you can find yourself growing harmful bacteria.
Why do plants die?
Needless to say, there can be quite a few reasons for this to happen. The obvious things, of course are insufficient water, wrong temperature and lack of nutrients. Some of the less obvious reasons can come from root diseases, such as pythium. However, the biggest cause usually stems from incorrect temperature maintenance. It’s also a good idea to use nutrient conditioners in order to help prevent growing harmful pathogens.
Why are my plant tips burning?
Actually, this can be caused by feeding them way too much food. What happens is that nutrients will accumulate in the reservoir tank. This causes the buildup of salt. In any case, it’s always a good idea to flush out your water tank on a regular basis.
There are also various nutrient issues that can cause the burning of you leaf tips. Most of these problems can be avoided by using EC and pH meters.
Why are my plant’s leaves turning yellow?
As with burning plant tips, this can be caused by several problems. These include; too much salt in the water, incorrect pH, not enough nutrients and oxygen levels that are too low (due to over watering or too little aeration). This is yet another issue that can be avoided through the use of a pH pen and EC meter.
Plants will stretch when either the humidity is too high or there is not enough light. This can be avoided by keeping an eye on the plant’s airflow and overall environment. This can also occur when the light source is placed too far away from the plants or if there are too many plants competing in the same small space.
Maintaining optimum humidity
This is a big issue. Overall basic guidelines are:
- Growth (vegetative) phase – 40-70%
- Flowering (blooming) phase – 40-55%
- Drying the plants – 40-55%
- Storing (curing) – 50 – 63%
Too much humidity can lead to mold infestation. Grey mold will quickly spread all throughout the crop.
You can deal with this issue by mounting a hygrometer on the inside wall of the hydroponics growing environment. For all practical purposes, if the humidity sits just above 50%, then you’re fine. You should also keep the nutrient reservoir from adding to the humidity factor by keeping it covered.
For controlling the humidity (and temperature), extractor and intake fans can be used. Remember to keep the growing room relatively dry, as to prevent mould from growing.
Optimum growing room temperature
This is another major issue. The growing room temperature should be kept between 24.5 – 29 C degrees, when the plants are in their vegetative state.
For the flowering state – between 22.5 C and 26 C degrees.
And for the drying state – 20 – 21.5 C degrees.
Maintaining these temperatures is not all that difficult. This is especially true when you have the lights turned on. If you live in a warm climate, you can use extractor and inlet fans to cool things down a bit. A room heater can be used when the room is too cold.
In addition, your temperature maintenance equipment can be automated with the use of a thermostat device. This can be invaluable in order to prevent drastic temperature fluctuations, which can damage the plants.
What about the amount of ventilation? How much should you use?
Basically, you need to keep the temperature around 28 C degrees and the humidity around 55-60% within your plant canopy’s center. So, you’ll need to have the right amount of ventilation that will provide this for your crop. A rule of thumb is that it’s better to have a bit too much ventilation than not enough. In warm weather, this equates to around 120 liters per second of incoming air with the same amount going out (per sq. metre of your growing floor area). Of course, you need to make adjustments according to colder climates, as well.
Are pH and EC meters necessary?
In a word – YES. Trying to raise a crop, without these meters, will make for a very difficult and frustrating growing experience. Therefore, you should always use these types of meters during your growing process.
If you don't want to pay for this cost to begin with you can get around it with a pH perfect nutrient like Advanced Nutrient's Grow Micro And Bloom.
Do I need a specific size reservoir?
The size that you need for your reservoir will depend on your system’s type and the feeding requirements of your plants. This will usually equate to a minimum growing area of 45 liters per/m2. You’ll want to adhere to this size, since using less will entail frequent adjusting.
You also have the option of a deep water culture system (DWC). This allows for a larger volume of nutrients and water. You will have the ability to have this system plumbed to a reservoir that is located externally. When your solution gets low, this system can then automatically add additional solution.
Should plant leaves be pruned?
It depends on the type of plants. This is because some plants take a long time in order to develop its new leaf sets. So you will want to refrain from removing large leaves that have taken the plants a long while to grow. However, there are many times in which pruning may be necessary in order for the lower leaves and shorter plants to get sufficient light.
Should the nutrient solution be aerated?
It’s generally a good idea to aerate the nutrient solution since it prevents water stagnation, avoids bacterial infection and improves the overall health of the plants. It also serves to extend the “life” of the nutrient solution.
When can one expect clones to take root?
This will vary in accordance to the time of year along with the overall health of the plant clones. Also, whether a cloning is assisted or manual will also figure into the timeframe. For assisted methods, that may involve the use of a cloning machine, the time can be a short 3-7 days, since the oxygen intake has been accelerated. For manual methods, you’re probably looking at 5-12 days.
Is there a preferred type of water to use?
Generally speaking, the best type of water to use will have low salt/contaminant content. Rainwater is a good choice, but if your tap water is less than 0.3 EC (Australian tap water is 0 – 0.3 EC), then you’re okay, as well.
Also, reverse osmosis is also becoming more and more popular. But, with this option, you need to be aware of possible pH fluctuation, so you may need a pH stabaliser in order to correct this. In addition, after you have cleaned the water, you will need to re-condition it with calcium magnesium.
What are the basics for setting up a hydroponic grow room?
If you’re a beginner, the good news is that it’s not all that difficult to set up a hydroponic grow room just about any place that you’d like. Most folks choose; a spare room, a shed or a garage. There are just a few requirements that you’ll need to scope out prior to selecting your spot.
The best way to begin is to think of a warm spot in a garden that is fully lit by sunlight. Unless it’s a mushroom, just about any type of vegetation will flourish under these conditions. In any case, these are the conditions that you’ll want to replicate in your growing room. Therefore, the three main items to be considered when creating your hydroponics setup are; light, humidity and temperature.
Hydroponic room lighting
Most growers consider lighting as the most important item when it comes to running a successful growing room. Of course, lighting is not as much of an issue if you have an outside greenhouse. But, if your hydroponics room is sitting in a normally dark cellar (or some other inside location), then lighting takes on a whole new meaning. In this case, you’ll need to replicate the benefits of the sun with specialized lighting and equipment.
Fortunately, today’s technology makes it relatively easy and cost-effective to perform this task. As a matter of fact, lighting technology has evolved to the point that it’s better to just rely on the artificial lighting options, rather than stream any natural sunlight into your growing area. That’s because an artificial lighting system is much easier to regulate according to the plant’s needs.
With artificial lighting technology, you can replicate summer’s longer days and then change the light exposure to replicate other seasons of the year. The best part is that this can be done during any time of the year that you begin!
What about HID lighting?
HID (High Density Discharge) is an exceptionally efficient type of grow room lighting that comes in three types:
- Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)
- High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
- Metal Halide (MH)
Indoor lighting is considered to be very safe, which is why they are used in commercial stores, street lamps and even petrol stations. If you see the UL certification on the package or light, then you can rest assured that the lighting is definitely safe to use.
In addition to its high intensity, HID lights will last up to six times longer as opposed to other types of lights.
What are the best lights for seed raising and clones?
When it comes to clones and seedlings, fluorescent lamps or LED grow lights will work best. Fluorescent lamps are also good for use as supplementary lights.
Which Grow Lights Do you RECOMMEND?
Of course, it boils down to a personal preference – but some good suggestions include:
LED Grow Lights
MH Grow Lights
HPS Grow Lights
- Fluorescent Grow Lights (only good for seedlings and vegetative growth)
LED and HID lighting types are great for maximum flowering and oil production. Overall LED's are personal favourites due to the low heat output, built in dimming, timer control adjustable spectrum's features.