Hydroponic Systems - Good habits
Good habits in hydroponics are as easy to form as bad ones; and one of the most annoying tasks is general maintenance of nutrient tanks and hydroponic systems.
Most of these tasks are relatively easy once you have the right information and by working more efficiently from the beginning of your projects you will find you have more time for your plants, and less time spent cleaning and correcting problems.
Perform these good habits on a daily basis:
- Check the pH of your hydroponic solution.
- Adjust the pH up or down as required.
- Check the temperature of your hydroponic system.
- Check the concentration of food in water we use an EC meter.
- Nutrient levels (EC) should also be checked daily.
Filling up and adjusting your Hydroponic system or nutrient tank
Certain plants grown in DWC systems (deep water culture) have preferred pH and EC levels, it is up to the grower to adjust the nutrient solution according to the plants requirements. Don’t just follow a feeding chart and assume it has been designed for the type of plant you're growing, as they generally state that they are intended as a guide only. We must understand and establish the ideal nutritional requirements for each crop before preparing large volumes of hydroponic nutrients and water.
Determining the daily needs of each plant that is being fed from a tank, this will help you figure out how long the solution will feed your crops for.
Always check the reservoir level and monitor how long this nutrient tank will last using a journal or garden diary. And always be prepared to clean and reset the tank if necessary.
Here are a few examples of pH and EC values per crop:
- Tomato: pH 5.8-6.7 - EC 1.8-3.5
- Chilli: pH 5.2-6.5 - EC 1.2-2.1
- Lettuce: pH 5.8-6.5 - EC 0.8-1.2
- Cannabis: pH 5.5-6.5 - EC 0.8-2.4
Check your water Temperature
A very important measurement quite often overlooked is water temperature. The sweet spot is 18.5-22°C. Anything below this temperature and root zone activity is slowed, nutrient absorption is restricted and the root's ability to absorb oxygen is limited.
Temps above 22°C affects the nutrient solution stability, root-zone oxygen is limited, and pathogens can begin to grow in the solution. This can cause problems like root-rot and nutrient lock out.
Some growers implement devices such as water chillers or water heaters to maintain optimum water temperature. Melbourne is prone to extreme weather changes and we often experience fluctuating grow room conditions as a result.
Equipment quality, reservoir and/or Hydro System materials?
Doesn’t seem like a big deal, water tanks are the same right?
Wrong. Some containers are not suitable for growing consumable crops as they can leach harmful chemicals into the water that were used in the manufacturing process.
The safest plastics to use for any hydroponics DIY projects are HDPE plastics.
You’ll pay a bit more for them, but can rest assured that your sticky herbs and veggies will be safe to consume.
Your local hydroponics equipment supplier should have a range of tanks and hydroponic systems all manufactured with food-grade standards. If building a system isn't quite your thing there are plenty of hydroponics shops in Melbourne that can help you choose the right one.
Light exposure, keep your solutions covered.
When a reservoir is not sealed from light, algae can grow in the hydroponic nutrient mix. Algae for the most part isn’t a big deal even though it is sucking nutrients from your tank. However, there are some forms of algae that are super toxic and can harm you as well as your plants. To negate this most growers would have some type of lid or covering mounted over the tank to prevent any light from entering the solution.
To ensure this doesn't become a major problem, when you clean you system and tanks each week use some hydrogen peroxide to remove any bacterial buildup and sterilise the system before adding a fresh nutrient mix for your plants.
These simple yet often overlooked good habits can be the difference between success and failure. What other good habits can you think of?
Comment if you'd like to keep the conversation going. :) #growwithus