However, just like conventional farming there are many variables to take into account and this blog is going to focus on pH and how to manage it whilst growing.
Each and every aspect of gardening can be divided into many segments and hydroponics is no different. I'll explain so you can see what I'm going on about.
The amount of human interaction is dependent on the type of hydroponic systems in place. For example: many commercial vegetable farms have lots of plants to feed, so it would not make any sense to feed everything manually.
The majority of these farms employ huge water tanks with automated feeding systems that accurately inject liquid fertilisers (hydroponic nutrients) into the water tanks.
These tanks are generally connected to water chillers, water heaters and pH dosing systems to keep the nutrient solution within the required range at all times.
If a hydroponic farm is not using the right environmental sensors and automated equipment then maintaining things like temperature, pH and EC can be quite troublesome at scale.
How do I control those parameters at home?
Just because a farm needs all of those things doesn't mean the home gardener or hydroponic enthusiast has to. Being prepared will save you lot of trouble in the long run.
The one tool a hydroponic shop should always recommend to make growing crops easier is a digital pH and EC meter. Even if you don't have the budget for one there are manual pH kits available that use some iodine and a colour indicator chart to determine pH and they are quite cheap.
Another essential piece of equipment in our opinion is a reliable hygrometer. These devices measure temperature and humidity within your environment. Get one; they are inexpensive and tell you so much.
The most common question we get asked for those growing in hydroponic systems is pH stability.
How do we keep pH levels from rising? Let's go back to basics.
If the nutrients you add to your water source lowers the pH then we know the nutrients are acidic.
After mixing up a batch of liquid food for your plants, let's say the pH is now 5.8 and for those measuring EC lets just assume the EC is 1.6.
If a day later the pH has risen to 6.1 this is ok, and indicates the plants have removed (absorbed) food from the water. If you check the EC - 99% of the time the EC will be lower. This confirms that food has been removed.
pH goes up and EC goes down this is quite normal. In general most growers would let the pH 'ride' up to 6.5 before adjusting the pH of the solution back to the ideal range for that crop. If the solution in this hydroponic system is replaced once weekly then everything will carry on as normal.
If EC goes up and pH goes down this isn't normal. If this happens the user has probably added to much food to the water. To fix this the system must be diluted with plain water.
If the EC in 50L of solution is 3.2 you'll need to remove 50% of this mixture and replace it with plain water. If the solution in this hydroponic system is not replaced weekly then it can explain to accumulation of EC.
There is a sweet spot with pH and EC once you get the hang of it. In an ideal scenario you would see the water level go down and the pH and EC remain the same as water and food are equally consumed. This takes a bit of practice to nail. Give the same crop or cutting a few runs and eventually you'll understand how the plant responds to certain conditions.
To adjust pH you'll need:
A-Grade's Top Tips
- Test your nutrient solution daily
- Keep a record of your daily temps, pH and EC readings
- Keep your nutrient solution fresh by resetting it weekly
- Don't fight pH but rather work with it
Leave a comment if this blog helps you or if you have any experiences or questions you'd like to share :)