Growing hydroponically can be more complicated than traditional gardening. It takes time to learn how your specific crops grow and what their needs are.
Keep your plants hydrated by monitoring water levels and adding fresh nutrient solution regularly. Watch for EC levels that are too high, which can lead to root rot.
In hydroponics, light is the most important factor for plant growth. A hydroponic system can mimic natural daylight cycles with supplemental lighting, and growers can control how bright or dim the lights are at any given time.
Lighting is an essential part of a hydroponic system, because plants cannot photosynthesize without it. The type of light used depends on the plant and its stage of growth. For example, if you are growing lettuce, you need to make sure that the light isn’t too bright, as it will burn the leaves.
There are 3 types of lights commonly used in hydroponics: HID lights (metal halide or high-pressure sodium), fluorescent bulbs, and LED bulbs. The last two options are less expensive and require much less energy than HID bulbs.
Hydroponics requires much less water than traditional soil growing, saving 90% or more, and grows crops in half the time. But it’s not without challenges and problems.
Water quality is critical, especially for serious growers. Many use reverse osmosis to purify water. But that’s a big investment. For smaller systems, use filtered water to avoid fluoride and other elements that can harm plants.
Fill the nutrient reservoir with fresh, filtered water, then add your hydroponic nutrients according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Test the pH and total dissolved solids (TDS) periodically with a good quality meter. A meter is only as accurate as its calibration. Be sure to calibrate it with a solution such as a pH buffer before using. And don’t forget to empty, clean and refill the reservoir frequently.
A nutrient solution provides plants with water, oxygen and essential mineral elements in soluble form. These are usually inorganic ions of nitrogen (NH4+, cation) and phosphorous (PO4) as well as potassium (K), magnesium, sulfur, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum, boron, chlorine, hydrogen and other trace minerals.
Using hydroponic gardening techniques allows you to grow more food in less space. It also saves a lot of water, as plants can get the exact amount of liquid they need and the excess remains in the reservoir for use later.
When choosing nutrients for hydroponic gardening, make sure they are specifically designed to be used with this growing method. We recommend Advanced Nutrients because their products use scientific breakthroughs like pH Perfect Technology to ensure a balanced and stable growing environment.
In hydroponic gardening, temperature is key for plant growth. The nutrient solution is usually in the form of water so the temperature will have a large impact on how much oxygen is present. Warmer water will hold less dissolved oxygen while cooler water will hold more.
Ideally, the temperature of the nutrient solution will be monitored regularly by horticulturists to ensure that it stays in the optimal range. If the temperature is too high, it can cause heat stress which will slow the rate of growth and increase the likelihood of diseases like root rot.
To prevent this, hydroponic growers will often invest in a water chiller which is similar to an air conditioner for water. The nutrient solution can be cycled through the chiller to quickly cool it down to the desired temperature range.
Many plants grow well hydroponically, including herbs, leafy greens, microgreens and tomatoes. It’s a great option for those who can’t plant in the ground or live in an apartment.
It’s important to use fresh, filtered water in your hydroponic system to prevent diseases. It should also be oxygenated to allow the roots to absorb nutrients easily.
The simplest hydroponic setup is a wick system, where the reservoir sits below a growing substrate, such as perlite or soilless mix, and a string wick transports the water-nutrient solution up to the plant when it’s thirsty. This isn’t ideal for larger plants because the wick may not be able to supply the liquid fast enough, but it’s perfect for herbs and microgreens. The other popular option is a deep water culture system where the roots are suspended in an aerated nutrient solution.