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Growing Transplants Part One, Seeding

Growing transplants is a great way to ensure a garden or greenhouse full of healthy plants.  When you grow your own transplants using supplemental grow lights, you can produce any number of plants that’s practical for your purposes any time of year with complete control over variety selection, timing, plant health and budget.  Using soilless media like peat mixes or coco coir keeps things sterile and clean, reducing potential problems with insects or crop diseases like damping off.

If there are issues that are more prevalent in your area or garden type due to local conditions, selecting for these traits can be very worthwhile—just one more advantage of growing transplants versus buying young plants that may have been produced on the other side of the country.

Growing transplants versus buying them elsewhere can also be a money saver or even generate some income.  For example, schools, churches and organizations can sell young plants at the start of the gardening season to raise money—and naturally, producing transplants to sell can also be a year round business for some.

Above: This 4′ X 8′ area can produce thousands of seedlings or hundreds of market sized high quality transplants

Whether you grow crops indoors year round, in a greenhouse or outdoors seasonally there are some principles and practices to follow that can assist anybody, regardless of the scale of their endeavours that you can follow along with step by step in this how to guide. You’ll also learn how to produce transplants that are especially well suited for growing on in hydroponics systems (because no soil is being used to raise transplants).

This instalment, Seeding, will serve as part one in our Growing Transplants series to give you a strong start with producing your own flower, herb, greens and vegetables transplants.  In further instalments we’ll look at other important aspects including rooting cuttings and selecting mother plants. You can follow step by step all the way along to planting or sales success.

At some point or another every plant begins from a seed.  In growing transplants, seed selection is very important.  If you start with poor quality genetics, no matter how great the growing environment is or how much care you put into the garden your plants will be limited by the quality of their genetic make up.  Here’s a quick break down of some of the types of things you should look for in selecting seeds to grow your transplants from.

Above: Most plants begin life as seeds

Growing Transplants Seed Selection Criteria:

Finishing Times

Given the same variety of plant, some cultivars will finish faster than others. This can be especially important if cultivating crops where there is a limited window of time to produce warm loving plants outdoors seasonally. Frost insn’t your only concern, although it is an important one—heavy rains once it becomes cool out later in the season can rot flowers or fruits; if your variety doesn’t mature in time you may have a poor quality harvest or yield.

Hardiness

Some varieties within the same family of plants may offer better resistance to common stresses like drought, plant disease, frost or insect damage. For example a seed pack may state that a particular variety shows strong resistance to Fusarium Wilt or sate that it is Drought Tolerant.  If there are issues that are more prevalent in your area or garden type due to local conditions, selecting for these traits can be very worthwhile—just one more advantage of growing transplants versus buying young plants that may have been produced on the other side of the country.

Height

Within the same plant variety, you can often find a lot of variation in a wide variety of characteristics including height, ie final size of plants. A couple great examples of this are dwarf sunflowers and patio tomatoes.  In both these examples, the fruits or flowers remain fairly large while the plant they grow own is very compact in comparison with traditional cultivars.  Height can be an especially important consideration when container gardening.

Harvest Qualities

There can be very big differences in the characteristics of the flowers, herbs, greens and fruits you harvest.  Look at Basil as an example—besides having many varieties of Sweet Basil seeds to choose from, Basil also comes in Purple, Lemon, Cinnamon, Spicy Thai and more! 

Harvest Weight & Size

Some varieties will give you more biomass from the same plant versus others.  While overall yield is often an important factor, it should not be weighted too heavily, pardon the pun. What’s the point in having more bushels full if nobody wants them because the harvest quality lacks character, quality or uniqueness?

Price

If you just need a few seeds, the cost per seed won’t likely play too great a role in your decision making process.  However, when buying hundreds or thousands, cost becomes a factor. In our own experiences, a higher price doesn’t usually mean better genetics.  Sometimes seeds are priced on the effort it takes to produce them, so if a variety is harder to make seeds from, the breeder will often want a higher price—ie price is more proportionate to the work related to produce the seeds rather than the quality of the genetics themselves.

Growing Transplants, When to Sow Seeds?

Timing counts when growing transplants.  Besides considering the desired final planting date, consider that if you start growing transplants too early you may run out of room for the plants, ie they will get root bound and overcrowded in the space you have available for them.  Overcrowded plants are prone to problems like insects and diseases.

If you start growing transplants too late, they might not be big enough for your desired planting date or unsalable because they are too small. 

Seed packs usually have some information about when to sow seeds if you intend to transplant outdoors.  When growing transplants with the help of supplemental grow lighting and a high quality soilless media like peat, coco coir, oasis, rockwool, etc you can start later than the pack suggests because your plants will be healthier and grow faster than the windowsill directions most common seed packs are based on.

As a rule of thumb, you reduce the time by 25 to 30% with added grow lighting and a high quality propagation media.

Things To Manage

There are several important factors you will want to have some level of control over when it comes to producing healthy and robust transplants from sowing seeds.

Temperature

This is likely the number one factor you will want to have some influence over. Different plant types prefer to germinate at different temperatures (check your seed pack), so it is important that you don’t over look this. Since the seeding media is kept moist to germinate seeds, if it is too cold or too warm it is easy to wind up with rots and funks that will kill seeds or promote wilts and other problems in the young seedlings that result.

TIP: Seedling heat mats, as pictured, on average will give a 10 deg F lift over room temperature; usually perfect for common crops like tomatoes, peppers, flowers and herbs (around 75 to 80 deg F optimal germination temperature).  Note, most types of edible greens like kale, lettuce and spinach prefer cooler germination temperatures, ie 65 deg F.  Seedling heat mat controls are available so you can se the exact temperature you desire—they even have a probe you can stick into the germination medium for an exacting level of control.

Above: Super Sprouter seedling heat mats, control and trays

Moisture

Everyone knows seeds need moistures to germinate, however, water quality counts too.  Water that has lots of impurities can set back germination and impede early development in young seedlings. Filtered water or rain water is best.  Less experienced gardeners sometimes run into troubles with moistures management, ie keeping things soaking wet or letting the seeds dry out.  Once you apply water is is very important to keep seeds evenly moist—if they dry out at all, that could permanently end their growth; seeds are very sensitive to moisture.

TIP: Using a humidity dome is a great way to keep the seeding media or pellets moist after their initial soak and will also help to retain warmth; the most vital ingredients in getting your seeds off to a healthy start. NOTE how much your seedling tray weighs in your hands after the initial soak down with water, also note the colour of the media when soaked.  Learn to feel the weight and watch the colour so you know when it is time to apply moisture again when necessary.

Above: Filtering water can lend to better results for germination

Light

Some types of seeds require the presence of light to germinate, others do not.  Typically, very fine seeds like basil, which are not buried but broadcast onto the surface of the germination media will require light.  Otherwise, just warmth and moisture will stimulate germination.  However, as soon as seeds germinate and sprouts emerge, they are on the hunt for light.  If there is only limited light available, your seedlings will stretch looking for light, and become thin and weak.  Adequate light levels keep young plants sturdy, healthy and strong.

TIP: At the minimum, a full spectrum fluorescent light fixture should be suspended above your seedlings during germination. For most plant types, 16-24 hours of lighting per day is recommended. For larger areas, CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide) grow lights cover more area for less power versus common T5 fluorescent grow light fixtures. A single SUM150 (150 watt CMH fixture) is plenty of lighting for a three foot by four foot area to raise seedlings to a sturdy few inches tall.  As they get bigger, they will need more light or you can thin the seedlings out to the best specimens and reduce the overall area of coverage to provide increased light intensity.

Growing Transplants, Sowing Seeds Step By Step

Before you get started, have a quick look at this checklist of essentials and useful stuff

-small watering can

-propagation flats and humidity domes

-seeding media: ie plugs, pellets, cubes, or tray inserts for filling with your grow media of choice

-thermometer

-heating mats and control (optional)

-supplemental grow light

-timer (optional)

-pH test kit and adjusters

-permanent marker or label gun

NOTE: you don’t need fertilizer when germinating seeds.  In fact, it could harm them.  However, as soon as seedlings begin to grow a full spectrum diet of plant nutrients is critical for soilless grow medias like peat, coco, rockwool or oasis.

TIP:Fulvic or Humic Acids can improve germination rates and improve the biological characteristics of many types of soilless growing media

Growing Transplants, Step One: The Area

Find a suitable area.  One that doesn’t have cold drafts, ie door ways or windows is best.  Make sure the area is tidy and free of old soil, houseplants, etc.  You don’t want your transplants getting insects or other problems from their surroundings. A table or bench up and off the ground is ideal.

Growing Transplants, Step Two: Supplemental Grow Light

Hang up your grow light.  Make sure that it is well anchored and that any power cords will not get tripped over or wind up in any water that may get spilled. A fluorescent fixture is usually good about twelve inches from the tops of your trays—you will want to be able to adjust the height as seedlings begin to grow,  A 150 watt CMH fixture can be two to three feet above the seeding flats and adjusted as plants begin to grow.

Pictured in our set up is a combination of LED and CMH grow lighting to cover a larger area and assist in growing out transplants–good for 300-400 six inch tall transplants or thousands of seedlings in a 4′ X 8′ area.

Growing Transplants, Step Three: Filling Trays

The most common sized plastic nursery flat measures ten inches by twenty inches.  Theres are often referred to as “ten twenty” flats.  A single flat is a good size for starting around 100 seeds, give or take.  The tighter you pack seeds in earlier on, the sooner you will have to transplant into the next container or cell size up to avoid overcrowding once they begin to grow.

Starter pellets or plugs are convenient and effective, some come as a preformed sheet making it tidy and quick to fill the tray.  Filling the entire tray with a two inch depth of soilless media is an option too, although young plants may suffer more transplant shock when you move them up into the next phase growing transplants.

If you have seedling heat mats, set them up and plug them in now following the suppliers instructions, placing your trays on top.

Growing Transplants, Step Four: Preparing the Seeding Media

Most seeding medias won’t require too much consideration as far as pH goes because you are just adding filtered water to start with.  Rockwool is an exception and requires a pre-soak at a low pH, ie 5.5 for 24 hours to stabilize and counteract the alkaline nature of the material.  For most seeds, the optimal pH in the germination media is 5.8 to 6.4.  This is where a pH test kit and pH adjusters can be handy—they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.

Soak the medium until run off with filtered water that ideally has been pH adjusted to suit your choice of growing media. Wait a little while after soaking and make sure there is no standing water in the trays.  A full tray can be heavy, so be careful picking them up and moving them around or they can rip or tear, especially the budget types.  After draining, let the seeding media warm up to the desired temperature before proceeding.

TIP: A clean turkey baster is a great way to get excess moisture out of your tray without having to move it around.

Growing Transplants, Step Five: Planting Seeds

After the seeding medium is at the right temperature, you are almost ready to plant! Now is the time to create a furrow (shallow trench) or poke holes into the seeding media at the right depth for your seeds, if applicable. As a rule of thumb, plant seeds at least twice the depth of their size.  So if a seed is one eighth of an inch in size, plant at least at a 1/4” depth. A clean chop stick is a surprisingly handy tool for poking seeding depths—you can then use the blunt end for tamping down the media once planted.

Plant your seeds! Emptying out the package onto a clean plate and using clean fingers works well, although seed shakers are also available to make things a little easier and speed up this process.

Sometimes every seed in the pack will germinate, but don’t count on it. Putting two to three seeds per planting hole and then thinning, if necessary, is an easy way to help make sure each plating site in your tray will count.

Tamp down (gently cover) the planted seeds with blunt end of a clean pencil or chopstick.

VERY gently trickle or mist a little filtered water onto the tops of your stater pellets or plating medium—be CAREFUL not to wash tiny seeds away.  This extra bit of extra watering (even though the medium is moist already) helps ensure good seed contact with the most media which is of critical importance.

Caring for Seed Trays During Germination

DO keep a watchful eye on temperature inside the humidity dome; a minimum maximum thermometer is great for this.  Move the light closer or further away and/or adjust heating mat temperature as necessary.

DO NOT let the seed starter media dry out, ever. However, DO ensure that it drains freely and does not stay water logged for prolonged periods (see STEP FOUR, above, for helpful hints)

DO NOT handle the germination media without washing hands throughly; it’s not hard to contaminate moist and warm media with stuff you may have picked up onto your finger tips

DO remove humidity domes once more than 65% of the seeds in the tray have germinated.  If left on for too long, young seedling growth will be very soft and stretch due to excessive humidity levels.

DO start feeding young seedlings with one eighth to one quarter strength  fertilizer once the first true leaves from (the first set of leaves after the seed leaves AKA cotyledon)

Well, that’s it for now—these detailed Step By Step instructions should start you off growing transplants from seed just like a Pro. Stay tuned for Growing Transplants Part Two where we’ll discuss cloning via rooting cuttings, mother plants, transplant and pre-veg.

Above: Cotyledon (seed leaves) are the first to emerge during..

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Hydrologic ARCS System  Automated Reclaimed Condensate System for Hydroponics & Greenhouses

The Hydrologic ARCS system (automated reclaimed condensate system) allows growers to capture extremely pure and healthy water safely and efficiently from the air in their growing environment.  The Hydrologic ARCS system is ideal for hydroponics or greenhouse growers that use environmental equipment like Air Conditioning or DeHumidifiers for grow rooms or greenhouses.  These types of growing appliances remove moisture as water vapor from the air through the coils they use to remove humidity or heat.  Typically, this water goes down the drain via condensate discharge tubing.

Above: A variety of mid-scale water filtration systems from Hydrologic, going clockwise Evolution RO, Stealth RO and ARCS

The product water from the ARCS is perfectly pH balanced, ultra-low PPM and completely free of contaminants, pathogens and bacteria.

More recently CEA (controlled environment agriculture) growers operating sealed growing environments have started to save the condensate water to reapply when it’s time to refill hydroponic reservoirs or watering barrels–often with mixed results due to inconsistencies in the final quality of the water after it’s gone through the appliance, tubing and finally into a capture or holding tank.

The Hydrologic ARCS system improves this water and money saving process.

It’s quite possible to keep re-using the same water over and over again in a well sealed and managed growing environment.  All types of gardens will further benefit from the application of pure, healthy and living water.  As a management tool, it’s also a great way to monitor crop health and uptake–by simply checking the capture tank since last watering or measurement.

Above: How the HydroLogic ARCS system fits into a growing operation to reuse and recycle healthy and pure water

The Turn-Key HVAC condensate reclamation system for ZERO WATER LOSS

Perfectly PH Balanced Product Water

Ultra-Pure and Contaminant Free

Zero Pathogens and Bacteria

1,440 GPD Capacity

Above: This Ideal Air Environmental Equipment can be a free source of pure and healthy water for crops

The Problem:
Condensate water is low in pH, contains harmful heavy metals and can harbor pathogens and bacteria. Condensate water should never be used for any purpose without proper treatment.

The Solution:

The Hydrologic ARCS system works with any application that creates condensate water such as air conditioners and dehumidifiers, and successfully reclaims and purifies the condensate water that would normally go down the drain.

The product water from the ARCS is perfectly pH balanced, ultra-low PPM and completely free of contaminants, pathogens and bacteria.

ARCS product water can then be used for any application requiring pure water and is ideal for horticulture.

Click HERE to Download PDF Sheet

Above: HyperLogic Commercial RO Systems can keep up with high demands for purified water, eg 20,000 US GPD

The post HydroLogic ARCS System appeared first on GROZINE.

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CMH Grow Lights Ceramic Metal Halide Grow Lighting Guide

CMH grow lights have grown to become a well established and proven crop lighting choice for indoor growing or grow rooms. CMH (ceramic metal halide) or sometimes called LEC (light emitting ceramic)  grow lighting systems are also now widely used as a source of supplemental greenhouse lighting.

Sometimes CMH grow lighting gets confused with MH (metal halide) grow lights, and while both are considered full spectrum sources of  HID (high intensity discharge) crop lighting, they are in fact different and distinct. The spectrum emitted by CMH lighting sources intended for crop production is significantly better for photosynthesis and CMH lighting systems typically produce more light for growth (PPFD, photon flux density) per watt of electricity consumed.

Above: Summit-Lighting SUM315 CMH grow lights, daisy chained for easy install.

In grow lighting set ups where there is more than one source of light, the spots where lighting from one source overlaps with another is something worth understanding and taking advantage of.

Of further benefit to growers is the fact that CMH grow lights emit some levels of UV (ultra violet) light wavelengths in sufficient quantity to supplement crop growth. Additions of UV are not essential in producing plant growth, although there are noticeable improvements in crop quality observed including flower density and essential oil production.

Above: higher Kelvin rated CMH lamp (left) versus lower Kelvin rated CMH lamp (right)

CMH grow lights come in a variety of wattages with the 315 watt lamp types being most common.  Some manufacturers promote “630 watt fixtures” or greater, however, these typically contain multiple 315 watt lamps in the fixture or multiple 315 watt arc tubes within the same glass lamp.  Also note that smaller wattages such as 175 watt CMH fixtures are available and have proven practical for smaller scale gardens or for use as supplemental lighting.

Above: DEva 615 watt CMH grow light

Selecting the right wattage CMH grow light for your plant cultivation application and the correct number of fixtures for a given area requires some careful consideration as it can be a significant investment.  Replacing HPS lighting or blending your existing HPS lighting with full spectrum CMH grow lights is a proven choice for reducing power bills and improving crop quality.

The following recommendations for indoor growing (ie, sole light source) are based on years of practical use in the field as well as feedback and input form a variety of growers, both on commercial and hobby scales.

Vegetative Growth

1-315 watt CMH fixtures covers 4′ X 4′ area with a mounting height of 36″ above the plant canopy

1-175 watt CMH fixture covers a 3′ X 3′ area with a mounting height of 24″ above the plant canopy

Flowering, Fruiting & Reproductive Growth

1-630 watt CMH fixture covers 4′ X 4′ area with a mounting height of  36″ above the plant canopy

1-315 watt CMH fixture covers 3′ X 3′ area with a mounting height of 30″ above the plant canopy

1-175 watt CMH fixture covers 2′ X 2′ area with a mounting height of 16″ above the plant canopy.

Notes:

The above recommendations are established guidelines, however, different fixtures, lamp brands, applications, plant types, and other variations can play a factor in determining where the “sweet spot” for your particular set up will be.  PPFD light meters are affordable and accessible and are a worthwhile purchase in helping the grower get the most from their grow light systems and the power they consume to operate them.

Combining CMH Grow Lights with Other Sources Like HPS

When lighting larger areas, using multiple sources of crop lighting is often a requirement to provide sufficient coverage to a given area.  In doing so, some growers will retro fit CMH grow lights to their existing HPS (high pressure sodium) lighting arrangement or choose to include a ratio of CMH fixtures to HPS fixtures in new crop lighting grid installations. In grow lighting set ups where there is more than one source of light, the spots where lighting from one source overlaps with another is something worth understanding and taking advantage of.

Above: Mixed CMH and DE HPS lighting in a sealed hobby grow room

It is possible to stretch the distance at how often fixtures need to be spaced in a given area when using multiple fixtures versus single fixture gardens.  There is expensive computer software that can make these assessments, but typically a good working rule of thumb is that you can add an extra half a foot around your lighting area covered when accounting for overlap between multiple fixtures, all things remaining equal. For example, if normally covering a 4′ X 4′ area with a single fixture, when using Four or more fixtures, each fixture can now cover 4.5′ X 4.5′ because of the overlap or “bleed” that will occur on the outer edges of light foot print produced by each lighting fixture or “lumiere”.

Adding CMH grow lights to other sources of grow lighting is not just limited to HPS, for example LED growers can also benefit from addition of full spectrum CMH lighting to add more blue wavelengths, some red and a healthy dose of plant usable UV wavelengths to the mix.

A “checkerboard” pattern is a common method used to install mixed grow lighting, ie alternating one light source type with another in a checkered pattern. However there are some considerations to be aware of in doing so:

-DE (double ended, high output) HPS and CMH grow lights will have different mounting heights; caution must be taken that a lower hanging fixture is not blocking light from a higher hanging fixture

-CMH grow lights may not have the same sized coverage area versus DE HPS fixtures; this spacing should also be taken into consideration in creating a crop lighting grid.

NOTE: Generally speaking, you don’t need to blast plants with CMH grow lighting as intensely as with HPS to get similar results.  CMH grow lights, watt per watt, cary more usable energy for growth and flowering.  Coupled with the UV levels they emit, it’s OK to have them a little further away from plants–crop growth and flowers typically remain tight versus stretching as with HPS lighting when it is not being delivered from an optimal distance from the plant canopy.

Dual Element CMH Grow Lights

Dural element CMH grow lights, while not common, are a great choice in delivering a well tailored spectrum for growth or bloom using CMH technology.  At Grozine.com we have had two such units running in the field for around two years at the time of this writing and have been thoroughly impressed with the results.  In short, these lighting systems combine two 175 watt CMH arc tubes of different Kelvin (light temperature) ratings in the same lamp.

Since the light source(s) originate within an inch or so from each other, by the time the light is reflected from the lumiere grow light fixture back down to the plant canopy, the colors have throughly blended.  In this fashion, a better spectrum for growth or flowering can be achieved versus standard agro type CMH grow lamps.  Note that a special system is required to operate such lamps.  For more Information on Dual Element CMH Grow Lights Click | HERE |

The post CMH Grow Lights appeared first on GROZINE.

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AVici LED Grow Light Move Over HPS Grow Lighting?

The AVici LED grow light after much anticipation is touching down in grow rooms and greenhouses all over the world. Instead of beating about the bush, we at Grozine are going to come right out and just say it’s love at first sight–just make sure you have protective eye wear on when trying to look at an AVici grow light while it is operating!

The AVici LED grow light represents what many in the industry have long been waiting for, and that’s a direct LED replacement for HPS fixtures, including the more modern DE (double ended) high output HPS grow light models.

As a an early test pilot of LED grow light technology in discussing the potential it holds over 10 years ago, the question posed then and to this day has often been: “Can LED grow lights out produce my HPS lighting system”?  The answer, until now, had varied.  In short, yes, but at what purchase cost and what level of modification to common growing practices and grow room or greenhouse construction, historically speaking.

The AVici LED grow light represents what many in the industry have long been waiting for, and that’s a direct LED replacement for HPS fixtures, including the more modern DE (double ended) high output HPS grow light models.

No need to alter the floor plan for light or plant spacing, no need to change desired finishing heights or planting densities.  The AVici LED grow light delivers very intense and photosynthetically rich lighting for crops at standard fixture heights and spacing.  In fact, the Revolution Micro‘s AVici LED grow light DELIVERS MORE LIGHT FOR PHOTOSYNTHESIS AT THE SAME WATTAGE VERSUS A 1kW DE HPS.  This is a documented fact.  CSA’s independent testing revealed that the AVici LED grow lighting system produces 2300 uMol s-1 at 1kW of power.  Click HERE to see the CSA documentation.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 7, 2019: CSA REPORT, AVici 2400+uMol s-1 at 1157 watts Click |HERE|

Above: AVici independent third party test report, flowering mode 1157 watts (full power)

Above: uMol-s readout directly under the fixture from one meter (3.3′) away from the fixture

For contrast, popular high end 1kW DE HPS crop lights, according to the manufacturer’s own statements are producing 2100 uMol s-1. That number is also likely inflated due to the fact that the ballast may be boosted, possibly running at 1050W or more, while CSA’s testing was a strict 1000W (1kW) in the rating and assessment.  Further, CSA is an independent certification body versus statements that are likely to be generated from a lighting company’s own testing laboratory.

Above: Tuneable Osram diode arrangement in AVici LED grow light

So It’s Brighter–What Else Can it Do?

The AVici LED grow light does things your HPS lighting system will probably never be able to do.  Here’s a quick list:

-instantly change spectral outputs; veg, flower and finish outputs (color change) at the push of a button

-never buy or change a lamp again; besides tailoring light for each growth phase, the diodes do not lose significant intensity over time versus HPS

-no need to replace reflectors; popular DE HPS manufacturers recommend replacing their reflectors periodically, costing money and labor

-easy to clean; just wipe the outer lens if there is any dust present in the growing area

-extremely cool running fixtures; the fixture clocks a mild 72 degF when pointing a temp gun right at the light source versus several hundred degrees with DE HPS, ie cool to the touch for happier plants and a safer working environment.

-customizable diode output ratios; besides selecting from veg, flow and finishing, the operator can use the RLC-1 digital control to tailor the diode ratios within each of those settings for complete made to measure light wavelengths for different plant strains or growing practices.

Smart Functions

The AVici LED grow light can plug straight into a regular timer, and operates at 110-277V, no need to switch settings or rewire anything.  The AVici detects line voltage and operates accordingly, producing 100% light output in the flowering spectrum (which is also OK for all growth phases).  To unlock the full potential of the AVici LED grow light, simply connect the included data cable to RevMicro’s RLC-1 digital lighting controller.  The RLC-1 can also operate smartly with any of RevMicro’s other lighting systems including 1kW DE HPS (DEva) and 630 watt CMH.  Also note that a single RLC-1 control can handle up to 512 lights in two independent zones–all from the same control; no need to buy more controls as you add more lights to the operation.

To learn more about the RLC-1 controller and smart functions for all light types, Click HERE.

Once plugged into the RLC-1, the AVici LED grow light can be programmed to:

-operate at 65-100% output

-shut down at high temperature or incrementally drop output wattage if optimal temperature is exceeded in growing environment

-gradually ramp up or down intensity at “sunrise or sunset”

-operate at pre-programmed veg, flower and finish spectral outputs

-change the color output ratios at each of the three presets (Blue, White, Red ratios-see image above, bottom line of controller screen)

AVici LED Grow Light FAQ’s

Q: Does the output include UV wavelengths?

Answer: No.  Similar to DE HPS lighting, there is no significant UV output, as it is not essential for growth and development.  If you would like to add UV to your lighting system, the RevMicro 630watt CMH lighting or other CMH lighting systems can be added into your lighting grid with the AVici; all from the same controller.

Q: How can the AVici operate so cool while producing so much light?

Answer: The AVici has an amazing heatsink system, the heat is absorbed by the sink and scrubbed away by fans rather than directed where it is not wanted into the plant canopy.  The Avici runs completely cool to the touch, ie room temperature for healthier plants and a safer working environment.

Q: How long will the fixture work for, ie replacement of drivers or fans?

Answer: At least 150,000 hours. The AVici is manufactured to aerospace standards, ie the components are rated for 32 years of working life–so the short answer is a very long time!  At Grozine.com we are going to perform real world testing, over a period of time, and report back for all of our following about what we experience and observe.

Q: What size area does the fixture cover, and from what mounting height over the crop?

Answer: From 4′ X 4 (very intense for flowering) to 6′ X 6′ (vegetative growth). Three feet above the canopy is a good place to start if you seek a very intense lighting footprint for flowering below, based on our experience to date.

Q: Do I have to buy the controller for the light to work?

Answer: No. The AVici LED grow light is ready to operate right out of the box, just plug it into any 110-277V power source.  However, to take advantage of smart functions and controls you will need the RLC-1 controller.

From Revolution Micro:

The post AVici LED Grow Light appeared first on GROZINE.

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Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes Healthy Fruits Grown Neat & Tidy

Growing hydroponic tomatoes is fun and rewarding.  Hydroponic tomatoes can be grown indoors with the help of grow lights, seasonally in your yard or patio or year round in a greenhouse. Tomatoes are full of healthy nutrition like Vitamin C and Iron and can be prepared for eating in a countless number of ways–or best yet, eaten straight off the vine.  Knowing exactly what’s gone into and onto the food you eat or feed your family provides great peace of mind.  There are as many good reasons for you to be growing hydroponic tomatoes as there are ways to enjoy them.

Most cultivars of tomatoes will thrive in hydroponics, while some will grow extra vigorously versus conventional gardening methods

There are hundreds, if not thousand of varieties of tomatoes.  Why be limited to just the few that are available at the grocers?  Tomatoes come in a variety of tastes, colors, shapes, sizes and growth characteristics too.  Once you start growing your own there’s a lifetime of culinary discoveries to be made growing hydroponic tomatoes, especially with all those seed choices. Best of all, most tomato varieties thrive in hydroponics growing methods–even water culture methods where little to no growing substrate is used at all, ie the roots grow in in oxygenated water that has all of the necessary elements required for growth readily available.

There are lots of benefits to hydroponics, especially water culture systems versus traditional or conventional growing methods–it’s no surprise why a lot of the world’s top greenhouse tomato producers grow their crops without soil.

Advantages of Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes (versus conventional)

-uses less water than soil gardening (in our RDWC systems about 50% less)

-total control over fertility levels at the roots for better growth rates and harvest quality

-completely hygienic and tidy–no bags of dirt to lug around or spill if you want to grow indoors and less chance of introducing insects or crop diseases

-faster cropping times; plants get bigger and fruit sooner in hydroponics

-easy clean up and replanting, you can often harvest an entire crop and replant in the same day

-lower fertilizer use

Getting Started Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes

Indoors

Growing hydroponic tomatoes indoors, ie with grow lights, allows year round and uninterrupted production.  In winter months growing hydroponic tomatoes indoors can be especially rewarding versus the often flavorless commercially grown selections available at the grocery store.  Imagine on a cold dark winter day unzipping your grow tent and filling a basket with vine ripened, tasty and firm pesticide free fruits from a variety that suits your tastes and personality; pretty tough to beat! If you decide to grow indoors under lights and don’t already have a grow tent or grow room, you should be prepared to make some investment–the good news is grow equipment has never been more user friendly, accessible or affordable as it is at present day.

Tomatoes are a high light plant and should get 8 to 16 hours of intense grow lighting daily.  If growing indoors under lights it makes sense to select varieties that grow tight and bushy, ie Determinate varieties.  Indeterminate and Semi-Indeterminate varieties are more vine like and can reach indefinite heights.  The vine types can be grown indoors under lights too, although they can pose more of a challenge and may require more lighting versus determinate (bush) varieties.  When growing in hydroponics, plants will often get bigger faster and fruit sooner making your artificial light usage more efficient versus growing tomatoes indoors under lights with soil methods.

For most of the year, it’s easy to provide an optimal climate for growth and ripening indoors when growing hydroponic tomatoes under lights.  When it gets hot outside, some growers will use their grow tent to start lots of plants and move their systems and plants outdoors while the weather is favorable (and the light is free).

Outdoors

Hydroponic systems can work great outdoors and save you lots of water consumption and time.  A hydroponic system or growth module is more or less sealed–so water loss is more directly related to what your plants are drinking up versus what’s evaporating into the air from exposed soil or growing media.  Hydroponic systems are also clean and aesthetically pleasing, so you can set them up seasonally on a patio, porch or balcony with no big mess and pack them away (or better yet bring indoors) once the outdoor growing season is done.  When it comes to choosing a hydroponic system that will spend time outdoors, look for something strong winds cannot carry away as well as materials that can stand up to direct sunlight. Most hydroponic systems will need a source of electricity–typically a grounded extension cord will be ample.  Also note that there are hydroponic systems that work via gravity or capillary means, requiring no electricity.

03-system site location

Greenhouse

A greenhouse provides lots of space to grow hydroponic tomatoes as well as any other plants you might like to grow year round or extend the growing season for.  A seasonal greenhouse keeps power bills low and can add months to the regular growing season–outfitted with heating and grow lights and you can grow year round, and often for less cost in utilities versus indoor gardening–naturally, this depends on how cold it gets where you live and how much natural light is available.

Great Systems for Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes

Wick System

An easy and inexpensive DIY system.  This simple set up will save you on time and watering while giving your crops an advantage as they will always have access to water and nutrients as they need it.  However, wick systems will require growing media and don’t provide increased oxygen levels for roots like water culture systems can, so don’t expect over the top growth rates or yields.  There are lots of basic designs and instructions for a variety of wick systems, a quick search of the web should provide everything you’ll need to know to source and build your own.

Top Feed System

This type of system may or may not require a significant amount growing media–usually, the amount needed is small ie enough to fill a small mesh basket that will support the plant stem.  In a water-based top feed system you can start to realize some of the real benefits of hydroponics, namely increased oxygen levels for roots as well efficient use of water and nutrients.  Typically, these types of systems can be operated as single modules, or can be linked together for larger gardens.  A bucket system is a great example and is an affordable DIY endevor or can be purchased as a complete kit. Dutch Buckets, while requiring growing media, are a very popular choice with professional tomato croppers.

DWC (deep water culture)

A great balance of simplicity, affordability and ease of construction & operation. The DWC system is arguably the oldest hydroponic system design in operation, and has remained as such with good reason.  As long as you keep the system topped up with fresh water and nutrients and provide a good climate there is little to go wrong, ie no moving parts–this can be automated with a simple float valve.  An aquarium or pond air pump and airstones continuously bubble oxygen into the root zone which is maintained in a depth of nutrient solution. While it sounds perfect, there are some hitches.  Salt-build up at the top of the bare roots from air constantly bubbling the nutrient solution upwards and overheating can be problems if not managed.  Reflective insulative bubble wrap is a great way to keep light and heat away from sensitive plant roots during intense conditions.

RDWC (re-circulating deep water culture)

If you want to get maximum production growing hydroponic tomatoes and avoid common issues, we find this type of system to be the best although it comes with a heavier price tag.  RDWC systems like CCH2O‘s Under Current series improve on the timeless DWC design by re-circulating the nutrient solution rather than just bubbling air into the root zone.  The moving water keeps salt build up off of plant roots, adds more oxygen and reduces surface tension around roots.  The result is virtually unparalleled water and nutrient uptake due to saturated oxygen levels. You can grow HUGE plants in RDWC systems that yield heavy.  Believe it or not, you can use 1/4 strength nutrients on GIANT plants–water and nutrient absorption is so efficient in RDWC systems that your tomato plants don’t need all that excess fertilizer; it actually works much better versus using full strength nutrients in this type of system for growing hydroponic tomatoes.

Basic Plant Needs for Growing Hydroponic Tomatoes

Good Quality Water

The first ingredient in  growing hydroponic tomatoes–soil is a lot more forgiving when it comes to water quality because it can buffer metals, minerals, and other impurities.  In hydroponics, impurities from raw water sources can have adverse interactions with your carefully formulated hydroponic fertilizers and can create problems with things like pH, which tomato plants are very sensitive to. RO (reverse osmosis) filtered water is the best to use, but might not be necessary if you can use rain water or have fairly good quality water to begin with. A Dechlorination/Sediment filter can do a good job of making marginally good tap water better suited for growing hydroponic tomatoes.  Well water is typically too hard for use in water culture systems. Your water, after adding nutrients should be pH 5.5 to 6.2 for tomatoes.  Inexpensive liquid pH test kits and liquid pH adjusters are available from hydroponics retailers.

TIP: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER QUALITY AND MAINTAINING THE CORRECT pH WHEN GROWING HYDROPONIC TOMATOES

Inert Growing Media

Growstones, aquarium gravel, coco, rockwool, perlite and vermiculite are well proven and inert growing medias you can use for growing hydroponic tomatoes.  Ideally, you will not need much–the advantages of hydroponics is to reduce the amount of media that roots require–roots will thrive in an aerated nutrient solution better than a growing media that can sometimes get in the way of easy absorption of oxygen, water and nutrients.

Light Tight Root Zone

The system you buy or construct should not let light in.  While it’s a lesser known fact that roots can stand sunlight if kept in 100% humidity, the main reason is that light will encourage algae growth because of all the nutrients, oxygen and moisture surrounding the roots.  A little green algae can be unsightly, while brown algae can be a potential crop killer. Wrapping or covering growth modules in silver reflective bubble wrap helps insulate from temperatures while doing a good job of keeping light away from plant roots. Don’t worry, the rootzone (rhizosphere) can still exchange stale air through the growing media with the outside environment.

Good Quality Fertilizer

While we love a good organic tomato as much as anybody, usually organic nutrients will create problems in hydroponics.  All that organic matter in a warm, wet and oxygenated environment gives way to all kinds of bacteria, fungi etc.  Note that HydroGenesis is a proven working option for hydroponic tomatoes–one of the very few! We highly recommend choosing a specialty hydroponic nutrient.  Common garden fertilizers typically have Ammonium Nitrate in them.  In hydroponics, this create an unstable pH and can lead to over fertilization or “nutrient burn” quickly. Specialty hydroponic fertilizers supply all or most Nitrogen as Nitrate nitrogen which is much friendlier in hydroponics.

TIP: FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURERS DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY WHEN MIXING YOUR NUTRIENT SOLUTION–there should be directions for different stages of growth including rooting/germination, early vegetative growth, vegetative growth, transition, flowering and ripening.  If in doubt, use less than full strength and raise concentration if necessary REMEMBER if you grow in water culture, you can usually apply 1/4 to 1/2 of recommended full strength nutrients and achieve improved results.

Hydroponic Tomato Variety Selection

Most cultivars of tomatoes will thrive in hydroponics, while some will grow extra vigorously versus conventional gardening methods.  So far, our very favourite has been Indigo Rose.  This is a semi-indeterminate variety that gets loaded with purple squash ball sized fruits.  When ripened in colder temperatures the taste is unique and distinctly Plum like (so is the texture).  Purple pigments are called “anthocyanins” and contain antioxidants for health.

There are countless varieties to choose from however.  Cherry tomatoes grow especially well in hydroponics.  However, they tend to be very sweet so are best reserved for salads or eating whole and fresh. A noteworthy variety you might like to try is Yellow Stuffer, which looks like a bell pepper and is perfect for preparing stuffed and baked. Roma tomatoes are nice and fleshy and grow very well in hydroponics.  Naturally these are great for sauces, etc.  Good ole Bush Beefsteak does great in hydroponics too. Compact “Patio” tomato varieties that stay short and finish early are great for growing indoors under lights. We have found heirloom varieties to be a little hit or miss in hydroponics.  When they work, they work really well–there is a lot of diversity in any pack of heirloom tomato seeds.

Did you know, the balance of sugar to acidity in a given tomato variety is largely what determines the taste.

Click HERE to Learn More About Hydroponic Seed Selection

Hydroponic Tomato Care

When growing hydroponic tomatoes, here are some proven tips and practices you can adapt to help ensure your growing success.

Seeding & Germination

Start seeds directly into an inert starter pellet, cube or plug.  Use only filtered or rain water and typically a pH range of 5.5 to 6.2 works best.  No fertilizer is required until tomato plants develop their first set of true leaves (the set that follows the seed leaves).  Tomatoes like warmth, so using a seedling tray with dome maintain high humidity and a steady 67 to 77 deg F.  Once seeds sprout and emerge (usually 7-10 days) remove the humidity dome.  Excessive humidity levels will cause seedlings to S-T-R-E-T-C-H becoming tall, weak and spindly.  A heat mat can help you maintain an optimal temperature.  Lighting also helps keep optimal temperatures, however, tomato seedlings do not need any light until they emerge–after that provide gentle and even lighting for 8 to 16 hours daily. 24/7 is OK too if you don’t have a timer yet.

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DIY Mini Split ReCharge How To Recharge Your R410a MiniSplit AC or Heat Pump

If you bought or installed a mini split AC or Heat Pump for your grow or home with precharged lines it’s likely you’re not getting maximum cooling power, here’s a kit for a DIY Mini Split ReCharge kit that works! By law, in most places, ACs and Heat Pumps supplied with pre-charged lines cannot be shipped charged to full capacity. While convenient and affordable to install following the manufacturer’s instructions, you may be only realizing half of the cooling power your unit can produce. If you sized up your AC for your home or grow room carefully and find things are still getting too warm, this could be the reason for it.

If you have been operating your mini split heat pump or AC for your home or grow room with regularity for over a year, it’s quite possible your system could benefit from a top-up even if it was professionally installed with a full charge (versus half charge with DIY pre-charged lines).

While the principles may be similar in recharging or topping up different mini split systems, this review of Chem Penn’s DIY mini split recharge kit from The Refrigerant Guys is for Air Conditioner or Heat Pump units that operate with environmentally friendlier R410a refrigerant—this is most newer models, but it’s something you need to be absolutely certain of.  The wrong refrigerant in the wrong system could damage your investment—check the specifications of the unit you have. YOU MAY VOID YOUR WARRANTY BE RECHARGING THE SYSTEM YOURSELF, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it effectively and easily to gain significant cooling power from your system.

If you have been operating your mini split heat pump or AC for your home or grow room with regularity for over a year, it’s quite possible your system could benefit from a top-up even if it was professionally installed with a full charge (versus half charge with DIY pre-charged lines).

The Chem Penn DIY mini split recharge kit comes with everything you need right out of the box, including a handy gauge and detailed instructions to see and verify the level of charge your system is operating at and top it off with up to 900 grams of R410a refrigerant.

DIY Mini Split ReCharge, Step By Step:

***Make sure you are wearing gloves and protective eyewear in case of accidental contact with refrigerant.***

First, make sure your system is running—ie the compressor is operating. It is very important that it doesn’t stop running while you are performing this process.  Just turn the thermostat to the lowest cooling setting possible and wait a couple minutes before getting started.

Connect the threaded end of the hose attached to the gauge and canister to the Low Pressure service port on your system (consult your AC/Heat Pump install guid or check with manufacturer if you need to verify).  There is an additional 5/16” adapter with Core Depressor supplied in case the 1/4” SAE fitting doesn’t match your system.

Above: The low pressure valve on this unit is the downward facing connection on the right–works like a bicycle tube valve

TIP: have the right size hex key handy to shut off the valve that connects your lines to the air handler unit in case there is a problem during this process; otherwise just leave it open as it was. Don’t fear, this process is really simple and straightforward, although exercising caution is always a good policy.

Check the pressure indicator that is connected to the hose and recharge tank.  It is easy to read and see. Green (not enough charge), Blue (correct amount of charge), Yellow (too much charge), Red (system has major problems, contact a professional)

If in the Green Zone with your Chemo Penn DIY mini split recharge kit attached, turn the refrigerant canister upside down and press the button for 5 seconds.  See where the gauge goes while remaining attached with the system running for a few minutes; repeat as necessary.

Once you are in the Blue zone on the dial, disconnect the hose/canister from the system BEFORE shutting off the system or readjusting the thermostat back to your desired set temperature.

How Did the DIY Mini Split ReCharge Kit Work?

In our testing, it worked great—turns out the system was quite low and we needed the full 900 grams; possibly more.  That’s what happens when you don’t check or service your mini split AC or Heat Pump for an extended period; live and learn.

Using an infrared temperature checker, we determined we gained an extra 10 Deg F of Cooling Power, that’s around +20% from where we started.  Turns out we could have added more than the 900 gram canister.  If you’ve neglected your pre-charged line system for more than a couple of years you may considering ordering an extra canister.  You can save whatever you don’t used for your next annual check. Way cool.

For more information, contact: The Refrigerant Guys

The post DIY Mini Split ReCharge Kit appeared first on GROZINE.

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Growing Wheatgrass, Easy Steps for Success. Growing Healthy Wheatgrass at Home

Growing wheatgrass is an easy way to grow some of your own nutrition at home.  Growing wheatgrass for juicing or eating raw (for example chopped and sprinkled on some soup) doesn’t cost a lot of money, take up much space or use a lot of electricity compared to growing other types of crops indoors at home.

From start to finish, you can be reaping the rewards of growing wheatgrass in as little as 10-14 days following our method.

According to Wikipedia, Wheatgrass is widely recognized as “a source of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Wheatgrass is also a source of protein (less than one gram per 28 grams).“

Besides the mineral aspects that growing wheatgrass yields, there are lots of other healthy substances like enzymes, saccharides and other co-factors that may lend a boost to your health, vitality and well being.  When grown at home and harvested fresh the taste of wheatgrass is actually quite amazing, contrary to what you may think—deliciously sweet with very little “green” taste when following the method we outline below.

In short, incorporating some wheatgrass into your diet is going to help your health—and besides, it’s a really rewarding feeling when your grow it yourself at home.  Growing wheatgrass is a great family project too—even pets can benefit from having some fresh wheatgrass in their diet.

From start to finish, you can be reaping the rewards of growing wheatgrass in as little as 10-14 days following our method.

Here’s a short list of stuff you will want to have to grow your own wheatgrass at home:

-organic wheat seed (Hard Red Spring Berries are most common)*

-10” X 20” plastic nursery flats (no holes in bottom; re-usuable, btw)

-12 cell inserts for nursery trays (can be plastic or fibre)

-pint or quart sized mason jars with lid collar (one per tray)

-kitchen scale (nice to have, but optional)

-soilless mix (coco, peat, etc) or sterilized potting soil

-earth worm castings (optional)

-filtered water

-warm spot with some sunlight or a small flourescent light or LED light strip

-piece of cheese cloth or window screen

*”Wheat Berries” is another name for wheat (triticum aestivum) seed, and you don’t need to buy anything fancy or expensive—we get our seed as organic red spring wheat from the bulk bins at the Health Food store—yup, it sprouts!

Growing Wheatgrass, Step By Step

Sprouting (around 2 to 3 days)

In our experience, it takes about half a pound (approx 225 grams) of wheatgrass berries to fill and harvest one 10” X 20” nursery flat with 12 insert cells.  So for each tray, you’ll want one pint or quart sized mason jar and half a pound of the Hard Red Spring Wheat Berries.  If you don’t have a scale, it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 way full in a pint sized standard mason jar.

After adding berries to the jar, fill with filtered water.  Use the ring/collar of the mason jar to secure the piece of cheese cloth or window screen as a breathable lid and drain screen.  After about 12 hours, turn the jar upside down over the sink to drain all of the water out, and fill again with filtered water.

Perform the soak and leave the jar(s) somewhere warm, like above the fridge.  Cooler will work too, but it may take longer.

After doing the 12 hour soak and drain twice, the next time you drain the jar after filling do not add more water.  By now, you will notice that the wheatgrass seed has expanded significantly (that’s why the quart size jar is a little easier to work with). DO NOT LET THE WHEAT BERRIES DRY OUT.

At least once a day (twice worked best for us) soak the seeds with fresh filtered water and drain fully.

After 2 or 3 days you should see lots of little white sprouts starting to poke out from the seeds—congratulations, the sprouting phase in growing wheatgrass is completed and you can move onto the next step.

Planting Sprouted Wheatgrass (around 10-15 minutes per tray)

To prepare your trays, rinse plastics with a little bleach and water if you are reusing them from previous gardening. Rinse again with fresh water.

Add about half an inch of pre moistened (moist not wet) soilless growing media or sterilized potting soil to the bottoms of the cells in the tray.  We like soilless because it’s sterile and hygienic,  drains freely and won’t stay water logged or heavy—adding a small pinch of earth worm castings to each cell in the soilless tray is a simple and effective way to add some organic nutrients for growth.

Sprinkle the sprouted wheat berries from the jar in an even layer on the half inch of soil or soilless mix on the bottom, evenly distributing the contents of the jar over the twelve cell inserts. 

TIP: Try not to use your fingers, the emerging sprouts are delicate. Just shake the jar instead.

Sprinkle a small amounts of soil or soilless mix on top, you don’t have to bury the seeds, just help keep them moist.

Growing Wheatgrass Trays

Once planted, ie seeded and lightly covered with soil or soilless mix. Gently water or better yet mist the the cell inserts until you see just a little bit of run-off pool in your nursery tray.  DO NOT OVERWATER OR ALLOW TO SIT IN STANDING WATER.

Growing wheatgrass doesn’t require strong light, so a sunny window is just fine—a fluorescent or LED light strip works good too.  If you are growing 4+ flats at a time consider an energy saving yet very bright and robust 150 watt CMH grow light—you can use it for growing all kinds of other plants too, even veggies, greens, flowers and herbs; it’s a scaled down commercial grow light, essentially.

Temperature will play a strong role in how quickly your wheatgrass grows. Growing wheatgrass at room temperature works great, although it will grow and tolerate slightly cooler temperatures.

Within a day or two you should see some green stubble forming, and within seven days you should have a nice carpet of five to seven inch tall wheatgrass, ready for eating.

You may need to lightly water occasionally; check the flats every couple of days.  Knowing how heavy the flat is from wet to dry is a great way to tell—just lift it up and gauge the weight  Again, it’s important to make sure the roots do not sit in standing water. Always use filtered water—or rain water if you don’t have a good quality water filter at home.  Clean water not only grows wheatgrass better—it serves to improve the taste, ie a sweet and clean taste.

Harvesting & Enjoying the Benefits of Wheatgrass

When growing wheatgrass at home, harvesting should be done right before you eat it. Using a clean pair of scissors or a sharp knife (careful) just hold the wheat grass at the top with one hand and cut about half an inch up from the base. Note, it can grow back to be harvested again.

You can finely chop the wheatgrass and sprinkle fresh on soups just before eating and it’s also great in smoothies.

Juicing wheatgrass is very popular. Rotary style juicers are most common (we picked up a high quality one from a thrift store for ten dollars) but they do not do the best job of converting your wheatgrass to juice.  About three cells worth from the tray with an added jigger of fresh filtered water yields a very tasty and lively full shot of homegrown wheatgrass juice with one of these common juicers. 

Manual screw-type juicers are very popular along with a variety of electric types.  There’s a huge range of juicers out there, just be sure to look for ones intended for wheatgrass because it’s different than trying to juice solid fruits like apples, oranges, carrots, beets, etc.

Bottom’s Up! Here’s to your health.

The post Growing Wheatgrass appeared first on GROZINE.

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RediRoot Aeration Pots Review Aeration Plant Containers, Gimmick or Great?

For the purpose of a conducting a real world RediRoot Aeration Pots Review, we opted to pot up our crop of soilless dwarf sunflowers growing in a side by side trial into RediRoot #3 pots. We’ve heard from various growers, both in hydroponics and using traditional soil growing methods that they were achieving better yields and crop quality in their harvests simply by switching the type of container they used for their final transplant and by watering or fertigating accordingly.

Experienced growers know that when a growing media can be watered more often without risk of staying too wet, crop performance is improved. Each crop watering or fertigation not only provides water and nutrients; it also adds dissolved oxygen for roots

While sounding like an easy way to get better results, we had to wonder “Can a plant container type really make a difference in crop performance, given the same volume capacity to hold a substrate like coco or peat mixes”? i.e. a 3 gallon pot is a 3 gallon pot.

What’s a RediRoot Aeration Pot?

An aeration pot or container works like a conventional plastic or clay pot in the sense that it holds a specified amount of growing media and has holes at the bottom for drainage. What sets an aeration container part from a regular container is that the sidewalls and bottom are considerably more open for drainage and aeration, ie Breathable.

Consider that in nature the soil breathes quite freely, ie for draining excess moisture away, prevents heat build up around sensitive roots and allows for healthy gas exchange, ie roots breathe in oxygen and stale used air can escape.

Conventional plastic pots restrict all these natural and beneficial processes that occur in soil. A further disadvantage to regular plastic pots is that they promote “Spin Out”. This occurs when roots are trying to grow and branch—however, when they hit a solid surface with no air exchange, they just keep winding downwards in search of air and do not branch extensively.

That’s part of the reason why in regular plastic pots and nursery containers we see most root growth in a circular pattern growing between the pot and the soil rather than actually through the soil.

As you can see from the open mesh like construction of RediRoot aeration pots, the sidewalls and bottom of the pots can breathe and drain more freely. The advantages claimed are that roots will branch rather than spinning out, filling the entire container with healthy thick root growth rather than just the space between the pot and the growing media. More roots means more fruits.

Experienced growers know that when a growing media can be watered more often without risk of staying too wet, crop performance is improved. Each crop watering or fertigation not only provides water and nutrients; it also adds dissolved oxygen for roots to take in while pushing out stale and depleted air pockets from the soil

Greenhouse Growing RediRoot Aeration Pots Review

For our RediRoot aeration pots review we decided to use their #3 pot, which holds a similar amount of grow substrate as a regular three gallon pot, in both our Control and Treatment blocks of plants we were growing out to asses the efficacy of using a specialty Fulvic Acid product. We grew Dwarf Sunflowers, which we started in late Summer, anticipating a Fall Harvest of flowers or oilseed (sunflower seeds, ie bird feed).

The two blocks of plants consisted of nine plants each, spaced approximately one plant per square foot. The plants were potted up in the RediRoot aeration containers using a premium ready to use coco coir and were drip fed with Elite Garden nutrients from a reservoir filled with EvolutionRO filtered water in a drain to waste application. While one of the blocks of plants received Fulvic Acid as a treatment, all other factors were maintained equal.

Aeration Pots in the Heat

Initially, the greenhouses climate was hot with lots of ventilation as we were still growing in summer months. Irrigation frequency was relatively high—we were typically applying one litre of nutrient solution per pot daily or every other day depending on the intensity of natural lighting conditions.

We loved how readily the aeration containers drained and breathed. Because of the improved drainage and breathing we could water more often, to push the crop for more growth and development during optimal conditions. It also meant that out crop roots would not be sitting in warm stagnant pooled water inside the container, so less risk of root diseases or developing fungus gnats.

Aeration Pots in the Cold

As things cool off late in the season here in the Canadian Pacific NorthWest the outdoor climate can be cold, damp and dark very quickly-making a great test for our RediRoot Aeration Pots Review. This began to occur just as our crop of heat loving sunflowers has fully formed some gorgeous looking flowers on thick healthy and green leaf covered stems. This can spell disaster or poor performance from what could otherwise be a great crop—we’ve seen it before: when it gets ugly outside, root remain wet and cold with little light to stimulate the plants. Crown rot and root rot are not uncommon when things shift this quickly.

While we have some control over the environment in the greenhouse with Summit-Lighting SUM315 ceramic metal hailed lamps, heating and ventilation, plat roots tend to stay wetter and cooler because of outside conditions.

The final couple weeks of nail biting paid off—we were able to keep the crop moving forward to full blooms because we could still fertigate, while not as often, due to the increased level of drainage and aeration our crop of sunflowers was getting from the RediRoot Aeration pots.

If the crop had been potted in conventional containers we would likely have encountered problems with stem or root rot—even with drastically reduced watering that would have also slowed growth and development to a crawl.

Final Summation in RediRoot Aeration Pots Review #1

We love ‘em! It seems they saved our beautiful crop of sunflowers from potentially serious problems or at the very least improved production where we would have otherwise expected diminished results due to poor conditions outdoors. Looking at the roots as a final inspection in the floral phase of this crop, they look thick, healthy white and vibrant with no signs of discolouration or rotting as may have otherwise occurred.

We intend to grow a future crop, side by using RediRoot containers versus conventional pots to reinforce what we have already learned and experienced—stay tuned!

Company: RediRoot.com

Product: RediRoot Aeration Pot #3

Description: Sturdy, well made 3 gallon nursery pot with an open mesh webbed design on sidewalls and bottom that provides a more open structure for root drainage and breathability versus standard plastic nursery pots.

Advantages:

-around same cost as standard container or pot
-sturdy, thick construction; withstands real world use
-plastic does not appear to fade or get brittle in sunlight
-keeps growing media, ie coco in the pot very well while allowing lots of air exchange and drainage
-allows for more frequent irrigation to push growth
-helps prevent root rot and stem rot

Not So Much:

-not a thing

Grozine Rated: 5/5

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Infinity Tray Rolling Bench Review Active Aqua Hydroponic Rolling Benches & Trays, Up For the Task?

We are pleased to share our real world growing experience in this Active Aqua Infinity Tray Rolling Bench Review. Our hydroponic greenhouse provides indoor growing year round for a variety of crops. We use supplemental lighting like DE HPS and Ceramic Metal Halide to lengthen days and increase grow light intensity as required seasonally.

During Late Summer months, when our Test Crop of Dwarf Sunflowers (we are testing Fulvic Acid versus a Control) was started, we set up our ActiveAqua Infinity Tray Rolling Bench system.

Somebody even with just minimal building experience shouldn’t have any issues with the construction following the drawings supplied.
To See How the ActiveAqua Drip Tray Rolling Bench System was Assembled CLICK HERE

For our Infinity Tray rolling bench review, we are supporting EIGHTEEN 3 Gallon (#3 RediRoot) containers filled with premium coco coir.  A drip system supplies each of the containers with a 4 LPH (litres per hour; roughly one gallon) emitter with EvolutionRO filtered water containing Elite Garden Nutrients A Veg formula and B bloom formula.  The nutrient solution is maintained at pH 5.8 and is set up as drain to waste.

For the purposes of our Infinity Tray Rolling Bench review, it’s safe to say there is a significant amount of weight that needs to be supported by the metal framed bench system and plastic tray, especially as  the EIGHTEEN #3 pots becomes saturates to run off with nutrient solution during each irrigation cycle.

Above: these Sunflowers were small but hungry; we increased the EC strength and kept the pH at 5.8

We take advantage of the “Floating Aisleway” created by the rolling bench top to conserve space in the greenhouse.  This way, we can keep the bench flush against the end wall and roll the top to create a comfortable aisleway between the bench and the end wall to perform tasks like checking emitters, taking measurements, routine inspection, etc. For larger scale operations, this can add up to big gains in crop production while keeping the same operating costs.

So How Did the Rolling Bench System Work Out?

Without issue, we have found it to do a great job of supporting the crop load while rolling the bench top to either side of the centre position easily.  The bench is very stable, both when stationary and when rolled to either side.  While we don’t recommend it, we even stood on  top of the bench.  As you can see from the photos, it did not damage or buckle.

The rolling bench system arrives as as surprisingly compact package for easy transport, however, that means some labour and time is required for assembly.  All in all, it goes together pretty smooth with a minimal of tools required. Somebody even with just minimal building experience shouldn’t have any issues with the construction following the drawings supplied.

During our Infinity Tray rolling review we have occasionally spilled nutrient solution onto the metal components, and evidently the galvanized construction has not discolored or corroded etc from the slightly acidic and saline nature of the nutrient solution that feeds our hydroponic dwarf sunflowers.

Overall, we rank the system as a good value–especially for what the tidy package can save on shipping versus traditional rolling bench systems from decades ago.  The labor for assembly isn’t too bad, especially if done with two persons on more than one system; the trade off in shipping savings is substantially favorable in our opinion.

What About the Infinity Tray?

Even in direct sunlight with summer intensities we have not observed any discoloration, flaking or brittleness in the plastic trays joined together with a special adhesive during our Infinity Tray rolling bench review.  Further, the joint where the two, four foot by four foot portions slide together in an overlap and that are secured with a non toxic adhesive are holding up water tight, even while supporting the full weight of the crop load and an unplanned walk-on by the grower.

The system works; the “Infinity” concept of the trays has proven sound during our testing.  This allows more compact transport of drip or flood trays, as the ActiveAqua Infinity Trays come in four foot long sections that can be joined to any practical working length.

Further, we like the white plastic versus black, as during summer months it does not heat up, not cooking roots and reflects some light back up to the plants when they are young enough that the canopy isn’t shading the table.

Overall Rating: 4/5 We Like:

Durability; withstand rugged real world day to day hydroponic use under full crop load

Compact package; we don’t like paying more than we have to for shipping, ie no oversized items

Clean and aesthetically pleasing; a well thought out design using minimal weight components for maximum support capabilities

Any practical length is possible; want a 32′ long drip tray; no problem, get 8 tray sections and assemble in less than one hour, including rolling bench support

Not So Much:

Assembly, while we favor this over paying shipping costs, nonetheless.

The post Infinity Tray Rolling Bench Review appeared first on GROZINE.

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OpenGrow GroLab Review One Year Greenhouse Trial, Computer Grow Automation

After almost 12 months of continuous greenhouse use of our OpenGrow GroLab computer based grow room automation controller we are confident in offering the following OpenGrow GroLab Review to anybody interested in adopting PC based computer automation to their growing enterprise.

Hardware aside, just like anything else computer based the software and support to run the hardware are a very important part of the equation; and computer based grow room controls have proved to be no exception.

A greenhouse can be a tough environment on electronics, so if something stands up to the temperatures, moisture and higher wattage appliances we cycle ON or OFF to grow our crops, chances are it will also work for you, whether you grow indoors under lights or in a greenhouse.

Hardware aside, just like anything else computer based the software and support to run the hardware are a very important part of the equation; and computer based grow room controls have proved to be no exception.

If you want more background on the actual real world installation and what we were hoping to gain from adding Computer Controlled Grow Automation, please have a read and look through our earlier article.

Installation

Firstly, we are not computer experts here, at all. As long as you have a Windows 10 based platform or better the software from OpenGrow is easy to install to your PC computer and operate. No different than any common programs or Apps you may like to run. Visually it flows well too.

Considering the level of sophistication you are getting from the hardware to perform growing automation tasks, it was relatively easy to get the devices talking to one another. The GroNode is the hub that communicates with other OpenGrow control devices, in this case the PowerBot, which relays power On or Off to Four 110/120V outlets to 1200 watts (240V outlets also available for up to 2400 watts direct)

The GroNode gets plugged into your router and a power supply, in our case this stays outside of the greenhouse, in our case at a distance of around 24 feet (nearby building). The PowerBot gets plugged into a power supply in the greenhouse. Note that this is on the short end of the claimed range–so you can go considerably greater distances with a clear line of sight.

The PowerBot can handle up too 1200 watts of gear directly, which is OK for most hobbyists. However, since we use it run lights, heaters and other higher amperage appliances, the power plugs from the PowerBot are connected to higher amperage circuits that use relay boxes—the 120V plugs shut ON/OFF individual 220/240V powered circuits.

The GroNode stays connected to the PowerBot via Radio Frequency. Initially, we had some issues staying connected because of radio frequencies from other devices we had in the immediate area. However, the interface on the software end allowed us to choose between five different RF channels between the devices to stay connected. For the most part, this will correct any RF connectivity issues and the system has reasonable good range for most locations.

Operating the OpenGrow GroLab Automation System

An incredible degree of flexibility has been engineered into this system, and yet it remains very user friendly. So long as you know what you want your appliances to do in the growing environment, the GroLab makes it very easy to have everything running very smoothly, even if you demand a very high level of sophistication and smart commands.

It’s always pleasing to use a piece of grow gear that you can tell has been designed by somebody who actually knows something about growing—for example versus a “me too” company that might not know anything about growing while specializing in automation—the GroLab system bridges these two schools beautifully. Don’t underestimate how important this is; we think it’s one of the strongest features the GroLab offers.

The online tutorial videos available from OpenGrow.pt are worthwhile; they can help you get more out of your GroLab system, ie fine tuning, setting priorities (to streamline how having more than one command on the same appliance will work).

However, just running the basics is really user friendly and doesn’t require much of your time—just know what you want the system to do for you and set your Alarms, Alerts and Schedules for each appliance you want controlled. The GroLab system can make it easy to have rest done for you. This is definitely an area where it shows the minds behind OpenGrow know a thing or two about growing.

OpenGrow GroLab Review, Final Impressions and Notes

We gradually implemented to Full Automation of our hydroponics greenhouse, ie learning to control one aspect or plug at a time rather than switching over all of our systems overnight and walking away. OpenGrow can offer direct support if you do want to set up complete control right out of the box, ie preprogrammed, plug it in and walk away. We feel it’s best to get to know systems that control your grow very well before completely handing over the fate of your crop to any device—so exercise some patience.

The system has performed up to, and in some areas exceeded our expectations, from all aspects including hardware, software and support for our OpenGrow GroLab Review.

Of these three areas, we’d like to see a little bit of beefing up in the hardware. It’s beautifully designed and functional, however, our growing universe can be a little rough and chaotic—robust build characteristics help avoid problems that can stem from these conditions.

Months after solving our initial RF connectivity hiccups for our OpenGrow GroLab review, the RF connectivity quit completely. We received a replacement unit within days and have had no issues whatsoever since.

More points are awarded in our OpenGrow GroLab review for the modular and highly expendable nature of the design and concept. You can add as many PowerBots as needed, controlling different rooms, in veg and bloom all from one tidy and easy to understand interface.

You can also add sophisticated controls for CO2, irrigation, nutrient monitoring & dosing and more—just about anything you need to control your growing universe can be automated and made easy to control from your PC using the OpenGrow platform. Also note, for the purposes of our OpenGrow GroLab review, that you can work directly with OpenGrow and have them design and program a very complex or basic system for you from the modules they offer—they are easy to work with and understand your needs, based on our experiences.

The ability to chart your data (for example temperature in a specified number of days) via export to spreadsheet from the data back up can be a very valuable tool to growers, you can create some very telling charts and graphs—however, your ability to do this is going to depend understanding and working with programs like Excel. Again, the OpenGrow support team can help you here too.

Naturally, you can have your GroLab system alert you when problems arise or when set points are exceeded via email.

Grozine OpenGrow GroLab Review: 4.5/5 stars

We would recommend OpenGrow to anybody looking to adopt computer automation to their grow room or greenhouse who has some level of technological savvy. Otherwise, you can still do fine if you are prepared to invest a little time in the learning curve (we could say that for any higher level technology you may like to adopt and depend on).

Benefits:

-healthier crops, noticeable difference in production from a more controlled environment

-saves on time, especially regular monitoring and checks; easy to see what’s going on from the computer, ie temperature, humidity, ventilation, heating, cooling, etc. NOTE interface is set up for adding cameras too

-compared to buying all analog controls to perform similar tasks to the GroLab (although with less sophistication) the GroLab is a good value in terms of price

-saves money on power, because you can “train” your appliances to work together and run more efficiently, ie your cooling system and heating system won’t conflict.

-unbeatable support and fairly user friendly considering you can control every aspect of your grow from a computer remotely from anywhere in the world; immeasurable benefits in this regard

Not So Much:

A beefier build would be welcomed, although the existing design runs and looks like a high end watch—won’t skip a second, just handle it carefully.

The post OpenGrow GroLab Review appeared first on GROZINE.

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