Future Garden is the number one hydroponics distributor in Essex. Our passionate approach to providing the best plant growing products and indoor growing advice has made us into one of the UK’s leading suppliers of hydroponics and indoor gardening equipment.
To understand how to care for your plants properly it is essential to recognise and understand the different stages of a plant’s lifecycle. In doing so you will be able to give your plants exactly what they need, when they need it, and as a result achieve larger, better quality yields. The more you understand your plant the better equipped you will be to achieve the best of the plant’s potential.
The 3 main stages of plant growth these are;
1.Propagation – this is the starting and establishing of new and young plants.
2. Vegetative (Veg) – this is the overall growing and strengthening of the plant’s mass in preparation for Flowering.
3. Flower (Bloom) – this stage is when overall plant growth slows and the plants produce their flowers and fruits.
To make this as simple as possible we will break down each stage one by one.
Strictly speaking a plant’s lifecycle begins with the germination of a seed. Whilst many people grow from seed, just as many choose to start their plants from a cutting taken from another mature plant that is replanted and raised to full bloom. There are pros and cons for choosing either, so do your research before you start and choose what works best for you.
During propagation your cuttings or seedlings should spend 1-2 weeks (some plants may take longer) in a propagator. This essentially is a mini greenhouse with a clear plastic lid that lets in light whilst retaining heat and moisture.
For the duration of propagation your lights should be on/over the plant’s constantly, 24 hours a day. To get the most out of your plants in this stage you should ideally use a propagation light. The perfect temperature range inside your propagator is 22C-27C (dependent on your plant) and you need to aim for a humidity of between 70-90%.
To hit these conditions you will need to raise or lower the light, mist with more water or open and close the ventilation ports on the propagator.
Growers top tip – Remember that cuttings do not yet have roots and will take in water through the leaves and stems. In this instance therefore, the inside of the propagator needs to be kept at the higher end of the humidity range at all times until the roots start to grow.
In the vegetative stage your plants will be going through a huge growth period, in preparation to produce the best fruits possible. It’s important to remember here that in the vegetative stage the aim is to grow the whole structure of the plant to be as large and strong as possible. What I’m trying to say here is that not only do you want what is above the soil to grow, but also what’s below. It is so important to get your root network strong and efficient at this stage. There’s an old saying…”bigger the roots, bigger the fruits”. And it’s well worth remembering!
A specialist grow light should be used going forward from this stage of the plants lifecycle if you want to get the very best out of then. The light cycle should be set to 18 hours on, 6 hours off. The temperature at the top of the plants (the canopy), with lights on should ideally be between 21-28C. When lights are off it should dip by no more than 10C. The humidity is the vegetative stage should be ideally above 60%.
How long you keep your plants in “veg” is completely up to you and all depends on what you are growing, and what you want out of those plants. In a indoor growing environment most growers will “veg” for between 2-4 weeks, however, plants can be kept in Veg much longer if needed.
The Flowering phase will depend on what you’re growing and where. As an example however a common standard indoor flowering period is 8 weeks (with this is mind we will talk through the rest of this process as if we are talking about an 8 week flowering plant in an indoor growing environment). The Flowering stage is better understood when broken down into 2 sub-periods, “pre-flowering” and “flowering”. When moving into this new stage, if you are growing indoors you will need to change your light times once again. The light cycle should now be set to 12 hours on, 12 hours off. This will ensure that you will get the upmost out of your plants. The temperature at the canopy of the plants, with lights on should ideally be between 21-28C. When lights are off it should dip no more than 10C. The humidity level during the flower stage should ideally be below 40%.
This phase is the period between the last week of the veg phase until the end of week 4 of Flowering. Basically, the mid point in the total flowering time. In the first 2 weeks of flower your plant will make the transition from simply growing in size to concentrating its energies towards flower and fruit production. There should be rapid growth within these first few weeks, sometimes referred to as “the stretch”. In this first half of the flowering stage plants can quadruple in size. As the plants near the end of this phase the over all growth will slow down as flower/ fruiting sites begin to appear, marking the end of the pre-flowering period.
This is when the plant concentrates all its energies on producing more flowering sites. From here on in it’s all about getting the biggest tastiest most attractive flowers and fruit. If this stage is executed well then fruiting branches can become so laden down that they may need to be tied up to prevent snapping and/or damaging the rest of the plant.
So there you have a brief overview of the phases of a plant’s growth and bloom. When growing in an indoor environment the length of the plants natural lifecycle can be reduced massively. This mixed in with the use of specialist fertilisers means that not only can the length of the grow time be compacted down from 12 months into around 12 weeks, but the yields produced can also be larger than you would see from the same plant growing in its natural environment.
All plants have their optimum temperature, where growth and development are maximised. Temperature when growing indoors is essential to how efficiently your plants will grow and in turn what they will produce. When replicating a plant’s natural environment you must strive to provide the plant with as close to perfect conditions as possible. If you want the best results however and you are in a controlled indoor growing environment, you can manipulate and push these natural environmental conditions to the absolute optimal limit and in dong so you will get the very most from your plant.
All plants are different, and you should check the specifics for the species that you are growing but the general rule is that every plant has a temperature sweet spot (some call this the “goldilocks temperature”). Again, because the plant is growing in an indoor environment you have the opportunity to dial into this sweet spot and reach the plants maximum potential.
One of the first things you should take the time to learn to do when growing indoors, is how to take the temperature in your grow room accurately, as environment is everything. Thermometers come in many forms and at many prices but to be precise I would go for a digital model. They give more accurate results and include helpful features such as memory recall, and min, and max temperature settings. Thermometers with a temperature sensor that you can hang inside the room, but that allow you to keep the control panel outside are also useful as they allow you to accurately record the temperature without disturbing the environment, whether it’s lights on or off. You must also measure the temperature in a variety of spots in your grow room. The best places are in the shadier areas and at the canopy level of the plants but not directly under the lights or right by the fans, as this may give a distorted result. There are also inexpensive Wireless Bluetooth models that Log and chart the grow room temperature and humidity over time, allowing much more accuracy than min/max thermometers due to the precise timings, giving you much more info on when temperature events occur.
Let’s break it down now then and see what the optimum temperatures are throughout your grow, how you maintain them, how other factors may influence them (positively or negatively) and what remedies we have for this.
Cold Temperatures in the grow room
When growing in an indoor environment one of the keys to a successful yield is a good environment. One of the major contributing factors to a good environment is temperature. Temperature has a knock on effect on all processes that your plant performs. If the temperature in your grow room is too low it will affect photosynthesis by reducing the evaporation through the leaves. This means that the suction force that takes nutrients up from the roots is decreased. In turn this increases acidity in the medium due to a build up of the nutrients that have not been absorbed. High acidity in the growing medium is not a good thing as it stops the roots working efficiently, meaning that the plant will be taking up less nutrients and water which can slow or completely stunt growth.
Warm Temperatures in the grow room
In contrast if the temperature in your grow room is too high it can have just as adverse an effect. Too much warmth can have a serious effect on how long it takes your plants to grow, especially during Flower. If temperatures get too high during Flower then it can affect both the aroma and taste of your end product as essential oils and terpene’s disappear from your plants when overheated. It’s not just during Flower that high temperatures can cause issues however, there are a multitude of problems that can arise from an overheated grow room including, nutrient burn from increased water transpiration at high temperatures and mildew which can form if conditions become too humid. If the temperature at the canopy of your plants is too high then it can decrease the rate of photosynthesis which will have a negative knock on effect on all the processes that your plant performs.
Grow room Temperature – The balancing act
Getting temperature conditions just right dependent on a number of variables. The size of your grow room, the location, the airflow, the number and intensity of the lights, the power of your fans, the quality of your extraction equipment, the plants your are growing, the list goes on. For instance, a grow tent in your basement will naturally be a lot cooler than one in your loft.
In an ideal world your grow room needs to have a consistent uniform temperature across its entirety. This can be difficult to achieve due to the high intensity lighting that produces an excess of heat, especially in the areas directly around the bulbs. HPS lamps are the most popular lighting choice, and produce large amounts of heat of up to 50C and this is why adequate fans and extraction is essential!
If despite your best efforts, you are still experiencing high temperature issues then you could try running your lights through the night when the surrounding temperatures and therefore the air being sucked in to your grow room is much cooler. This is particularly effective if you are growing in a warmer climate or through the summer. If ”lights on” through the night is not an option then you could try and use an air conditioning unit within the area surrounding your growing environment to lower the temperature of any air flow.
You should have at least 2 fans in your grow room, an intake fan that is sucking fresh cool air in to the environment (preferably from a clean outside source) and an out-take fan that is taking the warm air out of the growing environment. Fans and lights should be chosen in relation to the size of your growing space, getting this right will give you a good starting point from which to work from. Having the ability to change the air flow rates of both your intake and out-take fans whilst they are working in your growing environment is essential to dialing in the optimal conditions.
You should additionally have at least one oscillating, air movement fan that is generally just keeping the air moving around inside the grow room and eliminating any hot spots. In tents, clip on fans are perfect as you can attach them directly to the poles, so they don’t take up any floor space.
Optimal temperature and humidity through the stages of growth.
Plants perform best at different temperatures and humidity depending on the stage of life they’re in. Young seedlings and clones have a limited capability of up-taking water and nutrients due to a developing root system. As the plants move into the vegetative stage, they can cope with higher transpiration rates, so a slightly lower humidity is advised. As plants go into bloom, they require low humidity to further increase transpiration and reduce the chances of rot.
Propagation (lights on)
For the propagation stage most plants like it warm and wet. Between 23C-27C is the safe zone for temperature and between 70 – 90% humidity.
Vegetative (lights on)
For the vegetative stage most plants like it warmer and wet. Between 24C-28C is the safe zone for temperature and between 50 – 70% humidity.
Flower (lights on)
For the flowering stage most plants like it warmer and dry. Between 25C-29C is the safe zone for temperature and between 40 – 50% humidity.
The golden rule here is to not let it drop more than 10C below daytime temperatures. If you can keep it to 5C or less, then this is perfect as at this temperature the plant can rest and transpire without any risk of temperature change stress. Plus, in colder temperatures, mould and fungi can develop. The build up of condensation and moisture created by cold conditions directly after warm conditions is the perfect breeding ground for mould growth which could then write off your whole crop and in some cases your equipment too.
To fight this sudden temperature reduction the use of a heater with a thermostat set to your minimum temp level is ideal. This is a good time to remind you to really consider the location of your grow room before you start your plants off. Ask yourself is it warm/cool enough? Can I easily cool/ heat it up if I need to? Another way to retain heat in colder conditions is to turn your extraction fans down at the same time that your lights go off
It may seem a big mountain to climb with so many variables to monitor and alter, and it may take you a few grow cycles to perfect it, but it really is worth putting the hard work in and finding your ideal “set up” and the perfect “sweet spot” for your plants. To attain and maintain the optimum temperatures for your plants is a constantly evolving task. Don’t forget that as well as everything that we have already mentioned, that as your plants grow, the environment will change. This will happen on a day by day basis as the plants take up more space, drink more feed and photosynthesise.
If you want big yields you have got to master how to get and maintain the optimal temperatures within your grow-room.
It’s often boasted that LEDs are a new way of growing. That they’re more efficient and more effective than traditional HID and HPS lamps. But is this really the case or are they just an overhyped product? Is it all just good marketing? LEDs are certainly a complex issue, they’ve developed a lot, especially in the last few years. In this article, we explore the myths and facts behind LEDs.
LEDs are a robust source of light for your plants. Many of these lights allow you to easily isolate and alter the light variance as the plant goes through its growth cycle. You see, while white light is composed of all colours, your plants won’t always need an equal balance of all colours. This means when your plants are in their vegetative state, you can easily move more of the lights through to the blue end of the spectrum. Conversely when they’re starting to fruit or flower, you can move the lights closer to the red end of the spectrum. But it’s important to note that certain build materials, such as silicone, will yellow or ghost up over time. This in turn will alter the spectrum and efficiency of the light. We recommend only buying LEDs using glass or acrylic glass.
LEDs are super cool. This means they produce little to no heat which allows you to run them closer to your plants without fear of burning your crop. This is especially attractive for growers for whom space is a premium. If you can maximise your environment’s space, you can certainly maximise your end yield as well. However, this said, it is important to avoid buying LEDs that deny you access to the inside. This is because as a result of not burning things in close range, mildew and other plant activity can build up and actively infect your plants. So make sure to clean your fixtures regularly.
LEDs are energy efficient. This is certainly true in terms of the lumens they produce and this is why many lights in households have switched to forms and variants of LED lighting. However, for plants this needs to be measured on a different metric: Micromoles. Micromoles are what your plant uses to photosynthesize effectively. So, are they efficient in this regard as well? Well…
There’s been some very big claims made by LED manufactures and as a grower, you’ll always need to be informed on what’s true and what’s just a big pile of compost. The best way to be informed is to look at data and luckily for you, we are privy to a multitude of experiments into how these LEDs perform.
So what did our studies find us? Well in one study, a grower tested many differing LEDs and found there was a large variance in the effectiveness of the systems. In one test, a light pulled 315w but only produced a yield of 4oz, that’s just 0.35 grams per watt. In another test, the same grower was able to see a 450w light produce 1lb 13oz in the yield, resulting in 1.8 grams per watt. That’s a massive difference, with the latter light being over five times as effective as the former.
However, out of the lights the grower tested, the average yield equated out to around 0.99 grams per watt. Which is comparable to a standard HID lamp. But it begs the question: “But didn’t you just mention a 1.8 gram per watt result?” Why indeed we did! And luckily for you, we stock LEDs that can certainly perform up a storm!
If you still aren’t sure about LED lights, we recommend checking out Everest Fernandez’s videos on the matter. In this video, he covers some of the latest developments in Hydroponics, including LED lights and how they compare.
Want bigger, better, stronger crops with healthier roots and a more intense yield than ever before? Our expert guide on improving your flood and drain will maximise your system and minimise your issues!
#1. Clean your system
It’s so basic but so many people forget that if a system isn’t kept clean, dirt and grime can build up and block pipework. We recommend regularly checking and cleaning your float switches in the brain pot, removing any sediment or debris that begins to build up in your reservoir and in addition, rinsing out your reservoir between refills. It’s also a good idea to use a sterilizing agent to fully clean the system, otherwise you could have future issues.
#2. Ensure your pipes are not blocked by your roots
One of the biggest issues that flood and drain users have is that roots end up blocking the feed pipe. This is because these systems both fill and empty through the same tubing. To ensure this doesn’t happen, our experts recommend rotating the inner pot by 45 degrees (about a quarter turn) in the same direction every couple of days. Have you’ve purchased an IWS Flood System? These come with copper root control discs that will prevent the roots from going wild in the water and we’ve found these are especially effective at preventing blockages from forming.
If you suspect you have a blockage caused by your roots, simply pour around 5-8 litres of nutrient solution in from the top of the container. Of course, if the solution drains quickly, you likely don’t have a blockage. However, if it sits and takes time to drain, you likely do have a blockage. It should be noted, however, that this test only works well with clay pebbles, perlite, growstones or other fast-draining media. With any other medium the water retention may cause it to drain slowly regardless of any blockage. If it turns out you do indeed have a blockage, simply remove the inner pot and check the tube for any roots or debris.
#3: Select your growing media correctly
Now depending on what you are growing, this varies a bit. Many people will tell you it comes down to personal preference. However, keep in mind that you need Low to Medium WHC (Water Holding Capacity) and High AFP (Air Filled Porosity) as key components to your media selection. Otherwise water retention will be too great to be effective in your system.
If you’re flooding more frequently, our experts suggest using clay pebbles. Simple and easy to use but tried and tested. And as an added side-effect, it’ll also absorb the nutrient mix. Allowing the grower to increase the frequency of watering. This in turn allows you to flood your system more frequently without worry of over-watering.
If you’re looking at flooding less often, we suggest you try mixing coco with your clay pebbles/perlite at roughly a 60/40 clay police/coco split. This is a common tactic but it works. The coco mix holds a lot more water which means you won’t have to flood your system nearly as often. The benefit of flooding less often is not having to rush when responding to critical failures in the system. Another benefit is that it’s ideal for growers who can’t tend to their plants on a daily basis.
Perlite acts similarly to clay balls, in that it’s a fast draining medium. It has less water retention than clay pebbles however so you’ll need an even higher watering frequency to compensate for this.
Growstones are another great alternative and are manufactured from 100% recycled glass. The great thing about them is that they resist compaction like clay pebbles and are incredibly porous in nature.
We don’t recommend using too much more coco than what we suggested above as it could cause your media to stay wet for too long. This defeats the purpose of flood and drain, as roots will become water logged. This in turn increases the chances of issues such as root rot taking hold.
As counter-intuitive as it may be, flood and drain systems are genuinely designed for frequent flooding as the nutrients are supplied freshly. When this nutrient solution drains, it draws fresh air into the root zone. This combines a rich nutrient supply with a solid supply of oxygen will ensure you have consistent quick growth and larger yields.
#4. Optimise your Flood Cycle Parameters
When we say ‘parameters’, we mean three in general. The first parameter is flood frequency, or how often your system is flooded. This will be effected the most by the size of the plant itself, the climate, the plant’s water requirements and the medium used to grow in. In the vast majority of cases, when you take your plants out of propagation you’ll find your crops suddenly are in a higher heat but lower humidity environment. This means their water requirements will increase. If your growing media lacks water retention, you’ll need to flood more frequently in order to maintain an adequate amount of nutrient solution within the substrate.
As a general rule of thumb, your flood height should never climb higher than the height of your growing media. We recommend this simple step sequence to ensure you get your flood height perfect:
Only add your root control disk and washed clay pebbles following your system being set up.
Fill three quarters of each pot with your selected media.
If your plants are in the vegetative stage, fill your water tank with the nutrient mix at a concentration of 2 CF higher than during the propagation phase.
Ensure your timer is set to the longest possible time, in minutes and wait for your brain to start filling the containers.
If the water levels begin rising higher than the growing media then simply add more media.
Press down on the media gently with your hand to ensure it isn’t floating up in the water.
Soak for around 45 minutes, then drain the system.
Your flood cycle should never be held any longer than 10 minutes. Once draining has completed, set your flood duration up and ensure that the pH is perfect. If it is not then adjust your nutrient mix. Finally, start the flood cycle again to see how long it takes for the max flood height to be reached and if you’re using clay pebbles that have not been mixed with coco, add a couple extra minutes to the cycle.
This system of working our your flood height is especially effective because in cases where the flood is uneven, the flood height will be different for each container and this way allows you to accurately work out how much media is necessary for each.
#5. Transpiration before irrigation
Simply put, wait for your plants to start using any remaining water in the growing media before you flood them again. This translates to having your first irrigation around 30 minutes after the lights go on. This also means that in most cases, you should only have to flood during the lights on period. Never when the lights are off. But it should be noted that roots should never be bone dry. so you may need a single irrigation period when it’s lights off but still warm, but it should never be more than one.
#6. Young plants should only be placed around 2.5cm into the medium
If you place young plants too deeply into the container you might find that your flood height will completely rise up over the transplant block and this can cause serious issues. But if you plant them shallowly to begin with, the nutrient solution should only reach the bottom of the transplant block once it reaches maximum height.
In addition to this, we recommend exposing the roots once you’ve positioned your plants by moving the plastic wrapped around the transplant blocks up the block by 2.5cm as well. It should be roughly in line with the top of your medium.
#7. Match your nutrient mix’s strength to your climate
Like humans, plants drink more water when it’s hot. In hotter, drier climates, like during the summer when your room will likely run at around the 28 degree centigrade mark with an RH of 45%, your plants will use more water and intake less of the nutrient mix. During this period, the nutrient strength should be dropped significantly. Your plants will need flooding more often, usually around every hour. We suggest using a CF Truncheon by Bluelab to ensure your nutrient strength readings are accurate.
#8. Have a Clay Pebble layer of around an inch at the bottom of your container
Really simple tip, but the bottom of the container is where the majority of your water will stay. Thus it makes sense to have this thin layer which’ll allow for it to drain away more easily. We recommend this even if you’re already mixing clay pebbles with coco as this bottom layer makes all the difference.
#9. Select your containers wisely
This differs based on what media you’re using to grow your plants. Larger systems of 36 pots plus will require punch pots to be used. Smaller systems, conversely, will need aqua pots which are net pots that have been optimised for flooding and root development. Of course this is all assuming you’re using just clay pebbles.
If you’re using 70/30 or 60/40 coco mix with perlite or clay pebbles however, we recommend using culture pots. These have a net base designed specifically for growing in finer media. We recommend also placing root pouches inside of each of the inner pots to prevent roots from extending out into the pipework.
#10. Upgrade to an IWS Pro System
Basic systems are great. That is, great until you hit a certain critical mass. Then it becomes “Go big or go home”. The IWS Pro system is ideal if you’re growing more than 12 plants. First, you get a larger pump and 25mm pipes which allows pots to be refilled at a much higher speed. Second, the larger pipes also ensure that there’s a lowered risk of blockages caused by roots. This will ensure you’ll get a much more even growth all around.
If you want an easy-to-run and cheaply available Hydroponics system, we can’t recommend the Autopot System enough! Value-for-money wise, they’re a great investment and can output incredible yields if you know the right tips and tricks to making the most of them.
Below we outline our 12 top tips for getting the most out of your AutoPot System!
Tip #1: Until your plants have managed to establish their roots, hand feed all the way
Seriously, this makes a huge difference. Although it’s a couple weeks of extra work, the difference really shows! It’s important to note that you can still place your plants in AutoPots, just make sure to hand water them until those roots are really in there firmly. If you’re growing your plants in rockwool or coco, you’ll need a weak nutrient solution. But if you’re growing in soil then just clean fresh water will do just fine.
Tip #2: Set your AQUAvalve before use
Before use and after cleaning, you need to remember to do this. If you don’t you may not see consistent growth between pots and this can cause issues later on down the line. Luckily, it’s a very simple system to use. Just remove the yellow rubbers from the valve, squish them a little and re-insert them.
Tip #3: Have a thin layer of either clay balls or washed gravel in the bottom of each pot
Want to improve the drainage for your pots? This is easily the #1 way to do it, without this you’ll find you end up with a build up of salts which, long-term, will not do your plants any good. Just ensure you wash the gravel BEFORE you add it to the base. And keep the layer between 1 to 1.5 inches (25-38 millimetres) deep. This neat trick also prevents water logging which’ll ensure the roots still have access to oxygen for healthy growth.
Tip #4: Pick yourself up a line cleaner
The biggest mistake new users can make is failing to use a line cleaner. These amazing products help to remove mineral deposits and algae from your system which is a great way to avoid blockages forming. This is so critical as these blockages can contaminate your system and the algae build up can ruin your plants’ growth! Not just that, but if it’s clogged up especially badly, the whole system could completely shut down! This is especially true if you’re using unfiltered water, line cleaner is a must-have!
Tip #5: Between harvests ensure to clean the system
We can’t state enough just how critical it is that you clean your whole piping system between harvests. Without sufficient cleanliness, you’ll see all sorts of nasty algae forming and this could cost you a following harvest! We recommend scrubbing your AQUAvalves (although putting them through a dishwasher is just as effective), and removing all silicones before cleaning. Only replace them when they have dried. As far as pipework is concerned, using a line cleaner, especially something that can sterilise the equipment entirely, is really good practice.
Tip #6: Every two weeks, drain between 1 and 2 litres of nutrient solution from your system
The last thing you want is sediment settling in. And draining the nutrient mix is the best way to prevent this. Drainage is so important! If you don’t commit to draining your plants, you’ll see salt rapidly build up and offset the EC and pH levels of the water. This makes measuring the nutrients in the water an absolute pain and can certainly lead to blockages if left long enough in the system. It’s very easy to drain though! Simply turn on the end taps at the end of the 16mm pipes and you can drain the solution no problem!
Tip #7: Select the correct nutrients
You need to think this one through carefully, going with a non-mineral based nutrient mix could leave your pipework with blockages and could actively ferment and foam when oxygenated. Organic ingredients in nutrient mixes (such as molasses or seaweed) can have these effects and can actively lower the levels of oxygen in your setup. As a general rule of thumb, the AutoPot team have advised to avoid using anything that has a thick, viscous mix. If a mix is so thick that it needs to be mixed in warm water before use then don’t use it in your system.
An easy way to figure out what will work for your system is to leave a teaspoon of the mix in a glass of water overnight. If it has separated by the morning, don’t use it as you’ll see similar results in your setup if you do. And again, this will definitely lead to blockages.
Tip #8: Use a reservoir to flush the plants
If you add pH balanced water to your reservoir in the couple of weeks preceding the time of harvest, you won’t need to directly flush your pots at the end. You only really need to directly flush the pots if you dramatically overfeed your plants. Or perhaps in the event of nutrient lock-out. But, if you do this, there’s still a fix! Simply remove the pots from their trays and pour several litres of water through them. After allowing for some time to drain, restart at half-strength feed.
Tip #9: Avoid putting your AutoPot trays on any cold surface
Seriously, you need to avoid chilling the solution. Below 16 degrees you can cause your plants’ nutrient uptake to stall. In extreme cases the plants may even go into shock and stop growing entirely. So this is a huge no-no in our books. The easy fix is incredibly cheap. Simply place a polystyrene tile under each tray and you’re good to go!
Tip #10: Grow in an ideal media for your plants
We can’t state enough just how robust the AutoPot systems are. You’ll need media that is both very drainable and also absorbent at the same time. AutoPot themselves recommend using a half-and-half split mix of perlite or clay balls mixed with soil, rockwool or coco. If you’re using the clay ball option, make sure they have a stable pH, as not all of them are.
Tip #11: Mix the nutrient solution with a water pump
If you want optimum results, our experts suggest mixing your nutrient solution using a water pump. This will ensure that the nutrient solution in your reservoir is well mixed. And that your plants have an easy time uptaking it from the water. You should only use a small flow water pump. Avoid doing this with air stones or aeration pumps. This is just not an effective way of mixing the nutrients effectively. Although that said, using air stones and/or aeration pumps in your system overall isn’t a bad idea. It just won’t be enough solely for mixing the nutrient solution.
Tip #12: Get your gravity pressure perfect
The nice thing about AutoPot systems is that they make next to no noise thanks to their use of a gravity-fed system. Make sure that your reservoir is at least six inches higher than the top most AQUAvalve in your system. Otherwise you may not see full functionality and the water may even fail to circulate entirely.
So you’ve got your hydroponics setup, selected your lighting and picked your plants. Good on you! But now you’re wondering, “But what do I feed my plants?” Luckily for you, we have a handy and helpful guide that’ll help you get to grips with nutrients.
Nutrients, as we’ve discussed in earlier articles, are the bread and butter for all hydroponics growers. Without them, your plants can’t grow at all and certainly won’t produce any sort of crop or flower. They come in three main flavours, NPK, or Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. However, it’s important to note that there are additional nutrients that you’ll also need smaller doses of. These include Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium, Zinc Manganese, Molybdenum, Chlorine, Silicon, Cobalt, Vanadium, Lithium, Sodium, Titanium, Aluminium, Nickle, Boron, Copper and Iron.
What’s your stage?
Each plant will require different amounts of these nutrients. Luckily, hydroponic nutrient mixes are easy to come by and contain all the necessary nutrients that your plants need to grow. During each stage of the lifecycle, the plant will need different nutrients. For the Vegetation stage, you need to be giving them a nutrient mix which is focused more around Nitrogen. While during flowering you’ll need something with a higher focus on Phosphorous and Potassium.
Names vary greatly from brand to brand. Always check the ingredients to make sure you know what you are buying. While you can get away with using most mixes during the entirety of the plant’s growth, it isn’t recommended. This approach would likely result in crops with a nutrient deficiency. This can dramatically effect the taste, aroma, growth rate, size and amount of fruit or flowers produced. Instead, we recommend you switch your mix to match the plant’s needs as it matures.
What’s your medium?
So you’ve probably seen the pretexts “Coco”, “Hydro” and “Soil” on hydroponics nutrient mixes. These tell you what sort of a system they are suited for. If you’re growing in Coco, you’ll need a Coco mix as Coco as a substrate isn’t truly inert, it actually absorbs calcium & magnesium and will release potassium. As a result, Coco mixes are higher in the former two nutrients and lower in the latter to compensate.
Meanwhile, Soil relies on beneficial bacteria and fungi to stay healthy for the plant. Inputs should be carefully considered to preserve populations. Organic sources are much kinder to microorganisms but minerals damage the natural ecology of the soil. Hydro nutrients can be derived from mineral sources which can be easier to intake by the plant. They’ve been designed specifically for systems with minimal or no substrate and contains the raw nutrients in a perfect unaltered ratio.
What‘s your water?
The final part of selecting your nutrients is figuring out what type of water your area uses. Different parts of the world will use different water types based on the reservoir or spring that the water is drawn from. Water hardness describes the amount of calcium and magnesium dissolved in the water. The basic thing to understand is that water runs from between rock deposits. It will have some level of salt in the water. The total amount of salt can be identified by running an electrical current through the water and measuring it with an EC/TDS/PPM measuring device. The baseline result will come up with a number between 0 and 0.8.
Soft water variants are likely granite based and thus there is no salt in the water, these mixes are designed more for ECs closer to 0. Conversely, Hard water variants are likely chalk or another type of similar deposit, this means there is some level of salt in the water and these mixes are designed more for ECs closer to 0.8. If you fall somewhere in the middle at 0.4, we recommend trying both mixes to see what result works better. The amount of salt in the water will effect the level of absorption your plants will have on the nutrients. So the hardwater variants have been designed to compensate for these discrepancies.
Even the most nutrient hungry plants can only deal with around 2.4 EC maximum, this means that if you are using hard water, 0.8 of the 2.4 will be being used up by the salts present in the water before adding nutrients. This means that you can only add an additional 1.6 EC worth of nutrients before the water becomes too toxic for the plants to intake it effectively. Professional growers usually opt to use a Reverse Osmosis Filter in their hydroponics systems. This will help filter the salts out of the water which will bring the EC down to 0 and thus will make soft water nutrients more suitable for their plants.
Anyone who’s had any sort of gardening experience has dealt with the dreaded root rot. Root Rot is a very literal term, meaning when the roots of a plant begin to rot. The reason this happens is very simple: over-watering. In Hydroponics this is a much bigger issue than in traditional systems as the roots are constantly in a water-based nutrient solution. Because this is so common, we’ve decided to provide a guide on how to stop root rot.
So how can I tell it’s root rot?
The first sign is that the leaves and/or petals begin to become discoloured, often turning yellow or brown. Often you’ll see the plant begin wilting and this is an indication of an oxygen deficiency. The deficiency is caused by the roots not being able to absorb oxygen due to the rot. Removal of the plant from the system will show discoloured or even unnaturally black roots. These roots will be so weakened that they may simply fall off when touched, being incredibly slimy to the touch. Although it should be noted that some species will have black roots even when healthy.
Root rot in itself can be caused by a number of factors relating to the over-watering. But the most common factor is one of several types of fungus being invigorated by the large quantity of water and very suddenly multiplying in the roots of plants, cutting off their oxygen supply.
Stopping Root Rot
The best way to prevent root rot is simply to prevent it occurring in the first place, for Hydroponics systems this means aerating the water as much as possible. This can be done most effectively with an air stone but there are also several other alternatives. If you’re growing in soil, we recommend only watering the plant when the soil is dry to the touch, use a fine soil as well, as thicker soil types will be less able to drain water effectively. Also if you’re growing in a coco mix, then you’ll need to alternate between a wet and a dry ‘cycle’. Oscillating between these two states and never allowing your plant to be too wet or dry will ensure the healthiest results.
When worst comes to worst
However, what do you do if you haven’t taken preventative measures? Well for that we have a winning strategy that’ll increase the odds of your plants’ survival, but you must act quickly! Begin by removing the plant from the system and cut away as much of the infected roots as possible as if you don’t, it’ll spread to the rest of them. Next, place the healthy roots still attached to the plant into agricultural disinfectant. This will help to kill off any trace microbes of the disease remaining. Once it’s been treated according to the instructions on the agricultural disinfectant, place it back into the system. BUT WAIT! Ensure you have cleaned out the existing system. Replace all water and nutrient mix in the system. Otherwise any particles of the fungal infection left over could simply re-infect your plants!
The word Hydroponics can be broken down into the Green ‘Hydro’, meaning Water, and ‘Ponics’ meaning ‘To work’. A literal translation of the term means ‘Water-working’ which implies the action of using water to facilitate nearly all functions. In the modern day, we use Hydroponics as a term to describe the action of water transmitting all nutrients a plant would need without any other medium being used. This is the focus and theory behind the practice and all pure Hydroponics systems are defined by this terminology.
The practice dates back possibly as far as 600 BC to the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II. They are believed to have used chain pumps to cycle buckets of water from the Euphrates River. This water would be sent up to the top of the monument, where the water would be released into channels which would irrigate the gardens.
Hydroponics in the Middle Ages
Around the 12th Century AD, South and Middle-American civilizations such as the Aztecs and the Incas began developing Chinampas, which were bodies of water that would support a small floating landmass with crops. These Chinampas were so effective, it is believed they were constructed in rings around many capitals including Tecnochtitlan. In addition, smaller farms have been identified near Xaltocan and Lake Texcoco.
The earliest works published about Hydroponics are attributed to Francis Bacon. Mainly in his Sylva Sylvarum, or ‘A Natural History’, which was published following his death in 1627. The first experiments began shortly after the publishing of this work. In 1699, John Woodward conducted and published his experiments regarding spearmint. These experiments showed that the plant grew better in less-pure water sources compared to others grown in distilled water.
In 1842, a list of nine elements was compiled after extensive experiments by Wilhelm Knop and Julius von Sachs. The two believed that the elements were critical for healthy plant growth. By 1875, the first modern techniques of soil-less cultivation were developed. These techniques are now known as ‘Solution Culture’, where a plant is grown in mineral solution. These have been shown to consistently produce rapidly-growing crops. These crops are additionally much healthier and bear greater fruit than others grown in soil or distilled water.
However, it wasn’t until 1929 that William Frederick Gericke of the University of California proved how viable a means of crop production the ‘Solution Culture’ could be. Managing to grow twenty-five-feet tall Tomato crops in his garden in mineral solutions rather than soil, he generated a sensation that launched the first commercial platforms for Hydroponics, which he coined as a term in 1937. During the 1960s, the Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) was developed by Allen Cooper, which again revolutionized Hydroponics and caused a stir of new techniques to begin rapidly surfacing and hobbyist Hydroponics began becoming widespread.
Since the turn of the millennium, NASA has conducted a large amount of research into Hydroponic techniques. The hope is they can be used to grow crops for their Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CESS) expected to be used for research facilities on Mars.
Starting hydroponics is a daunting world, especially to a newbie. There are so many aspects to think about from your crop type, to your nutrients to your setup. This can be especially hard to get into when you’ve got no solid source of information. It’s like there is no guidance to take you along this road.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered, with our handy guide on Hydroponics for beginners, so let’s get started!
First, you’ve got to think about space. No matter how fancy a setup you could get into and no matter what produce you’re looking to grow, you’ve got to ask yourself: How much space do I have? Where can I get a setup going?
The good news is that nearly any amount of space, no matter how limited, can be utilised for Hydroponics. Locations might include disused garages and sheds, storage sections under stairways, basements and even attics. The only important things to note are your levels of humidity (which are more of an issue in basements than anywhere else), ambient temperature fluctuations (which you’ll see change from season to season, especially in attics) and stability. These can all be massively altered through air conditioners, heaters and specialised housing units. Or perhaps you’re already an avid gardener with a greenhouse? In which case, greenhouse units are ideal for Hydroponics setups!
2. Hydroponics Technique
Next, we need to think about what type of setup you want to use. What are the strengths and weaknesses to each type of setup? Can you use multiple types in conjunction with one another?
The most common type of Hydroponics setup is NFT, or Nutrient Film Technique. This technique sits the plants on a film that water is pumped into. The film will help to evenly distribute the nutrient water to the crops, keeping the plant’s nutrient levels at a consistent rate. The reason why they are so attractive is that their sheer simplicity and high growth rate makes them a very attractive prospect for many enthusiasts. They’re also incredibly easy to clean and maintain, with films that are no longer fit for purpose being easy to remove and replace.
The next most popular type is Ebb and Flow, also known as Flood and Drain. This technique raises the water levels on a set timer every so often in order to feed the nutrients to the crop. This helps ensure that the crops are all given an exact amount of nutrients on a fixed schedule.
Deep Water Culture is another popular type of Hydroponic technique. In this setup, the roots of a crop drop down directly into a nutrient-rich water source. To ensure that they get enough Oxygen, a pump releases a flurry of bubbles into the water just below the root zone which oxygenates it.
Drippers are the last major Hydroponic technique. This time, there are cables that pass through into the roots for each crop. These cables feed through a drip of solution into the roots directly. These can be controlled as desired, allowing a very precise command of conditions influencing the growth of the plant.
It’s important to note that there are other techniques too. These include Aeroponics, where a nutrient mist is released over the plants, and Aquaponics, where a nearly closed system of aquatic life and plants will feed each other with less human interaction than other techniques. However, these techniques tend to be a niche within a niche and are usually only applicable with smaller plants at an earlier stage in their life cycle.
It’s also important to note that many of the techniques listed above are often used in conjunction with one another. This ensures that if one system fails, another can support the plants until it is fixed. More than anything, it’s simply a failsafe.
Each technique and/or setup will utilize a variety of components. Knowing what is needed to run each setup correctly is critical for success. These components can range from a very simplistic setup to more complicated systems. These in turn may be the result of a combination of different techniques.
No matter your setup, you’ll require one or more grow lights as well in order to ensure your plants can photosynthesize effectively. The spectrum of light needed for a plant varies on the type, as well as the stage in the plant’s lifecycle. It’s also important to consider the footprint that the light can effect, different wattages will usually have differing footprints.
The bread and butter of your crop are the nutrients. Without them, they won’t grow and if you get incorrect nutrients, your crops may not grow well enough for healthy produce. The main three nutrients that are needed are usually referenced as NPK – Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. These three, along with Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur, are also called ‘Macronutrients’. Lesser importance is given to a second family of elements called ‘Micronutrients’. These include Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Boron, Molybdenum, Nickle, Chlorine, Aluminium, Silicon, Titanium, Cobalt, Sodium, Vanadium and Lithium. Important notes on nutrients:
Nitrogen facilitates growth and is critical for ensuring consistency through the various stages of development.
Phosphorus and Potassium facilitate flowering/fruiting, stem strength and root growth, and are more important for the later stages of development but are also needed throughout.
The other three Macronutrients, as well as the Micronutrients, have unique uses that are important for specific plant life and crops. Always remember to read up on anything you want to grow to ensure you know what your specific plant or crop of choice needs to sustain healthy growth and vibrant produce.
Whatever your choice in technique, components and nutrients, Future Garden has you covered. We stock a wide range of solutions for anything you may need. Our team is always up-to-date with the most advanced industry knowledge available. So if you need advice or assistance, feel free to drop into one of our stores or simply drop us an email and we will be in touch!
Hydroponics has become more and more popular in recent years, but why is it so popular? Our article breaks down the top ten reasons why you should be using Hydroponics in 2018.
1. It’s great exercise
Want a buff body but not getting the results you want in the gym? Studies by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania have shown that because gardening is lower-intensity work, we’re able to do it for longer. Over the course of a few weeks or months, the calorie burn count rapidly adds up.
2. You’ll feel amazing
For years studies have shown that actively being around fauna and flora can make for a more positive mind. This was recently proven in a study by Bristol University that found bacteria in soil and plant matter that triggers serotonin to release in the brain. This chemical helps to decrease feelings of anxiety and elevates your mood significantly.
3. No really, you’ll feel amazing
Stephen Buckley, Head of Information for mental health charity Mind, as well as Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of mental health charity Thrive, both agree that gardening of any sort reduces the feelings of isolation. Through nurturing plants, it’s been shown that individuals with with depression are far more capable of making active choices and will be more likely to retain the ability to go outdoors.
4. You’ll feel a part of something much bigger
Gardening in general has long since had a large welcoming and accepting community. This can be seen in interviews conducted by Johns Hopkins University where Growers showed incredible passion for their community. Not has it broken down a myriad of social barriers, it gave them an increased connection to nature. This has allowed them to take pride in creating fresh, organic food for the local community.
5. You’ll be far more productive
In an study performed by Exeter University’s Dr Chris Knight, it was found that employees productivity increased by a massive 15% when their workplaces were filled with indoor plants. The conclusion was that the plants made the office look more pleasant and helped the employees feel more engaged with their work. Also, having to water and tend to the plants dramatically increased their concentration while working.
6. You’ll find independence where there was none before
Even if all you do is view gardens, the University of Warwick’s research team has found that older men and women have their wellbeing increased. These individuals ended up having a more independent and optimistic outlook if they had a view of a patio or private garden.
7. Hydroponics is so simple
It really is, a basic Hydroponics setup can be very cheap to set up and still highly effective. Setups like the DWC (Deep Water Culture) Hydroponics systems involve very little human interaction and can produce a myriad of fruits and vegetables. As long as they’re grown right, they’ll also be tastier than anything you buy from a supermarket! After all, you grew them!
8. You’ll be much more likely to chow down on healthy food
During a study led by the Centre for Research and Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, it was noted that in 12 schools, children were taught how to grow their own food. This caused a large spike in their vegetable and fruit intake. On the side of this, it’s a good feeling to know that by enjoying healthy and nutrient-rich food you can reduce your carbon footprint.
9. Good health simply blooms
Japanese plot-holders have noted that having an allotment has had a huge effect on their health. It’s been noted to help strengthen social unity and reduce health complaints on both a physical and a mental level. The net benefits of having an allotment have been so promising that local governments are looking into creating many more allotments to help alleviate the costs of sickness in society.
10. Hydroponics has so much to offer
From a financial perspective, Hydroponics as an industry is certainly booming. This form of gardening allows you to easily maximise effectiveness just by making slight alterations to your setup or nutrients. Because there is such an overwhelming amount of support from such a passionate community, you can always get an answer to your questions at any time.