Understanding the basic needs of a plant and how to provide those needs is the key to success.
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Don’t Overcomplicate Things by following these 4 Tips!
This was originally a series of posts on our Facebook Page @GS Hydros
There are 1000’s of experts that haven’t finished their first year of growing out there. Seek help when you need it at our Facebook group Hydroponics Help.
My first recommendation is to just do it. Read these tips and get started. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. Don’t get swamped to the point where you are confused about what you are doing.
You are simply trying to grow a plant. That’s it. Before we get into that, I quickly want to make a recommendation. Buy a system that’s designed to work. A good system has a lot of development that’s gone into it. If you’re not a DIY person or you’re new to hydroponics, there is a learning curve that takes place. This curve includes all the nuances of what makes a system work well, just work, or flat out fail. You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by spending a little more and getting a system that will perform for you. Once you learn how to grow in hydroponics and learn how and why the systems work, then you will be ready to build a system should you want to.
We want you to be successful when growing and get great yields without the hassle, and that’s what our systems are designed for.
Plants need 4 basic things to grow.
Co2 (carbon dioxide)
Light: One of the first obstacles for new growers is usually not enough light. This will cause plants to stretch, have weak and produce less fruit or smaller fruits.
Since lighting is expensive, many new growers may want to consider an HPS & MH combined ballast setup. The wing reflector ones like the one pictured are under $200 for 1000 watts. Be aware they do use more power than LED or fluorescent lights.
The pictured light is a 400-watt HPS used to supplement the fall and winter light and control the light cycles.
Be sure to follow all the instructions with lights. HID light bulbs CAN NOT be touched by a bare hand. This can cause damage and possibly burst the bulb. I have been using HID bulbs for 20 years, and I’m careful to never touch the bulb. I have never had a problem with these bulbs.
Water: Since water is one of the things plants need to grow, clean water is important. One of the problems for many people who are new to hydroponics is the water they use. Tap water when you are on a municipal source (IE City Water) may look clean. Still, it’s loaded with chemicals to purify it and other contaminants because of its sourcing.
Some of the things found in common tap water are Chlorine, Flouride, Herbicides, Lead, Mercury, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), Nitrates, Perchlorate, and a variety of Pharmaceuticals.
What are the options? You can buy bottled water or set up a filter system that will remove the impurities from the water. Something like an in-line filter or (RO) reverse osmosis system.
I’m not a big fan of using RO water for hydroponics. Having a well is ideal, but most of us don’t. When using an RO system, you remove nearly everything from the water. Including minerals and other nutrients, your plants can use. This means you have to add all that back to the water. When using a regular filter, you can remove some of the more harmful things like lead and mercury but leave some minerals, but these will not remove every contaminant. This comes down to personal preference. There is always the option of collecting rainwater also.
Clean Spring Water is available at most grocery stores in 2 to 3-gallon containers. You can also buy the water dispenser refills with 4 or 5 gallons. There are services you can get that will deliver this water to you. This can be a decent option if you’re new to hydroponics, as it’s far cheaper than smaller bottled water. Those containers can then be used to collect rainwater if you have a means of doing so.
Water usage was one of the reasons we reduced our reservoir size from 17 Gallons to 2.5 to 4 gallons. This reduces the waste of both nutrients and water. Be prepared though, our 6 plant system at full grow can use a gallon of water or more per day.
Co2: While this one seems simple, I have seen it cause problems for new growers. Especially those using grow tents or inside closed-off rooms with little ventilation.
The more Co2 you have, the better. Co2 is the main building block of your plants. When you have good Co2 flow, you will have larger fruits and flowers.
Co2: While this one seems simple, I have seen it cause problems for new growers. Especially those using grow tents or inside closed-off rooms with little ventilation… The More fresh air, the better your growth will be.
Nutrients: This will be the most complicated learning curve you have when starting hydroponics. My recommendation for new growers is to start with a 2 or 3 part series of nutrients to get you through your initial grow. Once you get good at these, then you will be ready for additives. Some sets are complete lineups from the nutrient companies, and they are geared towards the more advanced grower. My philosophy is to learn ad you grow. It’s far easier than trying to learn everything before you ever start.
For your first grow, I recommend that you use 75 to 80% of the recommended nutrient levels. This will give you a little more room for error.
There is a lot of information about meters. I have been doing this for over 20 years, and I have used cheap meters to do it. I don’t usually buy the absolute bottom of the barrel meters because I like backlights and 4 digit screens on my TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meters. With that being said, get a set of meters, learn how to read them, and test them. This is a key ingredient for a successful growing cycle.
I include pH in with nutrients because it is the pH level that either prevents or allows the plant to uptake the nutrients. Too high or low pH can also damage your plant. Below I have posted a sheet to help you figure out what your nutrient and pH levels should be.
pH levels are different between soil and hydroponics, so ensure that you are searching for hydroponics levels, not soil when looking online.
There are many additives that come into the mix. Also, these are more about overall results. Some are about the prevention of problems or solving problems. My go-to is FloraNova Grow & Bloom. It’s a great set that includes the micros and is highly concentrated. Outside of rooting enzymes and Hydrogen Peroxide, I’ve had great results with just these nutrients.
In addition to nutrients, I highly recommend having some Hydrogen Peroxide on hand. This is a main preventative, and you can add it to your nutrients to prevent problems like Root Rot, Algae, and Bacteria.