What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without soil - plants thrive on the nutrient solution alone. The growing medium merely acts as support for the plants and their root systems, and perhaps to hold moisture around the roots. The growing medium used, if any, is often totally inert.
How long does the propagation stage last?
Most plants typically require 2-3 weeks for propagation. If growing from seed, plants are ready to move on from propagation when the second set of leaves appear or when roots begin to emerge and become visible. If growing from a cutting, plants will be ready once you see new growth.
What types of growth media are available?
Rockwool is an inert medium, completely free of nutrients and usually available in a pH balanced form. Rockwool can be bought in a wide variety of forms, including cubes, shredded mixes, horizontal and vertical use slabs.
Vermiculite, diahydro and perlite are all made from porous rock material, giving them excellent water retention qualities. These can be used on their own as a hydroponic growth media or mixed with soil or coco. If used alone, these products all require the use of added nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle.
Coco fibre/coir is made from the outer husk of the coconut shell. Naturally rich in potassium and sodium, most coco products are pre-treated by the manufacturers so they are ready to use. Coco is a relatively light medium that has good water retention without becoming soggy. It also has an excellent air capacity of around 30%, aiding root growth and nutrient uptake. It is strongly advised to use a coco-specific nutrient with this medium.
Clay pebbles are inert, pH neutral and do not contain any nutrient value. They are suitable for hydroponic systems in which all nutrients are carefully controlled in a water solution. Clay is an ecologically sustainable and reusable growing medium thanks to its ability to be cleaned and sterilised.
Soil mixes are made up of different substances to achieve certain properties. Some soils come pre-fertilised meaning less additions are needed during the growth stage, and some contain very little nutrition to give you greater control over what your plants receive. Some of the different substances mixed into soils include: sphagnum peat moss, worm manure, vermiculite, perlite, coco coir, diahydro, bone meal, beneficial microbes, lime, and bat guano.
Hydroponic Systems Explained:
Flood and Drain (Also known as ebb and flow)
Flood and Drain is a timed hydroponic method, most suitable for use with clay pebbles. The root zone is flooded periodically with nutrient, allowing roots to take up whatever they need. This motion pushes out stale air, and pulls fresh air through the root zone as the nutrient drains away back into the reservoir. These systems may come as tables, where all the plants are grown together in one tray, or in a pot system with each plant in their individual pots and a large tank connecting them all together.
Deep Water Culture
The DWC technique relies on the plant growing towards the nutrient solution. The plant is suspended in a net pot containing a hydro medium (usually clay pebbles) to support the root zone. The roots seek moisture and grow downwards towards the nutrient solution, which is kept oxygenated at all times by an aerator. Once the roots are established and emerge from the net pot, the water level can be lowered, encouraging the roots to grow further.
Drip Irrigation systems use a pump and reservoir to deliver nutrient solution through pipes and dripper stakes to many plants continuously. They are very flexible and versatile - you can create a dripper system for any growth media simply by adjusting the kind of dripper stake and schedule of feeds.
A pump located in the reservoir is connected to supply pipe, which is sealed at one end, leading to plant containers. As nutrient solution is pumped into the supply pipe, the sealed end creates pressure, forcing nutrient solution out of the dripper lines and into the medium.
The AutoPot is a gravity fed system, requiring no pumps and no electricity. It can be adapted for any number of plants, and is suitable for any medium that can take up water from the bottom of the pot. A mix of 50% soil/coco and 50% perlite is recommended. The smart valve means that the plant will only get a small amount of nutrient solution at a time. The tray will not be refilled until all the water has been used. This system doesn’t require electricity, is low maintenance and has no limit to the size you can have it.
Nutrient Film Technique – a thin film of nutrient solution flows over the top of the tray, providing your roots with all the elements they need. The nutrient solution is contained in a tank. Above this is a gently sloping tray, which your plants sit on, and a spreader mat which gives the roots something to bed into, ensuring the nutrient spreads evenly. A pump delivers nutrient solution which spreads across as a film across the tray and roots. The solution then drains back into the tank so the process can begin again. Lack of medium gives roots excellent access to oxygen.
How often do I need to change or top up my nutrient solution?
We suggest refreshing your nutrient solution every 2 weeks, as things in the reservoir can change a lot in this time. The environment will also have an effect on a plants needs so bear this in mind and adjust your feeding accordingly.
When do I flush?
If you know when you are ready to harvest, you can start flushing one to two weeks before.
What is the best boost for my plants?
This depends on which basic nutrient you are using - generally it is best to use the same brand of booster and nutrient. We recommend Dutch Pro primarily and their Explode may be the best flowering stimulator currently on the market. It also negates the need for any additional PK. Canna also offers a PK and a boost or Buddha's Tree Flower Burst is also a good option.
What is pH and why is it important?
pH is a measurement of how acid or alkaline a solution is. Measured on a scale, the lower the number, the more acidic it is and the higher the number the more alkaline it is.
A plant’s roots are sensitive to the exact pH of a nutrient solution. If it varies too far from the ideal, then the root will not be able to absorb the minerals it needs to grow. Thus, keeping the pH at the correct level should help you to avoid any nutrient deficiencies and accurately monitor the plant’s health.
Is it essential to check and adjust the nutrient concentration (EC or CF)?
The concentration of the nutrient in the solution is also important as it tells you when the plants are growing happily and absorbing the nutrients, and when they are drinking the water faster than the nutrients. A concentration too high could damage the roots, a concentration too low could stop the roots from growing from lack of minerals.
What is the ideal pH level?
Generally we advise our customers that the ideal pH level of your nutrient solution should generally be between 5.5 - 6.5 for hydro and coco, and 5.7 - 6.8 for soil.