5 Key Things Newbie Hydroponic Growers Tend to Overlook
Many new hydroponic growers get so caught up in figuring out which brand of lights to use and which nutrients to use, they neglect some important steps when it comes to growing great plants and crops.
1. Before buying equipment, ensure there is enough electricity available to run it
As an example, in the U.S., a circuit supplying electricity to a room might be 15 amps at 120 volts, or 1,800W (or it might be something entirely different, check the actual specifics of the space). Only 80 percent of that should be used for long periods, so only 1,440W would be available for the garden. The conversion for watts is: amps x volts x 0.8 = maximum available watts for equipment.
This is important information to know before spending money on a lot of equipment. A single 1,000W light with a 200W fan will use 1,200W. In the example above, that leaves only 240W for other things. If an indoor gardener had already bought four 1,000W lights for the space, they wouldn’t be able to use three of them. Depending on the situation, it may be more effective to only buy two lights and use the money saved from the other two lights toward installing a second 15-amp circuit (or better) into the room, allowing two (or more) lights to be run in the space.
2. Plan on spills before they happen
Plants need water to grow. Anytime there is water present, there is a chance for spills. Gardening over a carpeted area can lead to a horrendous mess if water gets into the carpet, especially if it isn’t allowed to completely dry and develops mold. It is considered a best practice to remove any carpeting before the garden is in place to avoid such complications. Removing dry, clean carpeting may not be fun, but having to remove wet moldy carpet is much worse.
Another often overlooked safety measure is to use “drip loops” on any hanging cords. Hydroponic nutrient solutions often contain salts, allowing the solution to conduct electricity. This is the same principle that allows EC meters to estimate the nutrient content of a solution. A drip loop is simply a loop in the cord, fastened in place so any moisture that collects on the cord runs down the loop and off the cord and can’t follow the cord back to the outlet.
3. Supplemental carbon dioxide doesn’t have to be expensive
Carbon dioxide is needed for photosynthesis; plants do better when there enough present. With the increase of CO2 as a pollutant in the atmosphere, the levels of CO2 have risen to more than 400 ppm. For the indoor gardener, this means that by just bringing in outside air, the plants can receive all the CO2 they need for growth. However, if all other plant needs are being met exceptionally well, then plants can benefit from CO2 levels that are even higher.
An often-overlooked CO2 generator is the gardener. Humans are fairly large mammals who use respiration to breathe in oxygen and exhale a quantity of CO2. This pairs well with plants that use photosynthesis to take in CO2 and release oxygen during photosynthesis (plants also have respiration, but photosynthesis uses more CO2 and releases more oxygen than the plant releases CO2 through respiration). A single person in a closed garden releases about two pounds of CO2 a day, which is about one and a third ounces per hour. Talking to plants does help them, as the speaker’s exhale has CO2 in it. Singing to them is even better.
4. Indoor gardening is a marathon, not a sprint.
Checking on a garden once a day for 10 days will serve the garden better than checking on it 10 times in one day. In addition to regularly checking the garden, use patience when changing nutrient solutions or correcting garden issues. Many things take time to develop in a plant, and recovery is rarely immediate. Nutrient deficiencies and such don’t generally respond within minutes of correction, sometimes they can take days for changes to take full effect. Constantly changing the solution too often to increase a noticed deficiency can lead to an over application that may not be noticeable until the plant has had time to react.
Overwatering is another way neophyte gardeners can overuse a needed resource. Roots need access to both water and air. Keeping the growing medium too moist by watering too often can restrict root access to air. Alternating periods of wet and dry allows the plants access to both moisture and air. Another method used in hydroponics is the use of air pumped into the nutrient solution so the plant has access to both at the same time.
Read also: pH Balance for Efficient Nutrient Uptake
Beginner growers also tend to fret over the sex of a flower at the first sign of development when with a little patience, it will become apparent enough after a few days. Male flowers won’t release pollen until they are mature enough to do so, and their sex becomes obvious before then.
Drastic changes in the environment can stall or shock a plant into doing little to nothing for a couple of weeks. Slow and steady will lead to a better harvest than rushed and frenzied.
5. A harvest doesn’t have to be blue ribbon award winning to be worthwhile
Growing the best produce that one can is a noble effort. However, many folks get so tied up with growing the perfect harvest that they lose sight of how wonderful it can be to grow your own even if it isn’t State Fair Blue Ribbon worthy. A tomato that cost a little too much to grow, and isn’t as pretty as it might be, and isn’t as big as one hoped it would be, can still make for a delightful sandwich that tastes better and is more satisfying than a store-bought one.
Some of the best benefits of gardening have little to do with the end result (although that is nice too), and have more to do with the journey on the way to it. Connecting with life, nature, self-reliance, and peace are often underrated benefits of having a garden.