Making a Good Garden Great
For many growers, their gardening practices falls under the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, as Matt LeBannister points out, change can help make a good garden great.
Gardening is one of the most rewarding hobbies anyone can have. There is such a sweet satisfaction gained when all our painstakingly hard work pays off, whether it is delicious summer fruit or vegetables, some crisp winter greens or some beautiful homegrown flowers to brighten our days. It is also easy to get stuck in our ways when we get this first bountiful harvest.
There is a certain fear that if we change anything in our regimen, nutrients or equipment, things might get worse rather than better. However, there is always room for improvement in the growroom; we just have to be confident in the decisions we make. Here are a few foolproof methods and products that are almost certain to increase yields, improve plant health, and enhance flavors and aromas.
EC and pH changes to improve your indoor garden
One of the simplest, easiest ways to improve plant health is to start monitoring pH and EC levels more frequently and with extremely accurate pH and EC pens or continuous monitors. With hydroponic systems, checking the pH levels everyday can make a huge difference. If pH levels fluctuate out of the ideal range (5.8 to 6.3), plants lockout nutrients and deficiencies can occur.
If the pH level is too low, add more acid until corrected, and if it is too high (which is rarely the case), adding more water to your reservoir to balance the pH level. The same can be done with EC levels. EC levels that are too high can burn plants, so we need to add more water. If EC levels are too low, we can add more nutrients to get the EC level back where we need them to be. Reservoirs should be emptied and the solution replaced every five to seven days, regardless of EC or pH levels. EC requirements vary between plants and stage of plant development.
If you are gardening in a potting soil or soilless mix then you are already checking the pH of the nutrient solution before watering. To get a really accurate reading, measure the pH level of the runoff water. If there is a large difference between the readings, you will need to adjust the pH or add some dolomite lime to balance the pH.
CO2 enrichment to improve your indoor garden
CO2 enrichment is another method that is guaranteed to increase your yield. All plants need CO2 for photosynthesis, the process which plants convert light, CO2, and water into food and oxygen. Air averages 200 to 300 ppm if CO2. If we can increase the levels to somewhere around to 1,200 to 1,500 ppm, you can increase yields dramatically, quicken crop turnarounds and improve your plants’ resistance to heat and pests. There are many ways to add CO2 to your growroom: CO2 generators, CO2 emitters, fermentation, as well as many products available in store.
Making sure you have the right spectrum bulb for the stage of plant development is crucial. Using a Cool Blue 6,500-K bulb during the vegetative stage will keep plants healthy and squat. Using a Warm Red 2,500-K bulb during the flowering stage of plant growth, on the other hand, will lead to bigger, denser and higher-quality flowers. Switching from a neutral, all-stage bulb to one of these stage-specific bulbs can greatly improve your yield.
Replacing HID bulbs frequently can also enhance your plants’ health and increase yields. Lumen levels gradually drop off as the bulbs age. A bulb that has been used everyday for a year could put off half as much light as the same bulb when brand new.
There are many products, that when used correctly will certainly increase yields and enhance flavors and aromas. Fulvic acid and humic acid are chelating nutrient supplements that latch on the other nutrients and make them more absorbable. The foliar application of fulvic acid during the flowering phase will increase the number of flower sites.
The application of beneficial bacteria and fungi can also improve the plants ability to absorb nutrients, increasing yields safely. This is especially so when gardening with organic nutrients. Most organic nutrients, especially the types that haven’t been pre-digested, require root-borne beneficial bacteria and fungi to break them down to a more easily absorbable form.
There are many ways that we can always improve our plants’ health and our overall yield. It can be unnerving to try something new at the risk of hurting the plants we have worked so hard grow, but we can’t stop working towards better results. Being informed and testing new products on only a few plants is the safest way to ensure the best possible results.