Category Archives: Gardening Techniques

How To Transplant A Plant From Dirt To Hydroponics

I am not a patient person, it’s something I’m working on. I don’t always like to wait on germinating seeds and growing seedlings to start my hydroponic garden. To cut down the time I have to wait, I often purchase plans from the garden store then transplant them into my hydroponic system. It’s an easy process that cuts down time and ensures your starting with a strong healthy plant. Here’s how to transplant a dirt plant into a hydroponic system.

What You Need To Transplant A Dirt Plant To Hydroponics

  • A plant, I will be using a tomato
  • Container to discard dirt
  • Water to rinse root system
  • Hydroponic system or net pots with grow medium

Steps To Transplanting Plant Into A Hydroponic System

Before starting, have your hydroponic system or net pots ready with the grow medium that you’re using. Gather your supplies into 1 area. Transplanting can be messy so I recommend doing this project outside or put something down on the surface you’re using.

Plants that have not been watered recently work best. Dry dirt is easier to remove from the root system. Remove the plant from the pot or container that it’s in. Placing the plant over a container, gently start breaking up the dirt with your hand. Careful not to damage the root system too much. Continue until most of the dirt is removed from the root system.

After removing most of the dirt, dip the plant’s root system into some water to rinse away the rest of the dirt. The cleaner the better, you want the least amount of dirt as possible making it into your hydroponic system. If you’re using drip systems or small hoses, small particles will clog them.  It’s sometimes next to impossible to get off all the dirt off the roots and a small amount won’t affect the hydroponic bucket this plant is going in.

Place the plant’s roots in the hydroponic system or net pot and cover with your grow medium. Now I just hook up the airstone, plug it in and it’s ready to grow.  For more of a visual check out the video below.

 

 

 

How To Use Rapid Rooter Plugs To Germinate Seeds

Rapid Rooter Plugs and TrayI’ve tried several different methods of germinating seeds for my hydroponic gardens. My preferred method is using rapid rooter plugs made by General Hydroponics. They are easy to use, have a great germination success rate and can be used in all of my different types of systems.

What Are Rapid Rooter Plugs Made Of?

Rapid Rooter cubes are derived from composted materials. I’ve bought some derived from peat moss and some from tree bark. The plugs are formed in a way that creates optimal water to air ratio which promotes excellent root growth.

How Do You Use Rapid Rooter To Germinate Seeds?

The first thing to do is soak the Rapid Rooter plugs in distilled water. Some people soak them up to 24 hours; I typically soak them for about an hour and have had no issues.

After soaking, place the plugs in into the grow tray.

Place a few seeds in the center hole of each plug. Using more than 1 seed increases the chances of successful germination for each plug.

If using a tray made for rapid rooter plugs then you need to fill the tray with about a quarter-inch of water to keep the plugs moist. The holes in the bottom of where the plug goes to allow the plugs to wick up moisture.

Cover the tray with a dome to keep in moisture and warmth. If you don’t have a done you can cover the tray with saran wrap.

If the type of seeds you want to germinate require a warmer environment, then use a seedling heat mat underneath the tray to maintain a warmer temperature.

When seeds sprout, place the grow tray under a low-intensity light for seedlings.

Keep Rapid Rooter Plugs moist by adding water to the tray.

When roots appear out of the plugs, they’re ready to be transplanted. They can be transplanted into pretty much any grow medium and in any hydroponic system.


How To Use A Seedling Heat Mat For Germination & Cloning

Warmth is a requirement when it comes to germinating seeds. When gardening indoors or out of season, it is often outside of the desired temperature range needed to start the germination process. Using a seedling heat mat, you can replicate the warming of spring that sends seeds popping to the sky.

What Is A Seedling Heat Mat?

A seedling heat mat is an electric mat that is placed under your seed or cutting tray.  It will typically warm the root area to anywhere between 10-20 degrees above the room temperature.

How Do You Use A Seedling Heat Mat For Seed Germination & Cloning?

  • Start off by finding a stable surface. Make sure you place the mat somewhere away from water and hydroponic reservoirs. Water and electricity do not mix. Avoid placing on a cold surface such as a concrete floor. This will direct the heat more towards the colder surface and less towards your seed or cutting tray.
  • Place your clone or seed try on the seedling heat mat and plug it in. The heating mat will heat up 10-20 degrees on its own and stay in that range. There are also outlet adapters you can purchase that monitor the temperature then will automatically shut on and off to stay in the desired temperature range.
  • Place a dome over your seedlings or cuttings. This will help to retain moisture, raising the humidity, increasing the success of germination and health of root production.
  • Remove tray from heat pad when roots begin touching tray. Be careful not to overheat the roots and damage the plant.


Cut And Come Again Hydroponic Lettuce Harvesting

Cut And Come Again Hydroponic Lettuce HarvestingWhen it comes to harvesting lettuce, there are a few different methods you can use. One of the more popular methods of harvesting lettuce for the at home hydroponic gardener is the cut and come again method.

About The Cut And Come Again Method

Instead of harvesting the whole plant, larger leaves of the lettuce are harvested while the smaller leaves are allowed to grow longer. The process can be repeated several times to get multiple harvests out of the lettuce plant. Using the cut and come again method is often more efficient than growing from seed after each harvest. Another benefit to the cut and come again method is that it can reduce waste. If you allow your whole garden to grow the full amount of time and harvest all at once, you may not be able to eat it all before it spoils.

How Do You Know When Hydroponic Lettuce Is Ready For Harvest?

One of the great things about lettuce is you can harvest it when you want to. Whenever there’s enough leaf growth to supply the amount you need, you can harvest it. How many plants you have in your garden can be a factor. Harvesting a few smaller plants can equal the harvest of a single plant that has grown longer.

How Many Times Can You “Cut And Come Again”?

Using cut and come again you can get several harvests out of each plant. You can keep coming back until the plant starts to bolt, at that point the lettuce will begin tasting bitter.

How To Harvest Hydroponic Lettuce Using Cut And Come Again Method

This is a 2 x 3 ft flood and drain system I have set up in the corner of the garage. The lettuce had been growing for roughly a months time.

3 Basics Of Hydroponic Algae Growth

hydroponic algae growthAlgae growth is actually made up of several different types of plant-like organisms.  Since there are many different types of algae growth, its appearance in your hydroponic system can take a few different forms. Algae may be slimy, bubbly, fury or stringy and may appear as different colors including green, brown, red, and black. Since algae thrive in the same conditions as plants, a hydroponic garden is an optimum environment for algae growth. Here are three things you want to know about that algae growth in your hydroponic system.

How Does Hydroponic Algae Growth Start?

Algae in your hydroponic garden start from microscopic spores that are transported through the air. There are steps you can take to reduce the levels of contamination, but it’s hard to prevent algae spores from reaching your system. Since algae are plant-like, your hydroponic system can be the best environment for algae growth. Warmer temperatures, nutrients, water and light is what algae need to grow. Light reaching hydroponic rich water starts the growth of algae. Once is starts it spread can reproduce rather quickly.

Is Algae Growth Harmful To A Hydroponic Garden?

A small amount of algae growth is not harmful to you hydroponic system or garden. Almost every hydroponic system has some sort of hydroponic growth at one point or the other. Often times treating your hydroponic system for algae growth can wait until after you harvest your crop. When algae is abundantly growing is when it can become an issue. Large amounts of algae can clog up your system. Clogged pipes can lead to overflow or a blockage to the pump can cause to stop working. Besides wear and tear on your system, algae can deprive your plants of oxygen. Algae will steal the oxygen from the plant’s root system, affecting respiration, causing your plants to weaken.

How Do You Get Rid of Algae In Your Hydroponic System?

The best way to stop algae growth is taking away at least one element it needs to grow. By removing its source of light or reducing the amount of nutrients exposed to light, algae will not be able to grow. Finding something that will rid your system of algae and not harm your plants is a challenge. Since algae are plant-like, often what is harmful to algae is harmful to your garden. Grapefruit seed extract is used to by municipalities to treat drinking water and in studies has shown to be effective at removing algae while not harming your garden. There will always be some algae growth when hydroponic gardening, it;s just about containing it so it doesn’t take over your garden.

The Best pH Level For Your Hydroponic Garden

It’s important to measure the pH of your hydroponic garden on a regular basis. Plants are not able to take in nutrients when your nutrient water falls out of a certain pH level. Most plants prefer a pH level that is slightly acidic, around 5.0 to 6.5. To get the most out of your plants its best to tailor the pH to the plant your growing.

Best ph level for garden

Recommended Ph Level By Plant

Fruit Crop pH Vegetable Crop pH
Apple 5.0-6.5 Asparagus 6.0-7.0
Banana 5.5-6.5 Basil 5.5-6.5
Blackberry 5.5-6.5 Beans 6
Blueberry 4.0-5.0 Broccoli 6.0-6.5
Cantaloupe 6 Cabbage 6.5-7.0
Cherry 6.0-7.5 Carrots 6.3
Grape 6.0-7.5 Cauliflower 6.0-7.0
Mango 5.5-6.5 Celery 6.5
Melon 5.5-6.0 Chives 6.0-7.0
Peach 6.0-7.5 Cucumber 5.5-6.0
Pineapple 5.5-6.0 Eggplant 5.5-6.5
Plum 6.0-7.5 Fodder 6
Raspberries 5.8-6.5 Garlic 6
Strawberries 5.5-6.5 Kale 6.0-7.5
Watermelon 5.5-6.0 Lettuce 5.5-6.5
Mint 7.0-8.0
Onions 6.0-6.7
Pea 6.0-7.0
Peppermint 6.0-7.5
Peppers 5.5-6.5
Potato 5.0-6.0
Pumpkin 5.5-7.5
Spinach 5.5-6.6
Squash 5.0-6.5
Tomato 5.5-6.5
Zucchini  6.0

If you discover your pH level is our of range then you should correct it immediately. Adjusting pH is an easy fix.

How To Clone A Plant Using Hydroponics

Have you ever wished you could replicate that one perfect plant in your garden? Then you need to know how to clone a plant.  A plant clone is a shoot that is cut off a plant that is then used to grow a new plant. The plant clone grows with the exact same characteristics of the mother plant, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

I wanted to make some extra money to help with gardening expenses and know that nice looking mums can go between $5 to $15. After doing some research I found that starting mums from seeds wasn’t the easiest. It was recommended that I start new plants using plant clones. I just so happened I had an excellent mum plant decorating our home so I decided to share how to make cuttings to clone a plant.

Items Needed To Clone A Plant Using Hydroponics

To clone a plant you’re going to first need to gather a few things:

  • A healthy plant with shoots
  • A Sterile cutting tool (clean razor blades or a clean pair of scissors)
  • Something to start the clones in.
  • Rooting gel (optional)

How to clone a plant

Using hydroponic methods are probably the easiest way to clone a plant. I’m using a clone box that I made with some spare stuff I had and some leftover net pots. There are many ways to clone a plant and several ways to clone a plant hydroponically. Using this method, the plants will be suspended in oxygen rich nutrient water.

Steps To Using Hydroponics To Clone A Plant

1From your mother plant, cut away the number of shoots equal to the number of clones you’ll be taking. For this, I will be taking shoots least 5 inches in long. Some branches may have multiple shoots you can take for clones.

3If you’re using a branch,  cut off the shoots, then trim them all down to about 5 inches. Angle your cut to expose more of the inner stem. Pinch off any bottom leaves towards the bottom of the stem.

4To prevent contamination do not dip the cutting stem directly into your root gel container. I like to use a spoon and dip out some rooting gel to just use off the spoon. Dip the cutting into the rooting gel and place it into your grow medium.

IMG_6789

How Long Does It Take To Clone A Plant?

After about 2 weeks, some of the plant clones have started to show sign of root growth. When roots finally start to show, the process of root formation moves pretty quickly. When a good root system forms, it’s time to transplant them into some dirt and put them up for sale. With this method, I’m able to see the roots forming, whereas with other methods you have to wait for the root system to show through the grow medium.

root

A plant cutting 14 days after being started.

root2

The same cutting 2 days later.

6 Ways To Keep Your Hydroponic Nutrient Solution Cool

The temperature of your hydroponic nutrient solution is not something that should be overlooked. Too cold and roots will not form properly, the plant will grow slow and maybe die. A hydroponic nutrient solution that is too hot does not hold the oxygen your plants need to survive. This can cause stress to your garden and could eventually result in death. The hydroponic nutrient solution should be kept between about 65 degrees and 80 degrees. So what are some ways to cool your hydroponic nutrient reservoir?

thermo slide

Shade Your Hydroponic Reservoir

Try and keep you hydroponic reservoir in a shaded from the heat source. Hydroponic reservoirs are often dark colors to prevent algae growth. Dark color attracts light and with it heat. Building a box or cover for your reservoir can help cool down the temperature of your hydroponic nutrient solution. If your hydroponic garden is inside you may need to move your reservoir away from hot lights or equipment.

Add Ice Packs To Your Hydroponic Reservoir

Adding clean ice packs to your hydroponic nutrient solution is an easy way to combat the heat. Keep in mind you don’t want to cool down your nutrient solution too much or alter the temperature too quickly. Use an ice pack size that will make sense for the amount of nutrient solution you’re using. Frozen water bottles work well as alternatives if you don’t have any ice packs. You can use milk jugs for larger hydroponic reservoirs.

Change Your Reservoir Color

Altering the color of a dark reservoir is a good way to help control the temperature of your hydroponic solution. Painting it white will deflect heat away from the reservoir. An alternative to painting your hydroponic reservoir is wrapping it in something metallic such as foil.

Top Off Your Reservoir With Cool Water

If it is just a warmer day than usual, adding cool water to your nutrient solution may be all you need to cool down the temperature.

Bury Your Hydroponic Reservoir

If your hydroponic garden is outside, burying your hydroponic reservoir could solve your nutrient solution temperature problems

Purchase A Reservoir Chiller

If you have the money, the simple solution to cooling your hydroponic nutrient solution would be to purchase a water chiller. Water chillers can start at little over $300 and cost as much as you want to spend.

Choosing Quality Seeds for Your Hydroponic Garden

choosing seeds slideOften times the importance of using quality seeds are overlooked when gardening. Choosing quality seed for your garden may be one of the least expensive aspects of your hydroponic garden, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Many gardeners are gardening for the enjoyment, savings, to know where their food comes from, and also it’s quality.  One of the reasons I garden using hydroculture, and just garden at home in general, is for the quality of the produce. The best part of food, of course, is the taste. To be sure I get the best out of my garden, I make sure to use quality seeds.

Where Is A Good Place To Get Seeds For My Hydroponic Vegetable Garden?

During typical growing seasons, you can find quality seeds at your local hardware and grocery stores. These stores often stop selling seeds during the winter times so you may have better luck getting the best seeds for your hydroponic garden online. I For no particular reason it seems that I end up with most of my seeds coming from Burpee, whether online or from the hardware store when I stock up.

Picking Seeds For You Hydroponic Vegetable Garden

Not every type of vegetable is the same. For example, there are 7 different types of lettuce, with each having many different varieties. When choosing quality seeds from your garden there are many factors that you will need to consider.

  • The amount of overall space needed for the plants to grow.
  • The amount of space needed between plants.
  • The height the plants will get.
  • Days until maturity.
  • The size of the produce.
  • The growing conditions needed. 

Take a look at these 2 varieties of tomato plants.

Brandy Boy Hybrid
Brandy Boy Hybrid
Porter House HybridPorterhouse Hybrid
Quick Facts On Brandy Boy Hybrid:

  • Produces fruit 65-80 days after seed germination
  • Produces fruit throughout the life of the plant
  • Grows best in full sun
  • Plant height reaches ~75 inches
  • Plants should be spaced about 65 inches apart
  • Average ripen fruit weight can reach 14 oz.
Quick Facts On Porterhouse Hybrid:

  • Produces fruit 65-80 days after seed germination
  • Produces fruit throughout the life of the plant
  • Grows best in full sun
  • Plant height reaches ~40 inches
  • Plants should be spaced about 18 inches apart
  • Average ripen fruit weight can range 2-4 lbs.

The last 3 facts can make a major difference in both planning your garden and what to expect come harvest time!

With a little research choosing quality seeds for your hydroponic garden can be a fun process. With so many different varieties of each type of vegetable, there are several options to fit any almost any hydroponic gardeners criteria.

Nutrient Lockout

If you notice your hydroponic plants becoming stunted or showing colors resembling nutrient deficiency, then your plants may be experiencing nutrient lockout. It’s easier to diagnose nutrient lockout with hydroponic gardens because nutrients are measured to the exact amount (or should be) to supply the plants with enough nutrients. Nutrient lockout is exactly what it sounds like. Nutrients in the solution are locked out from being absorbed by the roots. Picture a mineral clog in the arteries of the plant. This can mean the death of your garden.

nutrient lockout

Nutrient lockout can mean the death of your garden and should be treated immediately.

Some Causes Of Nutrient Lockout

  • Not mixing hydroponic nutrients properly or too much nutrients in the solution will cause nutrient lockout. Many nutrients have to be mixed a certain way so make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. Follow a feeding chart if you’re not experienced with using different nutrient levels so not to add too much nutrients.
  • The buildup of excess minerals or salts in your reservoir will cause nutrient lockout. It’s important to change your nutrient solution every week or so and use a clean reservoir. Rinsing the root with fresh water to get excess nutrients off is also recommended.
  • Improper pH levels will cause nutrient lockout. pH levels should be measured regularly and kept between 5.5 and 6.5. Different minerals can only be taken in by the plant at certain pH levels. If the pH of your nutrient solution falls out of these levels, adjust the pH asap.

How To Treat Nutrient Lockout

First, you need to flush your reservoir and plants with fresh water. To help save a garden experiencing nutrient lockout, a leaching agent should be used to leach out any minerals built up in your garden. You can find many products over the internet or at your local hydroponics store that will flush your system of excess minerals. Run clean water through your system and over the plant’s roots to further flush your system. I like to then empty the reservoir again, replacing it with more fresh water only for the plants to sit in for a few days before getting them back on nutrients.