The Best pH Level For Your Garden

A list of recommended pH levels for different plants in your hydroponic garden. More »

How To Clone A Plant

Simple walk through on how to clone a plant More »

How To Grow Hydroponic Lettuce

Growing hydroponic lettuce is easier than you think. More »

9 Advantages Of Hydroponic Gardening

What are the advantages of hydroponic gardening? More »

7 Steps To Starting Your Hydroponic Garden

Find out how to start your hydroponic garden More »

 

Different Types of Grow Lights For Hydroponic Gardens

Different types of grow lights for hydroponics

Choosing the right grow light for your hydroponic garden is an important decision. Not all lighting is the same. There are several factors that come into play when choosing which grow light will work for best for the garden you’re growing.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

Compact Fluorescent Grow LightWhen I first started doing indoor hydroponics I mainly used CFL’s as the light source for my gardens. They were convenient to use since I had them around the house and worked well for the custom lighting I was making. CFL’s don’t give off too much heat and can be used when there is not a lot of space. If you use enough CFL’s this source of lighting can be intense enough for both vegetative and flowering stages. Recently though companies have begun to phase out the production of CFL bulbs in favor of LED.

Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent Tube Grow LightThe most popular fluorescent tube light used for indoor gardening is the T5. T5 tubes come in several lengths, covering a good amount of growing area and can be placed close to your plants since they give off little heat. Fluorescent tube lighting is not very strong so is not typically used for flowering and fruiting stages. This type of lighting works well for leafy greens since they don’t require intense light and don’t need to go through a flowering stage.

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights

HID Grow Light

High-intensity discharge lights have been go-to for indoor gardeners for a long time. These are the large odd-shaped lights that are screwed into a hood looking fixture. High-intensity lighting is intense, can be used for both vegetative and flowering stages, but gives off abundant heat. Because of the heat lighting is kept several feet away from plants. There are 2 types of HID lights, each used at different stages of the plant’s life cycle.

Metal Halide (MH)

Metal Halide lights give off a blue light so is most often used for the vegetative stage. There are some bulbs that are corrected to be used with flowering as well. MH bulbs need to be changed about once a year.

High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)

High-Pressure Sodium lights give off a yellow light and are used for the flowering stage. HPS should not be used for the vegetative stage or will produce tall leggy plants. HPS bulbs have a life expectancy of about 18 months.

LED Grow Lights

LED Grow LightLED lighting is now my preferred lighting option for my indoor hydroponic gardens. While there is sometimes more cost on the initial investment, they perform better and last longer making it more cost-effective in the long run. LED lights can have a life expectancy of around 50,000 hours, giving you a lot of growing time before replacement is necessary. This type of lighting gives off less heat than alternative methods and many have a built with a cooling system. LED lighting is also very intense and can penetrate the top of your plant canopy to the lower leaves of your plants.

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.


Hydroton Expanded Clay Pebbles

hydroton expanded clayWhat Are Hydroton Expanded Clay Pebbles?

Hydroton is a brand name that is interchangeably used with expanded clay and clay pebbles. It’s one of the most popular grow mediums used by hydroponic gardeners. Hydroton expanded clay pebbles come from mined clay that is heated in a kiln to over 2000 degrees. This causes the material to expand like popcorn making it light and porous.  Hydroton expanded clay pebbles are lightweight and can come in circular ball shapes varying in sizes. Hydroton doesn’t compact and since it’s porous, allows for excellent water and airflow.

How Do You Use Hydroton Expanded Clay Pebbles?

Hydroton expanded clay pebbles can be used alone or in with a combination of other grow medium. I prefer to use them as a standalone in my hydroponic systems. Before using any expanded clay, you must completely rinse the dust from the grow medium. Even if your expanded clay pebbles come “prewashed”, I would still recommend rinsing it as a precaution. During transport, pebbles rub together and can sometimes get crushed causing dust. Dust from the expanded clay can cause clogs and also wear on pumps.

Some seeds can be germinated in hydroton expanded clay pebbles under the right conditions. I was shown by a friend that crushing pebbles actually makes them more suitable for seed germination. I prefer to start seeds in rapid rooter cubes and transplant them into the hydroton.

Come harvest time plants are easily removed. After harvest, hydroton expanded clay pebbles can be sterilized and used again. I prefer to use a hydrogen peroxide mix, some prefer to use bleach. The hydroton should be soaked for a few hours and then rinsed. If using bleach I would especially recommend rinsing a few times.

What Hydroponic Systems Work Well When Using Hydroton Expanded Clay Pebbles?

Hydroton can be used in a few different types of systems. It is often used in drip systems, ebb and flow, deep water culture and aeroponic systems. Since these types of systems provide constant nutrient solution to the plants, it ensures the hydroton doesn’t dry out. Hydroton expanded clay pebbles can be used in net pots or large grow beds.

Hydroton expanded clay pebbles in flood and drain system

A few week old lettuce in Hydroton expanded clay grow medium.

Advantages To Using Hydroponic Expanded Clay Pebbles

  • It maintains a neutral pH.
  • Retains some water but doesn’t suffocate roots.
  • You can allow the hydroponic system to continually run, providing more nutrients to your plants.
  • It drains water well.
  • Comes from clay, which is abundant, so it’s environmentally friendly.
  • It’s reusable and can last a long time.
  • Can be inexpensive in small quantities.

Disadvantages To Using Hydroton Expanded Clay Pebbles

  • If the system fails hydroton can dry out.
  • Hydroton needs to be rinsed thoroughly before using.
  • Dust from hydroton can wear on pumps.
  • Can be expensive if using large grow beds.


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.

Gray Mold (Botrytis) In Your Hydroponic Garden

Gray mold in a hydroponic gardenGray mold, also known as Botrytis, is a fungus that affects many varieties of plants. It can affect any part of a plant. Gray mold spreads quickly and often results in the loss of the plant. It is a white to gray growth that eventually turns the affected area brown.

How Does Gray Mold Start?

Gray mold produces spores that are disbursed by water or through the air. To grow, the fungus needs a high humidity environment and nutrients to survive. It growth often starts and an area of the plant that was damaged. When a piece of a plant breaks, it exposes the nutrients the mold needs to start its growing. Once started, it spreads to other parts of the plant. In addition to damaged parts of a plant, you may also see gray mold form on seedlings in high humidity, dying flowers, and cuttings.

How To Get Rid Of Gray Mold

It is recommended to remove the infected plant entirely from the hydroponic garden to prevent the mold from spreading to other plants. If you were to cut off the molded area, you would expose more tissue for mold growth to occur again. When removing infected plants, dispose them far away from your hydroponic garden. Be careful not to damage any healthy plants in the process.

Ways To Reduce Risk Of Mold In Your Hydroponic System

  • Make sure to sterilize all hydroponic equipment regularly.
  • Take steps to reduce humidity. Provide ventilation to your grow area
  • Allow airflow between plants by not overcrowding them, also trimming them when needing.
  • When taking cuttings, try to expose as little of the open plant as possible.
  • Make sure to all remove trimmings and dead plant matter from your hydroponic garden.
  • Keep your plants dry.

9 Advantages Of Hydroponic Gardening

 advantages of hydroponic gardeningAbility To Garden  in Urban Areas, One Of The Greatest Advantages of Hydroponic Gardening

Over 3 billion people in the world live in cities. The need for homes, businesses, and infrastructure dominates, leaving little to no space for traditional gardens. You can pretty much put a hydroponic system anywhere. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil, so you can grow plants where you normally could not, like inside your apartment or on top of a building. Old abandoned warehouses are being renovated into indoor vegetable farms. Hydroponic gardening has allowed people living in cities to eat produce that is just as fresh as those living in rural areas.

Gardening in Undesired Environments

There are many places in the world that have plenty of open land, but lack quality soil or rain for gardens to grow. In addition to growing plants in buildings, simple green houses can be built to maintain a more ideal growing condition for the plants. One of the advantages of hydroponic gardening is you don’t need to have fertile soil for plants to grow.

Simple Maintenance

Hydroponic gardens often require less maintenance compared to traditional gardens. If the hydroponic garden is in hydroponic systema structure, you often don’t have to be concerned with animals or pests infiltrating that space. In addition, you will spend less time, managing issues such as weeds.

Easy Harvest

Since a hydroponic system’s design has endless possibilities, systems can be built for easy harvesting. Hydroponics systems are often built several feet off the ground, making it easier on your back when harvesting plants. No bending, or breaking, the simple solution!

Low water usage

This is an important advantage of hydroponic gardening due to water shortages in many areas. Water is often recirculated in hydroponic systems, and when not (such as non-recovery drip systems) it is only given to the plant in small amounts, meaningless is wasted. This also means less water is lost to evaporation or being soaked up by dirt.

Less Pesticides Usage

Hydroponics gardens inside a structure are less susceptible to pests, so there is often no need to use pesticides that could be harmful to the environment and our bodies.

Better Control Plant Nutrition

Since your hydroponic plants take in only what you expose them to, you have complete control over what they will receive. Different plants need different amounts of specific nutrient levels to perform at their highest plant function. When tailoring the nutrients to your plant’s specific needs, you will always have healthy plants for each growing cycle.

Faster Plant Growth

Traditional garden plants use a lot of their energy to expand their root base in order to take in enough nutrients. Since hydroponic plants have nutrients readily available, more energy is directed towards plant growth. This advantage is why a hydroponic plant will always grow faster.

Higher Yields

For the same reasons hydroponic plants grow faster, hydroponic plants produce higher yields. This means your able to produce more while using less space.