There are many advantages to hydroponic gardening. One of them is more control over your garden, allowing you to steer clear of potential issues.
No matter what preventative measures you take though, there are still some common issues all hydroponic gardeners have at some point. It’s important to be familiar with these common issues, so you know what to watch for, hopefully allowing you to fix the issues before it becomes a bigger problem.
Plants have specific nutrient needs depending on the type of plant and the stage of growth it’s in. Plants that don’t receive the correct amounts of each nutrient will start to show nutrient deficiencies.
Not all plants have the same nutrient requirements. You will need to tailor the nutrient regimen for the variety your growing. Sometimes it’s not always black and white on the exact amount of each nutrient needed for optimal growth of a specific plant. Even under a strict nutrient regimen nutrient deficiencies are an issue all hydroponic gardeners have at some point.
Deficiencies can affect growth and production, turning your garden into a waste. Understanding N-P-K ratios will help you better understand hydroponic nutrients and how they meet the needs of the plant, avoiding deficiencies. Nutrient deficiency could also be due to improper pH.
Left unchecked, pests can quickly take over a garden. In addition to being a nuisance, they can damage produce and carry pathogens. No matter how clean of an area you keep, pest and disease are issues all hydroponic gardeners have to deal with at some point.
There are several common pests to hydroponic gardens like spider mites, aphids, and thrips. Preventing pests like fungus gnats can save you from the pathogens they carry. Keep an eye out for anything creeping, crawling, or flying in your garden to identify and determine if could be a sign of larger issues.
Pathogens & Disease
Pathogens and disease can wreak havoc and quickly spread throughout your hydroponic system. They can be brought in by pests or brought on by environmental conditions.
Keeping your garden clean, a sterile environment free of pests, and at the proper temperatures, you can reduce the chances of pathogens and disease infecting your garden.
Overgrowth of Algae
Algae growth is an issue in every hydroponic garden. It’s really not really a matter of if you will have algae growth, more a matter or how much.
Algae can reproduce rapidly and can quickly take over your garden. Algae can deprive your plants of oxygen, leading to issues like root rot. It can build up to cause clogs and cause system malfunctions.
The key to combating algae growth is knowing what algae needs to grow, then depriving it of that environment.
Proper lighting is one of the most important aspects of a plants environment. Plants use light to create energy, so if they do have the proper light they can’t create energy needed growth.
Plants can have lighting needs of different intensities, durations and spectrums depending on the type of plant and the stage of growth it’s in. Get to know the 3 basics of lighting and research your specific plant’s needs to avoid issues.
Improper pH Balance
Without the proper pH, plants cannot take in different nutrients resulting in lockout. Plants that experience nutrient lockout will show as showing various nutrient deficiencies as they slow in growth. pH needs to be measured often because it is an issue every hydroponic gardener will have, probably multiple times a crop.
Different plants require different pH levels for optimum growth. It’s important to measure the pH of your hydroponic nutrient solution to make sure you’re in the right range fo the plant your growing.
Plants are sensitive to extreme temperatures. When they get too hot or cold they will slow, or altogether stop, in growth and production. Keeping your garden at the best temperature can prevent problems and increase production.
In addition to allowing for normal growth, controlling the temperature can sometimes allow you to manipulate how the plant typically functions. For example, everbearing strawberries stop producing fruit in the hotter months, then start back up as it cools down. These same plants when grown indoors with temperature regulation, can produce strawberries continually for many months.
System Clogging/Leak/ Malfunction
When dealing with something that holds a good amount of water, it’s important to make sure it is functioning properly. It’s a good idea to know how your systems work and check it over for any signs of breaks or leaks.
System maintenance is can prevent issues from occurring in your hydroponic system. Clean the systems regularly, check seals and replace worn parts.
Air circulation is beneficial for many reasons. It can strengthen plants and bring in fresh air assisting in photosynthesis and respiration. It can also assist in distributing heat and cooling your garden.
The biggest advantage to air circulation is reducing the chance of molds. Mold can quickly spread and ruin a crop. Improving the air circulation your garden may be as simple as adding some garden fans.
Though most hobby growers don’t worry too much about water source quality, there is a reason that commercial operations and those growing for the best quality product invest in reverse osmosis systems. Cruddy municipal water is an issue all hydroponic gardeners have to deal with, but treating your water can take an average crop to that next level.
Untreated water already has minerals in it, before adding hydroponic nutrients. This can throw off your EC readings when trying to determine the strength of your nutrient solution, which can lead to nutrient deficiency. There are several reverse osmosis systems on the market that are reasonably priced to make sure you give your garden the best water possible.