As with any new hobby, when you first start hydroponic gardening you’re going to make some mistakes. It’s all a part of the learning process. When I first started hydroponic gardening I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Here are 6 of the common mistakes by beginners to hydroponic gardening.
Ignoring pH Levels
pH may be one of the most important aspects of hydroponic gardening often that is overlooked by beginners to hydroponics. Minerals from the nutrient solution can only be taken in by plants at certain pH levels. In hydroponic gardens, keeping a pH of around 5.5-6 range allows your plants to take in all the different nutrients they will need.
You will need to measure the pH of your hydroponic nutrients regularly with a pH meter to ensure it’s within the proper ranges and adjust it accordingly.
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Not Providing Proper Lighting
Proper lighting is important for plant growth and production, but not just any light will work. Plants need lighting in different spectrums depending on their stage of growth. In addition to spectrum, plants also require the correct intensity and duration of light.
If your plant lighting is too intense the plant will grow short and compact. Not enough intensity and it will grow tall and lanky. Many beginners to growing indoors think that since plants need light to grow, leaving it on means more growth. Too much light can actually have negative effects on plants.
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Not Understanding Hydroponic Nutrients
There’s a little more to hydroponic nutrients than mixing a good solution to water ratio. Plants require different N-P-K ratios and other minerals at different points in the growth cycle. When plants are in their vegetative growth stage they require more nitrogen. In the flowering stage more potassium and phosphorus.
There are many different types of hydroponic nutrients on the market with different ratios. It’s best to do a little research on the plant you’re growing to determine what it needs at what times to make sure you’re giving your hydroponic garden everything to reach its full potential.
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Not enough Oxygen
Many beginners to hydroponic don’t provide enough oxygen to their plant’s root systems. Plants require oxygen accessible to their roots for respiration and with poor root health comes the susceptibility to pathogens and diseases like root rot. It’s important that they have access to plenty of oxygen, the more the merrier.
Some hydroponic systems allow oxygen to the root base with just the way they operate. For example, ebb and flow systems drain the nutrient solution from the grow bed allowing air exposure to the root system. Ebb and flow systems are set up to allow plants plenty of oxygen. Other systems, such as deep water culture systems, require that you use an air pump and air stone to oxygenate the nutrient solution. With systems like deep water culture, it would only help to add more than one air stone.
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Not Providing Proper Circulation
With warmth and humidity, both of which are usually present in a hydroponic garden, comes the potential for mold growth. To reduce the risk of mold and other issues you should circulate the air in your hydroponic garden. Adding a fan to your garden is a simple solution that brings several benefits.
If your garden is fully enclosed, it’s recommended to add venting that pulls in the fresh air in. This can also assist in bringing fresh oxygen/carbon dioxide and keeping the temperature down. If you’re a beginner to hydroponic gardening, do overlook the proper airflow in your garden.
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Not Maintaining Temperature
Maintaining good temperatures of both the nutrient solution and the air are often overlooked by beginners to hydroponics.
The amount of dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solutions goes down as the temperature of it rises. Less oxygen affects the root health and the higher temperature is the preferred environment for pathogens, like those that cause root rot. Try to keep the nutrient solution between 65-75 degrees.
Temperature can affect a plant in different ways, depending on the stage of growth it’s in. If the temperature is too hot or cold, seeds may not germinate, flowers and fruit may not form, or growth will slow. Different varieties of plants also have different temperature requirements. For example, if lettuce or broccoli get too hot, they will bolt. For the best harvest, do some research on the optimum growing conditions for the variety of plants you’re looking to grow.
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As a beginner to hydroponics, you’re bound to make some mistakes, that’s part of learning! Researching things ahead of time will increase your chances of having a successful hydroponic garden!