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Phone: 352-253-1001
Address: 1179 East Alfred Street
Tavares FL 32778
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Discount Hydroponics

Hydroponics 101


 An 8-step guide to successful indoor gardening

 

1) The right environment
Having the right environment is critical for your garden. Key elements to a successful garden room include relative humidity, temperature, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and air circulation/exchange. The ideal humidity for a garden room falls between 40 & 60 percent. Some plants like higher humidity, but know that higher humidity can lead to problems with fungus and disease. Temperatures in your grow room should be between 68 – 75 F degrees. Temperature changes will lead to variations in humidity levels. Avoid drastic temperature changes over a short period of time. Your plants need CO2 to grow. Assuming you have good air circulation/ exchange, your garden room will naturally have between 300-400 PPM (parts per million) of CO2; higher CO2 levels should accelerate growth rates. If you choose not to supplement CO2 in your garden room, it is important to address the air circulation/exchange so that your plants will receive fresh CO2.

2) Start off with good water
The water you use for your plants will determine how well your plants will grow, regardless of what you add in terms of nutrients and supplements.PPM (parts per million) or EC (electrical conductivity) are the measurement of the salts in a solution. Neither PPM nor EC readings will tell you what is in your solution / water, but rather are indicators of the solutions ability to conduct electricity. Ideally, you want to start of with a low PPM or EC then you can add nutrients specified to your plants requirements. You can reduce the PPM of your water using a Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) unit then build your nutrient solution around what your plants need.

3) Choose a method

Ebb & Flow gardens flood and drain a tray of plants with a nutrient solution at regular intervals. A drip garden provides nutrient solution to the plant through tubes & emitters (drip stakes) to each plant. Aeroponic growing mists an oxygenated nutrient solution directly to the roots of a plant. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) gardens create a slow moving nutrient solution -‘film’- that flows over the roots of the plants. Organics have become a preferred method of growing. Choose the size container you want, an organic soil/medium, an organic fertilizer and water by hand.

 4) Choose a medium

Growing mediums act as the anchor for the plants root system. Some add nutritional value to your plants while others simply give the roots something to hold on to. Some mediums to consider are soil, soil-less mixes, coco, hydroton, rockwool/stonewool, or silica stone. Coco is available in both a loose and compressed form. Coco is made from the husks of a coconut, and it is very pH stable and provides good moisture retention and natural aeration qualities. Hydroton or clay pebbles are made from expanded, pH neutral clay. They tend to hold water well and have great oxygen to water ratio; this makes hydroton suitable for hydroponic and soil gardens. With proper sterilization techniques, hydroton can be reused. Rockwool is made from stone that is heated then spun into fibers. It is then compressed into starter cubes, grow blocks, or slabs. This medium has excellent oxygen to water ratio. Rockwool tends to have a higher pH, so flushing with 5.5-5.8 pH balanced water or a rockwool conditioning solution is recommended. Rockwool works best in an ebb & flow and drip systems. Silica stone is a rock that contains high levels of silicate which helps slow transpiration rates of plants. This is especially helpful in garden rooms that have temperatures above 85 F degrees. Silica stone is pH neutral and environmentally friendly. Like hydroton, silica stone can be reused and is suitable for hydroponic and soil gardens.

5) Nutrients

Like humans, plants require food (nutrients) to grow. Nutrients come in organic and synthetic varieties and are available in both liquid and dry form. Nutrients can be separated into two categories, macro and micro nutrients. The macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. The micronutrients or trace nutrients include iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum and chlorine. If the nutrients are deficient or are abundant you may see burning, curling or yellowing. You do not want to over or under fertilize. There are many different types of nutrients/fertilizers available on the market. You can purchase organic, synthetic (chemical) or a combination of both. Most nutrients/fertilizers will have an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) on the front of the bottle. In the vegetative or growth stage the “N” will typically be higher. In the flowering or bloom stage the “P” will typically be higher. You may also consider implementing additives/supplements into your nutrient mix. Additives/supplements can bolster microbial activity at the root zone, increase size, flavor and aroma. When used together, nutrients and supplements will help you achieve maximum results.

 6) Lighting

High Intensity Discharge (HID) is the preferred lighting in a garden room. The two types of HID lighting commonly used are HPS (High Pressure Sodium) and MH (Metal Halide). HPS lamps deliver more of an orange/ red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the flowering/bloom stage. MH lamps deliver more of a blue/green spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the vegetative/growth stage. Another type of lighting ideal for plant growth is T5 lighting. T5 lighting is a high-output fluorescent light with low heat and minimal energy consumption. It is an ideal light for cuttings, mother plants and short growth cycles. All plants require light in order to grow and bloom. Most plants grow and bloom according to the amount of light they are given. In the growth or vegetative stage plants typically want 15-18 hours of light. In the bloom stage you reduce the amount of light your plants get to 10-12 hours. You want to make sure the light comes on and of at the same time everyday (just like mother- nature). The best way to accomplish this is by putting your light on a timer. Please consult your nearest hydroponic retail store for more information on which light is best for you.

7) Testing equipment

There are many different meters available for testing pH, PPM, EC, temperature, humidity, CO2 and light levels. Single meters are available as are combination meters that test and/or monitor your environmental conditions The important thing to remember is your garden will only be as good as the limiting factor. Water, nutrient, light, temperature, humidity, CO2 & circulation are the elements to a successful garden room. By “dialing in” these elements, you will ensure a successful and bountiful garden.

8)Optional Accessories

There are many items available to help your garden grow. Organics, controls, fans, blowers, plant stakes, relays, nutritional supplements and the lists go on .Contact us  to discuss what the best accessories for your garden are. Happy Gardening!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NPK’s of Growing

 

(N) NITROGEN

Nitrogen is essential for plant growth. Nitrogen is a part of every living cell. The two forms of nitrogen which plants take up are in the ammonia (NH4) and nitrate (N03) ion forms. Most agronomic crops take up most of their nitrogen in the nitrate ion form. Plants will utilize N in the (NH4) ion form if present and available to the plant. Lack of nitrogen and chlorophyll means that plants cannot utilize sunlight as an energy source to carry on essential functions such as nutrient uptake. Research has proven foliar or leaf applications of nitrogen is one form of application that can supplement a plants nitrogen requirements during the growing cycle.

  • Nitrogen is necessary for chlorophyll synthesis and as a part of the chlorophyll molecule is involved in photosynthesis.
  • Nitrogen is also a component of amino acids.
  • Nitrogen is needed for growth of plants.

 (P) PHOSPHORUS

Phosphate is a very important plant nutrient (macro-nutrient) needed for the plant to complete its normal production cycle. The highest level of P in young plants is found in tissue at the growing stage. As plants mature most of the P moves into the flower and then to the seed or fruit.

  • Phosphorus is needed for photosynthesis.
  • Phosphorus is necessary for plant respiration.
  • Phosphorus is essential for energy storage and transfer.
  • Phosphorus is needed for cell division.
  • Phosphorus is necessary for cell enlargement.
  • Phosphorus is essential for several other plant processes.

 (K) POTASSIUM

An important function of Potassium is it’s influence in efficient water use. It helps in the process of opening and closing of plant leaf pores, called the stomata. Potassium is found in cell walls which surround stomata. Adequate amounts of Potassium can increase stress conditions on plants during drought conditions. Potassium is also responsible for producing quality crops.

  • Potassium is essential for protein synthesis.
  • Potassium is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates, providing energy for plants.
  • Potassium helps to control ionic balance.
  • Potassium is important in the translocation of minerals.
  • Potassium helps plants to overcome effects of disease.
  • Potassium is essential in the fruit formation stage.
  • Potassium helps improve shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
  • Potassium is involved in the activation of more than 60 enzymes which regulate the rates of major plant growth reactions.

 

 

General lighting questions:

 

  1. What is HID Lighting?

 

HID lighting stands for High Intensity Discharge, which is a special type of lighting that is much more intense (brighter) than other types of lighting available. An HID lighting system consists of a ballast, reflector, socket and lamp (light bulb). The ballast acts like the engine, converting and driving energy to illuminate the lamp. HID lighting options include High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH), Mercury Vapor and Low Pressure Sodium. The two typically used for plant growth are HPS and MH systems.

 

  1. What is Color Rendering Index (CRI), Color Temperature (K) and Lumen?

 

Color Rendering Index is a subjective measurement of how well a lamp source renders colors. A measurement of the degree of color- shift an object undergoes when illuminated by a light source when compared to a reference source of comparable color temperature. Incandescent light is assumed to have a CRI of around 100 so it will render all colors correctly. MH only has a CRI of about 70, so only 70% of colors will be rendered correctly. HPS has a CRI of 22.

 

Color Temperature is not how hot the lamp is. Color temperature is the relative whiteness of a piece of tungsten steel heated to that temperature in degrees Kelvin. HPS has a warm (red) color temperature of around 2700K as compared to MH at 4200K, which has a cool (blue) color temperature.

 

What is important to remember about these two terms is that CRI readings, of two sources, can only be compared if their color temperature is equal. You cannot compare the CRI of HPS (CRI=22) vs. Metal Halide (CRI=70) because the color temperatures are dif erent (2200K vs. 4500K).

 

Lumen is a measurement of light output. It refers to the amount of light emitted by one candle that falls on one square foot of surface located at a distance of one foot from the candle. Traditionally, lumens have been the benchmark of a lamps ability to grow plants; meaning the brighter the lamp the better the plant. However, studies have shown that a broader color spectrum lamp will perform much better than a lamp with high lumen output, especially when it comes to plant growth.

 

  1. What is the difference between MH and HPS with regards to plant growth?

 

MH lamps provide more of the blue/green spectrum, which is ideal for leafy crops, and/or plants that are in a vegetative (actively growing) stage. MH lamps provide a more natural appearance in color and are typically the choice for plants that have little to no natural light available. HPS lamps provide more yellow/orange/red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants that are actively fruiting and flowering. In addition, HPS lighting is the choice for growers looking to supplement natural sunlight. Ideally, the horticulturalist will use MH to grow their plants and HPS to fruit and flower their plants.

 

  1. What is the difference between HID and Fluorescent lighting with regards to plant growth?

 

Traditionally, fluorescent lighting was used for seedlings, cuttings and plants with low light-level requirements and HID was used for established plants and plants with higher light-level requirements. Advances in fluorescent lighting technology, however, have provided more options for horticulturists. T5 fluorescent lighting is the latest in plant growth lighting. T5’s high-light output combined with its low heat and energy consumption makes it an ideal light source to grow a broader array of plants.

 

  1. What are the benefits of using T5 fluorescent lighting for plant growth?

 

T5 lamps provide the ideal spectrum for plant growth. Photosynthesis rates peak at 435 nm and 680 nm. A 6500K T5 lamp has a spectral distribution with relative intensity peaks at 435 nm and 615 nm. This equates to very little wasted light energy in terms of plant growth. T5 lamps promote incredible health and vigor of seedlings and cuttings. Root development is superior relative to other lighting sources. While T5 lighting is excellent for starting seeds and cuttings, it’s also able to produce enough light for full term growth. Because of their minimal heat output, T5 lamps can be placed 6” – 8” above the plant canopy which maximizes photosynthetic response. Unlike conventional fluorescent lamps, plants grown under T5 lamps do not have to be rotated to the center of the lamp. T5’s slim diameter enables better photo-optic control of the emitted light, increasing efficiency in the form of even light distribution.

 

Environmental Impacts of T5 (at a glance):

 

    • T5 lamps have a diameter of 5/8” – smaller is better when it comes to manufacturing, transportation and disposal.
    • Reduction in raw materials and components needed for manufacturing.
    • Reduction in lamp and fixture packaging materials due to relative size.
    • T5 are constructed of 40% less glass than T8.
    • T5 contain 30% less phosphor than T8.
    • T5 contain 3mg of mercury. 70% less than T8.
    • Longer lamp life means reduced maintenance cost and less going to the landfill.
  1. What are the major differences between HID ballasts and electronic ballasts?

 

Frequency output to the lamp and energy conversion from electricity to usable light are the biggest differences between HID ballasts and electronic ballasts. HID ballasts produce a frequency of 60 Hz. Electronic ballasts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the frequency produced can be 400x that of an HID ballast. HID ballasts produce more heat than electronic ballasts, thus making electronic ballasts more energy efficient. You will not, however, save money on your electric bill by using electronic ballasts. HID lighting has been available for 60+ years, while electronic ballast (especially 400 watt and higher) is a relatively new technology.

 

  1. Are electronic ballasts more energy efficient?

 

Electronic ballasts are more efficient at converting electricity into usable light. Since your power bill is based on kilowatt-hours and not efficiency, a 1000 watt electronic ballast will cost you about the same as a 1000 watt HID ballast to operate.

 

  1. How much energy will my light use?

 

An average lighting system will increase your electricity cost about $8 to $20 per month. The exact amount depends on the wattage of the system and the number of hours operated. To calculate your cost, multiply the bulb wattage X the number of hours of operation and divide by 1000. This figure is the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity used. (Example: a 400 watt lamp running for 18 hours will use 7.2 kilowatt-hours). Check your power bill for the cost of each kilowatt-hour. Then multiply the number of kilowatt-hours used by the cost of a kilowatt-hour (K/hr) to figure the cost to run your light for that many hours.

 

  1. Do I need special wiring in my house for my lighting system?

 

Lighting systems are available in a variety of voltages. The standard used by most gardeners is 120 volts / 60 Hz which plugs into a standard wall outlet. Other voltages may require special circuits and receptacles. Always contact a licensed electrician if the light you purchased has special voltage requirements and never exceed more than 75% of the rated ability of the fuse/breaker. (For example: use no more than 15 amps on a 20-amp circuit.)

 

  1. What voltages are available for HID and Fluorescent lights?

 

HID systems are available in 120 volt, 208 volt, 240 volt, 277 volt and 480 volt – All at 60 Hz. Fluorescent lighting varies, but most are available from 100 volt to 277 volt and 50 Hz or 60 Hz.

 

  1. Will I save on my electric bill if I run my system with 240 volts?

 

No. Electric companies base your electrical bill on Wattage, not Voltage or Current. While ballasts wired for 240 volt will draw less current and run a little cooler than one wired for 120 volt, it will not save you money on your electric bill.

 

  1. How often do I need to change my light bulb?

 

Most lamp manufacturers rate their lamps by “Average Life Hours” and usually claim 10,000 to 24,000 hours. These ratings are based on when the lamp will completely fail to come on. They do not factor in loss of intensity or loss of color. HID lamps lose intensity and color through normal use. This is OK if you are lighting a warehouse, but when it comes to plant growth, these losses can mean wasted electricity and poor plant performance. Serious horticulturalists recommend that you replace your lamps after 6000 hours of use. This equates to using your light 16 hours a day for one year.

 

  1. How long should I run my lights?

 

This depends on the type of plants and whether you have natural sunlight available to your garden. As a general rule, when you are in a vegetative stage of plant growth and you have no natural sunlight, run your lights 14-18 hours a day. If you have natural sunlight, it will vary because the sunlight may or may not be direct. It will take a little experimenting to find the best length of time to run your lights. If you are actively fruiting and flowering, the rule is to run your lights 12 hours a day if you have no natural light.

 

  1. How high do I need to hang my lights above my plants?

 

The higher the wattage the further away you want the light to be from your plants due to the amount of heat. HID lighting will be further away than a fluorescent fixture because of this. When mounting your lighting fixture take into account the type of plant and how tall the plant will grow. You want to keep the light as close as you can, but not so close to burn the plant. A simple rule is “if it is comfortable for the back of your hand, it will be a safe distance for your plants”. Doing a little research on the type of plant and where it comes from will help in determining how much (or little) light your plants like. With fast growing plants, you may need to check the hanging height on a regular basis as plants that get too close to the lamp will be severely burned.

 

  1. How big of an area will my light cover?

 

The size of the garden area will determine the wattage you need. If we assume that the plants will get no sunlight, a 1000 watt light will cover about 7 x 7 feet of growing area. A 600 watt will cover 6 x 6 feet, a 400 watt will cover 4 x 4 feet, and a 250 watt will cover 3 x 3 feet. These sized areas would be considered the “Primary Growing” areas. These lights will light-up larger areas, but plants placed outside of the Primary Growing area, will stretch and bend toward the light; a phenomenon called phototropism. Keep these areas of coverage in mind when using multiple fixtures. The best results occur when the areas of coverage overlap.

 

  1. Why do I need glass to get the ETL Listing on a Metal Halide light?

 

The inner arc tube of a Metal Halide lamp contains mercury. Eddison Testing Laboratories has stated that for a Metal Halide fixture to maintain its ETL Listing, that an additional tempered safety lens is required in the event that the arc-tube and outer glass fail. This will prevent the spread of Mercury.

 

  1. Can I run a 1000 watt bulb in my 400 watt lighting system?

 

No! The internal components of the ballast are designed to send the correct voltage and current for the rated lamp. Mixing lamps and ballasts will result in premature failure and will void the manufacturers’ warranty. Consider the size area you want your garden to be prior to making a lighting purchase. It is better to grow into a fixture than out of one.

 

  1. Can I run a 430 watt bulb in a 400 watt lighting system?

 

Yes, the internal components of 400 watt and 430 watt ballasts are almost identical. You will only get 400 watts of light out of the 430 watt lamp, however.

 

  1. Do I need to wear gloves when handling an HID light bulb?

 

Manufacturers do not state that gloves are required when handling their lamps. It is recommended that your hands be thoroughly washed prior to handling HID lamps though.

 

  1. What is a conversion bulb?

 

A lamp that operates on the opposite ballast it was originally designed for. For example, a 940 watt conversion lamp is an HPS lamp that runs on a 1000 watt Metal Halide Ballast. There are also MH lamps that are designed to operate on HPS ballasts. These bulbs allow the grower to purchase the ballast of their choice and offer the flexibility of growing a variety of plant types by simply changing the lamp they need.