8 Keys to Successful Hydroponics
Hydroponic systems don’t compensate for poor growing conditions such as inadequate light, pest problems and heat issues. Hydroponically grown plants have the same general requirements for successful growth as field-grown plants. The difference is the method by which the plants are supported. The elements necessary for growth and plant development are supplied by the grower.
- Light – All vegetable plants and many flowers require large amounts of artificial light or sunlight. You should find out how much the plant you’re growing requires and supply accordingly. Hydroponically grown vegetables like those grown in a garden, need at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day to produce well.
- Water-Water quality can be a problem in hydroponic systems. The state of the South African water supply is shocking, in order to get great results we suggest using reverse osmosis water (soft water) or install a pre-filter at the entry point to your property – Using a “clean slate” to then add nutrients will be easier to accurately maintain and your plants will not suffer from nutrient lockout.
- Oxygen – Plants love air and need a lot of it! Plants require oxygen for respiration to carry out their functions of water and nutrient uptake. In soil adequate oxygen is usually available, but plant roots growing in water will quickly exhaust the supply of dissolved oxygen and can be damaged or killed unless additional air is provided. A common method of supplying oxygen is to bubble air through the solution. It is not usually necessary to provide extra oxygen in aeroponic or continuous flow systems such as NFT. Oxygen supply to your hydroponic solution reservoir is a must
- Temperature – Plants grow well only within a limited temperature range. Temperatures that are too high or too low will result in abnormal development and reduced production. Warm-season vegetables and most flowers grow best between 15° and 24° – 26° C. Cool-season vegetables such as lettuce and spinach should be grown between 10° and 20° C.
- Hygiene – Keep your immediate and surrounding working areas clean and tidy. When handling plants, make sure your hands are clean.
- Accuracy – Use an EC Meter or PPM Meter when mixing nutrients according to feeding charts. You want to be giving your plants just what they need. Read the nutrients label and feeding directions, start with half of what they suggest. Watch for signs of stress or burning from overfeeding. A pH meter is also required as the nutrients will only be available to the plants within certain pH ranges.
- Nutrients – Use the best! Plants must absorb certain minerals through their roots for survival. The essential elements needed in large quantities are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Micronutrients – iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and chlorine are also needed but in very small amounts.
- Support – In a traditional garden, the plant's roots are supported by the soil around the growing plant. A hydroponically grown plant must be artificially supported, usually with netting or string-type supports.