Hydroponics Startup / Quickstart / Setup area for beginners, which allows you to grasp the basics and learn about hydroponic gardening, indoor & outdoor through our easy to navigate information portal.
Let's start at the beginning:
There are several names/terms that are similar to or called something different abroad, and we will try to use them clearly in our explanations.
The word Hydroponics roughly translated means working water. Hydroponics is a practice of hydroculture whereby you supply a nutrient-rich solution to an inert growing medium of choice, generally speaking, either in particular recirculating or passive system. We offer a wide variety of growing mediums for you to pick from as your base; we'll touch on this a bit a further down on this page.
Hydroponics & Water Quality Meters
To successfully grow hydroponically, we need to supply nutrients at the correct strengths through each stage of plant development, and we use an EC meter to do so. EC meters gauge the strength of a solution by measuring the electroconductivity in the water. EC is a measurement of resistance in the water.
Now that we have EC covered and have the nutrients dialled in at the right strength, we would like to ensure that the nutrients we supply through each stage of development are accessible to the plants we are growing. We do this by measuring the pH of the nutrient solution and then balancing or making adjustments to get it in range for uptake using either pH up or pH down as a final step before feeding.
It is scientifically proven that plants take up nutrients within specific ranges unique to the crop or plants you are growing. One should take this into serious consideration to ensure you are successful in growing. It's not hard; we are merely adding nutrients to the desired strength for that stage of development, and then adjusting the pH into accessibility range before feeding. Simple.
We would be raising the strength of the nutrient solution approximately once a week, depending on the plants. One should have a look at the EC threshold that the plants you are growing can tolerate. You need to increase this gradually. We don't want to overfeed as we know this stunts development, recovery times are long, and yields can be negatively affected.
You could reference to pH/ TDS / PPM / EC Levels for Hydroponic Plants to keep a gauge on your specific plant requirement using pH Meters & EC Meters.
We have all the meters needed to grow using Hydroponics as your preferred technique.
There are six different types of hydroponic systems which make some mediums more appealing or applicable than others, depending on which route you decide to take on the hydroponic highway. (Types of Hydroponic Systems: Intro to Soilless Growing)
Expanded Clay Pebbles
Sometimes referred to as hydroton or leca is probably one of our most preferred growing media. Expanded Clay Pebbles are ideally suited to recirculating systems similar to dutch buckets, deep water culture, flood and drain/ ebb flow & NFT systems.
Additionally, they can are used wherever you like to block light from reaching the nutrient solution, for example from reaching the inner chambers of your NFT Channel by filling net pots once the seedlings are placed in the pots and securing them with a backfill of leca. Algae grow or develop wherever there is an exposed nutrient solution.
It's best practice to avoid light from reaching your nutrient solution and areas to which it is applied, full stop.
What we love about expanded clay pebbles as a growing medium is that they are reusable, easy to clean, sustainable and most importantly super earth-friendly. We try to be as green-conscious as possible here at Grow Guru and are paperless as much as possible from our side. We maintain green ethics throughout our brand.
While Rockwool has its place in the hydroponics sphere, it is not our most preferred, as it is firstly not sustainable, because the spun rock fibre is not biodegradable. Additionally, in all honesty, we have found that when taking cuttings, the roots have to struggle through the medium as opposed to peat pellets. Only use if you have to, for some reason, want to try out a new technique or are instructed to do so by a professional grower.
Cocopeat is a byproduct from the coconut industry and is also a sustainable solution for hydroponic gardens. It's usually washed, processed and compressed into bricks, as is our Premium Coco peat range. Compressed cocopeat bricks expand to approximately 6-7 times in volume.
Coco peat is inert can be applied in many ways, Coco peat pellets make an excellent germination medium as much as pure coco peat and perlite mix would in a seedling tray.
Cocopeat works well when applied to our Fabric Pots; growers usually have a preference as to the grade of coco peat used, we supply the 5kg bricks in both Fine & Coarse grade.
Perlite Promotes drainage and aeration when mixed with coco peat, other growing mediums or soils.
Vermiculite Promotes Water retention and aeration in your substrate.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
We discuss the types of hydroponic systems in-depth in our article Types of Hydroponic Systems.
Environment, Management & Controls
Simple rules apply to most grow environments, (in this article we assume you know that your plants need water, light, air & nutrients)
Whether you have a grow room, grow tent or polytunnel in which you grow your plants, one would want the entire air volume to be exchanged at least once per minute. This will ensure that stale warm air as well as the air depleted of CO2, can be exchanged with fresh CO2 rich air for your plants to process into oxygen. Around the coastal areas in South Africa we have a CO2 count of approximately 400ppm (at time of writing - this gradually increases due to global warming), generally speaking many plants can tolerate CO2 levels of about 1500ppm dependant on species/variety, increased CO2 has a steroid-like effect on the plants enhancing their abilities for light collection, nutrient uptake which in turn leads to maximum yields. CO2 is covered in our article How to Increase your indoor yield with CO2
Timers are usually an essential part of the grow room and are typically used to time lights and water pumps, on and off, if applicable. Typically, the only things that are on a timer in the grow would be your plant lighting and water pumps. Everything else, in our opinion and based on a basic grow room, should remain on at all times. Fans don't get turned off at night. What one should realise is that the plants transpire at during their night cycle while they are sleeping. Excessive moisture if not maintained, can lead to moulding & fungal deceases, which can cause bud rot in flowering plants. We'll cover timing for grow lights below.
To keep seedlings, clones/ cuttings, in the vegetative stage, one needs to maintain a light cycle of 18 hours on & 6 hours off, referred to as the 18/6 light cycle.
To induce or to flower photosensitive plants, you would change the lighting cycle to 12 hours on and 12 hours off, referred to as the 12/12 light cycle.
Types of Grow Lights
Compact Fluorescent lighting provides low lighting, which is suited to when cloning or germinating from seed.
HID Grow Lights
CMH Grow Lights
LED Grow Lights
We've seen a few generations of LED Grow Lights,
Some plant lighting brands such as Gavita, offer controllers which can be used switch your lights on and off in multiple locations, notify you by text message if there is an issue in your grow room, and dim down or turn off automatically if there is a heating concern which could result in damaged equipment or plants.
Nutrient Feeding Charts & Schedules
Organic VS Synthetic
Nutrient Schedules, Feeding Charts or Programs for the brands we stock are available here: Feeding Charts
**Please note this page is currently in development; however, there are some other valuable resources you could have a look at in the interim:
View this Ebook, check out these Starter Kits
- Keep checking back for more as the page is updated frequently.
More information and literature on Hydroponics:
For General Tips on how to increase your yield:
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