Water should be free of chlorine & have near 0 PPM. Tap water often contains chlorine to kill harmful biologicals. Unfortunately this indiscriminately kills beneficial bacteria. Test the PPM of your tap water; if H2O is above 300 PPM we recommend using reverse osmosis, if H2O is below 300 PPM, a filter will remove chlorine.
pH & PPM
The acid or alkaline level of a solution is pH. Pure water contains a neutral pH of 7.0. Water pH can be tested and adjusted; this should be a major concern for hydroponic gardeners. A good pH for your plants can range from 5.5 to 7.0. Parts-per-million (PPM) is a measure of how many particles of salts, metals or other elements are present in a body of water. Adding nutrients and additives to a water reservoir increases the PPM.
Pests, Pathogens, Prevention
Many pests and pathogens can devastate your garden, which is why preventative care is important. Dipping plants in a pesticide when they are young is an effective way to ensure that the whole plant is protected. Foliar sprays are also very helpful in keeping a garden pathogen free. The more effort put into early preventative measures, the less likely an overwhelming infestation will occur in the later bloom stages (when spraying is less desirable).
Foliar sprays are used to directly feed open leaf stomata (pores) & are vital to maintaining a healthy, happy garden. Too many gardeners ignore this important, yield increasing practice. Foliar sprays are effective in the morning, and most effective at the end of the day, when the garden is approaching the dark cycle. A consistent foliar spray regimen reduces pathogens and parasites like mites, leaf miners, and powder mold.
Listening to Your Plants
Given the fact that plants are living and breathing life forms you must pay close attention to their health. Visually inspecting your plants is extremely important. Looking for signs of yellowing, drooping and curling leaves can enable you to correct certain deficiencies in the plant’s nutrition or in your growing environment itself. Keep an eye out for pests such as gnats and spider mites as they must be addressed immediately. Too little water and your plants will starve and die; too much water and your roots will rot. You never want there to be standing water on your soil and you never want the soil more than a half inch under the surface to get dry. Make sure that your plant is not being over or under fertilized. Over fertilization can cause dried leaf tips and leaf curling, under fertilization will appear as general stunted growth and small flowering sites.
Most importantly, seek advice. A garden is a complicated environment where anything and everything can go wrong. Your local horticulture store and your nutrient manufacturer (firstname.lastname@example.org) can be vital in helping you maintain the health of your garden. Never hesitate to email or call Humboldt Nutrients for technical advice and support.
Lumens measure the perceived power of light, the intensity which the human eye can detect. Micromoles measure the intensity of light which plants can actually absorb. Humans can visually see only a short range of color in the light spectrum, while plants absorb almost all colors in the sun’s spectrum through photosynthesis. The sun provides a range of colors in its spectrum throughout the year. Artificial lights have a difficult time mimicking the magnificent spectrum of the sun. Metal Halide bulbs are bluish in an attempt to mimic the sun’s spectrum during the spring months. These are commonly used during the vegetative stage. High Pressure Sodium lights illuminate more of the orange-reddish spectrum, akin to the summer sun. These bulbs are commonly used during the blooming stage.
In vegetative or growth stages plants ideally want to receive 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. In blooming or flowering stages plants must receive 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light.
Soils and Media
Coco, Rockwool, Hydrocorn & Perlite are all examples of inert media. This means that they contain no usable matter or nutrients for your plants. The only role these media play is in providing a strong substrate in which roots can thrive and expand. All the needs of the plant must be met with nutrient solutions in inert gardens. Soil, however, is biologically active & alive. Micro-organisms live in your soil, continually breaking down organic material into smaller particles which can be absorbed as food by plants. High porosity soil-less mixes are made using coco & peat as a base. These mixes of vermiculite, perlite, coco & peat share qualities of inert media, such as air flow and structure, with the added benefits of colonizing beneficial micro-organisms.
Active or Inert?
In an organic garden, micro-organisms help break down organic matter, fertilizers & supplements, resulting in readily available and usable plant food. Hydroponic gardeners using inert media are less reliant on biological activity and more dependant on soluble fertilizers in the reservoir. Some hydroponic gardeners prefer to keep a sterile environment while others choose to incorporate biological inoculants. Media like Coco is fibrous and can colonize beneficial bacteria and fungi. Inert media like Hydroton balls cannot support this biological activity. High-porosity soil-less media offer aspects of both inert and biologically active media, and can be used either way.