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Frequently Asked Questions

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CO2 is generally used during the vegitative stage of a plants life. It speeds up photosynthesis and allows you to run your growing space at a higher temperature, and increasing your yield up to 35%!
If you are running CO2, it's best to have a "sealed" room, one in which has no intake or exhaust fans.  Temperature is controlled by the use of an A/C system.  If you do not have a sealed room, turn your intake and exhaust fans off while the CO2 is discharging plus an additional 10 minutes.  You don't want to suck out all that valuable CO2 for it is too costly to throw away. There is no need to let your CO2 reach more than 1,500 ppm in your garden.

Every nutrient system will have dilution rate on the back, it is best to simply follow their instructions. Most three part systems require you to add the first part to the water first, such as Micro, as the first and second part in their concentrated forms conflicts chemically, and can break down each other down, or combine in the molecular level.  Its a good idea to double check your PPM (parts per million) with a TDS (total disolved solids) or EC (electrical conductivity) meter.

Beneficial insects (sometimes called beneficial bugs) are any of a number of species of insects that perform valued services like pollination and pest control. The concept of beneficial is subjective and only arises in light of desired outcomes from a human perspective. In farming and agriculture, where the goal is to raise selected crops, insects that hinder the production process are classified as pests, while insects that assist production are considered beneficial. In horticulture and gardening; pest control, habitat integration, and 'natural vitality' aesthetics are the desired outcome with beneficial insects.
Encouraging beneficial insects, by providing suitable living conditions, is a pest control strategy, often used in organic farming, organic gardening or Integrated Pest Management. Companies specializing in biological pest control sell many types of beneficial insects, particularly for use in enclosed areas, like greenhouses.

This is entirely up to you.  Most nutrient lines will say they are the best, but are usually quite similar.  Choosing a reliable "tried and true" company such as General Hydroponics, Botanicare, Canna or House & Garden will always get you to a successful finsh!  Simple houseplant fertilizers like Miracle Grow are not suggested for they do not contain certain secondary and trace elements needed for a successful result.

It really depends on the size of your system. If your running an ebb and flow with a basin that is 50 gallons, your reservoir should be at least 50 gallons if not more. A top feed system wouldn not fill the enitre basin, so you would probably need less for that, unless you had a large topfeed or NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) system, with several different basins or gullies.

The Ebb and Flow system works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining the solution back into the reservoir. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a timer.
When the timer turns the pump on nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray. When the timer shuts the pump off, the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir, ready for the next watering. The Timer is set to come on one to several times a day, depending on the size and type of plants, temperature and humidity, the type of growing medium used, and of course your own personal preferences.
The Ebb and Flow is a versatile system that can be used with a variety of growing mediums. The entire grow tray can be filled with Grow Rocks, gravel or granular Rockwool. Many people like to use individual pots filled with growing medium, this makes it easier to move plants around or even move them in or out of the system. The main disadvantage of this type of system is that with some types of growing medium (Gravel, Growrocks, Perlite), there is a vulnerability to power outages as well as pump and timer failures. The roots can dry out quickly when the watering cycles are interrupted. This problem can be relieved somewhat by using growing media that retains more water (Rockwool, Vermiculite, or coconut fiber).

pH stands for “Potential of Hydrogen” and is the symbol for the hydrogen ion (H+) in liquids. pH has a range from 0 (acidic) up to 14 (alkaline), with 7 being neutral. For hydroponics we are aiming for a pH between 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly acidic), this is suitable for most hydroponic crops. Soil is a bit more forgiving, so we want the pH a little higher but still slightly acidic, around 6.0 to 6.5. Ensuring that the pH remains within this range will surely help maintain good plant health. Keeping the pH in this range ensures that nutrients are readily available to the plant and they can be absorbed by the plants roots. Once the grower goes above or below this optimal range, certain nutrients start becoming unavailable to the plant (e.g. iron deficiencies will appear at a pH of 6.5 and above).
All hydroponic growers need to test the pH of their nutrient solution for successful growing. The pH of a solution can be tested using a standard pH test kit (sample vial with drops of indicator solution), litmus test strips, or a digital pH meter. Litmus paper and standard test kits are cheap and easy to use; however, the degree of accuracy isn't very high. Digital pH meters, although more expensive than the alternatives, are easy to use and very accurate.
 

While the true definition varies from expert to expert, hydroponics is basically the growing of plants without soil. The word “Hydroponic” is derived from the Greek words – “Hydro” which means water and “Ponos” which means labor. True hydroponics is growing plants in water without any type of media e.g. NFT and Aeroponic, however, growing plants in soilless media such as coco, perlite rockwool etc are also classified as hydroponics.

Drip irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation or micro irrigation or localized irrigation, is an irrigation method which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters.It is done with the help of narrow tubes which deliver water directly to the base of the plant.

Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium (known as geoponics). The word "aeroponic" is derived from the Greek meanings of aero- (air) and ponos (labour). Aeroponic culture differs from both conventional hydroponics and in-vitro (plant tissue culture) growing. Unlike hydroponics, which uses water as a growing medium and essential minerals to sustain plant growth, aeroponics is conducted without a growing medium.  Because water is used in aeroponics to transmit nutrients, it is sometimes considered a type of hydroponics.

Hydro Depot does not recommend running lights 24 hours during a cycle. Your plants need a time to “rest” and grow. This is achieved during the dark period. Running your lights for 24 hour cycles may have a detrimental affect on your lighting system and your plants, not allowing them to develop properly. In addition, many plant species do most of their feeding during the night, especially when daytime temperatures are high or humidity levels are low.

Hydro Depot recommends that HPS bulbs should be replaced about every 12 months. MH bulbs should be replaced every 10 months (7 months or less is ideal) for maximum efficiency. The use of a light meter would be the best and most accurate way in which to measure your bulbs output as well as to help with bulb replacement timing.  Make sure to take your light samples from a uniform and similar place everytime. Taking samples from different heights and locations under your light will produce varying results.

There are two primary types of lighting used to grow plants. High Intensity Discharge (HID) is by far the most common, Metal Halide (MH), which is used primarily for the vegetative stage of growth, and High Pressure Sodium (HPS), which is used during the flowering or fruiting stage.
Another popular type of plant lighting is Fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting is used primarily for starting seedlings and cuttings, but T-5 fluorescent bulbs are strong enough to grow short plants from start to finish. It is important to note that not all fluorescent lighting is the same and only certain types should be used for growing plants. Most (if not all) standard fluorescent tubes are fine for illuminating a garage or office, but usually lack the spectrum and intensity needed to sustain plant growth. It should also be noted that if you are growing houseplants that require very little light to sustain growth, you can probably get away with some of the inferior types of fluorescent lights. But, if you are growing plants that need plenty of natural sunlight in order to thrive (such as vegetables and flowers), you will be extremely unhappy with the results you get from these bulbs.
There are three types of fluorescent bulbs that are considered suitable for plant growth: Standard tubes with enhanced spectrum (such as the Verilux), Compact fluorescents and T-5 fluorescents.
    Verilux
    Verilux bulbs look similar to the bulbs you typically find in shop lights and offices. The main difference is that, unlike standard tubes which lose their intensity and spectrum in as little as 6 weeks, Verilux tubes retain their properties much, much longer. They also have a spectrum that is extremely close to natural sunlight. They can be used in any standard shop light fixture. They should only be used for growing houseplants, orchids, or for starting seedlings or cuttings.
    Compact Fluorescents
    These bulbs are available in a variety of wattages ranging from 95W up to 200W. They produce a higher lumen output than regular fluorescents, and are available in 6500K (daylight) for vegetative growth and 3000K (red) to enhance flowering. Unlike regular fluorescents, compact fluorescents do not require a fixture, since the ballast is built in to the base of the bulb. They require a socket (the same type of socket you would use for an HID bulb) and a power cord, and can be used with or without a reflector. Using a reflector, however, will direct more of the light down onto the plants. Another common use for compact fluorescents is to hang them vertically, usually without a reflector, in between large plants to provide supplemental side lighting. Compact Fluorescents can be used for growing houseplants, orchids, or for starting seedlings or cuttings. For plants that do not require full sunlight, or for varieties that tend not to stretch under weaker light, these bulbs can be used for the entire vegetative stage, and in some cases flowering as well.
    T-5 Systems
    T-5’s are the best fluorescent light bulbs available. They are similar to standard fluorescent tubes, only much smaller in diameter. They put out far more light then standard fluorescents, and have a much better spectrum as well. T-5’s must be used in a T-5 fixture; they will not work with standard fixtures. They are available in different sizes and configurations, ranging from 2’ two bulb fixtures up to 4’ eight bulb fixtures. The eight bulb fixture is approximately equivalent to a 600W HPS lighting system. T-5 bulbs are available in 6500K (daylight) for vegetative growth and 3000K (red) to enhance flowering. T-5 systems are excellent for starting seedlings and cuttings, and in many cases take plants from start to finish, provided you keep the plants on the short side.
 

An air stone helps to break the waters surface tension as well as oxygenate the nutrient solution. Oxygen is extremely beneficial to the root zone and helps to promote fast, healthy growth as well as prevent disease. This is one of the main reasons that plants growing in a hydroponic system grow so much faster than plants in soil. If you are growing in soil you can still reap some of the rewards of oxygen by simply oxygenating your water before applying it to the soil.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a membrane-technology filtration method that removes many types of large molecules and ions from solutions by applying pressure to the solution when it is on one side of a selective membrane. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side. To be "selective," this membrane should not allow large molecules or ions through the pores (holes), but should allow smaller components of the solution (such as the solvent) to pass freely.
In the normal osmosis process, the solvent naturally moves from an area of low solute concentration (High Water Potential), through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration (Low Water Potential). The movement of a pure solvent to equalize solute concentrations on each side of a membrane generates osmotic pressure. Applying an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of pure solvent, thus, is reverse osmosis. The process is similar to other membrane technology applications. However, there are key differences between reverse osmosis and filtration. The predominant removal mechanism in membrane filtration is straining, or size exclusion, so the process can theoretically achieve perfect exclusion of particles regardless of operational parameters such as influent pressure and concentration. Reverse osmosis, however, involves a diffusive mechanism so that separation efficiency is dependent on solute concentration, pressure, and water flux rate. Reverse osmosis is most commonly known for its use in drinking water purification from seawater, removing the salt and other substances from the water molecules.

It is recommend that you change your reservoir every 7-10 days. This involves “evacuating” your reservoir and re-filling it with fresh water and nutrients. The reason for this is that as the plants feed, the nutrient solution will fall out of balance. Also, bacteria grows at a geometric rate. If you change your solution every week you will decrease the possibility of bacteria becoming a problem. While it is possible to go longer between changes if you are using reverse osmosis water instead of tap water, you still have the bacteria issue to contend with, so unless you are using something to inhibit the bacterial growth, you should still change your reservoir weekly.

Daily
Check reservoir for water levels, pH and TDS fluctuations.
Check grow room temperatures and humidity percentages.
If you use CO2, the CO2 system should be checked to ensure that it is working correctly.
Check watering system. If a pump fails it should be replaced immediately. If drippers are blocked they should be cleaned or replaced immediately.
Check plants for disease and insect infestations. It is always best to stop disease and insect outbreaks early. The longer an infestation is left the more difficult it will be to cure, yield losses will be high and crop failures are possible.
Check plants for leaf discoloration and deformities that may be caused by such problems as nutrient deficiencies or nutrient burn (over feeding), as well as leaf curl from lights being to close.
Crop hygiene is extremely important. Cut off and discard diseased leaves. If a plant is badly diseased, it is always better to throw out one or two plants to control disease outbreaks than it is to destroy a complete crop. The same applies to insect infestations, especially spider mites.
General maintenance - failed light bulbs, light movers, fans, loose ducting, leaks etc. should be replaced or repaired.
Weekly
The growing medium should be flushed once a week to stop nutrient lock up.
Complete reservoir change should done weekly to prevent nutrient imbalances and bacteria build-up.
Foliar spraying for disease and insect pests should be done weekly to prevent outbreaks.
End of each crop
The hydroponics system should be completely sanitized at the end of each crop. This will minimize disease carry over to the next crop.
The grow room should be sanitized with insecticides and fungicides. Walls, floors, ceilings and equipment should be wiped down to remove insects/eggs and fungi spores. The cleaner the grower is in his growing room the fewer problems he will have in the following crop.
 

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