Pest and Disease Control

Hydroponics can be time consuming and expensive, you may spend days, weeks, months and years perfecting your hydroponic system. Yet all it can take is one little pest or disease to take hold and all your hard work can crumble around you.

There are four main disease types that occur:

  • Fungal
  • Genetic
  • Bacterial
  • Viral

The first on this list is the most likely to occur in regards to hydroponics.

With disease in general prevention is much better than trying to find a cure, but what causes disease to breakout in hydroponics?

  • A host
  • A suitable environment
  • A pathogen

Like with fire there is three main ingredients (heat, fuel and oxygen), take away any one of these ingredients and the fire will not happen. This is the case with disease, prevent one or more of the ingredients and disease should not occur in your hydroponics.

So how do you prevent these ingredients?

  • Hygiene – This is the simplest method, a clean environment ensures a clean system. Keeping your floor clean means dirt and bugs aren’t drifting around your hydroponic area.
  • Nutrient Solution – This is where your plants get the food they need to grow, so this is the place to add protection from disease and pests. There are several boosts and extras you can add to your nutrient solution to give you added protection, micro-organisms are very beneficial against disease.
  • Climate control – As with humans the temperature and humidity can both prevent and encourage disease to grow. Many plants require a high humidity to encourage growth but this humidity is also helpful to the spread of disease. Finding a good compromise in humidity is advisable.
  • Happy plants – It may sound too obvious but keep your plants happy and healthy. A good diet and good environment are highly beneficial to a healthy future. With hydroponics a healthy plant life requires the right pH and nutrient concentration, correct air and water temperature, and the right light intensity.

By following these simple steps and maintaining a high hygiene standard you can ensure that your plants and hydroponic system have a long and healthy life. Remember the cost of a few preventative measures far outweighs the cost of replacing your entire hydroponic system due to disease.

 

 

An introduction to 4 key methods of Hydroponic Growing

 Although there are a number of techniques for Hydroponic growing, we wanted to introduce you to the main four in order to help you get setup.

Firstly, we have The Wick System. The Wick System is recognised as one of the simplest hydroponic techniques and is also sometimes known as the passive system, due to the fact that it has no moving parts. The system works by drawing the nutrient solution to the plants from the reservoir using a wick, much like in a candle!

Despite its simplicity, the wick system has a major drawback; large plants, or plants that require a lot of water, will devour the nutrient solution much faster than the wick can supply it.

Next on the list is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). This is a method of growing plants where there is a constant supply of the nutrient solution flowing. NFT would normally not require a growing medium, which saves the expense of having to replace it after each crop you produce.

Other advantages to this method are:

  • It can be easier to produce a crop of high quality and quantity
  • There is no timer required for the nutrient solution pump
  • It gives plants direct contact with air, meaning they have an unlimited supply of oxygen

However, NFT does come with some disadvantages. The system can be susceptible to pump failures and power outages which can cause roots to dry out rapidly due to longer receiving the nutrient solution they require.

The third on our list, and possibly the most commonly used Hydroponic system is the Dripper, or Drop System. At its most basic, a drip system uses a timer controlled pump; when necessary, the timer will activate the pump allowing the nutrient solution to drip onto the plant’s base from small lines above the plants.

So what are the advantages?

  • It gives you greater control over the precise amount of nutrient solution administered
  • If there is a timer failure, the medium in which the plants sit holds a reserve of nutrient solution so the roots should never dry out
  • As the system is hovering above the plants there is minimal contact between plant and system which lowers the chances of diseases spreading

One issue with this system that has been noted is that the pH and nutrient solution strength levels require occasional checking/adjusting, but this is a minor annoyance.

Last on the list is the Ebb and Flood system. Using this system, the medium area is flooded with nutrient solution, which is then allowed to ebb away into a reservoir. As the nutrient solution is ebbing away, oxygen is drawn around the roots of the plants, which aids healthy growth. Like the dipper system this system runs with the use of a timer, with it set to flood the medium several times a day depending on the type and size of the plants.

So what are the advantages?

  • Using timers you have greater control over moisture levels
  • Plants can last longer compared to using other systems
  • Experience has shown a higher yield compared to other systems

Once again however, timer failures and power outages can occur. Roots can dry out rapidly when the flooding cycles are interrupted but this can be combated somewhat by using a medium that retains water better, such as coconut fibre.

For more advice on which system is best for you, talk to one of our experts today!

 

Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions

In our daily lives, humans need the right balance of foods and chemicals in order to survive. This balance is never more important than when we are growing up and given a balanced diet of the right nutrients, a baby will grow strong and healthy. Plants are no different. Here’s a quick overview to the world of Nutrient solutions.

For a plant to grow effectively in soil, they need to absorb six key macro-nutrients, which are:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sulphur

Different plants will require varied balances of these nutrients which they will draw naturally from the soil around them. Those that grow in soil rich with all of these required lifelines will develop the best. Sometimes, of course, not all of these macro-nutrients will be readily available in the quantities required. Using hydroponics, we can take the gamble out of growing and provide your plants with the exact combination they need to aid healthy growth and development. The key to strong growth is to experiment with your nutrient solutions, aiming to find the perfect balance for any given plant variety.

The next step for optimum hydroponic development is to check the acidity of your nutrient solution and for this, you can use a pH kit, available from ProGrow. It is important that the balance of acids and alkalines is right or you risk killing your crop. Testing once every couple of weeks will ensure your plant remains stable.

The last aspect to consider is your water. Depending on your location, you may have harder or softer water. Hard water contains far more calcium than soft water and if you have spent time perfecting your nutrient solution, hard water could add too much calcium and ruin the entire process. It is worth testing your water using a water testing kit. If the water is hard, you can compensate by removing some calcium from your original nutrient solution.

Why Grow Inside?

When people first discover Hydroponics, there are usually two initial questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Why grow inside?

Well, I want to take a look at both of these questions and introduce you to the fantastic world of growing plants, herbs, fruit and vegetables indoors.

 So, what is Hydroponics!?

Hydroponic gardening is a technique for growing plants with far more control over their survival, growth rate and flourishment. It enables us to closely monitor and control the growing environment, far more than we can with plants grown in natural soil. The roots of your plants have constant access to oxygen and nutrients, supplied directly into the water supply, this means the plants can then grow bigger and stronger, should that be the desired effect.

Of course, if we’re managing the roots of our plants with that degree of intensity, then it figures we should also care for the other areas of the plant in the same way. Hydroponics means we can control temperature, light and humidity and keep the plants free of pests, bugs and diseases found in soil.

 Now you’ve told me that, how do these advantages relate to me?

As explained above, there are many advantages for growing indoors, like healthier, stronger and bigger plants and the ability to control the growing environment. In real world terms, this mean that the options for what we can grow are increased.

Traditional gardening is limited to seasonal vegetables or certain climates for different fruits etc. Even if you do get a great patch of produce, you are still susceptible to attacks from external elements, e.g. an unexpected frost, slugs or fruit flies.

Growing indoors allows for growing all year around, of top quality, strong and tasty produce!

 

What is Hydroponics?

As with many words in our wonderful language the word “hydroponic” comes from Latin, its meaning being “working water”. When thinking about growing plants most of us will probably tend towards the ‘put some seeds in the soil‘ method and hope for the best. Hydroponics takes a much more controlled approach to growing plants, this method gives you control over all factors relating to growth and development.

So how does it give you that much control? With the plants sitting in an unlimited flow of water they never go thirsty and in that water you can add the right balance of nutrients to help a certain plant flourish. With soil the plant has to fight its way through the roots to find the nutrients, this is time and energy it could spend better growing. With hydroponics it is all provided on a plate for the plant, it is similar to humans where those with a well provided nutritious diet will grow healthier and stronger than those with a poor diet.

Another advantage of using hydroponics is that it can be done all indoors. We are all aware that the weather is a popular subject matter and usually not for good reasons. There are many accessories to go with your hydroponic systems that can improve the chances of a good growth – tools like lighting systems, fans, CO2 generators and atmospheric controllers. These tools can give you the ability to create a tailor made environment for your plants, giving you much more chance of a high yield from what you are growing. Another advantage of growing indoors is that you avoid some other dangers of outside growing, such as pests and soil carried diseases.

Now you have read all this you may be thinking this sounds overly complicated and fussy to do. Yet it doesn’t have to be, hydroponics could be just one plant in one bucket or pot, no fancy lights or atmospheric controllers. How advanced and high tech you go usually is down to two factors, time and money. Obviously there are no such things as money trees but there are many time saving attributes to using hydroponics. These days you can automate as much of your plant management as you wish, you can basically run your garden from your laptop or phone. You could be sat in a sushi bar in Japan and at the same time adjust the pH level in your water system at your hydroponic garden in Kent.

Hydroponics lets you have as much control and involvement with your plant growing as you wish. It can be done on all scales, large and small, so it is open to all who wish to grow.