Thursday, January 9, 2020

Nutrient Film Hydroponic Set - Up:


The hydroponic system we will be looking at today is what we call a nutrient film set up. This set up is classified as a recirculating system, as the pants root system is constantly in contact with a flow of nutrient water and recycles runoff water back into its reservoir. The set up pictured above is great for those living in tight living spaces such as small town houses or apartments. This particular set up can be hung up against a wall, there for minimising the space in which it takes up. 


The system is made up of a few different components. The first is a set of four PVC pipes that are stacked on top of each other, much like shelvings for books. These PVC pipes are connected together through metal plates and pillars that have been drilled and screwed into a metal frame. Each PVC pipe (in the pictured set up) holds up too 20 small pots (80 in the whole system). These slots are cut out before hand. A lot of growers view this system as one of the most efficient and low maintenance systems in hydroponics. Once you've set up your preferred frame size, its now time to add in the other components. One of the most important things with this system is selecting a water pump that will cover all your needs. The purpose of the water pump itself is to pump water, which is stored in the systems reservoir tank, is to pump the nutrient solution too the PVC pips. The water pumped from the reservoir will trickle in at a steady pace into the PVC piping. Its also important to note that the direct tubing from the water pump in the reservoir should be connected to the top PVC pipe in the system. We do this because the system utilises gravity, in the sense that the water will reach the end of the top PVC piping and flow down to the next one. The PVC pipes all have an additional length of tubing connecting it to the PVC pipe below it. When the nutrient solution reaches the bottom (last) PVC pipe it will then lead back into the reservoir itself, therefore giving you a recycling system, which can be very cost efficient. Depending on the size of your grow, you should aim to change your nutrient solution every one - two weeks, ensuring the solution is not getting diluted or contaminated. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

DIVING INTO GROWING MEDIUMS

Introduction into Growing Mediums:

Choosing what medium to grow in when using a hydroponic set up is one of the most important things to get right. Growing mediums range from things like coco peat, rock wool and clay balls. We also have to take things like medium pH and medium maintenance when choosing our growing medium.


Expanded Clay Balls:

Expanded light weight clay balls are one of, if not, the most popular choice of growing mediums used today by small and commercial growers due to its ease of use and cost efficiency. These clay balls are processed at a very high temperature that produces a highly porous and highly effective growing medium. It's also important to note that clay balls are pH neutral, non-degradable and release almost no addition nutrients into your water solution. Its circular (spherical) shape provides a great balance of water and oxygen for your plant. Clay balls are also reusable, simply rinse and reuse, which is why a lot of growers opt for it as their growing medium.


Coco Peat/Coconut Fibre: 

Coco peat, like clay balls, is one of the most popular growing mediums out there on the market for growers to use. Coco peat is made from discarded coconut husks (the brown outer layer of the coconut) as is viewed as the most environmentally friendly growing mediums in hydroponics. Some advantages with growing with coco peat include; pH neutral growing medium, anti fungal, great moisture retention, slow to decompose and provides great aeration for your plants root system. Coco peat also mixes great with other mediums and is commonly mixed in with perlite or vermiculite.


Perlite and Vermiculite:

Perlite and Vermiculite are not usually used own their own (although you can) instead many growers use these two porous rocks as mixers or fillers in other growing mediums like coco peat and clay balls. Both are very similar to one another; both are composed of minerals that are synthesised under a high heating process that produces a highly porous, pH neutral and water and oxygen retentive growing medium. It's also important to note that vermiculite does retain water better than perlite does.


Rock wool:

Rockwool is another popular growing medium used by all growers. Rock wool is made from granite or limestone which is heated, melted, spun and stretched to for long thing fibres. Rock wool is often used for germinating seeds but can also be used through out a plants full cycle. Like the previously mention growing mediums Rock wool is highly porous, sterile, easy to use and provides great oxygenation to your plants root system. Some disadvantages to using rock wool include; non degradable growing medium, and is naturally high in its pH level, which requires soaking in a neutral or lower pH tested water solution before using in your hydroponic set up.


Oasis Cubes (for Germination):

Oasis cubes are normally found attached together, giving growers the ability to germinate multiple seeds at one time in the same space. In recent years a lot of growers have made the switch from rock wool to oasis cubes, although they both provide the same elements in which your plant will grow in. Oasis cubes are highly porous, provide great oxygenation for root systems. Because of their open cell structure, oasis cubes can absorb air and water but are not as susceptible to becoming waterlogged like rock wool. Another advantage over rock wool is the pH neutral component of oasis cubes which does not require pre soaking.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

UNDERSTANDING PLANT CYCLES

Germinating Seeds:

All plant life starts as seeds. Each individual seed contains what we call a embryo. There are also two types of seeds that we can commonly find at your local nursery. The first type of seed found is called a dicot while the other is named monocots. An example of a dicot would be a bean seed as it houses something called a cotyledons in addition to the embryo itself. The function of the cotyledons is to provide the young seedling with food for the first few days. Cotyledons also refer to the first two leaves that sprout out of the ground during germination. Monocots only have one cotyledon as appose to two. A corn seed is an example of a Monocat seed. Both seeds have the beginnings of a root system. The hard shiny outer layer is called the seed coat and acts as a protective layer for the embryo inside. It is important to note that if your storing seeds for future grows to keep them in a dark, dry and cold storage place.

The key components to germinating seeds falls down to two things; warmth and moisture. Some seeds also require light to start the germination process but this is not the case of all seeds, in fact in some seeds light can actually have a decremental affect on the seeds germination process. After planting your seed in your medium, lightly soak the medium with either plain water or a very diluted nutrient solution. This will help the seed swell up and split its outer layer and allows for the cotyledons to emerge. Monocots have harder seed coats that do not split, but stay in one piece. After a few days of soaking and swelling the stem or hypocotyl will extend itself out of its medium with its two cotyledons (seed leaves). This is called sprouting. At the other end of the plant, its roots push down and search for nutrients being stored in your medium. A few days later as the stem of the plant grows, the cotyledons fall off and the first true leafs of your plants will take its place.

Growth and flowering: 

In order for a plant to grow and develop it must produce its own food through a process called photosynthesis. All plants contain something we call chloroplast, this converts energy from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugars, which then acts as a food source for the plant itself. Plants store their food within the root system and its stems. As the plant develops and grows taller, its root system expands deeper and deeper while also developing root hairs (extensions of the roots themselves) in order to absorb water and nutrients at a quicker rate. The stem of the plant keeps on extending itself out to its source of light, stretching and growing with each new day. Sugars and starches are consistently changed into energy used to promote growth through out the plants full cycle. As the plant nears the end of its cycle, you'll notice bud (flower) sites through the ends of its branches and through out its stem system. Some plants can take a few weeks to fully flower while others can take up to a year to fully develop.

ISABELLA'S FORMULA - LOCALLY PRODUCED SINGLE PART GROW AND BLOOM NUTRIENTS






Having a good knowledge base on how nutrient solutions and nutrient additives work together will take you a long way when growing crops in a hydroponic set up. The photos above showcase a general idea as to which nutrients you should be pairing up together, obviously growers can choose from a number of combinations from the market available but today we will be focusing on our single part nutrient solutions and additives that can be easily found here in Perth while also being cost efficient without cutting any corners. 

Pictured above is our very own locally produced nutrient solution, Isabella's Hydro Plant Food (Single Part Grow), which you can find at our shop in Wanneroo. This single part grow solution aims to provide growers with an easy to use nutrient solution while delivering high quality essential elements like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Dosage is straight forward; Use 2.5ml per litre for seedlings and cuttings, 5ml per litre for young plants and 10ml per litre for large sized plants. Our recommended pH level for our single part nutrient solution is 6.0 - 6.3 for young plants and seedlings and 6.3 - 6.5 in medium to large plants. Our single part nutrient solution also houses elements like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, borax and sulphur to aid and assist in plant development and growth. 

Along with our single part grow solution we also produce our very own single part bloom solution that will assist your grow at your plants last few weeks. Our Isabella's Hydro Plant Food Single Part Bloom solution helps transition your plant from its vegetative (grow) stage too its flower (bloom) stage by reducing the amount of nitrogen (essential to early root, stem and leaf development) and increasing the amount of phosphorus and potassium (essential to flower production, flower density, and flowering sites) which maximises crop yield and quality. Dosages, again, are quite straight forward; Simply use 5ml per litre for plants that are still in their early stages of flowering, while in its later stages, increase the dosage too 10ml per litre. Try and keep pH levels between 6.0 - 6.3 in younger plants while maintaining a pH level of 6.3 - 6.5 for more mature plants. Its also important to note that solutions in your reservoir should be changed every 7 days. 


INTRODUCTION INTO NUTRIENTS



Macronutrients:

Macronutrients are our elements in which healthy plants require large amounts of to grow. The main macronutrients are magnesium, sulfur, oxygen, phosphorus, carbon, hydrogen, potassium, calcium and nitrogen. Each element supplies the plant with an important source of overall nutrients and each must be considered individually in terms of its application to your grow at a certain stage in the plants cycle.

Micronutrients:

On the other side of the scale, micronutrients are elements that plants need in smaller quantities than macronutrients. These elements are cobalt, iron, chlorine, zinc, molybdenum, manganese, boron and copper. Micronutrients support and aid plant growth and development and add to the overall need of the plant. Micronutrients are commonly used where plants are showing a deficiency in nutrients.  

Understanding the ‘grow’ and ‘bloom’ cycles:

Grow:

The grow cycle of a plant refers to the very early development of things like a plants root system, main stem, and leafs. The early stage of a plants growth cycle is seen as the most crucial part of any grow. Your treatment of your plant with in the first 2 – 4 weeks will be crucial to its development down the road. Nitrogen is a crucial macronutrient in this stage of the cycle, as it is responsible for things like root development and early leaf and stem development. This is why a lot of grow nutrients will house a higher ratio of nitrogen in their solutions then other macronutrients like potassium and phosphorus.

Bloom:

The bloom cycle refers to the mid too end stages of a plants growth cycle. This is the stage in which we get our plants to show their flowers. A plants bloom cycle is often shorter than its grow cycle and can last up to 3 – 4 weeks depending on what plant you are growing. During the bloom stage plants require a higher dosage of phosphorus than the other macronutrients. At this stage in the plants cycle, leaf and stem development is not prioritized by growers and nitrogen levels are reduced, and phosphorus is increased to help the plant transition from its grow to bloom stage.

Understanding NPK ratios:

NPK refers to the 3 main macronutrients required in heightened amounts than other elements. The N stands for Nitrogen while, P refers to phosphorus and K referring to Potassium. While looking through different nutrient solutions you may come across number ratios like 7 – 9 – 5 or 10 – 14 – 8. This simple means that your plant will is receiving a nutrient solution that has 7% nitrogen, 9% phosphorus and 5% potassium or 10% nitrogen, 14% phosphorus and 8% potassium. This will help you determine which solution is best fitted to your plant and where it is in its plant cycle.  

Single Part Nutrients:

Most places would recommend single part nutrients for those just starting to grow in hydroponics, or those looking for a cheap, low maintenance and low risk option. A lot of commercial growers utilize single part nutrients due to these factors, which when growing in large quantities is important to maintain consistency and quality through all your crops and grows. Single part nutrients are simple to use. Shake the bottle thoroughly and mix into your water until you achieve the required PPM (Parts Per Million).

Two or Three Part Nutrients:


Nutrient solutions for both grow and bloom cycles can also be found in two or three part solutions. For example, a lot of companies will have grow part A and B, or Bloom part A and B. The need to split the nutrient solutions into two parts allows manufacturers the ability to separate volatile elements and produce nutrients at a higher concentration. This ultimately means that the grower uses less product in their nutrient solution as compared to those using a single part nutrient solution. Utilizing a two part nutrient solution requires accurate readings when mixing into your reservoir and is often suited too more advanced growers than those just starting out.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

GENERAL HYDROPONIC TENT SET - UP





Your average grow set up is made up of a few key components. The first thing you will need to do is set up your grow tent. Majority of grow tents on the market are made out of a double sided canvas. On the external side of the grow tent you'll find a black non-reflective surface, normally made out of nylon or polyester, while the inside is layered with a reflective plastic material, normally made out of biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate, designed to maximise light absorption and reduce loss of light. All grow tents come with a metal frame that you will need to assemble yourself. 

Once you've established your grow tent build, its time set up the rest of the system. No matter what hydroponic set up you utilise, every set up needs a reservoir, This reservoir will be your plants main resource of nutrients that (depending on what system you use) will be pumped through a network of tubes, nozzle sprays, drip nozzles and water pumps. 

One important thing to keep in mind when installing your carbon filter and air conditioner is that they need to be on opposite sides to your grow tent. On top of this its important that you place your air conditioner in a position where it can intake fresh air from an opening around your tent. This ensures that hot air or carbon dioxide isn't being recycled back into the plants healthy breathing space. By placing these two in opposite ends of the tent also maximises the efficiency of each piece of equipment. Your carbon filter will be connected to a metallic exhaust tube in which it is then fitted to one of the tents openings, this will ensure that any carbon dioxide from inside the tent is blown out, creating fresh space for you plants to breath in oxygen. The air conditioner it self is implemented to keep grow tent temperatures down. Heat is often produced from such things like grow lights, carbon filters and exhaust and fans. If your running a system that requires more than 12 hours per day of use it is very important to keep temperatures down as hot temperatures can be very decremental to the plants you are growing.

Hydroponic accessories:



After covering the main components of your grow set up, we must now address the smaller, less major pieces of equipment that will assist you in your grow journey. Firstly lets talk about nutrients. All base nutrient solutions consist of three major compounds; Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, you will most likely see this referred to as NPK. These components are essential to healthy plant growth and yields. Nitrogen is a key component in a plants early growth cycle, nitrogen is often used in a higher ratio then the other two compounds due to its positive affect on the plants root system. Nitrogen is also vital to the production of chlorophyll, which allows the plant to photosynthesise (the process in which plants produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide). The next compound we will address is phosphorus. Phosphorus plays a key part in structural growth of the plant (stems and leafs) while also playing a major part in improving crop quality and seed production among other things. The last compound making up the NPK solution is Potassium. Potassium is often seen as a general treatment for the health of any plants. Potassium can play a key part in things like crop yield and flavour (taste). supplementary compounds like iron, zinc or magnesium are common compounds found in a lot of NPK solutions. 

Water and air pumps are also essential in any hydroponic set up. Water pumps are often placed inside the main reservoir. Water pumps are used to transport the nutrient solution in the reservoir to the growing medium in which your plant is sitting in. This is done through a system of tubings linking your water pump and planting pots. Air pumps are usually located somewhere near the outside of your reservoir. The air pump is then linked, through a tube, to a air stone submerged in the reservoir itself. The function of an air pump is that it intakes fresh oxygen and pumps it through the air stone into the nutrient solution, this maximises oxygenation within the water and therefore maximises oxygen uptake from the plants root system. 

Controlling the Ph of your nutrient solution is key to a healthy grow. PH levels for plants in hydroponic set ups usually sit between 5.5 and 7.5 on the pH scale. A way to measure your pH level would be through either a pH kit or a pH pen. PH kits are often used in testing the pH of house hold pools. These same pH kits are utilised in hydroponic set ups. Normally in the kits you'll have a; test tube vile (In which you stop your nutrient sample), pH scale card, and a pH dye indicator. Another, more costly but more accurate, way in testing the pH level in your hydroponic set up is using a pH pen or meter. A pH pen is a rectangular piece of equipment that has electrical conductivity probes on the tip of the pen. Ph pens are quite easy to use and there fore a lot of people prefer this as appose to a pH kit. simply place the probe end a inch into the water and wait a few seconds to get a reading. the reading will show up on a small screen located on the side of the pH pen. IF there is a need for lowering or increasing the level of your nutrient solution, you will need products like the Hy-gen pH up or the pH down. Simply add until you achieve the right pH level for your grow. 



THE DIFFERENT HYDROPONIC SET-UPS



Wick System:



The wick set-up is probably the most used and simplest form of hydroponic agriculture. The wick hydroponic set up is known as passive hydroponics, a form of hydroponics that don’t need the help of water and air pumps. Nutrient water is moved through the plants root system through the natural absorption of the wicking medium, usual string or a piece of felt. One key to success with this particular method is choosing the appropriate growing medium. As this system requires natural absorption of water it would be wise to select a medium that transports water efficiently. Such mediums like coco peat, perlite, vermiculite or a mixture of the three would be a good option. If set up correctly, the wick system acts as a self sufficient hydroponic system, with the only real work needed when changing the nutrient solution in the set-ups reservoir every one or two weeks. Its also important to note that wick systems are not great for large sized plants due to the rate of absorption without air or water pumps.

Deep Water Cultivation System (DWC):


Deep water cultivation is one of the most efficient hydroponic set ups out there. At its simplest form, the DWC allows for a plants root system to be completely submerged in nutrient and oxygen rich water. We achieve this oxygen rich water through the use of an air pump, which connected to an air stone, provides the plants with a direct source of oxygen. A simpler form of DWC that does not require an air pump utilises the natural oxygen pocket (space) between the bottom of the mesh pot (in which the roots are fed through to the water) and the nutrient water in the reservoir. Essentially this changes the way in which the roots search for oxygen. With the air pump oxygen is fed from the bottom of the reservoir as apposed to having the oxygen pocket at the top of the water. Its important to note that DWC systems are not suited to large sized plants.

Nutrient Film Technique system:


Like deep water cultivation the NFT system is a recirculating hydroponic set up. Plants are grown in channels that have a consistent flow of nutrient water. When the water reaches the end of the channel it falls back into the main reservoir. Unlike DWC your plants root in a NFT system are not fully submerged in nutrient rich water. NFT systems are often utilised when growing quantity as its ease of maintenance and use of multiple pots in one channel allows for multiple plants to be grown at the same time and in close proximity to one another. A recirculating system like a NFT or DWC may be one of the most water efficient systems out there as the recycling of the water reduces run off waste and fast evaporation, essentially feeding the plants when necessary.

Ebb and flow/Flood and Drain Systems:


Ebb and flow systems or more commonly known as flood and drain systems are some of the less used hydroponic set ups that growers utilised but are still easy to maintain and may be best suited to you, depending on your growing needs and demands. Unlike DWC, NFT or wicking systems, the flood and drain set up does not expose your plants root system to nutrient water on consistent basis. Instead you grow in a tray containing your chosen growing medium which is then “flooded” with nutrient solution a few times a day. That depend on factors such as; the size of the plant, the water requirement of the plant, the air temperature and humidity and where your plants are in terms of their specific growing cycle. If you don’t have the time to manually water your plants, then the use of a reservoir and water pump may be beneficial in this situation. In this case, reservoirs are commonly placed below the tray with the water pump submerged in water, the pump then pushes water and feeds the solution through plastic tubing that is directly inserted into the growing medium where the plants root system is located. The excess nutrient water then falls back into the reservoir and recycled back into the system.  The use of a timer can also be helpful to schedule consistent feeding times through out the day. This also frees up the grower and eases the experience of maintaining the system itself.

Aeroponic System:


This form of hydroponics is considered the most “hi-tech” set up in the hydroponic industry. An aeroponic set up is similar to an NFT system in the sense that the roots are not completely submerged in nutrient rich water. What sets it a part form a NFT system is in the manner in which the system delivers water to the roots of your plants. Instead of having the water flow through a channel the nutrient solution is misted (sprayed) directly to the root zone. This is achieved through a network of air pumps, tubing, and spay nozzles. In some cases, aeroponics has been seen as the fastest (faster than DWC) when it comes to plant growth, but isn’t the case in all aeroponic set ups. Although very good in producing good yields from grows, aeroponics may not be the easiest and cheapest of systems to run.

Drip System:


Drip systems are very common in commercial sized grows due to the low maintenance requirement and the cost of setting up a whole system. Drip systems are often considered one of the simplest forms of hydroponics and for this reason is commonly used in large grows. Drip system set ups usually require; a nutrient reservoir, water pump, tubing, drain nozzle and drip tips. The water pump is submerged in the reservoir, pumping the water through the tubing and dripped into the medium using drip tips connected at the end of the tubing. Plants are often placed into a tray (which collects excess run off) above the water reservoir itself. At the bottom of the tray, there will be a drainage pipe leading back directly into the reservoir, therefore recycling the excess water back into the system and reducing water waste. Add in a timer to help with watering schedules and you’ll have one of the cheapest and easy to maintain systems in hydroponics, which appeals to a lot of commercial growers. Would not recommend using this system in small grows, although it is still possible if that’s the way you want to go.

Nutrient Film Hydroponic Set - Up: The hydroponic system we will be looking at today is what we call a nutrient film set up. This set u...