Growing Red Leaf Lettuce Hydroponically

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Since our very first produce bounty in mid May, we’ve been harvesting lettuce every week.  It has been very exciting and gratifying to see the crops grow so well in the Gen. II CGS. While we’ve been mostly growing Butter Lettuce (bib lettuce), a few weeks back we planted a Red Leaf variety and were rewarded with an awesome harvest last week. Red leaf is a type of loose-leaf lettuce, with delicate leaves, despite its crunchy stem in the middle. Similar to Green Leaf, but with
maroon pigment deposited on the edges and the leaves themselves, this loose leaf variety likes to sprawl a bit while it’s growing and thus requires some “dressing up” before it can hit the shelves. To help with that, we’ve created a new branding look for this lettuce – an Alaska grown twist tie with a custom flag that shows variety, growing methods and its origin. Think of it as nifty outfit for its debut at the stores that also helps collect all the leaves in one awesome bunch. As always, you can find this beautiful variety at Bell’s Nursery and select Carrs/Safeway stores in Anchorage, Alaska.

Our goal is to demonstrate to our future clients the simplicity behind growing fresh and nutritious produce hydroponically, here in Alaska and around the world. We’ve already researched the type and quantity of nutrients and water you will need, the seed varieties, the proper growing medium, the time from seeding to harvesting, the best LED lights, the right temperature and airflow, all to optimize the growing environment and to take the guess work out of hydroponic farming. The key thing is consistency. Consistency is the secret behind being able to harvest mouthwatering greens week in and out, which is the principle behind growing produce in the CGS.

So what are the steps to perfectly grown produce, each and every time?

IMG_3132

Step 1. Take seedlings from the starting area and transfer to finishing trays. Each seedling comes in a Rockwool cube – not dirt, no mess and easy to handle.

Step 2. Put trays with new seeds in the starting racks, where sprouting begins

Step 3. Harvest in due time. We can customize a schedule that fits your needs. We harvest every week.

Step 4. Top off nutrients, pH buffer and water

Step 5. (OPTIONAL) Depending on your “personality”, you can talk to your plants or perhaps play some music. What kind of music? Play something you enjoy, which will make your harvesting time that much more exciting.

———Repeat steps 1-4 ——

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 12.42.22 PMThe CGS does the rest! 

So how difficult was it to grow this Red Leaf? As “difficult” as it was growing Butterhead, which just loves being in the water!

per 100 grams:

Over 100% of your DV of Vitamin A ( 7493 IU, 150%) and Vitamin K (140 mcg, 175%) ! As it turns out, red leaf is also a good source of iron (1.2mg, 7%), folate (36 mcg, 9%), manganese (o.2 mg, 10%) and not to mention a concentrated source of phytonutrients. This is a very low calorie food with a low glycemic load and high fullness factor.

If you pair this lettuce with another food that’s complementary to red leaf’s nutritional profile, you will reap great benefits from your meal.  For example, to round out another fat soluble vitamin and add a great protein source, pair Red Leaf with wild caught Sockeye Alaskan salmon, which has good levels of vitamin D (not to mention a host of other benefits). Need more iron? Try a Red Leaf and spinach salad with some chickpeas or beans. (loads of iron there). For heme iron, go with high quality beef liver. For vitamin C, you can’t go wrong with Kiwis or Kale. Just one cup gives you 164 mg or 273% DV and 80.4 mg or 134% respectively.

As always, to your health!

The team at VHH

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Apr 13, Easy Grow Room Building Advice

I have an indoor area I would like to turn into a grow room. It is in a room that is never in use … totally dark. I am building an area inside this room 39″ wide x 49″ deep x 84″ high. One side will have a mylar access. I want to grow one tomato plant and maybe a green pepper plant in a stratum method using hydroton rocks, coconut coir and Fox Farm Organic planting mix. I will be using a 400 Watt MH light and was wanting some help with the ventilation. I’m on a limited budget.

I was hoping to use the inexpensive in-line duct furnace fans, maybe the 4″ size. Do I need two of these fans? Is 4″ size enough or do I need 6″ size? Do both the fans need to be the same size? Do I locate the exhaust fan up top and the intake fan at the bottom? The light will be on for 14 – 16 hours … Do I need the fans on 24/7? I don’t expect any odors. Will the MH light grow the tomatoes all the way to fruiting? I do have two CFL 105 Watt lights I could use instead, one is blue, one is red. Would I be better off just using them instead of the MH light?  Thanks Jason!

Answer: Personally, to light your grow room area I would use the 400 watt metal halide light. Using the CFL’s by themselves would probably not provide enough light for a bountiful harvest. Many plants, like tomatoes, require a considerable amount of light in order to produce well. A metal halide light is perfectly capable of growing tomatoes and other plants in the vegetative stage, as well as in the flowering stage, all the way to completion (with good results). For more help selecting the proper grow lights for your indoor garden, check out my light selector tool page.

Before you try to fruit your plants, you need to make sure they have been grown to a “mature” point under 18-24 hours of light. This is known as vegetative growth….some plants only need a week or two of vegetative growth before flowering, while other plants need 4-8 weeks of vegetative growth before they will flower properly. In any case, your plants need a minimum of 18 hours of light a day until they are at least 8 to 12 inches tall.

In order to get your plants to produce fruits, they will require 12 hours of in-interrupted darkness at the same time each day (or night). This is generally required for plants that produce fruits and vegetables as well as plants that produce flowers. My page on flower forcing goes into greater detail about this part of the process. In general, your grow room must remain completely dark for twelve hours each night, at the same time each night. Most plants will finish growing their fruits or flowers to maturity after 8 to 12 weeks of this treatment.

Before I get to your most important question, I would like to say a few things about the use of fans in the grow room…or in your case the grow box. The use of a circulating fan is just as important as the use of an exhaust fan in the grow box. The use of exhaust fans is important to keep the temperature in the grow box from getting to high. Exhaust fans also keep the humidity from getting to high as the plants breathe out water vapor. Thirdly, by bringing fresh air into the grow room, exhaust fans keep CO2 levels from falling too low….

Plants constantly use CO2 in the air as a source of Carbon atoms, which the plant uses to grow more leaves, stems, and flowers. A small amount of air movement is required around the surface of every leaf in the garden….this helps the plant get rid of it’s exhaled Oxygen and water vapor, and also helps bring a fresh supply of CO2 in contact with the leaf. Learn more about the proper use of CO2.

Usually, this kind of air movement is not provided for adequately enough by the exhaust fan(s). This is why, in addition to your exhaust fan(s), you should also have a small oscillating fan or two in the grow room for proper air circulation. Small oscillating fans are cheap, $10 at WalMart, and you would be surprised how important they are to the healthy growth of your plants.

Your exhaust fans do not need to run when the lights are off to control the temperature. However, I would recommend you leave one on to keep the humidity in the grow room from getting too high. Warm air holds more moisture than cool air. As soon as your lights go off for the night, you will likely close up the grow box so it is light-proof. As the temperature cools off inside the grow box, the air inside is no longer able to hold as much moisture as it did when the grow light was on.

The humidity in the air begins to condensate out of the air…..and onto your plants. If you do not have an oscillating fan and exhaust fan running, this extra moisture will probably encourage the growth of a fungus or powdery mildew that will kill the fruits/flowers you are trying so hard to grow.

So, you know you need an oscillating fan, and you know you should leave an exhaust fan on all the time. Now let’s consider how to run your exhaust fan(s) exactly….

The smaller the space you try to grow in, the more difficult the temperature will be to control. In general, 80*F or above (measured at plant height directly below the grow light) is too warm. 70 to 75*F would be ideal. With your setup, as I understand it, you will have a volume of air space INSIDE the grow box, and you will have a much larger volume of air inside the ROOM in which the box is located.

If your light reflector has glass in the bottom, you could use one in-line duct fan to draw air from the room, through the light, and exhaust it back into the room. Eventually, all of the air in the grow room will warm up….another option would be to exhaust the warm air out of a window. Air cooling the light in this way will make it easier to control the temperature inside the grow box.

The second in-line duct fan can be used to exhaust hot air from a hole in the top of the grow box (hot air rises). This will create a negative air pressure inside the grow box, which will naturally suck air from the room back into the grow box (through holes made in the bottom of the grow box, or possibly by leaving the front door of the grow box open). Keep in mind, these ventilation holes may make your grow box less than light-proof.

The chances are good that you will still have a problem controlling the high temperatures in the grow box. I have had the same problem myself in the past. You may want to try keeping the temperature of the entire room on the cool side by keeping a window in the room cracked open. Another possibility is to run a 4 inch duct from the hole in the bottom of the grow box to a window, so the air you pull into the grow box will actually be coming from outside. This can be very effective, but if the air outside is too cold you run the risk of stunting your plants.

Instead, manufacture a cardboard box with two holes (and cardboard flaps for the holes)…one hole connected to the window with a 4 inch duct, and the other hole left open to draw air from inside the room. In this way, you can open or close the holes in different amounts (how much outside air is being mixed with the inside air) to control the temperature of the air coming into your grow box. You may also find that you need to close the window every night to keep the temperature from getting too low when the lights go off.

Using the outdoor air, it is much easier to control the temperature of an indoor garden during cold months. In fact, many indoor gardeners ONLY garden indoors during the cold months for just this reason. Take it from my experience, your money is best spent buying a cheap indoor/outdoor digital thermometer/humidity meter. I found one at a local hydroponic shop for about $20.00. Indoor/outdoor thermometers come with a remote probe (usually on a 10 foot cord) which you can place right in your garden’s hot spot, which your meter records as the “outdoor” temp.

The thermometer itself can be placed somewhere else, inside or outside the grow box, and will record an “indoor” temp. The highest and lowest readings are usually kept in the memory of the thermometer until you reset it. Same with the humidity. In this way, you will be able to tell if your garden is staying in the ideal temperature range, when the lights are on during the day as well as when the lights are off at night.

Using in-line duct fans, in my opinion, you will not be able to keep your grow box or grow room in the ideal temperature range without using some cold air from outside. However, using two in-line duct fans, a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer, a little air from outside, and a little experimentation, you should have no problem working out a setup that will control the temperature in your garden. Also check out my exhaust setup page for more information. I hope this helps, and happy growing!

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Aug 29, Hydroponics FAQ

Welcome to the hydroponics FAQ for Jason’s Indoor Guide. I have answered literally hundreds of questions, and have organized them here into general categories to make it easier to find the information you are looking for. For each category, I include a complete description of the kind of information you can expect to find. Choose the category that best fits the question you are trying to answer….I encourage you to dig down through this great information, and I guarantee you will learn something! The categories included are….

So many of the hydroponic gardening questions I receive do not fit neatly into any of the categories below. In this section, you will find a wide variety of miscellaneous questions and answers. Topics include cloning, hard water and pH, using fermentation to produce CO2, DC power backup, dealing with fungus gnats, advice on grow media, controlling algae growth, light pollution during the dark cycle, starting seedlings, preventing mold problems, beginning water quality, crop specific advice, and many others. To visit the Miscellaneous Hydroponic Gardening FAQ, Click Here.

You will find all of the frequently asked questions related to hydroponic systems in this hydroponics FAQ. This includes system information for tomato cloning, aeroponic systems that do not use spray nozzles, aquaponic system information, visitor questions about hydroponic system pages, system drainage questions, crop specific system considerations, answers about hydroponic pumps, ultrasonic fog systems, media choices for different systems, system setup questions, information on my next NFT system build, air stone questions, vertical garden systems, and many others. To visit the Hydroponic Systems FAQ, Click Here.

The hydroponic nutrients FAQ is one of the most thorough (and also diverse) sections of the website. In this hydroponics FAQ you will find answers for making hydroponic nutrients in under-developed countries, using nutrients with a soilless medium, discussion on different fertilizers (such as MaxSea, Earth Juice, and Technaflora), crop specific fertilizer recommendations, how to deal with or prevent nutrient buildup in your grow media, discussion on organic nutrients, how to adjust feeding for outdoor crops on hot days, information on EC meters, how to maintain your nutrient solution properly, large scale organic systems, beginning water quality advice, information on nutrient additives, and many other questions and answers. To visit the Hydroponic Nutrients FAQ, Click Here.

In this FAQ, you will find advice on grow box lighting and venting, how to deal with high humidity when you cannot lower it, the importance of good air circulation, fundamental advice for an effective exhaust strategy, tips on keeping your nutrient reservoir cool, how to deal with low night time temperatures, advice for putting your exhaust fan on a timer, best practices for using AC (air conditioning), as well as other questions (and answers) related to temperature and humidity control. To visit the Temperature Control FAQ, Click Here.

This hydroponics FAQ contains all kinds of specific plant growth questions and answers. Some of them include diagnosing (and fixing) a root pest problem, how to grow Ivy on a wall indoors, how to prevent algae growth problems, how to deal with root growth clogging your hydroponic system drain, how to acclimatize your plants to bright sunlight to prevent wilt and leaf damage, natural remedies for pest control, diagnosing several miscellaneous gardens with dying plants, some cloning questions, how to transplant dirt starts to hydroponics, dealing with plants that stubbornly will not flower, diagnosing grow media problems, temperature problems that kill tomatoes, plants that grow stems but not leaves, solutions for a dying root problem, a discussion on transplanting, dealing with powdery mildew (and other mold and fungus problems), and many other answers. To visit the Plant Growth FAQ, Click Here.

This hydroponics FAQ is another very thorough section. Here, you will find answers to the raging debate over LED grow lights, how to properly light a small broom closet, how to effectively use light rails, how to use a 12/12 light cycle to force flowering, a discussion on compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s), why you should never use a 400 watt bulb in a 1000 watt light fixture, setting up grow lights in the far North, grow light distance from your plants, discussions on using fluorescent grow lights, crop specific light cycles and light requirements, lighting requirements for different stages of plant growth (including seedlings), what size area a grow light will cover effectively, and many other answers on the topic of indoor garden lighting. To visit the Grow Lights FAQ, Click Here.

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Dirt Cheap organic and hydroponic gardening suppliesFind out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason’s Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients….and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden….but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible….and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason’s Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks….and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients….I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas….like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Make a year's worth of compost in one week!What is colloidal humus? Make the world's best compost

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill….and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!

Click Here to learn more!

This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It’s a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It’s natural. it’s spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and….only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!

Low effort organic gardening!

Years and years of experience and results can’t be argued with….the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work….specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years’ worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World’s Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

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Sep 14, Organic Hydroponics – Easy Home Method

The only difference between organic hydroponics and regular hydroponics is what you choose to feed your plants. This page will cover some organic feeding options for hydroponics systems.

For help and tips on mixing an maintaining your nutrient solution, check out my hydroponics feeding tips.

One organic hydroponics feeding plan I found is simple, works very well, and is less expensive than professional hydroponics fertilizers (which are usually not organic, anyway).

organic hydroponics nutrient for bloom For the first ten days the plants have roots, I usually give them 400 ppm Maxsea 3-20-20, which is about one rounded teaspoon in a gallon of water.

organic hydroponics nutrient for veg After this point, the higher nitrogen levels will no longer damage the young plants, so I make the solution about 700-800 ppm Maxsea 16-16-16. This is about two level teaspoon in a gallon of water.

When the plants are switched to flowering, I use a mix of Maxsea 16-16-16 and Maxsea 3-20-20 for two weeks. I used to use just Maxsea 3-20-20, but the plants usually end up a little nitrogen deficient before the end of flowering. I try to keep the solution around 800 to 900 ppm here.

Finally, I switch to plain Maxsea 3-20-20 to finish. I keep the solution around 1000 ppm, which is about 3 level teaspoons in a gallon of water. It is always best to us a TDS meter or EC meter to check your nutrient strength!

Flushing a crop with plain water before harvest will improve the aroma and flavor of your produce. In a hydroponics system, this can be done with 7 to 10 days of plain water. It is helpful if you change the plain water with fresh water every day for these last days.

The only thing about Maxsea is that it is missing magnesium. Add 1/4 teaspoon Epsom salts to every gallon of nutrient solution and you will never have a problem with this.

Using Maxsea for organic hydroponics is great. It dissolves almost completely, with very little particulate matter, so there is less stress on your pumps.

When you mix it up, it is near perfect Ph. This eliminates the need to purchase an expensive Ph meter in the beginning. It also makes checking your nutrient solution everyday a little easier. Maxsea is complete except for magnesium, which makes your feeding much more simple than it could be.

Because it is a seaweed based fertilizer, you do not need to supplement with liquid seaweed for trace nutrients. Seaweed is also high in plant hormones, eliminating the need to supplement for these also.

I have seen very few other systems this simple that produce top notch results like Maxsea does. Did I mention that it costs you less than professional hydroponic fertilizers? One of the only places I have been able to find the Maxsea fertilizers is Charley’s Greenhouse and Garden.

organic hydroponics supplements

Another popular method for organic hydroponics is to make a nutrient tea with worm castings and bat guano. You may want to add Maxicrop liquid seaweed and Thrive Alive B1 at 10 ml/gallon to add hormones and vitamins.

For the vegetative stage, put two parts worm castings to one part high nitrogen bat guano to make your tea.

For the flowering stage, use one part worm castings to two parts high phosphorus bat guano to make your tea.

Place the organics in a sock or pillow case and make your tea in 3 to 5 gallons of water. Again, a TDS or EC meter is very helpful to tell how strong the nutrient solution is. Organics mixed in this way will seem to turn out a different strength every time.

Before you use the tea, determine how strong the nutrient solution SHOULD be, based on the stage of your plants life cycle. The tea will likely be stronger than you need. Simply add plain water until the solution is just the right strength.

Last, make sure you check the pH before using.

Recently, two other “professional” organic feeding options have come to my attention. The first one is the Canna Bio line of nutrients. With Canna Bio, there is one fertilizer for the vegetative stage and one for the flowering stage. Not only are these fertilizers organic, they are vegan (they contain no animal products). Plus, they are one part fertilizers, which is unusual….most hydroponic fertilizers come in two or three parts that need to be mixed into solution. This makes them convenient to use, especially for those who are a little intimidated with mixing two or three part formulas.

These fertilizers also mix up at just the right pH, which is a great benefit. This makes it easier to maintain your nutrient solution every day. Instead of checking the nutrient strength (and adjusting it) than checking the pH (and adjusting it), with Canna Bio products you only need to check and adjust the strength of the solution.

When you don’t have to check the pH of the nutrient solution all the time, you save money in two ways. First, you won’t need to buy an expensive pH meter for checking the nutrient solution every day. Second, you won’t need to buy pH UP or pH DOWN products to adjust the pH. When you add up all of the benefits, Canna Bio becomes a very friendly fertilizer to use (especially for beginners).

The second “professional” quality organic hydroponic fertilizer plan I have come across recently is a recipe (actually two) using Pure Blend Pro as the major nutrient. You should use this feeding plan only if you are comfortable with mixing up a three part nutrient solution, and if you are comfortable with checking and adjusting the nutrient strength AND pH every day (basic stuff, but it can be intimidating to a beginner).

For the vegetative stage use:

126 ml Cal-Mag Plus
180 ml Liquid Karma
540 ml Pure Blend Pro Vegetative Formula

For the flowering stage use:

126 ml Cal-Mag Plus
150 ml Sweet
180 ml Liquid Karma
540 ml Pure Blend Pro Bloom

The person I know who uses this formula mixes all of the ingredients in an empty milk jug, than adds the mixture slowly to the water in his nutrient reservoir until he reaches the desired nutrient solution strength. He than adjusts the pH to 5.8, which works very well for this formula.

It’s important to note, you should NEVER mix normal hydroponic nutrients together in this way before adding them to the nutrient reservoir. If you mix chemical hydroponic nutrients together, they will chemically combine and will be useless to your plants as food….that is why they are bottled separately in two or three part formulas to begin with! When mixed into a nutrient reservoir full of water one at a time, this chemical interaction is not a big problem.

My friend has never noticed any problems from mixing together his nutrients in this way. The only reason for this, I guess, is that the nutrients are organic nutrients and not simply a positive(+) chemical ion and a negative(-) chemical ion that would join together as soon as they are mixed.

The only difference between hydroponics and organic hydroponics is what you choose to feed your plants. However, there are some hydroponic systems that do not work well with organic hydroponics. Even organics with very few particles floating around will still clog drip emitters and spray heads. For this reason I do not recommend hydroponic drip systems or aeroponics in this section.

The hydroponics methods best suited for use with your organic nutrients are…

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Check out some Homemade Hydroponic Systems

Learn How to Grow Hydro- a page of hydroponic feeding tips

Dirt Cheap organic and hydroponic gardening suppliesFind out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason’s Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients….and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden….but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible….and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason’s Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks….and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients….I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas….like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Make a year's worth of compost in one week!What is colloidal humus? Make the world's best compost

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill….and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!

Click Here to learn more!

This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It’s a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It’s natural. it’s spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and….only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!

Low effort organic gardening!

Years and years of experience and results can’t be argued with….the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work….specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years’ worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World’s Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

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Feb 21, How to Grow Hydro is really about Maintaining your Nutrients Properly

How to grow hydro is really about how to maintain your nutrient reservoir. After all, there is nothing you can do to MAKE your plants grow. You can only provide all the best conditions, sit back, and let plant growth happen. Assume your plants are getting enough light and air, and are kept at a good temperature. Plant growth will happen (often quickly) as long as you provide the best conditions in your nutrient solution (and in the rest of the grow room) everyday!

Learning how to grow hydro starts with your beginning water quality. Check your tap water with a TDS meter. Anything over 200 ppm and you should probably use a reverse osmosis filter, or else use bottled spring water. While not necessary, it’s not a bad idea to treat your water using hydrogen peroxide.

If you really want to complicate things, you can get a complete water test. In this case, you can use tap water with up to 300 ppm as long as no more than 150 ppm of the total is from calcium, calcium carbonate, and sodium compounds.

Through the water, the plants will receive all of their food. This water needs to contain primary nutrients (N-P-K), secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfur), and all trace nutrients. I strongly recommend using a professional hydroponic nutrient product for this.

In addition to regular food, there are a few additives that make a huge difference in the healthy development of your plants. These are vitamins (like Thrive Alive B1), trace nutrient supplements (like Maxicrop liquid seaweed), and plant hormones (in both seaweed and Thrive Alive red). Another useful additive is silica, which is used to boost the immune system of plants.

Many expert gardening articles I have read by people who know how to grow hydro recommend adding Thrive Alive B1 and Maxicrop to every drop of water you give your plants. Use 10 ml (2 tsp) per gallon of each. If you are using a seaweed based fertilizer, it is not necessary to add additional liquid seaweed. For more information on feeding and maintaining your nutrient solution, check out the hydroponic nutrients page.

If you want to learn how to grow hydro well, you must know about the pH (potential Hydrogen) scale. Hydroponic nutrients are only usable to your plants when the pH is right. The maximum amount of nutrients are available to your plants in a range of 5.5 pH to 7.0 pH. In hydroponics, the nutrients are often kept around 5.5 because the plants absorb nutrients slightly more quickly at this pH.

Also, the natural tendency of the nutrient solution is for the pH to creep up slowly over time, so it is a good idea to adjust the pH down to the low end of the acceptable range whenever you make a pH adjustment.

TDS meter for testing the strength of the hydroponic nutrient solution

People that know how to grow hydro use a total dissolved salts (TDS) meter or an electrical conductivity (EC) meter to tell how strong or how weak the nutrient solution is. The ideal strength of your nutrient solution depends on what type of plants you are growing, and also what stage of the plant life cycle they are in. Your plants will tend to require stronger and stronger nutrient solutions as they grow more mature, and especially when they go into flowering. Check out the plant life cycle pages for more specific advice on what strength to keep your nutrient solution.

In a ten gallon reservoir, you will need to check the strength (TDS or EC) and the pH of your solution twice a day. With a larger reservoir, the changes in the nutrient solution take more time. I would still recommend you check your nutrient solution at least once a day, no matter what size reservoir you have! The cheapest way to do this is with a small bottle of pH indicator drops….you just scoop up a sample of your water, add a few drops of indicator, and shake! Just check the results against the color chart on the bottle for your pH. People that know how to grow hydro usually use a larger reservoir. 3/4 gallon to one gallon of nutrient solution per plant is a good general guideline to follow.

If you test your nutrient solution and the pH is up, then slowly add pH down. When checking your nutrient solution, it is a good idea to check the pH first (as opposed to checking the TDS or EC first), because the addition of pH down will increase the strength of your nutrient solution a little. If your pH is too high, you may need to add a little pH down.

Once the pH of your nutrient solution has been tested and adjusted, it is time to test the TDS/EC. If the nutrient strength is a little weak, add a little fertilizer. If the nutrient strength is a little high, add plain water. It is a good idea to let any water that you use sit out overnight in an uncovered container. This lets the water de-chlorinate, and also lets the water come to room temperature. Adding cold water will shock the roots, causing root damage as well as above ground damage.

After two weeks of using the same nutrient solution, it is time for a nutrient change. The plants may have been using some nutrients more than others, and now you might be heading for a nutrient imbalance. Keep an extra nutrient reservoir full of plain water waiting for your next nutrient solution change. This ensures you will have de-chlorinated, room temperature water that will not damage your plants’ roots.

It is a good idea to run a tank full of plain water (or 1/4 strength nutrient solution) through the hydroponic system for a few hours in between nutrient changes. This helps to flush out any nutrient buildup. Some experienced gardeners do this every four weeks, or every other nutrient change. The addition of enzymes, such as Hygrozyme, will help with the flushing process. During every nutrient change, consider using hydrogen peroxide to keep things clean and healthy.

Once you have a simple feeding plan that is working well, you can try to maximize your results. The best advice here is to make small changes, one at a time, and to let each change show its effects before making another change. Sometimes this will mean waiting two weeks, other times it may mean waiting a whole crop cycle for the results.

My experience has shown that a simple plan with high quality results is what your goal should be. Many times, experimenting only leads to bad results. To make matters worse, if you changed two or more things, you have no idea what is causing the problem now. Anyone interested should learn about these fertilizer and soil additives.

Pros that know how to grow hydro usually do a final flush just before harvest. This can be done by replacing the nutrient solution with plain water for the last 7 to 10 days. It will help if you change the water each day with fresh, plain water for these last few days. An alternative is to use a product specifically made to help flush out these nutrients, such as Final Flush or Flora-Kleen.

Flushing the crop helps remove any fertilizers in the plant tissue. Flushing will improve the flavor and aroma of the produce coming out of your garden.

Leave the how to grow hydro page and
Go to the Homemade Hydro Page

Check out the Hydroponics Growing Systems page

Learn about Indoor Garden Lighting

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Donation gives Horseshoe Bend students a chance to experience hydroponics – The Alexander City Outlook

Students at Horseshoe Bend High School now have a chance to learn about hydroponics thanks to a donation from Roger Hendrick.

Hendrick is CEO of AmTech and purchased the equipment to help his daughter learn about growing food in areas with water shortages.

“She got into studying about water shortage,” Hendrick said. “She has projects as part of her education and hydroponics was one of them. We relocated and could not use the equipment so we donated it.”

The students have already set up the equipment and have it running in a room near the woodshop at the school.

“The students helped get everything setup,” teacher Jessica Hodnett said. “They are the ones that got it going.”

With only a few weeks left in the school year, the students hope to learn a little about hydroponics before school starts back in the fall.

“We are going to try to get things started a little before the end of the school year,” 11th grader Brent Cowart said. “That way, when we come back in the fall, we can really get things going. We want the plants to grow. We do not want a bunch seeds left there.”

“We are hoping to experiment a little with the time left in the school year and figure it out,” 11th grader Adam Green said.

Hendrick hopes the students learn more than just hydroponics with the donation.

“I love projects,” Hendrick said. “You have to let kids practice this project management thing. You start with a goal. What is it that you are trying to do? What are your expectations?”

Hendrick even offered some ideas on getting things going.

“Are looking to sell what you grow?” Hendrick asked. “You might be looking at another project team that will package what you grow to sell. If you are looking for a test market, we are pretty liberal at AmTech.”

The students already have some ideas.

“I think we will grow cabbage, lettuce and strawberries,” Cowart said. “I took a chance on this over equine science. I think it is good that we have a chance to work on this. Not many high school students get to learn about hydroponics.”

Hendrick hopes the students learn life long skills in the process.

“If a young person can learn to take something from start to end and produce a result,” Hendrick said, “then they can do anything in the world they want to.”

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No soil, no problem: Medford fourth graders launch into hydroponics project – Wicked Local

Every morning, Sean, a student in Donna Laskey’s fourth-grade class at the McGlynn Elementary School, checks on his plants. He waters them, measures them and keeps written notes on their progress. And sees it’s possible to grow lettuce, tomatoes and arugula without any soil at all. “It’s weird because it grows without soil, but it works and it’s fun at the same time,” Sean said last Thursday morning. “And you don’t have to put chemicals in, so there’s nothing attacking it.” Laskey’s students have embraced the role of guinea pigs for hydroponics — an increasingly popular method of urban farming — in the Medford schools. A seven-student Hydroponics Committee is responsible for nurturing the plants, which are set up across the hall from Laskey’s third-floor classroom. One committee member, Alex, outlined the process: An air pump pushes water through tubes with small holes into a bed of rockwool pellets, where the water drips out and is absorbed by the plants’ roots. The pellets, Alex’s classmate Isaac explained, keep the plants in place. A fan simulates wind to make the roots sturdier, while grow lights hang overhead and mimic the sun. The project began February 4, according to Sophia, the committee’s official record-keeper, and it has been a process of trial and error ever since. “We put too much seeds in the rockwool so then they started growing together and didn’t have enough space,” Sophia said of the lettuce. “They got too leggy.” As humans take over more land and pollute more water, farmers are turning to methods like hydroponics to make the most of limited space, save water and avoid the use of chemicals. To help her students understand the problem, Laskey gave them vats of water contaminated with mud, rocks, leaves, Styrofoam, paint and vegetable oil, and told them to get creative. “I said, ‘Clean the water,’” Laskey said. “We found out how hard it is to clean a dirty river, so don’t pollute it. That’s the bigger message.” Laskey has been working on the project with Rocco Cieri, science coordinator for the Medford Public Schools. Laskey and Cieri have received guidance from the Little Brook Logging and Garden Center in Saugus, and received a $400 grant from the Medford Educational Foundation that they have yet to use. Last week, Laskey’s classroom also acquired a single fish for a small aquaponics project, whereby the fish — named Ivan by the students — will produce fertilizer to grow wheatgrass and radish sprouts. Meanwhile, Norman Rousseau’s biotechnology class at the Medford Vocational Technical High School has been piloting a much larger aquaponics project using a 400-gallon fish tank. Laskey and Rousseau plan to connect with the culinary program at the Voke to ensure the food they grow has tangible, edible benefits for other people. “We’re piloting it for the city with the thought that the middle school can then do it,” Laskey said. “The more we introduce it down here, then as we go up, we can build on it.” Wherever the project leads for Medford, it has already made an impact at the McGlynn. “I love this project,” said Kathleen, another committee member. “We all work together to plant and we all had special parts in this project, and so far it’s really fun.” Laskey’s students have learned by making mistakes. They have poured time and energy into the project, Laskey said, because they have been afforded room to make those mistakes. “You think about the things you’ve learned that have meant the most to you,” Laskey said. “You didn’t read it in a book. You did it because you tried it and you fell a couple times, and you did it better the next time.” Laskey’s students have killed a few plants over the last two months, while wayward students from other classes have been unable to resist touching the plants as they walked by — leading to the demise of some lettuce. “We don’t want to give any names,” Sophia said. Slowly but surely, though, the plants are growing, and the students are proud of what they created through their own hard work. “Not one of them ever thought about growing lettuce or tomato — they couldn’t care less about eating a tomato,” Laskey said. “But they have a vested interest in this. It’s theirs. They own it.”

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