Feb 16, My Most Successful Homemade Hydroponics System

My most successful homemade hydroponics system was the result of many years of trial and error. A good design eliminates many of the potential problems with using a hydroponic system and simplifies its day to day use. In the end success depends not only on a good hydroponic system design, but also on how you use it (good hydroponic gardening technique).

Below I describe my homemade system, along with design changes I’ve made over time and why. Next I discuss construction tips and a couple small problems that still exist with the system. Finally, I share my experience on proper hydroponic gardening technique to help you get the best results from your homemade hydroponic system.

Shown here, a design made from 4 inch PVC, with a plant spacing of 10 inches

Tools- power drill, 2 3/4 inch hole saw, hack saw or sawsall, soldering iron, tape measure, marker, and chalk line.

Materials- four 10 FT lengths of 4 inch PVC pipe, eight 4 inch PVC elbows, PVC primer, PVC glue, 30 gallon plastic storage tote with lid, 240-380 gallon per hour hydroponic pump, four feet black hydroponic pump hose, two or three fish aquarium air pumps with 6 inch air stones, forty 16 OZ plastic beverage cups (disposable kind), 20 liter bag of expanded clay pellets, two sawhorses, and duct tape.

This homemade hydroponic system is 3 1/2 FT X 8 ft. Fully loaded it can hold 36 plants. Plants are added to the system when they are about 6 inches tall. The system itself holds about 15 gallons of water and the nutrient reservoir holds another 15-20 gallons, for a total of 30-35 gallons of nutrient solution (slightly less than 1 gallon per plant).

First, cut the four PVC pipes into 7 FT 6 inch lengths. When cutting PVC it is important to make our cuts nice and straight, otherwise one side of the pipe will be longer than the other (this could cause problems later). With your fingers or a thin piece of metal, scrape off any burred PVC from the cut so you have a nice clean edge.

Next, cut three 6 inch pieces making sure the cuts are straight and cleaning the edges. These pieces will be used to make u-turns out of the PVC elbows.

The purple primer is great, because you KNOW when something has been primed. It is a good idea to use BOTH primer and glue when trying to make a water-tight seal

When a piece of PVC is glued into a fitting, it needs to be held in place for several seconds (it tends to pop back out). Before gluing PVC, make sure all PVC burrs have been cleaned from the cut pieces. Clean the inside of the fitting AND the end of the pipe with PVC primer. Go around 3 or 4 times on each. Next, apply glue to both the fitting AND to the end of the pipe. Go around 3 or 4 times on each, making sure you haven’t missed any spots. The glue should cover 1 1/2 inches on the end of the pipe. Twist the pieces a little as you push them together to smear shut any air bubbles.

Immediately after pushing each u-turn together, set it upright on a flat surface (open ends down) to make sure it sits perfectly flat. If not, adjust the piece while the glue is still wet. Make sure to hold the piece in place for several seconds before letting it go. Make 3 u-turns this way.

Once the u-turn pieces are sufficiently dry (a few minutes), I recommend gluing together the rest of the system BEFORE cutting the holes for the plants. First, locate a large, flat area upon which to work. The area must be large enough to fit the entire system. Your finished homemade hydroponic system will only be as flat and level as your work area.

Glue an elbow to one of the long pipes, following the gluing guidelines above. This will be where water enters the system (see the diagram). Glue the other end of this pipe into one of the u-turns, making sure the elbow is facing up and the u-turn is lying flat on the ground. Into the other end of this u-turn, glue another long pipe. To the other end of this pipe glue another u-turn, making sure it is sitting flat on the ground when finished.

Into the other end of this u-turn glue another long piece. On the other end of this pipe glue the final u-turn, making sure it is sitting flat on the ground when finished. Into the other side of this u-turn glue your final long piece. On the other end of this piece push on, but DO NOT GLUE, your final 90* elbow. For now, this elbow should point up in the air and will keep your final long piece level as it dries.

Use a marker or a chalk line to mark the top-center of the PVC pipe before you begin marking out individual plant holes

I recommend letting your system dry overnight before trying to cut the holes for the plants. It is important to make each hole precisely at the top of the PVC tube- a little off center to either side and THAT will be the spot your homemade hydroponic system is likely to leak. It is helpful to use a chalk line (and a friend) to snap a line down the very top center of each tube, or to mark it with a permanent marker before you begin marking out the plant holes.

Then, with a marker or pencil, measure 3 1/2 inches in from the elbow (at either end of a long pipe) and mark it with a dot over the center line. Next, measure every 10 inches along the pipe (starting from the first dot) placing dots for each plant hole. Each long pipe should end up with 9 dots. Drilling a pilot hole into each dot with a small drill bit (i.e. 1/8 inch) will prevent the hole saw bit from “walking”.

Use a 2 3/4 inch hole saw with a 1/4 inch guide drill bit and begin cutting out the plant holes. Be sure to keep the disc shaped pieces of PVC…they come in handy later to level your homemade hydroponic system! Once all of the holes are cut, take a thin piece of metal (like a short sawsall blade) and clean the PVC burrs from each hole. This is actually very important– these little pieces of PVC will clog your water pump and burn it out! Before you move the system and finish cleaning it, you will want to reinforce it…

Be sure to re-inforce your homemade hydroponic system BEFORE you attempt to move it

The long pipes of the system make great levers- if moved up or down, left or right too much from their resting position, it can crack the system at the u-turn joint. Measure the distance between your long pipes. Cut three sections of PVC to this length. Wedge these sections in between your long pipes (at opposite ends of the u-joints) and duct tape them in place. Make sure the duct tape runs in between plant holes rather than covering them. This will splint your long pipes into relatively safe positions.

Once the homemade hydroponic system has been reinforced to prevent breaking, it’s time to clean it well and flush it out a couple of times. Lift the system off of the ground and set it on a couple of sawhorses. Place the reservoir at the end of the system to catch the rinse water. Use a hose with a good spray nozzle to shoot water and PVC burr debris from each pipe. A new toilet brush also comes in handy for this. Start at one end and work your way from hole to hole through the entire system. Rinse several times, making sure you have gotten all of the PVC bits out.

A soldering iron was used to make these homemade netted pots. Plastic fumes are very toxic. If you try this, make sure it is in a well ventillated area!

Netted pots are made from the 16 OZ cups by burning small (1/4 inch) holes with a soldering iron in the bottoms and sides. Be sure to work in a well ventilated area- plastic smoke is toxic. If this is overly concerning to you, consider purchasing netted pots from your local hydroponic gardening store or from an online distributor.

It is important these holes are not visible when you place the cups into your homemade hydroponic system. Before making the holes, place the cups into your system to see how deeply they sit. If you need to, mark them with a marker while they sit in the system. Also, the holes should not be large enough to let clay pellets slip through once the cups are filled. When finished, each 2 3/4 inch plant hole will receive one homemade netted pot.

the bottom design ends up having an interesting feature....as the water level drops, the overflow is more quickly reduced

The water level within the system needs to be kept as high as possible without causing any leaks. To do this, a dam is constructed at the end of the system just before the water pours back into the reservoir. Simply find a piece of thin plastic, such as a milk jug. Using a scrap piece of 4 inch PVC, trace a circle on the plastic and cut it out.

Cut a flat side off of the circle representing the height you would like to keep the water level inside the pipes. Cut two slits into this flat side, giving you a flap you can bend down to fine tune the water level. Now wedge it into place using the last 90* elbow to test things out. This last elbow remains unglued to facilitate water changes in your homemade hydroponic system. Instead of gluing the elbow, simply coat it with a thin layer of Vaseline.

Pay careful attention to how much water your nutrient reservoir can hold when your water pump is shut off (simulating a power outage or equipment failure)

Attach a 24-30 inch piece of PVC to this elbow to carry water from the homemade hydroponic system back to the nutrient reservoir. Rather than pointing straight down, this pipe should be made to run at an angle to prevent splashing and the sound of falling water. The end of this pipe should be underwater inside the nutrient reservoir. Cut notches in the side of the reservoir lid to accommodate the water pump line and PVC return.

The reservoir should have at least one air bubbler in it, to keep the nutrient solution well oxygenated. This is important, as the roots will be growing in standing water.

Fill the system with water and fill the reservoir about 1/3 full of water. Turn on the hydroponic pump and wait until there is just as much water returning to the system as there is being pumped into the system. Ideally, the water level should be 1/4 inch or less below the edge of each plant hole. Using the PVC discs (saved from cutting out the plant holes) level the system, raising sections until the water level is the same distance below each plant hole. If the water level needs to come up or down on the entire system, simply adjust the dam.

There are alternatives to using clay pellets, such as perlite, vermiculite, pumice, or rockwool

Presoak the expanded clay pellets overnight. If they are brand new, soak and rinse them several times before using. Take the 16 OZ cups (with holes) and place one in each plant hole. Add enough clay pellets to each cup to just make it above the water level in the cup. Jiggle them around with your finger to settle them. The top layer of pellets should be 1/2 in the water and 1/2 out.

Take 6 inch clones or seedlings and place one in each cup, adding presoaked clay pellets to each cup as you go to completely cover the roots and any cloning medium (i.e. rubber dirt plug or rockwool). Once plants are in the homemade hydroponic system, it is important to add the air bubblers!

One of the most important pieces of equipment you should have is a good meter for testing the strength and/or pH or your nutrient solution

Turn the water pump off to add nutrients to the reservoir. Bring the nutrient strength up to the level you have established in your feeding plan. Turn the pump back on (very important). Check the nutrient strength/pH again in an hour as your nutrient solution will become diluted with the plain water from inside the system. In an hour, check and adjust the nutrient solution one final time. Afterward, place the lid on the nutrient reservoir and follow the regular routine for maintaining a nutrient solution.

A light mover is not required to produce excellent results, but it is the most efficient way to use a grow light

Finally, I hang the lights and fans. I have found a 1000 watt light on a very short light mover to be perfect for this garden. Along one 8 foot side and the two 4 foot sides I hang reflective material. In the center of the other 8 foot side, I position a 12 inch oscillating fan on a stand (at plant height) and hang a 400 cubic foot per minute centrifugal fan, which I use to push cool air into the garden area.

Clones and seedlings grow easily under regular 4 FT fluorescent lights

While you could start seeds in this homemade hydroponic system and grow them start to finish, it is much more efficient to start seedlings in a smaller area under regular fluorescent lights and transplant them into this system when you are ready to flower them. By using this garden as a flowering area, you can start another batch of clones or seedlings under your fluorescent lights and have them ready to go in as your last crop finishes up.

Once you have 6 inch tall seedlings or clones with roots, put them into the system and grow them vegetatively for one week (just long enough to get situated). If any of these plants die, remove the plant and it’s roots but leave the cup and clay pellets in the plant hole. Then, cut the light cycle to 12 hours on/12 hours off using a digital timer and allow them to flower.

This homemade hydroponic system is prone to leaks because the water level in the system needs to be kept close to the spilling point in order to give the plants’ roots enough area in which to grow. Also, half way through flowering, the volume of the root mass in the system became a small problem. The hydroponic pump placed 360 gallons per hour into the system; however, because of all the roots, the water could no longer flow through the system at 360 GPH… so the water slowly backed up and began to leak out.

To solve this, I put a “T” in the water pump line. I left one side in the nutrient reservoir (recirculating the nutrient solution) and fed the other side of the “T” into the homemade hydroponic system. This cut the GPH running through the system to 180 GPH, stopped the leaking, and caused no ill effects to the plants.

Because of these issues, I suggest running this homemade hydroponic system on an unfinished basement floor with a drain (or perhaps in a garage with a gravel floor). You could also figure out some way to contain the small leaks, like strategically placing a plastic sheet under the system to funnel leaks back to the reservoir. Better yet, read about my next homemade hydroponic system…a re-design of this system that eliminates the problem with leaks altogether.

A lack of drip/spray emitters make this system reliable and easy to maintain. The pump is a low pressure pump, eliminating any risk of catastrophic failure like bursting pipes (which spray everywhere until the reservoir is empty, putting your lights and electrical equipment at risk and posing a fire hazard). A leak in this system is not likely to spray (just drip) and it would be nearly impossible to empty the whole system.

This system design minimizes light exposure to the nutrient solution, which prevents algae, which prevents fungus gnats, which prevents root damage. In the event of a power failure, the standing water in this homemade hydroponic system will prevent damage to your roots/plants for quite some time. Finally, it is relatively easy to check, adjust, and change the nutrient solution in this system.

Choose a design for your homemade system

How to grow Hydro
(how to maintain your hydroponic nutrient solution)

Hydroponic System Construction Tips

View the original article here

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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.

Leave the Hydroponics FAQ and
Go Ask the Expert

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!

Learn about high yield organic gardening
If you've found this site helpful at all, I would really appreciate it

View the original article here

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…

Leave the organic hydroponics page and
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!

Learn about high yield organic gardening
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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

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Growing Hot Peppers Indoors

Winter is still upon us, but this has no bearing on your ability to grow delicious hot peppers in the comfort of your own home. Whether you are growing indoors from sprout to harvest, or simply starting off your seeds for the outdoor season, both can be accomplished with great success.

In part one of this series I will discuss the best methods used for sprouting your pepper seeds. Although it is possible to sprout your seeds in soil, we will be focusing on the hydroponic methods in order to take advantage of the many benefits of hydroponic growing. These benefits include increased growth rates, faster maturity and fruit production as well as increased yields.

The first step in sprouting pepper seeds is to give them a presoak. This means you should soak your seeds in water overnight to kick start the germination process. A shot glass or similar device works well for this practice. Remember to separate seeds based on variety in order to be able to identify which plant is which down the road.

The next step is to prepare your growing medium. Jiffy 7 propagation plugs are best suited to soil or soilless growing as they have fine particles which can become loose and clog or soil active hydroponic systems. Rockwool starter plugs can be easily transplanted to either soil, soilless or hydroponic gardens making them the most versatile. Both of these types of growing media require a presoak before they are ready to receive the seed. Using your pH tester and your pH Down, set the pH of your water to 6.5 for the Jiffy 7 method or 5.5 for the Rockwool method. Do this by first testing the pH of your water and then adding a few drops of pH down and retesting until your pH is in the correct range. Be sure to stir the solution well before taking your adjusted pH readings.  Once your pH is set to the correct level, it is time to soak your media. 10 seconds is sufficient for Rockwool and the Jiffy 7’s will require more time to expand since they come in compressed form. Once your media is soaked it can be transferred to your propagation tray. The Jiffy 7’s will require some shaping and removal of excess water before they are placed in your propagation tray. Propagation media should be moist but not soggy or else your seeds may rot.

Now that your tray is full of propagation media, it’s time to insert your presoaked seeds. Best practice is to place three seeds per propagation plug. If your seeds are far more valuable than the cost of the propagation media, you may elect to plant only one seed per plug. Seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4? and tamped gently to ensure coverage. Sometimes it is necessary to tear off a small piece of Rockwool from the edge of the cube to cover the seed. Once seeds are planted and tamped, they are ready to be sealed in their propagation dome to establish a warm humid environment to aid in germination. A Seedling Heat Mat can help speed up the germination process, however, be sure that the media does not dry out due to the added heat (ideal seed temperature for germination is 80-85 Degrees Fahrenheit).Ensure that there is no standing water in the bottom of your tray and then the propagation tray/dome can now be placed in a sunny location or under a grow lamp to speed up the propagation process.

peppers-at-nightfluoros

A general rule of thumb is that a single T5grow lamp can be sufficient to sprout seeds, however, multiple lamps will produce better growth once germination has occurred.

Suggestion: Coloured small paper clips make for excellent plant identifiers. Other low cost items can be used as well, just be sure that they do not absorb moisture such as wood or paper or they will be prone to grow mould while sealed in your propagation dome.

Note: some pepper seeds can take up to 4+ weeks to germinate.

Once your peppers sprout and begin to grow, the strongest of the three seeds should be left to live, and the weaker plants culled from each propagation plug. This can be achieved by simply clipping the weaker plants with a pair of scissors at the base. It is not recommended to grow more than one plant per plug as they will compete for resources for the rest of their lives. Also at the time of germination, the vents on the propagation dome should be progressively opened each day to slowly expose the seedlings to the less humid atmosphere. Once the first set of true leaves appear (not the first set of rounded leaves called cotyledons) it is time to apply your fertilizer at 1/4 strength. For DNF Gro this means 1.5 ml of part A and 1.5 ml of Part B to one litre of H2O. Only water once plugs become dry and light weight, however do not wait too long for your delicate sprouts to wilt or the damage may be irreversible.

Congratulations, if you made it this far then you are well on your way to producing a healthy pepper harvest!

Stay tuned for the next installment which will focus on the lighting and growth methods available to grow these sprouts to the size required for an abundant harvest!

If you require additional information on seeds and germination click the links below:

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