Sep 8, Natural pest control for Indoor Gardens

Identification is KEY....and some garden pests are very small. A 30x magnifying scope is a must-have tool in my opinion.

The best natural pest control is prevention. When that fails, do you really want to use a poisonous product that will stay in the tissue of your plants and kill your beneficial micro-organisms? I love SM-90 for a foliar spray, but it will kill some of your beneficial micro-organisms if you use it to water your plants. When you find you have a bug problem, pest identification will help you prevent my bug woes.

A recent thrip problem has proven to me the importance of treating the soil when a pest infestation occurs. Thrips, fungus gnats, and even some mites all spend part of their life cycle in the soil. While I still spray my plants with SM90 (or BANG!), I have also begun to water some predatory nematodes into my soil grown plants to kill thrip and fungus gnat larvae living in the soil.

A fantastic compost tea that is bat guano based.

Predatory nematodes are beneficial micro-organisms. They eat harmful organisms that live in your soil and cause disease. Compost and bat guano are both excellent sources of beneficial nematodes….using compost or fertilizing your plants with compost tea are great ways to make sure you have plenty of these beneficial micro-organisms in your garden.

Neem oil can be substituted for SM-90 when spraying leaves for mites or thrips. You still want to treat the soil (in addition to treating the leaves) in the case of fungus gnats. If I have a problem in the future, I also plan to dust my plants with a little diatomaceous earth between different spray applications. If all else fails, I recommend trying a hot pepper/garlic spray called BANG!….I find that it works very well, is completely safe to use, and plants handle repeated applications with no bad side effects. Very large gardens should consider integrated pest management.

You should never spray anything on your plants while they are directly under high intensity lights or in the full sun. Spray applications generally stress plants out a little bit. The best approach is to raise your grow lights two or three feet so you can apply the spray, then give the garden a few hours to dry out and adjust to the spray application before you lower the lights again. Always read the directions for the products you are using.

I keep one spray bottle for BANG!, one for SM-90, and one for plain water.

Mites and thrips prefer dry conditions. On days you do not treat your plants, be sure to mist them heavily with plain water. You will slow down the bugs, rinse any built up residue from the plant leaves, and the plants just like it. If you have a decent size garden, do yourself a favor and get a good pump-action spray bottle….using a crappy old Windex bottle that barely squirts will just drive you crazy!

An indoor/outdoor thermomter lets you monitor your hot spot AND your garden temp at the same time.

Finally, keeping the temperatures in your garden on the cooler side (especially during the day) will help you gain the edge as mite and thrip reproduction rates slow down considerably. The difference between 73 degrees and 83 degrees in your garden can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to pest control. Get a good indoor/outdoor digital thermometer so you can monitor your garden temperature, and do whatever it takes to keep the temp below 75 degrees (ideally). Altogether, the natural pest control strategy that I recommend most often is….

Every garden should have a pair of small tip, spring loaded trimming scissors!

When you have a heavy infestation, sections of plant with lots of mites, webbing, or damage should be cut away from the healthy part of the plant and removed from the garden before attempting spray applications. Problems with thrips and fungus gnats do not usually require pruning (but sometimes do). A pair of spring-loaded scissors really saves your hands when you have a lot of trimming to do.

Citrus based, used to treat bacteria, fungus and insect problems in roots, leaves, and flowers safely.

A product called SM-90 is my personal favorite for natural pest control. It is citrus based and works well against mites, thrips, and fungus gnats (on leaves and in the soil). It also works in the soil against fungus and bacteria. Mix according to the directions and spray 80 percent under the leaves and 20 percent on top. Repeat every 3 days, up to 3 times. You can use this up to the week before harvest, but make sure to wash any residue off the plants with heavy misting.

You can also use SM-90 each time you water your plants, to kill the insect pests living in your soil. Unfortunately, if you are growing organically, it will also kill some of your beneficial micro-organisms. If you are using a hydroponic system, keeping SM-90 in your nutrient reservoir at 2-3 ml/gallon keeps fungus (and fungus gnats) at bay.

Many people really love Einstein Oil, but I have found this neem oil works just as well.

Another option for natural pest control is neem oil, such as Einstein Oil or K-Neem. Mix it up fresh before each use, and spray 80 percent under the leaves and 20 percent on top. In India, you can find neem oil in their toothpaste, shampoo, soap, and many other cosmetic and personal hygiene products. It is safe to use up to the week of harvest. Check the directions before using, but you normally use 3 applications about 7 days apart. Raise your lights when you apply neem oil! I found out the hard way neem does not work on thrips, but it is effective against mites and fungus gnats.

Compost and bat guano are both rich in beneficial nematodes.

There is no more natural pest control than this. Predatory nematodes are beneficial, microscopic organisms. They cost about 20 dollars for a little sponge that (they say) holds a million beneficial nematodes. You simply soak the sponge in room temperature water, and either water it into your plants or use it in your hydroponic nutrient reservoir. The nematodes will roam through your soil killing thrip, gnat, and mite larvae. If you go this route, I recommend you pay the extra money for next day shipping to protect your living mail.

Food grade...you can actually eat the stuff! Works on all garden pests, and also fleas, roaches, bed bugs, and more.A cheap duster...throw a little powder in the bottom and dust away.

Also known as silica dioxide, diatomaceous earth looks like a bunch of broken glass at a microscopic level . To use this natural pest control method, all you do is coat a feather duster with some and lightly dust all the leaves of your plants (especially the undersides!). Do not breathe the dust! The goal is a fine, even layer on all the plant surfaces.

A cheap duster tool like the one above applies the diatomaceous earth more evenly and more thoroughly to the plant surface (and it’s really fun to use). It is perfectly safe to use diatomaceous earth right up to the day of harvest. As little insects crawl and bite into your plants, they are cutting themselves to death. The action is physical, so pests cannot develop a tolerance to it. Reapply whenever the plants are dry, in between different spray applications.

Made from hot peppers and garlic, BANG! is very safe to use....and it makes the whole house smell like you are cooking a steak :)

A homemade solution of a few crushed cloves of garlic soaked overnight in a liter of water is supposed to provide natural pest control. The same is true with a few hot peppers chopped and soaked in a liter of water. BANG! is made of both. This product is particularly effective when used in combination with the other strategies on this page. You can use it over and over and over again on your plants without any bad side effects.

Beneficial insects, like ladybugs, can eat hundreds of garden pests per day.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is when you use the power of mother nature against herself, one beneficial organism against one garden pest. It is a very safe and natural pest control method. Using predatory nematodes is one example of integrated pest management.

Because they (nematodes) are microscopic and do not migrate from their container, this is an easy method for a small gardener to use. Beneficial nematodes can be added by using compost, bat guano, worm castings, or nutrient tea made from these ingredients. Different beneficial insects can be attracted into a garden area by planting certain beneficial plants. Marigolds are one such beneficial plant.

Integrated pest management also takes place at large commercial greenhouses, where the square footage of the garden area is used to estimate pest populations, and targeted releases of beneficial insects (such as ladybugs, praying mantis, or predatory wasps) take place to combat very specific anticipated problems in advance.

Leave the natural pest control page and
Check out the Pest Identification Page

Learn how to grow Hydro
(properly maintain your hydroponic nutrient solution)

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Vertical Farming Market: Type (Mixed-use, Despommier skyscrapers, others) Application (Agricultural, Aquaculture and … – PR Newswire (press release)

NEW YORK, May 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Vertical farming is a high-tech solution of controlled-environment agriculture. Vertical Farming is the practice of growing food in vertical stacked layers, vertically inclined surfaces or integrated in other structures. It is an emerging trend in urban agriculture. The main advantages of vertical farming is increased crop production, protection from weather-related problems, conservation of resources, organic crops, energy production, etc. with basic technological requirement of artificial lighting, climate control and fertigation.

The overall market can be analyzed based on various types, technologies, components as well as applications. On the basis of types, vertical farming can be categorized as Mixed-use skyscrapers, Despommier’s skyscrapers and Stackable shipping containers. The increase in vertical farming is due to two technology i.e. hydroponics and aeroponics. The vertical farms consists of many components such as pumps, power adaptors, anaerobic digesters, solar panels, LEDs lighting, Wind turbines, etc. which increases the productivity. Vertical farming has various applications such as Agricultural sub system, Aquacultural sub system, Food Processing sub system, Waste Management sub system, etc.

The market is also analyzed based on geographic regions which are grouped into Americas, APAC, Europe as well as ROW regions. Due to developed and improved technologies in APAC countries such as Japan, China and South Korea, vertical farming has been enhanced to eradicate the problems of increase in population. In America, U.S.A. is biggest manufacture of these farms. Some ROW countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also lead manufacturer of vertical farming.

The major driving factors for the vertical farming market are rapid progress in technology with improvement in irrigation techniques, development in synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, widespread of pesticides, advanced plant breeding, satisfy the rapid growth in consumer’s demand and other innovative factors.

The major companies operating in this market includes
AeroFarm LLC. (U.S.),
Mirai Co. Ltd.(Japan),
SkyGreen Co.Ltd.(Singapore),
FarmedHere LLC.(U.S.),
Sharp Co.(Dubai), Etc.
Read the full report: http://www.reportlinker.com/p03759066-summary/view-report.html

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ReportLinker is an award-winning market research solution. Reportlinker finds and organizes the latest industry data so you get all the market research you need – instantly, in one place.

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To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/vertical-farming-market-type-mixed-use-despommier-skyscrapers-others-application-agricultural-aquaculture-and-others-by-technologies-hydroponics-aeroponics-others-by-components-pumps-leds-others–by-geography-fo-300262838.html

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AeroFarms is building the world's largest indoor vertical farm just 45 mins from Manhattan – Inhabitat

aerofarms, newark, new jersey, indoor farming, indoor vertical farm, aeroponics, fresh produce, local produce, local foods

AeroFarms broke ground last summer in Newark on what they are planning to be the world’s largest indoor vertical farm, as well as the company’s new headquarters. Using large scale aeroponics systems with a nutrient-filled mist and LED growing lamps, AeroFarms will grow several varieties of salad greens, kale, and herbs (all without sun or soil and throughout all seasons) thanks to a high-tech, climate-controlled environment. The company aims to generate 2 million pounds of fresh produce each year at the new facility.

CEO David Rosenberg says the gigantic Newark facility is just the beginning. “Our mission is to build farms in cities all over the world,” he told The Huffington Post. “We are very much building the infrastructure not to build one, two or three farms but to build 20, 30 or 50 farms.”

Related: World’s largest indoor vertical farm will produce 2 million pounds of soil-free food in Newark

First Lady Michelle Obama visited AeroFarms with Al Roker last month as part of her national garden tour. The two spent time with some students from Philips Academy Charter School, which has a rooftop garden and an AeroFarms growing lab where students learn how to grow food.

aerofarms, newark, new jersey, indoor farming, indoor vertical farm, aeroponics, fresh produce, local produce, local foods

AeroFarms joins a host of other companies seeking to grab a foothold in the burgeoning indoor vertical farm industry. As traditional outdoor agriculture suffers, there has been a rise in demand for locally grown, fresh, organic products, and the fresh greens and herbs that a company like AeroFarms can deliver tend to fetch a premium over lesser quality alternatives that come from farther away.

Once the Newark farm is up and running, the 70,000-square-foot indoor facility will produce 75 percent more yield than a traditional outdoor farm of the same size. This is in part to the indoor vertical farm’s ability to stagger crops regardless of season, giving 22 crop turns each calendar year.

Via HuffPo

Images via AeroFarms

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The New Face Of Hydroponics

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I have to say that there are lots of new faces in hydroponics these days and they are addressing an emerging and growing new demand – that is delicious and locally grown produce.

The latest issue of Produce Business, an agricultural trade magazine, addresses the shifting behavior of consumers towards a more local and fresher food source. Vertical Harvest Hydroponics was asked to contribute to this article and we gladly accepted. Here are some behind the scenes Q&A with Jodean Robbins, a writer for Produce Business and Linda Janes of VHH. A link to the full article is at the end of this blog.

Nalo Farms sells their greens at KCC Farmers Marker, Oahu, Hawaii. Nalo Farms sells their greens at KCC
Farmers Marker, Oahu, Hawaii. March 2016.

A. Alaska is one of the states that can benefit the most from a reliable internal food source  – thus we must be on the forefront of the “growing local” movement.

Some things to consider, when it comes to AK agriculture:

In spite of growing demand, food security due to lack of locally grown food in Alaska, is a huge problem and has been a topic of conversation among many state leaders.Only 1% of AK’s GDP is agriculture (2012 Alaska Economic Performance Report). This number hasn’t changed much in 2014, 2105.Less than one percent (.24%) of Alaska’s 365 million acres of land is farmed; it is estimated only 15 million acres (4%) is suitable for farming.Alaska has 318 different soil types.Permafrost is more than 2,000 feet deep on Alaska’s North SlopeAbout 95% of Alaska’s food is imported, which is not sustainableA majority of the price charged for produce is captured in the supply chain, which is also not environmentally friendlyBy the time food arrives in Alaska, it is nutritionally inferior to recently harvested cropsIn Alaska, consumers pay a high and volatile price for low quality vegetablesNationwide, merchants lose $15bn annually in unsold produce attributable to shrink during transport and spoilage on the shelvesAccording to Alaska DHSS, we are also seeing a rise in preventable chronic diseases. In the past 30 years, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children, which together with physical inactivity and unhealthy eating contribute to a number of chronic diseases, including some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Summing up, vertical farming can be a great option to augment traditional farming practices in Alaska and there are many reasons to welcome controlled environment agriculture (CEA) into our state:

Nutrient-dense green vegetables—are some of the most important foods to focus on for preventing and managing chronic illnessesVertical farming is also very environmental friendly, since bypassing the supply chain reduces the environmental load quiet extensively.It allows for large-scale, high quality food production, maximizing output while minimizing facility space, land requirements, water usage, electricity, waste, and man-hours. Our systems are also very insulated, thereby requiring less for heating costs.Being able to produce food locally and deliver it to the consumers within hours or a short number of days after the harvest takes out the middleman and reallocates the benefits directly to the community and the local producers.Lowered cost of produce, higher nutrition, more buying power, consistent harvest, workforce development and stable produce prices are just some of the benefits of a well-designed hydroponic food production system.

A. Hydroponics has the potential of satisfying the recent trends in healthy eating, buying local, while at the same time delivering produce on a mass scale. Agriculture has always been important to the human race and now more and more people are interested in locally grown. For example, demand for local food has been rapidly increasing. According to USDA, the number of farmers markets has more than quadrupled over the past two decades (Nation wide from 1,755 in 1994 to 8,144 in 2013). In The Organic & Natural 2014, national syndicated research, the Hartman Group assesses that local may even surpass organic as a principle of transparency and trust (know your farmer).

Because food has become less expensive and takes up a smaller portion of our budget, people are looking at it more intently, particularly the quality of our food, where it comes from and the impact it has on our lives. Without commenting too much about the multitude articles in the recent years regarding how consumers are driving the growth of health conscious companies or the kind of big VC money that’s been lately invested in such businesses, we are seeing fundamental behavior changes away from big packaged mass-produced foods to locally grown, artisanal and highly nutritious options.

Millennials are definitely playing a role in this shift. While, the Gen Y as well as many Gen Xers are the natural inhabitants of the information age, they are also big proponents of community. They desire healthy, convenient, technologically driven and increasingly local food, event if that means paying a premium, as the evidence points to in the growth of farmers’ markets.

Delivering our first hydroponic farm to a client in Anchorage, AK. Delivering our first hydroponic farm to a client in Anchorage, AK.

Being on the cusp of Gen X/Y, the three founders of VHH are all very aware of the food we eat and are part of the cohort that is determined to change the food industry. This is our common cause, which is extremely important to us and serves as fuel for all the long days we have spent working up to this point. We have engineered a hydroponic farm that is made from shipping containers. We upcycle these containers and retrofit them with a hydroponic growing system that rivals one acre of traditional farming in production capacity.

Here are some highlights of our Containerized Growing System (CGS)

Local produce, all year roundReduce the supply chain from weeks to hoursFrom farm to your table, just in time for lunch or dinnerEat food that’s still alive – that’s superior nutritionProduce that is grown without pesticides using non-GMO seedsRich flavor profiles, superior freshness, locally grown greensHydroponic farm manufactured by repurposing 40 foot shipping containers Hydroponic farm manufactured by repurposing 40 foot shipping containers

Beyond consumption, millennials are a good target market for becoming hydroponic producers. In comparison to cultivating our own food and livestock, modern agriculture has given us extra time to put into cool products such as iphone, computers, automobiles, etc. Gen Y is obsessed with having extra time away from work to attend to “pleasurable” activities. With our growing systems for example, the labor requirements are drastically reduced, which is synonymous to the type of day a Gen Y person aspires to have. As technology improves, the next step in agricultural revolution is growing quality food locally and sustainably on a mass scale.

A. Right now the current CGS design allows a wide variety of culinary herbs or leafy greens to be grown economically. We’ll be working on R&D to create systems that allow for flowering plants like tomatoes or berries to grow. The biggest thing with these systems is it has to be an economically/commercially viable option, as most use it as a business. Doing R&D and tailoring the design just right are big components to manufacturing a system that’s financeable, sustainable (pays for itself and brings money into the community), offers employment opportunity and brings home “the bacon”.

In Alaska, it makes sense to grow produce that’s difficult to ship, that doesn’t have a long shelf life and that can’t be grown year round or stored to be sold off season. Leafy greens fit this description well and that is what we offer right now for our clients.

Please click HERE to read the entire Produce Business article.

In closing, as always to your health,

The team at VHH

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Smart Pot Fabric Containers

By Guy Ehydro

When it comes to growing big plants and maximizing our efforts the best place to put your time, money, and energy is in the root system. Big roots = Big fruits. Nothing builds better root systems than the Smart Pot Fabric Planter. We’ve heard your concerns and we want to help you pick the best planter for your crops.

Pocket Planting Pocket Planting in a Smart Pot

How do they stay up?
With the wide flat bottom, and the strongest fabric in the industry, just add your media and they stand right up. From 1 gallon to 500 gallons, these planters can even hold up trees. Because the Smart Pot is a fabric container, giving the root ball total aeration and excellent drainage, you can even use a heavier, less expensive planting mix.

better-containerWill roots grow through the soft fabric?
Yes, they can. When the root tips are exposed to the air a signal is sent back up the chain to stop growing straight, and to start stretching out in other directions. But, if you plant your Smart Pot container right in the ground, or set them on uncovered earth, the roots will penetrate the fabric.

What makes them better than other containers?
Every garden can benefit from what Smart Pots bring to the table.

Value: This fabric is so durable you can use it for several seasons. I wash mine at the laundromat between runs and they come out brand new every time. This allows me to save a ton of money per year on less expensive plastic containers. (but it never hurts to have a stack of 4? starter pots around)

Versatility: Smart Pot fabric allows for unbeatable drainage capacity without losing any of the media it contains. This makes them great in hydroponic applications like ebb and flow systems.

Soil Health: Outdoors on the patio, or the back patch on the hill, a plastic container can easily top 120 degrees, damaging or killing your roots, stressing the plant, and hurting your harvest. The Smart Pot porous fabric allows heat to dissipate and excess water to evaporate so that the beneficial bacteria thrive and provide nutrients from your soil to the plant.

Smart Pots fine roots Roots by Smart Pot

Root Health: When a root branch reaches the edge of the Smart Pot, it is triggered to stops growing in length and develops many, many fine branches. These lateral root shoots make better use of the container space and result in a big increase to root mass surface area. Plants kept in plastic pots for too long have roots that continue to grow in length. You may have heard this called “circling,” and is defined by a dense root system wrapped around the side of the pot, effectively strangling uptake.

How can I use them in my garden?
Hydroponic and soil gardeners are all finding creative ways to utilize the benefits of the Smart Pot fabric container. In an Ebb and Flow bucket system they are great for containing loose media that could clog hosing. Top feed and drip hydroponic gardens also benefit from the improved aeration and drainage allowing for more frequent feedings without over watering.
bbb_sellsheet_pic_origOutdoor gardens that contain edibles are often grown in raised beds to improve drainage and aeration. The Smart Pot container imitates this above ground effect and even the largest beds are easy to get started using. If you have never tasted freshly dug potatoes then you don’t know what you’re missing out on! Compared to those store potatoes shipped in from the farm and stored until you buy them at the grocery store, well… there is no comparison. Perfect for all vegetables and fruits your family will thank you for bringing some good ol’ fashioned homegrown organic to the table.
Container gardeners can also take a look at planting some perennials.  Because the root system stays healthy for a long time in a Smart Pot they a great for raising plants for up to 4 years. The Smart Pot was actually originally developed for and is still used extensively in large tree production.

What size do I need?
One of the most common questions I see asked is “What size Smart Pot should I use” to grow my crop? There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to picking the right pot for your plant and the space it has to fill.  Please consider the following when trying to decide what size Smart Pot to use:

1. Portability – If you are going to move the Smart Pot around, get a size you can handle. A 10-gallon pot, for example, might weigh forty or fifty pounds or more, depending on the soil mix and water content. Can you move this weight without hurting your back?

2. Do you need the Smart Pot to fit?The Smart Pot has straight sides and no taper. If you are placing the Smart Pot inside another pot, make sure the bottom diameter will fit, and you can lift it out.

size-containers3. What is the genetic potential of the plant?Put one in a small container, and plan on moving it as it grows. A giant Pumpkin will fill a large Smart Pot in one season. Do not put it in a one-gallon container and expect stellar growth.

4. Do you want the plant to reach its’ genetic potential? Do you want the plant to stunt in growth? Leaving a plant that could grow very large in too small a Smart Pot for too long will cause the plant to bonsai.

5. What type of mix will you use?

6. What type of fertilizers will you use?

7. What type of watering system do you have?

8. What type of lighting system, if any, do you use?

The answers for questions 5 through 8 are all related. A sophisticated hydroponic grower, using the right mix with an ebb and flow watering system, with specialized fertilizers and lighting, will grow a larger plant in a smaller container than will a backyard duffer who rarely fertilizes or irrigates.

9. If you currently container growing, we recommend starting with the same gallon size container you ordinarily use – With proper care, the Smart Pot grown plant should grow a little bigger and fuller when compared to the same plant grown in a hard plastic pot.

(base x height)

#1 – 7? x 6?
#2 – 8? x 7?
#3 – 10? x 7.5?
#5 – 12? x 9.5?
#7 – 14? x 9.5?
#10 – 16? x 11.5?
#15 – 18? x 13.5?
#20 – 20? x 15.5
#25 – 21? x 15.5?
#30 – 24? x 15.5?
#45 – 27? x 18?
#65 – 32? x 18?
#100 – 38? x 20?
#200 – 50? x 24?

*(Actual size may vary slightly)

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May 1, Hydroponics Growing Systems Explained One by One

Each of the hydroponics growing systems has its own way of supporting the plants. Plants require food, water, and Oxygen for the roots to keep them from drowning. You can scroll down the page to see how each system works, one by one, or you can use the menu below to jump to any system. The main types of hydroponics growing systems are…

 

People often do not realize that hand watering can be one of the simplest hydroponics growing systems, but hydroponics boils down to this…the food is in the water.

If you mix perlite, vermiculite, and coconut coir (all nutrient free) and use this to grow your plants in a container garden, you will HAVE TO add some plant food in the water when you hand water. By definition, this is an example of hydroponic gardening. A 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite would work just as well.

Coconut coir and vermiculite retain quite a bit of water. By using more of them in the soilless mix, the containers will stay moist between hand-waterings (every day or two). Sphagnum peat is the base of many commercial potting soils and can be used as a substitute for this purpose also.

Because of its simplicity, this is obviously an easy home method. This is one of the hydroponics growing systems that will easily support organics. No matter what type of system you choose, you will need to learn some hydroponics feeding tips.

In a DWC system, the plants are grown directly in nutrient solution, which is kept Oxygenated with an air bubbler.

The deep water culture method, also known as the reservoir method, is one of the easiest of all the true hydroponics growing systems. A container holds about two inches of nutrient solution. Several plant containers sit down in the nutrient solution. An aquarium air pump constantly bubbles in the nutrient solution, keeping the plants roots from drowning.

Often, small holes are made around the bottom 2 inches of the plant pots, allowing the roots to grow out into the nutrient solution. As in the example above, an effort is usually made to keep light from getting to the nutrient solution. Wherever there is light and nutrients, algae will grow. Algae eat the nutrients you are trying to feed to your plants, and when pieces of algae die they attract fungus gnats. Fungus gnats lead to many other problems.

Because of its simple design and simple function, the reservoir method is a good choice for homemade hydroponics. Since there are no drip or spray emitters to clog, it is also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems.

This system is well suited for volcanic lava chips media, or else a mixture of one part vermiculite to 5 parts expanded clay pellets. As with any hydroponics growing system, you will want to brush up on your hydroponics feeding tips before beginning.

Water pumps flood the grow media, which absorb the nutrient solution. Clay pellets need to soad for much longer than perlite or rockwool.

In the flood and drain method, the plants sit in their own container separate from the nutrient reservoir. From time to time, a pump will kick on. The nutrient solution from the reservoir floods the upper container for a while, soaking the plant roots and the grow medium. The pumps than turn off, and the solution drains back into the reservoir.

Your choice of grow media determines how often and how long you flood the container for. Fast draining, clay pellets may be flooded for a half hour 4 times a day, while the slower draining rockwool can be watered less. This system is also well suited for growing in straight perlite or lava chips.

The parts and function of this hydroponics growing system are pretty basic, making it another good option for a homemade hydroponics system. With a good water pump, you can also use this method for organic hydroponics. It is always a good idea to have a filter before the pump in any system. Of course, you will make any hydroponics growing system work its best with the right hydroponics feeding tips.

You can use a drip system with any media....clay pellets will need more water, while mediums like vermiculite or rockwool require less water

With the drip hydroponics growing system, the plants are again in their own tray, separate from the nutrient reservoir. A pump pushes nutrient solution through many small tubes, which feed each plant from the top. Different emitters can be placed on the end of each tube to make the drip slower or faster.

Once again, a faster draining medium (like clay pellets) will need faster dripping emitters (or more of them per plant). Slower draining media (like rockwool) would use slower dripping emitters. The standard media for drip systems is rockwool, although clay pellets and lava chips are also sometimes used. Straight perlite should work well in this system also, although I’ve never tried it myself.

The flow rate can sometimes be difficult to control in a drip system, and the emitters are famous for clogging. These problems are often worse when you try to make your own drip system. There is a learning curve. You will probably spend a little money and have a poorly working system your first try, if you try to build a homemade drip system (I know this from personal experience).

Furthermore, organic nutrients are full of small particles that ALWAYS seem to mess up and clog the drip emitters. If you are trying to do organic hydroponics, this is not the system for you….unless you are able to make some clever modifications to the system to address these problems.

Homemade NFT channels can be made very cheaply from 4 inch PVC, gutters, or square PVC fence posts.

In this hydroponics growing system, plants are placed in a tray or gutter separate from the nutrient reservoir. One end of the tray is lower than the other, to encourage the flow of water. A pump delivers a steady flow of water at one end, creating a constant stream of nutrient solution in the bottom of the tray.

Capillary mat is a material that sucks up excess water and slowly releases it back to the plants in between watering cycles.

In order to make sure the water flowing through the bottom of the tray is nice and even, a layer of absorbent material (called capillary mat) is placed in the bottom. No capillary mat is needed if the nutrient solution level in the pipes are kept deep enough. The system would be operating as a deep water culture at that point (or a combination of DWC and other techniques).

NFT is another method that is both easy for the homemade hydroponics do-it-yourselfer and also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems. Once again the parts, the design, and the function are all simple. In a pure NFT system or a NFT-DWC hybrid system there are no drip or spray emitters to clog.

A cheap drip system can be used in a lot of different ways in a homemade hydroponic system.

There is one thing to consider, however. You must start with plants that have a root system large enough to hang down into the nutrient solution. Otherwise, you need to top feed the plants with a drip system until their roots grow long enough. NFT systems are very often used in combination with drip systems. With a little capillary mat and a cheap drip system, you can make a very affordable and effective hybrid NFT system.

It doesn’t matter what type of media you start your plants in. Once they are in place in the system, the roots will be growing right in the water! This system, when the proper hydroponics feeding tips are followed, works very nicely.

Nylon rope, felt, coconut coir, vermiculite, and other grow media all draw moisture up like a wick.

In wick hydroponic growing systems, the plants are again in their own container, separate from the nutrient reservoir. Pieces of absorbent material (usually nylon rope) are buried partially in each plant container. The other end of the rope is allowed to dangle in the nutrient solution. The absorbent material pulls the nutrient solution from the reservoir up into the growing medium. Another way to do it is to allow the bottom 1/2 inch of a container to dip into the nutrient solution, and be sure to use an absorbent media in the bottom of the plant container.

4 1/2 inch containers are just about perfect for growing small plants. Square containers are often easier to use in a homemade system (compared to round pots).

The system is easy to make as a homemade hydroponics system, and will support organic hydroponics without any problems, but there are a couple of things to consider. Sometimes it is difficult to get the right moisture level in a wick system. You will have to experiment a little with more absorbent growing mediums (vermiculite/coconut coir). Also, I have seen the wicks suck up less and less water over time (especially when using organics).

If you want to give this method a try, I suggest a 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite. Perlite and coconut coir would work as well. Altogether, I think other systems are just as easy to use, and produce better results.

Homemade aeroponic system reservoir

In these hydroponics growing systems, a large container like this contains several gallons of nutrient solution in the bottom. A pump pushes nutrient solution through spray heads that constantly soak every inch inside the container with a fine mist of nutrient solution.

Roots grown directly in air, sprayed constantly or frequently with nutrient solution.

As you can see, there really is no growing medium in this method. The plants roots hang down into the container and grow mostly in air, except for the few that grow long enough to make it into the nutrient solution in the bottom. The pump used is a high-pressure pump, and the spray emitters are made specially to deliver a very fine, highly oxygenated spray.

It is often very hard to assemble individual parts into a well-working system, and the individual parts can be expensive as well. Also, the fine-spray emitters will instantly clog if you try to use anything except high quality hydroponic fertilizers (no organics).

If maintained properly, an aeroponic system will give you the maximum performance (results) of any hydroponic system.

Of all the hydroponics growing systems, this is the most difficult to master and the most temperamental. PH changes and nutrient imbalances occur more quickly because of the increased absorption rates and high levels of Oxygenation. Furthermore, with no grow media to protect the roots, the plants react negatively to these changes much more quickly.

More recently, some innovative gardeners have begun to push this new area. Systems are beginning to pop up that are much simpler and that do not rely on pumps. Check out this homemade aeroponics cloner, for example. Aeroponics does offer faster growth rates, which continues to drive the demand for it. The newest example of this innovation is this homemade aeroponics system #1 that uses no spray nozzles, and this other homemade aeroponics system #2 that is even easier to make!

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Tips and Tricks: Cloning Machines

By Guy Ehydro

RXGreen_Gel

With the introduction of aeroponics cloning machines now old news, more effective cloning gels hitting the market like the RX Green Life Cloning Gel, and updated cloning techniques and strategies for success, now is a great time to perfect this necessary hydroponic gardening skill. Cuttings in machine cloners can root in as few as 4 days (depending on the variety). So, if you’re waiting for more than ten days to see some healthy root development, something’s up.

“Hydroponic growers and experts are split on which aeroponic cloning machine to recommend. The three front-runners are the EZ Clone, the Botanicare Power Cloner, and the TurboKlone.”

Oxyclone20These models range in price from $100 and up, depending on how many cloning sites the model has. The OxyClone is a popular new bubble cloner with a great introductory price for growers with minimal cloning requirements who want more success with their cuttings.

Here are 10 Tips and Tricks for Success when using a modern cloning machine:

For two weeks before you take clones, feed your mother plants organic solutions like Advanced Nutrients Nirvana, along with Vitamin B like from ThriveAlive. These strengthen plant tissues to spur earlier root growth. They also help your cuttings handle the stress of cloning.Pre-treat rooting plugs or cubes with a mild rooting accelerator like Rx Life Cloning Solution. Continue to use the supplement in your cloner and beyond for the first 2-6 weeks of your clone’s growth cycle. Some people use it up to halfway through bloom phase. It’s like putting your roots on steroids.Examine your mother plants to ensure they are free of thrips, mites, aphids, diseases and other problems. Never take clones from a troubled mother. If you’re having pest and disease issues we recommend Green Cleaner.Use a clean, sharp scalpel or similar razor sharp tool for taking cuttings. Sterilize your knife, hands and all nearby bench and other materials beforehand with isopropyl alcohol and wash with clean water before cloning.Select terminal stems from the middle of your mother plant… not the topmost set of stems or the stems at the very bottom. Selecting the most vigorous shoots gives the best results. Cut a portion that’s about four inches long.Dip your cuttings in a natural pest control solution before introducing them to your cutting room. Safter Insecticidal Soap and Mighty Wash are popular dips with our customers and employees.Provide 18 hours per day of a high quality blue spectrum for vegetative growth. The Eye Hortilux PowerVeg T5 fluorescent lamps have been crushing it for our customers since they debuted last year.Use a humidity dome to keep the relative humidity around the cuttings over 90% for the first several days. This will reduce how much water they lose to evaporation while establishing new roots.Keep an eye on your nutrient solution temperature. Try for between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold and this will delay rooting. Too warm and you may have an issue with rot and disease. Changing your solution every 2-3 days and using a few drops of Hydrogen Peroxide will help keep anaerobic bacteria at bay.Take notes, carefully study your results, network with other gardeners (if it’s safe to do so), and always work to improve your cloning technique and success rate.

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