1. Location, location, location
You hear it all the time but how does this apply to your end of the deal. One of the most important issues regarding the place for your garden is meeting the minimum requirements for a trouble free experience. Is there enough sun? How is the quality of he water? If you are working indoors, will the electricity support the amount of equipment you are going to set up? These are just some of the variables to consider when selecting a good location for your garden. A good location is the best way to start on the right foot.
The right environment is critical for your garden. Key elements to a successful garden include: relative humidity, temperature, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and air circulation/exchange. The ideal humidity for an indoor garden ranges between 40 to 60 percent. Some plants like higher humidity; though that may lead to problems with fungus and disease. Temperature changes will lead to variations in humidity levels. Avoid drastic temperature changes over a short period of time. Your plants need C02 to grow. Assuming you have good air circulation/exchange, your garden will naturally have between 300-400 PPM (parts per million) of CO2; higher levels should accelerate growth rates. If you choose not to supplement CO2 in your garden room, it is important to address the air circulation/exchange so that your plants will receive fresh CO2.
3. Water Quality
The water you use for your plants will determine how well your plants will grow, regardless of what you add in terms of nutrients and supplements. PPM (parts per million) or EC (electrical conductivity) are the measurement of salts in a solution. Neither PPM nor EC readings will tell you what is in your solution / water, but rather are indicators of the solutions ability to conduct electricity. Ideally, you want to start off with a low PPM or EC then you add fertilizers (nutrients) specific to your plants requirements. You can reduce the PPM of your water using a Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) unit then mix your nutrient around what your plant requirements. pH (potential hydrogen) measures the acidity or alkalinity of your solution on a scale of 0-14. A solution is considered acidic below 7 and alkaline at 7 or higher. When working with hydroponics you typically want your pH to fall between 5.8 and 6.2. When growing in soil or coco you want your pH between 6.0 and 6.8. The most important rule to remember with pH is to avoid extremes. Nutrient “lockout” occurs with high and low pH levels.
Flood and Drain systems fill and empty a tray of plants with nutrient solution at regular intervals. A drip irrigation system provides nutrient solution to the plants through tubes and emitters (drip stakes) to each plant. Aeroponic growing mists an oxygenated nutrient solution directly to the roots of a plant. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) systems create a slow moving nutrient -“film”- that flows over the roots of the plants.
Growing media acts as the anchor for the plant’s root system. Some add nutritional value to your plants while others simply give the roots something to hold onto. Some media to consider is: soil, soil-less mixes, coco, clay pebbles, rock wool / stone wool, silica stone or different types of foams. Coco is available in both loose and compressed form. Coco is made from the husks of a coconut, and it is very pH stable, providing good moisture retention and natural aeration qualities. Clay pebbles are made from expanded clay and are pH neutral. They tend not to hold water so irrigation is done more regularly, but aeration of the roots is excellent to promote faster growth. Also, it is reusable. Rockwool is made from stone that is heated then spun into fibers. It is then compressed into cubes, blocks or slabs. This medium has excellent oxygen to water ratio. Rockwool tends to have a higher pH; so flushing with 5.5-5.8 pH balanced water or a rock wool conditioning solution is recommended.
Like human beings, plants require food (nutrients) to grow. Nutrients come in organic and synthetic varieties and are available in both liquid and dry form. Nutrients can be separated into two categories, macro and micronutrients. The macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. The micronutrients or trace nutrients include iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum and chlorine. If the nutrients are deficient or are abundant you may see burning, curling or yellowing. You don’t want to over or under fertilize. There are many different types of nutrients / fertilizers on the market. You can purchase organic, synthetic (chemical) or a combination of both. Most nutrients / fertilizers will have an N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium) on the front of the label. In the vegetative or growth stage the “N” will typically be higher. In the flowering or bloom stage the “P” will typically be higher. You may also consider implementing additives/supplements into your nutrient mix. Additives/ supplements will help you achieve maximum results.
There are many different meters available for testing pH, PPM, EC, temperature, humidity, CO2 and light levels. Single meters are available as are combination meters that test and /or monitor your environmental conditions. The important thing to remember is your garden will only be as good as the limiting factor. Water, nutrient, light, temperature, humidity, CO2 and circulation are the elements to a successful garden.
There are many types of lights if you want to start you garden indoors or if you want to supplement your garden for faster growth. High Intensity Discharge (HID) is the preferred lighting in a garden. The two most commonly used are MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium). Metal halide lamps deliver more blue/white spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the vegetative/growth stage. High-pressure sodium lamps deliver more orange/red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the flowering / bloom stage. Another type of lighting is fluorescent. A T5 tube, especially high output (HO) or very high output (VHO) is commonly used for propagation. Most plants grow and bloom according to the amount of light they are given. In the growth or vegetative stage plants typically want 15-18 hours of light. In the bloom stage you reduce the amount of light your plants get to 10-12 hours. You want to make sure the light comes on and off at the same time everyday (just like mother-nature).
9. Optional Equipment
There are many available items to help your life easier when you tend to your garden. Organics, controls, fans, blowers, plant stakes, relays, shade cloth, greenhouse plastic and so on. Consult with one of our sales associates to discuss what are the best accessories for your garden. We are always glad to help. Cheers to a successful garden!