Hydro Nutrients

Hydro Nutrients -  Taking Your Skills to the Next Level for Expert Management of Your Hydro Nutrients Solution (Unit Lesson One, Water Purity and How It Relates to Your Hydro Nutrients Plan:

The growing team at Humboldts Secret Golden Tree is always striving to refine growing techniques and learn more in order to be able to benefit our both our expert and beginner customers alike.  We’d like to share a discussion of topics related to advanced hydro nutrient management that can benefit you and your crop.  For our first installment, we’ll take a few minutes to touch base on one of the most important areas related to the choices you make regarding hydro nutrients, and what could be more important than taking as close a look as possible into what puts the “hydro” into hydroponics, your water.

Hydro Nutrients Management and A Closer Look At The Water You Use and What’s Inside It:

That’s right, Virginia, there’s still no Santa Claus, and God did not create all waters equal.  Depending on a particular location and water source, grower A in one part of the country versus grower B just a few miles away down the road may be dealing with completely different challenges for their grow. The reason?  The relative quality of their water sources.

A good first step for any grower is to learn as much about the process, tools and materials you are using for your grow as possible.  Try to start thinking of yourself as a concerned “health nut,” but instead of counting calories or worrying about what you are ingesting into your body, think about it in terms of your plants.  What are you putting into them, and how healthy is it? Water purity is obviously a biggie here.  So let’s start by figuring out how to determine what the quality of your water is for the grow.

Tools of the trade:  We recommend purchasing a dissolved solids meter, otherwise known as an EC (electrical conductivity) or PPM (parts per million) meter.  These devices are found easily at any gardening shop, and can usually be found at your local hydro store where you may already be buying your hydro nutrients to begin with. That will provide you with an added avenue for some advice on the various meters out there in case you’ve already got a good relationship in place with a trusted sales rep there.  All of these devices work the same way…to measure the concentration of dissolved salts in your water.

EC/PPM meters measure the electrical conductivity of the water.  As dissolved salt ions in the water are what determine the level of conductivity, this type of measurement gives you a direct reading of the level of these solutes.  Look at pure water for example. It is a very bad conductor of electricity since it has few to no dissolved salt ions in it. Compare that to salty ocean water, which is a good electrical conductor.

If you’re relying on a city water supply for your grow, you’ve got to be conscious of what’s in your water and how it is going to effect the delivery of hydro nutrients to your plants.  One thing to be aware of is that you may often find relatively high levels of salt in city water, and for that mater, also in well water, in case you are a well user.

“Soft” versus “Hard” water is the question here?  “Soft” water, having a lower salt/mineral content is much better to start off with for your grow. Think of it as a “blank canvas” to use the painter analogy. Without a bunch of salts in it to begin with, you’ve got much more flexibility in adding your hydro nutrient mix without worrying as much that you are putting in excessive salts to the water that would be too much for your plants.

A water’s “hardness” is referring to how much calcium or magnesium sulfates or magnesium carbonates are in it.  Keep in mind that these are already nutrients your plant needs, so it’s a good thing that they are already there in the water.  The key here is that you have to become aware of HOW MUCH of these compounds are there so that you can regulate how much extra IF ANY of these nutrients is needed for you to add to your hydro nutrients mix in your solution.  The goal here is to give your plants the ideal balance and not to suffocate them with more nutrients than they can properly process.

A Look At The Numbers, What Do I Need?:

Keeping on top of your EC or PPM levels is very important in managing your hydro nutrients solution. You will want to keep your calcium content at 200 PPM or below, and for magnesium keep PPM below 75.   By maintaining normal levels you avoid excessive levels that can overload your plants so that they are not able to absorb other key elements.  Starting with good water that you have tested from the beginning is a good idea. It makes it much easier on you to simply add the right combo of hydro nutrients on top of that good starting point.

Earlier on we were talking about ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ water, and if you are a grower who is depending on a municipal water supply, you may want to ask your local water board for a report outlining water the most recent water quality.  Such a report will give you the varying percentages of the different minerals in the water.  The more information the better for managing your plan for adding the right amount of  hydro nutrients later.

Some growers who are stuck in tough situations where  very a ‘hard’ water supply is seemingly their only option have opted to filter their own water by using reverse osmosis.  This is a simple and viable option that requires setting up a filter set up. With a little research and some basic handy skill with your hands, you’ll be able to quickly tackle this.  We are even aware of some growers who use store bought filtered or spring water by the gallons on all of their grows!  Their profit margins were such that the added investment wasn’t such a big deal for them, and they felt that the super pure water really was a plus for the quality of their final product.  Go Poland Springs doobie meisters!

The bottom line here folks is that you really do need to be in complete control of your water supply and know what is going on up front so that you can properly master and manage your hydro nutrients plan to the best advantage for your crop!

Let’s Talk About pH:

Now that you’re a bit more comfortable in checking your water’s quality, we need to talk a bit about the other main area of monitoring of your hydro nutrients solution. This involves pH, which is a measure of how acidic or how basic your hydro nutrients solution is.

A comprehensive discussion of how higher acidity levels in water can negatively affect hydro nutrients absorption in your plants could literally fill volumes, so let’s try to break things down here to a few basics as they affect your day to day management of your hydro nutrients solution and nutrient availability for your plants.

City water is well known to have calcium carbonate in it which serves to slightly raise the pH level of the water. This is done in an effort to keep public water pipes from corroding.  So keep that in mind, because if you are using city water for your grow, you are likely starting off with water that has an 8.0 pH which will be slightly high in acidity for your plants.

We recommend a time tested strategy which is simply mixing your fresh hydro nutrients to your water and allowing it to stand for at least a couple of hours to stabilize.  Next, test your pH and determine if you need to adjust things further by either diluting the mixture or adding more hydro nutrients. For municipal water, expect to add some ‘pH down’ product in order to lower the pH to between 5.8 and 6.2 (and optimal level for plants).

Get into the habit of monitoring pH on your hydro nutrients solution regularly, but please don’t panic if you see fluctuation within a 5.5 to 7.0 range.  This is normal as it shows that your plants are going through the natural cycles associated with absorbing the hydro nutrients properly.  You should only adjust pH levels if you notice large fluctuations either below or above this 5.5 to 7.0 range.

Stay tuned to Humboldts Secret Golden Tree’s blogs for some future units dealing with water temperature management and grow media along with many other key factors to stay on top of as you learn the importance of expertly managing your hydro nutrients solution to the best advantage of your plants.