Plants grown hydroponically grow quickly, and you need less space than other conventional growing methods. However, hydroponics also requires skill. A grow can quickly be ruined with hydroponics if you don’t pay attention. The good news is that with time and dedication, you can develop this skill! You just need to remember that hydroponic growing has different rules than conventional soil gardening. If you want to grow hydroponic cannabis or start a hydroponic garden, here are some things you should keep in mind.
1. Research for Effectiveness
At its core, hydroponic gardening is growing plants in a nutrient solution. But that oversimplification belies the truth about hydroponic gardening: there’s a lot of research you need to do into your gardening system. You need to stay on top of developments in the field, as new products and methods are constantly appearing. Some of these are fads, but some of these are effective, and a smart gardener knows the difference! You need to pick a system that works for you, and you need to be familiar with the different types of growing media and fertilizers. You also need to know about lighting, exhaust systems, and the other mechanical elements that act as life support for your plants.
2. A Clean Grow Is an Effective Grow
Hydroponic gardening isn’t a “set it and forget it” solution. Your plants will require daily maintenance, as will your garden system. The cleaner you keep your system, the healthier your plants will be– which means that your yield will increase! You should establish a daily cleaning schedule to remove any dead or dropped organic matter, and you should flush the whole system at least once a week to avoid clogs.
You should also disinfect your surfaces about once a week to discourage bacterial growth. Plant disease outbreaks can also occur. Microbes and pests that cause plant diseases love warm, wet gardens where the plants are close together, which is exactly what a hydroponic garden is. Keeping your growing operation clean protects your harvest and the people who will consume your crop.
3. Quality Products Make a Difference
The hydroponics market offers products at a vast range of prices. When purchasing your initial setup, you might be enticed by low-priced options. But a low price can often mean low quality, and poor quality equipment can damage your crops. Insufficient fertilizer or bad lighting can stunt the growth of your plants. When you gamble with cheap equipment, you’re likely to lose more money through reduced crop yields than you saved on equipment.
Additionally, poor-quality products will cost you more than money. They’ll cost you time as well. One of the common cost-cutting techniques that manufacturers use is to skimp on equipment housing, fasteners, and the structure that supports the “guts” of the equipment. Maintenance on cracked housings, rusty connections, or popped screws eats up a lot of time and energy. Investing in quality equipment will vastly reduce these problems and the time you spend on maintenance and repair.
If you’re just starting or have a limited budget, it’s better to start small than start cheap. You should buy the best quality equipment possible for your budget, even if it means you have less space for your initial plantings. Once you’ve gotten the hang of hydroponic growing, you can always reconsider your budget and invest in more equipment– but if you start with poor quality equipment, you’re setting yourself up for failure down the road.
4. Inspect Often
Numerous plant problems can be mitigated by early detection and action, which you will only be able to achieve via regular inspection. Because there’s no soil to act as a buffer, hydroponically grown plants have a higher risk of conditions such as root rot and nutrient burn. Daily inspection can catch these conditions. For example, if your plants are receiving too many nutrients, root damage begins. The plant attempts to push the excess chemicals as far from the roots as possible, which means that they accumulate in the tips of the leaves– which turn yellow, then brown. If you catch this quickly, you can save the plant by removing the damaged part of the leaf and replacing the growing medium. But if you don’t, the entire plant can die.
It’s not just your plants that need a daily inspection. You should check your equipment, reservoir levels, temperature, room cleanliness, pH level, and lights each day. You should also randomly inspect two or three plants for pests during your daily inspection. If you find any infestation or disease, isolate the plant and examine all neighboring plants. Infestations and infections are much easier to control when you catch them early before they affect more than a few plants. This is substantially easier with regular inspection.
5. Don’t Rush the Harvest
One of the biggest advantages of hydroponic cultivation is how fast and how robust your plant growth is. Hydroponically grown plants can produce yields up to 30% greater than plants grown conventionally, and they grow an average of 40-50% faster than they would in soil. Furthermore, hydroponic systems are tightly controlled. You know exactly how much nutrient solution is being fed to each plant and how much light each plant receives. This means that your harvest is predictable, much more so than plants grown in soil. Predictable harvests on a predictable timeframe mean that you can maximize production while minimizing risk. But just because your plants are growing quickly, you can’t rush the harvest and still expect those great yields. Nobody wants to lose out on their investment with a subpar harvest, and harvesting too early will give you less than you expect.
However, you can’t let your plants sit forever. No matter what you’re growing, there is a “sweet spot” for the harvest. This is different for each strain and will require some experimentation on your part with your early harvests. Many growers follow the flowering times that the plants’ initial breeders recommend. You can also look at trichomes or pistils to check plant development. This is one of the most difficult parts of hydroponic gardening to master because there is no one right answer to the question of when to harvest. It takes time to practice and master this skill, so be patient with yourself and your plants as you learn how they grow and mature. The time and effort you put into learning about your plants and your hydroponic system will pay off when it’s time to harvest.
If you’re interested in taking up hydroponic gardening for the first time, or you have some experience and want to expand your knowledge and your growing operation, we can help you. At Klone Colorado, we have over a decade of experience with various types of hydroponic growing operations. We can help you get started growing commercially, or we can help take your growth to new heights. No matter what your experience with hydroponic growing is, we can help you develop solutions and expansions for your operation. Contact us or give us a call at 1-720-282-3101 to get started with hydroponic gardening today!