Hydroponic Gardening Tips and Tricks

We have seen many people try hydroponic gardening once or twice and fail, never to try again. The reason usually falls into one of three categories…

  • lack of knowledge– you don’t know how things should be or what you need to do
  • lack of discipline– you know how things should be and you know what needs to be done, but you don’t take the time or put forth the effort
  • lack of ability– you know how things should be, you know what needs to be done, and you are eager to put forth the time and effort… but you do not have necessary hydroponic gardening equipment or supplies

The tips list/explain below will help you identify (and eliminate) problems in your hydroponic garden. Even after reading advice like this myself, it took two years of making mistakes and learning things the hard way before I changed my approach and took these lessons to heart. As a result, I had the most successful garden I ever had. So, follow the tips below to shave years off of your learning curve and skip right to excellent results!

Tips and Tricks – The Short List

  • Know what equipment you need and why
  • Know the nutritional requirements of your plants
  • Know the light/photoperiod requirements of your plants
  • Use a professional three part hydroponic nutrients product
  • Do not use additional nutrient additives your first time
  • Have a written plan/feeding schedule before you start
  • Have all necessary equipment and nutrients before you start
  • Garden indoors when it is 55*F or less outdoors (or use AC)
  • Keep the ballast for your lights in a different room
  • Check and adjust your nutrient reservoir solution every day
  • Minimize light exposure to your nutrient solution
  • Have an extra reservoir of plain water waiting for your next nutrient change
  • Change your water and nutrients completely every two weeks
  • Use a digital timer to control your dark period
  • Keep your dark period completely dark and uninterrupted
  • Clean and sterilize your system between crops
  • Quarantine new plants for two weeks before adding to your garden
  • Do not visit your garden after visiting another garden or being outdoors
  • Do not allow pets in your garden
  • Visit your garden after a shower and a fresh change of clothes
  • Make any visitors to your garden follow these same rules
  • Put a screen or filter over your air intake and exhaust (if outdoors)

Having a Plan

Hydroponic gardening success begins with having a solid plan. Having a plan means knowing your plants nutritional requirements and photoperiod requirements and having the supplies and equipment necessary to meet those needs. Actually having a written week by week feeding schedule, complete with nutrient strengths and nutrient changes, would also be very helpful.

Feeding/Nutrients

Know the nutritional requirements of your plants before you start. Know how strong the nutrients should be each week of your plant’s life, and know what the nutrients should consist of each week. Many plants need more Nitrogen at first, than switch to needing more Phosphorus to produce fruit or flowers.

Do not try to mix up your own plant food. Instead, start with a professional hydroponic nutrients product. These are usually three part systems and are complete (and easy to use). My favorite is BC Nutrients. Once your hydroponic gardening system is up and running and producing excellent results, than you can try mixing up your own special plant food if you like. At least than you will know exactly what the problem is if things don’t work out!

The same is true for using nutrient additives. Don’t try to improve your results by adding a bunch of extra things to your nutrient reservoir (at least not at first). Start by feeding just the basic three part nutrients until your hydroponic gardening system is working smoothly and producing excellent results. Than if you like you can try adding vitamin B1, liquid seaweed, or silica (or all three).

Finally, you need to check and maintain your nutrient reservoir every day. After using the same nutrients for two weeks, you need to start over with fresh water and fresh nutrients. The most beneficial way to do this is to have two nutrient reservoirs, one with nutrient solution for your hydroponic gardening system and one with plain water for your next nutrient solution change. I can’t stress how important this tip is! The second reservoir allows the water to dechlorinate and come to room temperature, both protecting your roots.

Root Health

If roots become damaged, they cannot take up nutrients to feed the plants. Any damage below ground will result in damage above ground as dead leaves and sick plants. Protect your roots by maintaining your nutrient solution properly, by using two hydroponic nutrient reservoirs (one with plain water for your next nutrient change), and by minimizing the amount of light that comes in contact with your nutrient solution. This will prevent algae, which will prevent fungus gnats, which will prevent root damage.

Adequate Lighting

There are very few shortcuts when it comes to lighting an indoor garden. You need a minimum of 40 watts/sq.ft., but 60 watts/sq.ft. would be better. Either high pressure sodium lights or metal halide lights will do a very fine job and are the most popular choices. For various reasons I recommend a 600 watt LED grow light 3w, check out How to choose the correct lighting arrangement for hydroponic gardening.

Controling Temperature

HID lights put out a lot of heat, making temperature an issue in an indoor garden. Placing the ballast for your light outside the grow room will help, but it is not enough. A centrifugal fans or squirrel cage fans are an absolute must, but if you use LED grow light, don’t need to buy an extra fans.

Photoperiod

Many crops require shorter daylight periods to trigger flowering/fruiting. Two keys to success here: First, the lights need to be turned off and back on at exactly the same time each day (tip- use a digital timer!). Second, the plants should be kept in absolute complete UNINTERRUPTED darkness during the dark period. Plants can be extremely sensitive to this, so don’t try to skirt around this. For more info, check out my flower forcing page.

The Right Equipment/Tools

Don’t start your garden unless you have all your bases covered from the beginning. You will need a completely dark area, a high powered fan, an adequate light, a hydroponic gardening system, hydroponic nutrients, an oscillating fan, a TDS meter (or EC meter), a pH test kit, and possibly an air conditioner. Minimum. A thermometer and a digital timer would come in handy too.

Add a comment »One comment to this article

  1. These are helpful information regarding hydroponic gardening. Those people who are into this kind of gardening will surely find these facts useful. Thanks for sharing a very informative article.

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