Decomposing Organic Matter … AKA Compost!
Have you decided to start your own compost pile this year or have you been at it for a while? Either way, you most likely know that composting is a great way to reduce waste and improve the environment. Oh, and it will do wonders for your garden!
To keep your compost pile healthy, we’ve put together this brief troubleshooting guide. Follow this guide to discover the reasons behind the problems you may face with your compost and to find solutions on how to fix issues that may arise.
How you pre-treat certain seeds is often just as important as when and how you plant them. Follow these tips to ensure seed-starting success!
Soaking seeds overnight in water or a very mild kelp solution can soften tough seed coats and stimulate germination. Soak seeds for 24 hours and plant immediately after.
Scuffing or nicking the outside of a seed’s hard exterior encourages germination by exposing the seed embryo to oxygen and moisture. This is especially helpful for stubborn seeds such as gourds and morning glories. Very delicately scuff each seed coat with light sandpaper or nick each seed with a small knife.
A surprising number of seeds also benefit from “stratification” – a “cooling off” period in the refrigerator. Mix your seeds with a dampened mixture of perlite, peat or vermiculite. Next, place in a plastic bag and seal. Store the bag of seeds in the refrigerator 4 to 12 weeks before planting.
Seeds that benefit from a cool down:
- Black-eyed Susans
- Butterfly weed
- Bleeding hearts
- Columbine larkspur
- Purple coneflower
Check out the infographic with this post to learn about other way you can get new plants growing successfully!
Three Easy Steps to Choosing the Best Lighting for Your Grow Room
There are so many lighting options when it comes to indoor gardening. Follow these easy steps below to figure out just what you need to light up your grow room!
1. How much space do you want to light up?
The first thing you need to know is the square footage of your grow area. This is not necessarily the space of your grow tent, or room, it is the space that the plants will be taking up and growing in.
Formula: Width x Depth = Square Feet
2. What wattage do you need?
Next, you need to determine if you are growing high-light plants (ex. tomatoes) or low-light plants (ex. lettuce).
For best results:
- high-light plants need 40 watts per square foot
- low-light plants need 25 to 30 watts per square foot
Formula: Watts x Square Feet = Optimal Wattage
*If the wattage you get from the formula isn’t offered, round up to the nearest wattage.
3. What types of grow light are there and what type do you need?
These are your standard household bulbs. These are NOT advised. They are not only very inefficient (they produce a large quantity of heat, increasing cooling costs), the spectrum of light they produce is not optimal for plants.
Three to seven times more energy-efficient than incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps are available in various spectrums. Bulbs that are in the 6,5000-kelvin range are ideal for growing plants.
However, if you are growing larger plants, these lights are not the most ideal. In order to make fluorescent bulbs an option for large place, they will need to be place above and on all sides of the plant.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), using less power and have longer lives, are great for small grow spaces and do not require a ballast, making them ideal for new hydroponics gardeners, or gardeners on a budget.
* CFLs produce light in every direction, making a reflector a necessary addition to your grow room to conserve light, that would otherwise be wasted.
For vegetative growth, go with the MH fixtures. The MH spectrum is very balanced and is very successful for lettuce, herbs and other leafy vegetable varieties.
For flowering, go with HPS fixtures. HPS lights produce higher flower volumes and fruit weights.
Some indoor gardeners use MH spectrum for the vegetative growth phase, and then switch to the HPS for the flowering cycle. There are switchable or conversion lamps are now available to growers.
*HID lamps run off of ballasts. Electronic ballasts, such as the ION line, are a first choice for many gardeners because they are quieter and more efficient than magnetic ballasts, and have multiple bulb capabilities.
Are you preparing your growing media correctly?
There are so many different types of media, and each one requires specific preparation. Hydroponic beginners take note: you should not simply pour the growing media straight from the bag into your net cups and start growing. Make sure to follow these guidelines so that your garden can reach its full potential!
To prepare rockwool media, soak cubes for 12 to 24 hours with water that has been pH adjusted to 5.5. Use a container large enough for the water to cover the rockwool. After the soak period is complete, rinse the rockwool with water that has also been pH adjusted to 5.5. This will help remove unwanted lime and anything else that is left over from the manufacturing process. Once the rockwool is rinsed, you can start your seeds or cuttings.
To prepare coco coir, use a container that has enough volume to hold about 3 times the amount of coir you are preparing. Submerse the coco brick in water and let soak, in the end your coir will need to be worked down so that the coir is evenly exposed to the fresh water, and each little bit has had exposure for the residual salts to be removed. After the coir has is fully soaked it is always good idea to rinse with water to ensure that there is minimal salts left in the medium. Once the coco has been rinsed well you can now use without the worry of excess salt.
Growstones come with a slight imbalance in pH due to how they are manufactured. To prepare Growstones, open the bag at the top and poke a few small holes in the bottom of the bag, insert a water hose into the top of the bag and rinse. Let the water drain from the bottom of the bag. Place wet Growstones in a large container and fill with tap water until covered. Soak for 24 hours and discard soak water, then rinse thoroughly (ideally using running water). For best results or for sensitive plants, soak again overnight and then discard the water. Add wet Growstones to your hydroponics system filled with water only (no nutrients). Run the recirculation system for a few hours and then measure the pH of your reservoir, add all of the nutrients, and let run an additional fifteen minutes (Growstones water and nutrients ONLY). Finally measure and adjust pH of solution to between 5.5 and 6.5.
To use Sunleaves Rocks rinse the desired quantity with fresh water to remove any dust. Discard this first rinse water and place rocks in a container and soak for a few hours. Since these products are pH neutral you do not need to adjust your rinse/soak water. After the soak, give the rocks a good final rinse and the products are ready for use.