With the sweltering summer heat, one of the many benefits of growing indoors is the ability to grow indoors! However, even in the cool confines of the modern home, you still have to combat stagnant air.
In the great outdoors, wind naturally exchanges, providing plants with fresh air. In indoor grow rooms, it is up to you to give plants the fresh air they need. This is done with a combination of circulating fans and simple air exhaust systems. Keeping the air moving also helps stomata (tiny pores in plant leaves that allow exchange of carbon dioxide, oxygen and water) stay relatively dust-free, so plants can breathe with ease. If your garden room happens to be equipped with a ceiling fan, circulating the air shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t have a ceiling fan, one or two oscillating fans, like the 16-inch DuraBreeze® Orbital Pedestal Fan should be enough to reunite the warm air, which naturally rises to the ceiling, with the cooler air that’s left behind. By regularly replacing moist, stale air with drier, fresher air, we stabilize temperature and humidity levels while helping our plants maintain a proper balance of usable carbon dioxide and oxygen.
Simply mixing and moving the same air around and around isn’t quite enough for your plants. You should also ventilate the area. From the super-easy to the more complex, there are a couple of ways to take care of this. One simple method is to leave the door to your grow room open as a source of fresh air and then exhaust the stale air with a vent fan mounted in an open window. You also can install a ventilation duct and in-line exhaust fan in one wall leading through to the outside. To get a better idea, this is similar to how your clothes dryer or stove with an exhaust fan is vented.
If you do put in a special ventilation duct for your indoor garden, place it up high since that’s where most of the stale, hot air ends up. As the duct fan pulls stale air up and out, fresh air from the rest of the house takes its place. It is also easy to automate this type of system by hooking the in-line duct fan to a thermostat.
With a thermostat-controlled vent, your indoor garden becomes somewhat self-regulating. If, for instance, you’ve decided you don’t want temperatures to climb above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you can set your duct fan to come on as soon as temperatures exceed your acceptable range. To keep the environment even cooler—and to prolong the life of your equipment—you can also choose a reflector and ballast with built-in ventilation features. A good option is the Predator Lighting 6 and 8 models (Viper 6, Cobra 6 and 8, King Cobra 6 and 8), which can all be fitted with ducting and an inline fan (or fans) to actively cool the lamp and exhaust the hot air. For ballast options, the ION A/C 1000W unit that contains an internal fan to keep components cool to lengthen their lifespan, is a sure bet!
If you already have a reflector and ballast that don’t have any of these special features, don’t worry! In many cases, you can modify standard reflectors and ballasts with ventilation kits. Aside from using simple thermostats, some indoor gardeners like to take things a step further by connecting humidistats to their vent fans or to dehumidifiers. Just as a thermostat regulates temperature, a humidistat regulates humidity. Want your plants to enjoy a constant 50 percent humidity? With a humidistat-controlled vent or dehumidifier, you can be sure your indoor garden doesn’t become too dry or too moist.
For more information about ventilation in your indoor garden, take a look at these other articles:
What is TDS?
TDS stands for total dissolved solids. The Wikipedia definition defines TDS as “a measure of the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid in molecular, ionized or micro-granular (colloidal sol) suspended form.” Why is this important for hydroponics? Measuring TDS in hydroponics can indicate the strength of your nutrient solutions.
How to Read TDS
There are two types of readings for TDS in hydroponics. The first is Conductivity and the second is Parts per Million (PPM). Conductivity, the more scientific reading, is represented as Electro-Conductivity (EC), Conductivity Factor (CF) or Micro Siemens per square centimeter (MS/cm). PPM is the more common reading, especially in the United States and is calculated from Conductivity on two different scales:
NaCL (1EC = 500 ppm)
442 scale (1EC = 700 ppm)
Plants normally require the nutrient strength to read about 1,500 to 2,000 PPM. When mixing your nutrients, it is a good idea to start fresh using purified water or reverse osmosis water, which have no PPM.
What is the best way to test TDS?
To test TDS you will need a digital meter, such as the HM Digital Handheld TDS Meter which is highly effective and accurate due to its advanced microprocessor technology. Plants normally require the nutrient strength to read about 1,500 to 2,000 PPM. If your TDS measurment is low, add more of your nutrients. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when adding the nutrients. Keep testing until you are at the level you need. However, be careful, too much nutrient can be damaging to your plant, including stunted growth and less potency. You should check the levels in your reservoir daily and adjust as needed. Nutrient solutions usually need to be changed every one to two weeks.
What can affect my reading?
There are precautions you can take to ensure you have the most accurate reading.
- Always make sure that your TDS meter is dry before taking a reading from a sample.
- The meter should be perpendicular when taking a reading, avoiding the sides or bottom of the sample container.
- The ideal temperature for a reading is 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The longer you have the meter in the water, the more accurate it will be.
- Always clean your meter after every use.
To learn more about TDS, look at some of our other articles:
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124339301@N01/3565468091
We all have nostalgic memories of running back and forth in the yards of our childhood homes, as the water from the oscillating sprinklers chased us in the summer heat. However, for conservation-conscious gardeners, sprinklers should stay just that—a memory. Sprinklers risk wasting water and overwatering. We have some steps you can take to keep your plants thirst quenched and your green gardener’s conscience clean!
Do your plants need to be watered?
This sounds like a no-brainer, but first you need to check to see if your plants actually need to be watered. The easiest way to do this is to simple stick your finger in the dirt. Push your finger down about two or three inches. Is the soil moist? If the answer is yes, then you do not need to water your plant just yet. If the soil is soggy, the plant has been over-watered. Over-watered soil, or waterlogged soil, deprives roots of oxygen and may even cause plants to lose the ability to take up water. If the soil is dry, then your plant is probably thirsty, and could use a drink.For a more efficient and accurate approach try a moisture meter, like the Rapitest Digital Moisture Meter. It provides readings between 0 and 9.9, and includes instructions and a handy information sheet with the ideal soil moisture levels of hundreds of commonly grown plants.
But wait! Don’t water your plant just yet. Before you get out the hose, check to see if rain is in the forecast. There is no better way to conserve water than to let Mother Nature do the work for you. A great way to see how much rainwater your garden is getting is to purchase a rain gauge.
What time is it?
You can use your water more efficiently in the garden by checking the clock. Watering plants in the morning gives them time to drink up that H2O before the sun evaporates all that water. This will also keep your plants from wilting in the mid-day heat.
Plants watered in the late afternoon or evening may not dry before sunset. This can lead to the development of fungal diseases.
Now that you know when to water your plants, let’s talk about how.
Spray wands, like the Mondi™ Telescopic Water Wand, are a great option for small gardens and container gardens. The Mondi Telescopic Water Wand features a soft-showering head that is gentle on plants and flowers, and with an adjustable flow control, using just the amount of water you intend is a breeze!
If a sprinkler is necessary in your garden, there are some water-conserving options. The Hydro-Port Watering Manifold eliminates destructive or wasteful overspray by directing water specifically to plants. This unit converts a traditional underground sprinkler system into a micro irrigation drip system and allows you to water up to eight plants at a time. Ports can be individually adjusted with flow rates from 0 to 30 gph. Swivel arms aid in fine-tuning outlet tubing position. Manifold is pressure rated up to 80 PSI and has a built-in filter which extends system lifespan by preventing clogging from debris.
Uncompsted versus composted soil.
Now that you’ve watered your garden, you need to retain that moisture efficiently. One way to do this is to add compost to your soil. Adding compost into your garden beds conserves water by improving the soil’s moisture-holding capabilities, and gives plants more accessibility to water. This is especially true in clay or sandy soils. Mulching also keeps your soil moist. Using a fresh top layer of mulch decreases the evaporation of the water in your garden, and therefore reduces how often you need to water your plants.
Take a look at some of our other articles to help you achieve water conservation in your garden:
Hydroponic gardening has drawn attention from environmentally conscious gardeners because of its eco-friendly and sustainable attributes. Using hydroponic methods, gardeners can produce higher yields and grow plants in locations of the world that would not be able to support crops (in soil) otherwise. Hydroponics also reduces the need for large amounts of pesticides, which in turn makes water, soil, air and food cleaner. If you’re ready to make your hydroponic setup even greener, try utilizing these eco-friendly hydroponic products.
The green choice: Coco Coir
Coco coir is the clear eco-friendly winner. Coir is a processed from the strong, fibrous outer shell of a coconut. Manufactured where the coconut palm is abundant, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India as well as other tropical areas, production of coir-based products like rope, brooms, brushes and matting has sustained generations. However, production and export specifically for horticultural applications is a more recent advent, driven by both necessity and demand: necessity to free valuable real estate occupied by large amounts of slowly degrading coir “waste” from the manufacture of other coir commodities, and demand from earth-conscious consumers in search of a more renewable alternative to coir’s closest cousin, peat. Many believe peat gets harvested faster than it can renew naturally.
Nutrients, Fertilizers and Supplements
The green choice: General Organics
General Organics by General Hydroponics is an organic-based nutrient and supplement line that contains no animal derived ingredients, making it not only a green choice, but a vegan choice as well. The line provides gardeners with a complete line of premium biological plant foods and supplements. With a combination of ingredients from traditional agriculture and sustainable and efficient methods of modern cultivation, every product is designed and manufactured with proprietary blends that supply complete plant nutrition, improve soil ecology and plant health. The line also provides essential ingredients to stimulate soil biology that help beneficial microorganisms adapt insoluble ingredients into bioavailable nutrients at the molecular level. By stimulating favorable microbiology, a living system that provides your garden with everything it needs to flourish is created. The line promises to save energy and water while building organic matter to enhance soil quality.
The green choice: HID
While fluorescents are the most energy-efficient bulbs at first glance, HID lights win when you factor in the increased yield that gardeners benefit from using them. The Kind LED Grow light series produces large yields, while consuming approximately half the electricity and producing virtually no heat. They run quiet, cool and efficient. The K5 XL1000 has the equivalent lumen output of a 1000-watt HID lamp at only 650-watts, pulling nearly half the wattage!
The green choice: Drain-to-Waste Drip System
As for the system that conserves the most water, the winner is the drain-to-waste drip system. Despite the name, this system actually produces the least waste compared to most traditional hydroponic methods. This is because only the precise amount of the water and nutrients you need are being used. There is no dumping of old nutrient water with each reservoir change, such as the case with a recirculating system. Only as many drip lines as needed can be used from one reservoir. A lot of water can evaporate from an uncovered reservoir, and if there are multiple reservoirs, this will add up quickly!
Whether you are just starting out in the world of hydroponics or are a seasoned grower, why not consider these green choices for your indoor garden?
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