What is hydroponics?
Hydroponics means “working water” (hydro means water and ponos means labor). Many different civilizations have utilized hydroponic growing techniques throughout history. As noted in Hydroponic Food Production by Howard M. Resh: “The hanging gardens of Babylon, the floating gardens of the Aztecs of Mexico and those of the Chinese are examples of ‘Hydroponic’ culture. Egyptian hieroglyphic records dating back several hundred years B.C. describe the growing of plants in water.” While hydroponics is an ancient method of growing plants, giant strides have been made over the years in this innovative area of agriculture.
Throughout the last century, scientists and horticulturists experimented with different methods of hydroponics. One of the potential applications of hydroponics that drove research was growing fresh produce in non-arable areas of the world and areas with little to no soil. Hydroponics was used during World War II to supply troops stationed on non-arable islands in the Pacific with fresh produce grown in locally established hydroponic systems.
Later in the century, hydroponics was integrated into the space program. As NASA considered the practicalities of locating a society on another planet or the Earth’s moon, hydroponics easily fit into their sustainability plans. By the 1970s, it wasn’t just scientists and analysts who were involved in hydroponics. Traditional farmers and eager hobbyists began to be attracted to the virtues of hydroponic growing.
A few of the benefits of hydroponics include:
- » The ability to produce higher yields than traditional, soil-based agriculture.
- » Allowing food to be grown and consumed in areas of the world that cannot support crops in the soil.
- » Eliminating the need for massive pesticide use (considering most pests live in the soil), effectively making our air, water, soil, and food cleaner.
Commercial growers are flocking to hydroponics like never before. The ideals surrounding these growing techniques touch on subjects that most people care about, such as helping end world hunger and making the world cleaner. People from all over the world have been building or purchasing their own systems to grow great-tasting, fresh food for their family and friends. Ambitious individuals are striving to make their dreams come true by making their living in their backyard greenhouse by selling their produce to local markets and restaurants. In the class room, educators are realizing the amazing applications that hydroponics can have to teach children about science and gardening.
The speed of hydroponic research is increasing at exponential rates as the many benefits are realized. Associated disciplines such as aeroponics and aquaponics lead the way and nobody knows what the future holds for such an exciting green technology. General Hydroponics will continue to drive innovation and provide cutting edge technologies and resources.
Where can I grow with the hydroponic method?
Anywhere. Indoors, in a greenhouse as well as outdoors. Any plant can be grown with hydroponics, though some are more delicate than others. If there is enough light for the plant to grow, you can probably bet somebody has grown it using hydroponics.
What is aeroponics?
Aeroponics is a method of growing in which oxygen is infused into the nutrient solution, allowing the roots to absorb nutrients faster and more easily. Typically, an aeroponics system utilizes foggers, misters or sprayers that create very small droplets of nutrient solution. Another name you may hear used for this method is “fogponics”. Because the nutrient and oxygen rich solution is so easily absorbed by the plants roots, less fertilizer is required. This facilitates rapid growth resulting in fantastic yields.
Is hydroponics organic?
There is a huge popular debate about the value of “organic” fertilizers and methods. Many people would like to apply “organics” to hydroponics. Currently accepted organic fertilizer components are dependent upon organisms in the soil to convert the “organic” materials into a useable form for plants. In hydroponics we provide the minerals required for plant growth directly, completely eliminating the need for soil and soil organisms. The result is much higher growth rates and yields than organic methods can achieve.
Why is growing hydroponically better than growing in soil?
Hydroponic produce is cleaner than its soil grown counterpart, and the grower has the ability to adjust the nutrient feed for maximal growth and yield in the shortest time.
How does the taste of hydroponic produce compare with soil-grown produce?
Hydroponic produce frequently exceeds soil grown produce in terms of flavor and nutrition. This is because all of the nutrients required by the plant are immediately available when the plant needs them.
Would you please explain in a little more detail, the various elements required for plant growth?
Certainly. About 160 years ago scientists determined that ten elements were required for plant growth. Three of these ten were provided by air and water: carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). The others, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S) and iron (Fe) were obtained by plants from the soil or other growing medium. Six additional elements have been determined essential for plant growth: manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), molybdenum (Mb) and chlorine (C1). These six also are generally supplied through the growing medium. Flora Series contains all of these elements.
Why are there three parts to the General Hydroponics Flora Series nutrients?
The concept behind Flora Series is simple: Different kinds of plants have significantly different nutrient needs, and these needs change during each plant’s growth cycle. By using different combinations of FloraGro, FloraBloom and FloraMicro, the grower is able to fulfill the exact needs of the plant at each stage in the plant’s life cycle. As the crop grows, the grower is able to precisely adapt the nutrient formulation to meet the crops changing needs.
Can you explain the purpose of each component of the Flora Series?
In hydroponics, the plant roots are constantly provided with all the water, oxygen and nutrients they need. The challenge for the grower is to keep up with the plants needs, and to avoid damaging it with either excesses or deficiencies of minerals. As a general rule, a plant consumes more nitrogen during the formative or vegetative stage, and more phosphorus, potassium and magnesium as it flowers. Throughout its growth cycle, the plant will also consume calcium, sulfur and micro nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, molybdenum and copper. FloraMicro, the foundation or “building block” of the Flora Series system, provides nitrogen and calcium as well as trace minerals, which are essential for a comprehensive hydroponic plant diet. By adding FloraGro to FloraMicro, the plant will receive additional nitrogen and potassium, which stimulates structural and foliar growth. To stimulate flower and fruit development, FloraBloom is added to provide the necessary phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and sulfur.
What is a general purpose nutrient recommendation?
The proper ratio of each Flora Series nutrient depends on the crop and the stage of growth (look on the label for specific recommendations for different crops). However, as a rule of thumb we use the “1-2-3” ratio:
- » For seeds, cuttings, or delicate seedlings use 1/4 tsp. of each nutrient to 1 gallon water
- » For the vegetative stage of growth use 3 tsp. FloraGro to 2 tsp. FloraMicro to 1 tsp. FloraBloom to 1 gallon water
- » For late vegetative to pre-bloom stage use 2 tsp. of each nutrient to 1 gallon water
- » For bloom initiation to ripening stage use 1 tsp. FloraGro to 2 tsp. FloraMicro to 3 tsp. FloraBloom to 1 gallon water.
How do I mix the Flora Series?
Always start with a reservoir filled with water, then add the concentrated nutrients one by one.
Never mix the nutrients together in their concentrated form, as this will cause nutrient “lock-out” making some minerals unavailable. It is best to begin by adding FloraMicro, stirring well, and then adding FloraGro and/or FloraBloom. If both FloraGro and FloraBloom are used, add one, stir well, then add the other.
What is the shelf life of the Flora Series nutrients?
Properly stored (cool environment, out of sunlight, sealed container) they should last indefinitely.
What is the shelf life of the FloraNova series nutrients?
Properly stored (cool environment, out of sunlight, sealed container) the FloraNova series should last up to one year without any problems.
Do I use FloraNova Grow and FloraNova Bloom at the same time?
Yes and no. The FloraNova series is designed to use one part at a time, but in a time of transition it may be beneficial to mix the two at half strength each (makes a full strength nutrient solution). Use FloraNova Grow in the vegetative stage and FloraNova Bloom in the fruiting/flowering stage.
Note: If your plant is not fruiting or flowering plant, FloraNova Grow is all that you will need to use.
For further information, refer to our FloraNova feed chart.
Can GH nutrients be used in soil?
Absolutely! All of our nutrient blends contain the necessary elements for plant growth. Start with the formula ratios identified on the label for the specific plant or crop you are growing, and then adjust and experiment until you find the right formula for your specific need.
For further information, refer to our Drain to Waste feed charts.
Is the Flora Series organic?
Only crops grown from unrefined minerals are recognized as “organic”. The trouble is unrefined minerals do not dissolve well for hydroponic use and some of these unrefined minerals contain quantities of impurities, some of which are toxic to plants. For that reason, FloraBloom, FloraGro, and FloraMicro are made from high quality refined minerals. This ensures high quality crop production, but prevents the crop from being considered “organic”.
Is FloraNova series organic?
FloraNova Grow and Bloom contain 3-5% organic substances fora hybrid of mineral and organic gardening.
How important is water quality in hydroponics?
Water containing too much calcium and magnesium (called “total Hardness”) may create serious problems. Contact your municipal water supplier who can provide you with an analysis of your water supply. If you are using well water, many laboratories can provide you with an analysis if you send them a sample. If the dissolved salts in your water supply measure 200 ppm or more, we strongly recommend that you obtain a water analysis to determine calcium content. Excessive calcium is the main factor in determining if your water is hard. If an analysis of your water supply reveals that the Calcium content of your water supply is greater than 70 ppm (mg/liter) you should use Hardwater FloraMicro. Hardwater FloraMicro provides rapidly growing plants with a combination of chelated micro nutrients uniquely formulated for hardwater conditions. Other options are to collect rainwater, install a reverse osmosis filtration system, or use purified water. Do not use mineral or “spring” water, which can unbalance the nutrient solution, or even be toxic to plants.
My water is chlorinated, Is this a problem?
Chlorine is highly volatile; it evaporates as soon as it hits the air. By the time the nutrient solution reaches the roots, the chlorine is gone.
I understand the roots also need oxygen. How do they get it?
In a properly functioning hydroponic unit, the roots receive oxygen from the air, which surrounds them, as well as from the oxygen, which is dissolved in the nutrient solution. The proper medium can play an important role in this process.
What about water temperature?
Temperature of the nutrient solution should be in the range of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 26 degrees Celsius). Before adding water to your reservoir, it is a good idea to allow it to come to the same temperature as the water in the reservoir. Plants do not like rapid temperature changes, especially in the root zone. Aquarium heaters can be used to warm the nutrient solution in the winter, and look for “chillers” to cool the solution in the summer if high temperature becomes a problem.
What are Expanded Clay Pebbles?
Expanded clay pebbles are used in hydroponics as a medium to support the plant. They are chemically inert, do not affect pH and provide excellent drainage. They are made from a special type of clay, which is heated to a high temperature causing it to pop like popcorn.
What is Coco Peat?
Coco peat, is an organic medium made from coconuts, frequently used in both hydroponics and seed sowing mixes. Its advantages are that it is lightweight, relatively inert and comes from a sustainable source. However, coco peat comes in various grades, and can actually be detrimental to plant growth if it contains salt-water residues from poor processing.
What is rockwool?
Rockwool is a substrate made by melting rock, extruding it in threads and then pressing it into sponge-like blocks.
What are CocoPeat products made from?
CocoTek products are made from all organic sources. Coconut fibers are spun together with natural tree rubber to form the popular CocoTek products.
What is the difference between expanded clay pebbles and coco peat? What are their applications?
Both expanded clay pebbles and coco peat are pH neutral media. Expanded clay pebbles provide free drainage and aeration, while coco peat provides moisture retention and the ability to hold onto a small amount of nutrients.
Do the rooting media (pebbles, rockwool, coco peat, etc.) change the way nutrients are used?
They can. Rinse the growing media (especially important when using rockwool) before using it. We suggest you check the nutrient solution pH and ppm(see above) and adjust the solution accordingly.
How big does a brick of CocoPeat become?
One brick expands to approximately two and a half gallons.