Even when you have the best LED grow lights on the planet and are following our PAR Use Guide, there are many other factors that affect your success, quality and yield as a grower. Controlling these variables is what separates the amateurs from the Pros. If you want to start growing like a Pro, follow these simple tips to get the most out of your garden:
Temperature is a major factor in determining the growth rate and productivity of your plants. Transpiration and photosynthetic rates increase as temperatures rise, eventually reaching a maximum level of productivity. This increase in transpiration (plant respiration) allows for higher CO2 uptake and a faster growth rate. As temperatures reach the upper limits for your crop, plants reach a break-even point where they begin to use more energy for respiration than is being created by photosynthesis. When temperatures reach these extremes, growth can come to a halt. Each plant species has a minimum, optimal and maximum temperature at which they grow. Photosynthesis is performed optimally between 80-86°F for most fruiting plants. Maintaining your garden at this temperature range will ensure the fastest growth rates possible, unless you are enriching your environment with CO2. With CO2 enrichment your optimal range is 95-100°F.
Relative Humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor within the air. Dry environments have a low relative humidity, whereas wet environments are the opposite. If your indoor environment remains too wet (80% or higher), it can lead to serious issues such as mold, mildew, and root rot.
The humidity level in your garden also has a substantial impact on the development of your plants. When levels are lower than 50%, plants tend to grow more compact, with thinner leaves that use less water. If levels are lower than 20%, water evaporates more rapidly from the leaves. This causes plants to close their stomata to prevent dehydration, which slows the rate of transpiration and growth. When RH is higher than 60%, growth rate increases and plants grow broader leaves that use more water. If levels are higher than 80%, water evaporates from the leaves at a much slower rate, causing transpiration and growth to again decrease.
For optimal results in your indoor garden environment, it is recommended that you maintain the relative humidity between 40-70%. A simple hygrometer is all you need to monitor the levels in your garden. A humidifier or dehumidifier may be necessary o maintain your environment within the optimal range.
Potential Hydrogen (pH) measures the acidity or alkalinity of a given solution such water. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, with acidic solutions being less than 7.0, and alkaline solutions being higher than 7.0.
The pH of your water and nutrient solution affects the ability of your plant to absorb nutrients. For hydroponic gardeners a pH maintained between 6.0-6.5 is recommended for best nutrient uptake. For soil, this number changes to 6.5-7.0. Maintaining your pH at these levels will ensure the best overall health for your plants. Going above or below the optimal range for your garden, will cause various nutrients to become less effective or unavailable to your plants. For example, phosphorous is almost unusable below a pH of 6.0, while iron is best absorbed below 6.0.
It is recommended that you check and adjust your pH daily if possible, and always after changing your nutrient solution. If in hydroponics, it is recommended that you allow the pH solution to circulate fully prior to checking your levels and making any further adjustments.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) averages 383 parts per million (ppm) in our atmosphere. The level of CO2 in a given environment has the ability to alter both the growth rate and toxicity of your plants.
The optimal range for CO2 enrichment is 800-1200ppm. Enriching CO2 above 1200ppm will begin to decrease gains in photosynthetic growth. Above 1500ppm it can become toxic.
A team of scientists at Duke University conducted a study over a 6 year period at the Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) area in Duke Forest. Several outdoor environments were enriched with CO2 to match levels predicted for 2050. Poison ivy in CO2 enriched areas grew 149% faster and produced 153% more urishol (the resinous ingredient that causes rashes)!
Benefits of CO2 Enrichment:
When it comes to yield, nothing can increase your productivity more than using hydroponics. Commercial tests comparing acres of hydroponically grown produce to the same crops in soil, show up to a 1200% increase in yield!
The increase in yield is based on several factors. Hydroponic farms typically have a higher plant density, allowing for a higher yield per acre. Growing hydroponically also increases growth rate and yield by giving roots access to higher levels of oxygen. And with constant access to water, roots are never dehydrated as they are in soil. They have constant access to nutrients when they need them.
Water is the most essential part of your hydroponic system. The temperature of your water determines how much dissolved oxygen your solution can hold. As the temperature of your solution increases, its ability to hold dissolved oxygen decreases.
Dissolved oxygen is used for root respiration, in similar ways that plants absorb CO2 through the stomata of their leaves. Maintaining your reservoir at a lower temperature, with higher levels of dissolved oxygen, can have a large impact on plant health and root growth. The recommended temperature range for hydroponic solutions is between 67° and 75°F, with optimum being 68°F. If your temperature goes over 85°F, it can cause root damage. Depending on your individual situation, a water chiller may be required in order to maintain your temperatures at the recommended levels.
To keep the level of dissolved oxygen constant within your solution, air diffusers and aeration stones attached to an air pump provide an excellent solution.
Nutrients are essential requirements for plant growth. Plants absorb nutrients through both their roots and leaves, and combine them with sunlight, CO2, and water to create simple sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins for food.
The three major elements plants require for growth, are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, normally abbreviated N-P-K. The numbers on the labels of the nutrients you use, represent the percentages of the essential nutrients it contains. The other minor elements your plants require for healthy development, include calcium, magnesium, iron, and sulfur.
In hotter grow rooms, plants will generally use more water than nutrients, which can cause the nutrient solution to become a bit salty in nature. In cooler grow rooms, the opposite generally occurs where the solution can become dilute. These changes affect the rate at which your plants absorb the remaining nutrients from your solution. If you have a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter you can regulate your nutrient levels easily by checking the .ppm of your solution. If the ppm reading is high, then more water should be added. If the reading is low, then more nutrients can be added. The optimal level for most plants is 600-1200 parts per million (ppm), although this changes depending on species and stage of development. We recommend that you follow the manufacturer's TDS guidelines for the brand of nutrients you use
NITROGEN (N) is an essential element for the synthesis of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are used for cell division and thus for plant growth and development. Since all plant enzymes are made of proteins, nitrogen is needed for all of the enzymatic reactions in a plant. As such, N is a major part of the chlorophyll molecule and is therefore necessary for photosynthesis. Nitrogen improves the quality and quantity of dry matter in leafy vegetables and protein in grain crops.
Potassium (K) acts as an enzyme activator that promotes metabolism, part of which includes regulating the plant's use of water by controlling the opening and closing of leaf stomates, where water is released to cool the plant. In photosynthesis, potassium has the role of maintaining the balance of electrical charges at the site of ATP production. Lastly, potassium improves disease resistance in plants, the size of grains and seeds, and the quality of fruits and vegetables.
Magnesium (Mg) is a major constituent of the chlorophyll molecule, and it is therefore actively involved in photosynthesis. Magensium is required to stabilize ribosome particles and also helps stabilize the structure of nucleic acids. Magnesium also assists the movement of sugars within a plant.
IRON (Fe) is essential for plant metabolism (photosynthesis and respiration). Iron is essential in the synthesis and maintenance of chlorophyll in plants. Iron is strongly associated with protein metabolism.
MOLYBDENUM (Mo) is a necessary component of two major enzymes in plants, nitrate reductase and nitrogenase, which are required for normal assimilation of nitrogen. Molybdenum is required by some soil microorganisms for nitrogen fixation in soils.
Manganese (Mn) acts as a plant enzyme system, activating several metabolic functions. Manganese is involved in the oxidation-reduction process in photosynthesis.
PHOSPHOROUS (P) plays a major role in energy storage and transfer during photosynthesis and transpiration. Phosphorus is part of the RNA and DNA structures, which are the major components of genetic information. Seeds have the highest concentration of phosphorus in a mature plant, and phosphorus is required in large quantities in young cells, such as shoots and root tips, where metabolism is high and cell division is rapid. Phosphorus also aids in root development, flower initiation, and seed and fruit development.
Calcium (Ca) has a major role in the formation of the cell wall membrane and its plasticity, affecting normal cell division by maintaining cell integrity and membrane permeability. Calcium is an activator of several enzyme systems in protein synthesis and carbohydrate transfer. Calcium indirectly assists in improving crop yields by reducing soil acidity when soils are limed.
Sulfur (S) is essential in forming plant proteins. It is actively involved in metabolism of the B vitamins biotin and thiamine and co-enzyme A. Sulfur also aids in seed production, chlorophyll formation, nodule formation in legumes, and stabilizing protein structure.
ZINC (Zn) is required in tryptophan synthesis, which is necessary for the formation of indole acetic acid in plants. Zinc is also an essential component for plant metabolism and has a role in RNA and protein synthesis.
BORON (B) is necessary in the synthesis of RNA formation and in cellular activities. B has been shown to promote root growth. Boron has been associated with lignin synthesis, activities of certain enzymes, seed and cell wall formation, and sugar transport.
CHELATES are compounds that make a number of nutrients (especially micronutrients) more bio-available to your plants. We recommend only using chelated nutrients for best results.
Cloning is one of the most efficient ways to propagate a plant and guarantee consistency from one generation to the next. Cloning takes the guess work out of sexing a plant for flowering, which can be necessary with seeds. Cloning ensures the new plant has the same DNA makeup as it's donor (parent), which is useful for isolating desired growth characteristics. Cloning is also much faster than starting from seed. A clone will be fully rooted and growing by the time a seed of the same species has germinated.
The first rule is to only take clones from plants that are healthy and thriving. Taking cuttings from the new growth (top of the plant) will ensure the healthiest cuttings possible, giving you the highest chance for success. Taking cuttings from the smaller/underdeveloped branches or an unhealthy plant, will cause for slower rooting times. They will often turn out dwarfed causing them to produce lower yields.
Once you've selected a healthy branch, cut the stem at a 45° angle. This allows maximum exposure of the inside tissue to your cloning gel for faster rooting. Your cutting should be about 4-6" in size. Next, dip about 1" of the cut end into your cloning gel and place it into a rooting plug (such as Rapid Rooters). When choosing a rooting medium, make sure that it keeps the cutting moist but not too wet. If the cutting is kept too wet it can lead to rot and death. Next, place your plug into a 2" clone basket or a hydroponic cloner.
Over the next 24 hours, your cutting may wilt due to the stress of being cut from it's donor plant. For improved success, mist new cuttings with water every 12 hours. This will help replenish water lost through respiration as the clone has no roots to replenish it. Another tip to prevent water loss is to place a dome over the cutting to keep the humidity levels around 70%-80%. With proper humidity levels and lighting the cutting will stand up in about 1-2 days with new roots in 4-7 days. If your cutting has not recovered by the 3rd or 4th day, discard and try again. Did you know that Hydro Grow's G4 spectrum induces faster rooting than traditional lighting by up to 2 days?
Once you have a clone, it's time to transplant it into its final home. For hydroponics the new home will be a 3-8" basket filled with growing media. There will be a lot of extra room around the clone "plug", so you'll need to fill this in again with growing media. The most popular on the market is Hydroton, which is a bit heavy but works great. Another great product is Grow Stones, a very light and porous "rock" made from recycled glass. It packs together very tightly and therefore holds the plants much better than Hydroton. Another option is rockwool; however it is not as easy to work with. Now pat yourself on the back because you just mastered cloning!
Even the most experienced growers out there occasionally experience nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies appear as physical symptoms expressed through your plant's leaves. Identifying them early on can help you avoid major impacts to the overall growth cycle and yield of your plants. The sooner you act when noticing something out of the ordinary, the better.>
While the colors of various symptoms vary from one plant to the next, the graphic to the right gives a good example of what to look for.