Whether you want to enter the world of hydroponic gardening for fun or profit, it pays to know what you are doing before you make any investment. As with anything, you will become a better gardener as you become more accustomed to the requirements and complexities of growing plants in a soilless environment, but with the right amount of research and planning, you can avoid several costly, common, and time consuming mistakes, such as:
- Going Cheap On The Light – Many make the mistake of thinking that fluorescent lights are suitable for all plants at all stages, or are simply drawn to fluorescents because of the price. The truth of the matter is that fluorescent lights emit only one kind of light: white. Sunlight, which is that standard by which all other lights are judged, emits the full spectrum of light colors. Thus fluorescent lights are only really adequate for young, seedling plants. As your plants enter the vegetative and flowering stages, they require red, blue and orange rays to grow appropriately. Florescent lights may actually cost you more than you expect, both because they yield a poor quality crop compared to other lights and they require frequent maintenance.
- Thinking More Is Better – Water is good for your plants, and good quality fertilizer is good for your plants, but that doesn’t mean your plants will benefit from truckloads of both. If you give your plants too much water, the roots will rot and the plants will die. If you use too much fertilizer you may get salt deposits on your media or a fungus that stunts your plants’ growth. Make sure you allow enough time between waterings for the roots to dry out a little, and always follow the label’s instructions when using fertilizer.
- Thinking Anything Labeled “Plant Food” Will Help Your Garden Grow – A hydroponic garden is different from a traditional garden, and therefore has unique needs. Always purchase your fertilizer and nutrients from a reputable hydroponics retailer. It might be tempting to just grab a bag of fertilizer from you local hardware store, but that will most likely result in a lot of unnecessary frustration, and perhaps a even a completely dead crop.
- Not Understanding pH Problems – pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the nutrient solution or water. Most tap water has a pH level suitable for hydroponic growing, but not all. Most hydroponic growing media is pH neutral, meaning a level of 7.0. If the pH of your nutrient solution drops below 5.6 or raises above 6.3, you will probably run into nutrient deficiencies. Rockwool, however, is a bit more alkaline than most, and may benefit form a slightly more acidic nutrient solution.
Make sure you understand the best pH balance for your media and your plants, and invest in a good pH meter. If you are doing everything else right but your hydroponic garden is still not growing as much as you are hoping, this is most likely your problem.