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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of growing with hydroponics?

  • There are no soil based diseases.
  • Growing seasons sometimes become irrelevant.
  • You have full control over the plants growing conditions.
  • Hydroponics uses about one tenth of the water needed to grow the same amount of produce using traditional methods.
  • Hydroponics uses less fertilizer than used to grow equivalent amounts of traditionally grown produce.
  • Generally speaking, there is a more intensive production in a smaller space.

Can I transfer plants from soil to an hydroponic system?
Absolutely! All you have to do is rinse the roots by gently dipping them in and out of water to remove as much soil as possible. Care should be taken so the plant doesn’t go into plant-shock as can sometimes happen. After the roots are thoroughly clear of soil, the plant can be set into whatever medium is to be used and a watering regime can begin for about a week or so to aid swift recovery from transplanting.

Is hydroponics organic?
Not really, but hydroponics is a very pure form of horticulture which uses a fraction of the water and fertilizer that soil-based horticulture uses. There is no need for herbicides in hydroponics because there are no weeds. Most hydroponic growers use integrated pest management or biological control to keep pests and insects from causing damage.
Most hydroponic fertilizers are a mix of premium grade water soluble fertilizers, but some companies have developed organic hydroponic fertilizer that can be certified as ‘organic’.

What can I grow with hydroponics?
Nearly all types of plant life will grow hydroponically although there are a few that don’t like damp and continuous watering. Most home growers plant vegetables or fruit such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas or herbs etc. These flourish in an hydroponic system.

What does PPM mean?
PPM stands for Parts Per Million and can be used as the measurement of a number of different things. In hydroponics, it is most commonly used to measure the amount of TDS – Total Dissolved Solids in a nutrient solution or how much Co2 is in the atmosphere.


Can I make a business using hydroponics?
Hydroponics can definitely be financially lucrative. If you are already a market gardener or run a small family farm, you’re half way there.
In a 10,000 square foot greenhouse, you can grow about 4,0000 – 5,000 pounds of tomatoes every week. Lettuce growers are picking mature heads of lettuce in under 4 weeks, and with 20,000 square feet of growing space, can produce nearly 3,000 heads per week. The cost of establishing a commercial hydroponic greenhouse operation is quite reasonable when considering the potential profit and the intensive volume of high-quality produce that can be grown on a small lot.

How can I tell if my seeds are viable to use?
Fill a glass with distilled water and place your seeds in it. After 24 hours the viable seeds should have sank to the bottom. Seeds that are still floating will probably not germinate.

Do I need a greenhouse?
It is recommended if room is available, but definitely not necessary. A greenhouse provides protection from environmental factors such as heat, cold, wind, rain and insect intrusion. In most climates a greenhouse is recommended. The type of greenhouse and the environmental control equipment varies widely depending on climate. There are many hobbyist growers that use shelves in the hall, or an attic, or unused bedroom etc. This type of growing requires the use of some lighting system.

Can I do hydroponics part time as a hobby?
On a hobby scale, hydroponics has become very popular. It’s easy to grow great plants or flowers, it’s a ‘clean’ way of growing, and an indoor hydroponic garden can be used to grow anything from flowers to plants, foliage, herbs, vegetables, fruit, peppers etc. A hobby system can serve as a beautiful show piece and a point of conversation between like-minded people.

What is pH all about?
It’s a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, numerically equal to 7 for neutral solutions, increasing for alkalinity and decreasing with acidity. Nutrients are most soluble at a pH of 6.5. pH stands for Pondus Hydrogeni.


Where do I get the fertilizer and other supplies?
Many companies sell hydroponic kits, fertilizers and supplies. There are still not many hydroponic shops around but most garden centres usually have some hydroponic equipment and there are also many companies that sell online. If you do search for ‘hydroponics’ you’ll see lots of options.

What does EC mean and what is it?
EC stands for Electrical Conductivity. In hydroponics, this is referring to the EC of a solution. An EC meter applies an electrical voltage to the solution and reads the conductivity that is produced from the motion of mineral Ions.
What is the difference between High Pressure Sodium ans Metal Halide?
The difference between these two types of HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights is the colour spectrum that is emitted from each. The High Pressure Sodium bulb emits light that is concentrated in the red to yellow side of the spectrum and is weak in the blue-violet end. While the Metal Halide bulb emits light that is very balanced and contains all the energy peaks at wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Visually the Sodium bulbs will appear very yellowy-orange and the Halide bulbs will appear more bluey-white in colour.
Why do people use Metal Halide lights for vegetables and High Pressure

Sodium lights for flowers?
Many people switch between bulbs for different stages of growth for a couple of reasons. First of all, Sodium bulbs have been known to make some plants grow leggy and stretched out because of the yellow to red spectrum that they emit. Metal Halide lights tend to keep these plants tighter with less space between internodes. So some growers use the Metal Halide lights during vegetative growth to keep the structural growth of the plant nice and tight. But they switch to Sodium lights when the plants begin to flower because the Sodium lights produce so much more light than the Halides.

How big does an hydroponics light need to be?
Ideally, you will want to try and achieve at least 30 watts per square foot. So if you have a 4 x 4 area which is 16 square feet and you multiply by 30 watts, you get 480 watts. So for a 4 x 4 area you will need to use at least a 430 watt light. Remember though that the amount of light required will depend on the plants because some plants like lots of light and some don’t.

What does HID mean and are HID lights efficient?
HID stands for High Intensity Discharge and is the way the light emits light. HID lights arevery efficient compared to standard house bulbs. For example one 1000 watt sodium bulb produces as much light as around 90 standard 100 watt incandescant bulbs.

How often do I have to change the nutrient solution?
There is no specific time when this should be done, although it can be generally planned based on experience. A good rule of thumb is to top off your reservoir with fresh water without any nutrient added. This is because you will lose water to evaporation and plant uptake but the strength of the solution does not necessarily drop with the level of the water. In some cases as the reservoir water level drops the solution concentration actually goes up or gets stronger. This is why you should only add fresh water and then adjust your pH accordingly.

Always try and keep a record of how much water you are putting in the reservoir to top it off and once the amount of water added equals ‘half’ of the reservoir capacity it is time to change the solution and rinse the reservoir and growing medium. For example, if you have a 20 gallon reservoir and over the course of say, two weeks, you have added 10 gallons of water, then it is time to change your solution!

What is the best temperature range for nutrient solution?
The optimal temperature of a nutrient solution should be in the range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Letting water stand uncovered in a container overnight will help dissipate any chlorine in the water before you add it to the reservoir.
What is the difference between Aeroponics and Aero-Hydroponics?
The roots in an Aeroponic system dangle in the air and are sprayed with nutrient solution. In an Aero-Hydroponic system the roots still dangle, but half of the roots dangle directly into the water and the top half of the roots is sprayed with nutrient water.

This spraying action serves two purposes; it keeps the standing water moving and allows great oxygenation. The Aero-Hydroponic method works incredibly well for rooting cuttings and all other stages of growth as well.


How often should I empty and replace my reservoir and nutrient solution?

Reservoirs should be emptied and the nutrient solution replaced at least every 5-7 days. People often use their EC/TDS meters to measure nutrient levels and top up their nutrient solution when levels get low. EC/TDS meters only measure overall salt levels, not the levels of specific nutrients. This means nutrients not completely used by your plants will begin to build up to potentially toxic levels. Emptying your reservoir and replacing your nutrient solution with a quality fertilizer is the only way to ensure nutrient levels are consistently in the ideal range for plant growth.


What is the difference between organic and inorganic fertilizers?

Organic fertilizers are derived from natural, organic compounds such as compost, manure and worm castings. Inorganic fertilizers are created using inorganic compounds made through chemical processes. As far as your plants are concerned, organic and inorganic nutrients are relatively the same. They can have virtually the same nutrient levels, and at a molecular level these nutrients are the same. Many organic fertilizers need symbiotic fungi and bacteria to break them down before the fertilizer is readily available, while others are pre-digested and instantly available to your plants. Some people find that organic nutrients allow more sludge to build up in their reservoir. Just remember, it is not safe to use hydrogen peroxide with organic nutrients, as it will kill off all the beneficial fungi and bacteria.

Which nutrient supplements can I use to increase flower size?

There are many supplements that will increase flower size. Most common are bloom boosters that are concentrated in powder form and are high in phosphorus. Bat guano supplements also increase flower growth and I also really like foliar spraying with folic acid, often labeled gold. This will increase the number of flower sites and act as a chelating agent, helping your plants absorb macronutrients more efficiently.

What is the ideal growroom temperature? 

The ideal growroom temperature varies depending on what types of plants you are growing. Tropical plants like orchids and plants like succulents do well at 80°F and up. Plants such as kale and broccoli do best at cooler temperatures in the

60- 65°F range. Plants like tomatoes do well in the 68-75°F range. Temperature is important for more reasons than plant growth. When the temperature surpasses 80°F, insects can multiply much faster than at cooler temperatures. Soil and soilless mediums will dry out more quickly, increasing water consumption, and soil will become toxic with concentrated nutrients. The higher temperatures also reduce the amount of oxygen available in the nutrient solution.


What is that scum in my reservoir? And how do I prevent and get rid of it?

That scummy, sludgy buildup in your reservoir could be algae, bacteria or fungi. These organisms rob your reservoir of oxygen and nutrients, leaving nothing for your plants. They clog pumps and drippers, causing nightmares in the growroom. Regardless of what it is, it is usually caused by light entering your reservoir combined with higher reservoir temperatures. Keeping your reservoir cooler, either with a reservoir chiller or by keeping your room cool, will make a huge difference. Covering your reservoir with either a lid or black and white plastic, white side facing up, will keep the light out. You can also add hydrogen peroxide to your nutrient solution at each reservoir change to help eliminate the sludge. Cleaning your reservoir between crops is important to keep the sludge from returning. You can use a diluted bleach solution of one part bleach to five parts water, or there are many food-grade industrial cleaners available that will do the trick.

How often should I replace my HID light bulbs?

HID light bulbs come in a variety of spectrums and strengths to meet the needs of indoor gardeners. The lumens and PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) levels drop quickly. You can check this for yourself by measuring your yields with new bulbs versus bulbs that are 8-12 months old. The newer bulbs in the same environment should offer noticeably larger yields over the old ones. After 8-12 months of continuous use, the bulb should be replaced.

What are the benefits of growing with hydroponics?

There are numerous benefits to gardening using hydroponics. Hydroponic systems use less water than traditional gardens. They are also cleaner, since you are not bringing soil into your home. Hydroponic systems are less likely to host destructive insects, and you can grow indoors year-round. The biggest advantage hydroponics has over traditional gardening is significantly larger yields in less time. That means more crop rotations per year, and more money in the pockets of commercial growers. This is because hydroponic plants are able to use twice the nutrients that plants in traditional gardens can.

What is powdery mildew and how do I prevent and treat it?

Powdery mildew is a fungal infection on plant leaves caused by high humidity and poor ventilation. Preventing powdery mildew is as simple as keeping your growroom’s humidity level below 65% and providing ample air circulation. Air circulation can be improved by venting your room more often. Including ceiling fans or oscillating fans in your room can make a big difference. Spraying your leaves with the lights out can invite powdery mildew onto your plants. There are a couple ways to treat powdery mildew. Spraying or dusting your plants with sulphur will kill the powdery mildew. Neem oil and pine tree oil foliar sprays also work at removing and preventing powdery mildew. For large-scale removal, the best choice is a sulphur burner. This will vaporize sulphur pellets, filling your room with a sulphur mist, killing the powdery mildew.

Why are my leaves turning yellow and what can I do about it? 

There are numerous reasons why your leaves may be yellowing. The most common problem is a yellowing of the older, lower leaves on the plant. This is caused by a nitrogen deficiency. There is not enough nitrogen available for your fast-growing plants, causing them to take nitrogen from the older leaves and send it to the new shoots. This can usually be corrected by adding some more nitrogen to your feeding schedule. Adding worm castings and pine tree oil are two safe ways to get more nitrogen to your plants. If the yellowing is occurring in the newer leaves, it is likely caused by a micronutrient lockout. The usual cause of this is a toxicity of either phosphorus or potassium, or high or low pH levels. Flush your growing medium with pH-balanced water and begin watering with a quality nutrient solution. Heat from your lamps can also cause some of the leaves closest to the bulb to turn yellow or even dark brown. Simply position your bulbs further from the canopy. Finally, overwatering can turn leaves yellow. The lack of oxygen available in the root zone will starve the plant and affect chlorophyll production.

How do I know if I have spider mites? And how do I purge them from my plants?

This is the most common customer question I get asked. Spider mites are the bane of every indoor gardener’s existence. These miniscule insects feed on your plant’s juices and can decimate crops. Spider mites are hard to detect, mainly because they are so small, and once you realize you have them, it is often too late. You may notice stunted growth initially, then on closer inspection, there may be some webbing in your plants. The damage will show up as dried-out silvery spots on the younger, more vulnerable leaves, which will die and drop. Affected plants can be treated in a variety of ways. Many people resort to insecticides. You can also spray plants with neem oil or homemade insecticidal soap (water, dish soap, garlic and cayenne pepper). These two remedies will coat the body of the spider mite, preventing molting and reproduction. Make sure you spray the undersides of the leaves, as this is where many adults and eggs are hiding. Another solution is predatory insects. Predator mites and ladybugs make great natural spider mite controls, but do not use beneficial insects along with any pesticides or sprays because they will kill the good bugs as well as the bad ones. The best way to deal with spider mites is to prevent them from getting into your indoor garden in the first place. Always be clean and wash up before entering your growroom. Avoid touching your plants to prevent bug transfer, and keep pets away from your plants. Keeping your growroom temperature below 75°F will also help keep spider mite populations down, as the higher the room temperature, the faster the spider mites can reproduce.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?
There are many advantages and disadvantages to gardening indoors using hydroponics. Let’s start off with some of the advantages:

Bigger, Better, Faster? Growing hydroponically allows for bigger, healthier plants that usually grow faster and produce more fruit. When growing indoors and using the proper lighting, most plants will go from seed to flower in as little as 3 months or less.

Harvest fresh fruit and vegetables year round?Since you are growing indoors with the aid of artificial lighting, you can decide when to grow. You are not dependent on the seasons to decide when you can plant and harvest.
Total Environmental Control? Too hot in your room – vent out your light. Too cold – add a heater. Too humid – bring in some fresh air. Indoor gardening allows you to provide optimal conditions for your plants to grow in. Being indoors also helps avoid mold, pests and other adverse creatures.

Ease and Simplicity – Hydroponics is actually derived from Greek meaning “water” and “labor”. Hydroponic systems do all the work for you. Simply set the timer and the system automatically delivers water and nutrients to the plants.

There are also a few disadvantages to gardening indoors:

Cost – Gardening indoors is more expensive than traditional gardening. The initial costs are much more significant and maintenance costs will also be a factor.

Time – Hydroponic gardens will not take up all of your time, but you will need to pay more attention to the system then you would to plants growing outdoors. You will need to check your pH frequently, change out your nutrients once a week and perform general maintenance on your garden to achieve optimal performance.

How old is Hydroponic Technology?
The Pharaohs of Egypt enjoyed fruits and vegetables grown hydroponically. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was believed to be a hydroponic garden. In India, plants are grown directly in coconut husk; hydro at the most grassroots level. If hydroponics is a “new” technology, it is a new technology in general use for thousands of years. Hydroponics is not new — just different.  One of the first scientists to experiment with hydroponic culture in the past 70 years was Jean Boussingault , who grew plants in containers with sand and coal, feeding them with chemical solutions of known makeup. Around the beginning of the 1930’s, Professor W. F. Gericke saw commercial potential in Boussingault’s techniques and began to use them to grow vegetables, flowers, and other types of plants. Since then, hydroponically grown vegetables have been very important in America’s history. For example, in 1939 the American army and British Air Force installed hydroponic units in their military bases, and Allied troops ate hydroponically grown vegetables during World War II.

How do I determine which hydroponic growing system is right for me?
There are many different hydroponic systems available and it is important that you choose a system that is not only going to meet your needs but also be compatible with your growing area. In general, we recommend that novices choose an Ebb and Flow or a Top Feed/Drip System. These systems are great for beginners because they are not too complicated and they will still produce very good results. A few examples of these are the Ebb and Flow, or a Waterfarm Kit. Aeroponic and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Systems are usually only recommended for intermediate and advanced growers. These systems require much more experience and general “know how” to successfully operate. Also, because aeroponic and NFT systems use little or no growing medium, you could be in big trouble if a pump fails or the power goes out for a prolonged period of time. Growing in these types of systems can be likened to driving a racecar – you’ll get to the finish line faster than normal but if you have an accident the consequences can be devastating.

The next factor that you will have to consider is the type of plant that you are growing. Certain systems will be better suited for some plants more than others. Smaller varieties of tomatoes, basil, and certain types of lettuce are very well suited to Ebb and Flow or Drip Systems. Larger plants would work very well in Waterfarm kits or BGH Bucket Systems. Lettuce and strawberries grow exceptionally well in NFT systems. Lastly, aeroponic systems can be used with most small vegetable and flower varieties.

Finally, you will want to consider what type of system is going to work best with your growing area. You may be working with as large an area as an entire greenhouse or as small an area as a closet. It is important to consider which systems will best fit into your area. Just remember not to cram too many plants into a given area. A few healthy plants will yield more than several plants that are overcrowded. Overcrowded plants will shade each other causing them to stretch, and the lack of airflow between the leaves will hinder CO2 movement across the leaves. They will also be at a higher risk of being infected by molds and mildews. You might be able to 16 heads of lettuce or basil plants in a 2’ x 4’ area, but don’t try this with something larger like tomatoes or cucumbers.

Where can Hydroponics be used?
Hydroponics is as easy to use outdoors under the sun as it is indoors. One advantage to gardening indoors under grow lights is that you, not Mother Nature, control the seasons, making the growing season twelve months long. However, that is still true whether you grow in soil or hydroponically. Soil gardening can be done indoors and hydro can be done outdoors.

Do Hydroponics require the use of pesticides?
The need for pesticides should be greatly reduced because a strong healthy plant is much less susceptible to attack than a weaker plant. Also, soil-born pest will be totally eliminated but even in an indoor environment, intruders still find their way in, catching a ride on your person or sneaking through tiny crevices. Monitor any garden carefully so you can catch problem insects when they first appear and your need for toxic products will be minimal

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Encinitas Hydroponics

315 S Coast Highway 101, Suite U277

Encinitas CA 92024