Monday, March 3, 2014

Ways to Keep Plant Pesticides and Insects Away

As a gardener, it is critical that you understand the ways to keep plant pesticides and insects away from your crops.

The most productive means of managing insect pests in a home garden is to develop a combination of strategies such as those that are cultural, biological and even mechanical. Gardeners that cultivate crops in an organic manner relay on methods that utilize products that are non-chemical in nature.



If you have the desire to reduce your dependency on pesticides on your crops and want to eliminate the insects that have the potential to destroy those crops, it is critical that your pest management plan involves planning ways to keep plant pesticides and insects away before planting.
This is much more productive and easier than contending with a pest complication once it has disrupted your crops.



In this guide, you will learn some effective strategies on how to reduce your need for potentially harmful pesticides and will help in eliminating problems with common insects that invade the garden.






The Problem with Pesticides
In order to understand why it is important to keep pesticides away from the plant life in your garden, it is first important to understand why the use of pesticides poses problems.
As a home gardener, pesticides are commonly utilized as a type of last resort option to prevent high levels of damage from insects. In gardening, you already know that there are insects that are harmful to your crops and insects that are beneficial to your crops.
The main problem with pesticides is that they do not distinguish between insects that are considered to be “Good” and those that are considered to be “Bad”.
  • If the population of beneficial insects is reduced, the population of pest insects will increase.
  • As a result of the increased pest insects, you will discover that you continue to experience complications with your crops.
  • However, by learning some simple strategies on ways to keep plant pesticides and pest insects away, you may successfully avoid these challenges.


Use Only Healthy Soil

In order to eliminate the need for pesticides and the problems that pest insects pose to your garden, it is imperative that you ensure that you utilize only the healthiest soil for your plants.
According to professionals in the gardening industry, if the soil is healthy within a garden, the plants within that garden will be able to successfully resist diseases that hinder plant growth and pest insects that cause damage to crops.

Prior to planting the items that you wish to cultivate, you should turn the soil and add a high level of organic material such as compost and even manure.
  • By doing so, you will be adding a high level of nutrients to the soil, which will optimize its overall health. While utilizing synthetically created fertilizers may prove to be beneficial, it is best to use fertilizers that are organic due to the fact that they release nutrients through all stages of plant growth – not just upon administration of the substance like synthetic fertilizers do.


Companion Planting is Highly Beneficial

As a gardener, it is imperative to understand that there are numerous plants that contain certain types of compounds or give off certain types of compounds in order to repel pest insects in the garden.
  • If you have a desire to keep plant pesticides and troublesome insects away from your garden, you should indulge in what professionals refer to in the gardening industry as “Companion Planting”.
  • This is a special process that involves the strategic placement of plants that naturally repel pest insects next to plants that will benefit from this effect.
  • For example, if you have a row of tomatoes planted, you should place basil on either side of that row as it will help to combat the invasion of troublesome hornworms. In the same respect, if you have vegetables planted in your garden, you should place garlic near the crops so that spider mites, Japanese beetles and vegetable eating weevils are properly repelled and your vegetables are protected.


Rotate Your Crops Regularly

As a gardener, you should ensure that you rotate where you plant each of your crops each year.
This is a step that will help you successfully keep pesticides and unwanted pest insects away from your prized crops. Many insects will burrow in the soil in regions where they know that a food source has been found previously in the winter months.
  • When these insects resurface when the weather becomes warmer, they will search for the food source that they originally fed upon. If that source is not there, they will initiate a travel session in search for that food.
  • However, many of these insects will die along the way due to the fact that they are not receiving nutrition quickly enough.
  • Furthermore, many of the insects will become prey for various types of insects, and even birds.
  • When you rotate crops, you will quickly discover that the populations of troublesome insect pests will dwindle and you will experience fewer complications.


Conclusion

As you can see from the information contained within this guide, there are many ways to keep pesticides and pest insects from your garden. 

It is important that you remember that not all insects are considered to be “Bad”. In fact, there are many insects that may prove to be exceptionally beneficial to your cultivation efforts.
  • These insects feed on those insects that are considered to be detrimental to your crops and they assist in moving nutrients closer to the roots of your plants.
  • In order to truly eliminate unwanted pest insects from your garden, it is imperative that you research insects to determine which ones are beneficial to your crops and which ones are detrimental to your crops.
  • In your research, you will learn how to properly identify these pests and will learn many more strategies for eliminating the need for pesticides in your gardening efforts.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Growing a Butterfly Garden the Right Way


Butterflies just flit and flutter along through their lives, this article will teach gardeners how to create the perfect environment for butterfly gardens, the right way.

These creatures are magnificent with their lighter-than-air appearance. With the right know how, you can successfully attract butterflies right to your yard, so that you can enjoy them in all their glory. It only takes knowing which plants that caterpillars and adult butterflies like to feed on, and then planting them in a special area to make a butterfly garden.


    Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction





  • Natural Butterflies in You're Local Region
  • Layout
  • Sampling
  • Nectar Plants
  • Examples
  • Author


  • How to Determine the Size of Your Butterfly Garden

    =








    Question Mark Nettle Butterflies Species



    What Butterflies are Natural to Your Local Area

    First Step in Making a Butterfly Garden






    What Butterflies are Natural to Your Local Area?

    The first step in making a butterfly garden is researching into which butterflies frequent your area. This will allow you to look up which plants these particular species of butterflies are attracted to for feeding and laying their eggs amongst them. This information is readily available on the Internet for you particular state. Research into which specific butterflies you would like to visit your yard, and narrow down exactly which flowers and plants to cultivate.

    How to Determine the Size of Your Butterfly Garden

    Your garden geared toward attracting butterflies does not have to be that large. If a window box is the only space you have, this will do nicely. You can also have a grouping of plants, somewhere in your yard or even near those woods, in an area you never cleared. Next, all you need to do is figure out, how much space you want to designate for butterflies.


    Host Plants


    You need to plant host plants for the caterpillars that emerge, from the eggs the butterflies will lay on them. These plants will be the food for the young caterpillars to grow on until they spin cocoons and emerge from them as beautiful butterflies. The butterflies search out just the right plants for laying their eggs on, because without the right ones, the caterpillars will not eat them and die, as a result. These are important plants, because this allows the butterflies to breed in your yard, instead of just visitors.




    Why are Nectar Planting Tasks Important, in the Scientific Process of Undergoing Attraction from Plants to Butterflies?



    Nectar Plants


    After the caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as butterflies, the butterflies will need nectar for their food source. This is where nectar-producing plants come in with your butterfly garden. Without these plants, the emerging butterflies would go in search of them and leave your yard. The nectar plants, as with the host plants must match the butterflies species, you wish to attract to your butterfly garden.



    Layout:

    How to Layout Your Butterfly Garden


    Host Plants Are Required to Be Equal to the Butterflies Species, You Want to Attract
    You can really just mix the host and nectar plants together, if you so choose. The nectar plants can help to camouflage the host plants, which are eaten on so much they may not always be attractive to look at for you. You could also group the host plants behind the nectar plants for the same results.


    How to Attract Butterflies to your Garden using Various Plant Species




    Examples of the Host and Nectar Plants and the Butterflies They Attract


    Below you will find some host plants and their corresponding caterpillars:





    Below are some nectar plants and their corresponding butterflies species:

      Nectar Plant SpeciesCommon Corresponding Butterfly + Plant Combinations


    As you can see, the above is just a small sampling, to give you an idea of some of the plants to use to attract butterflies.


    • You still have to research for your particular area of the country, before proceeding with your butterfly garden.
    • When done correctly your garden will attract stunning and exotic butterflies for years to come.


    Will Morris is a 26 year old DIY enthusiast, PC gamer, movie & TV fanatic, and cajun from Lafayette, Louisiana USA 70508.

    William is also a member of the Go Garden Guides non-profit educational research program for children, in addition to being an owner of the Greenhouse Deals Company and Guest Blog It, a website where user's can publish their niche posts on other webmasters blogs, that are related in topic, have a lot of traffic, and are an authoritative back link to pick-up.

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    Friday, February 28, 2014

    Advanced Hydroponics Gardening Strategies & Tips EBook

    Advanced Hydroponics

    Advanced Hydroponics. 1
    Introduction. 4
    Requirements. 5
    Light 5
    Water 5
    Medium.. 6
    Aeration. 8
    Support 9
    Systems. 10
    Aeroponics. 10
    Aggregate Culture. 10
    Aquaculture. 11
    Continuous Flow Systems. 12
    Getting Started. 14
    Germination. 14
    Solutions. 15
    Nutrient Deficiencies. 16


    Introduction


    Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water. It typically refers to raising terrestrial plants that normally grow in soil rather than plants that are naturally aquatic. Hydroponics generally involves the use of a nutrient solution to deliver essential minerals to the plant. Many forms of hydroponics also use a soil-less medium, which allows the plants to take root.

    Horticulturalists have known that soil is not essential for growing plants since the 18th century. Soil normally serves as a reservoir for minerals, which dissolve in water and allow the plant to absorb the minerals through the roots. However, it is also possible to dissolve the minerals in water artificially and eliminate the need for soil.

    Hydroponic AeroGarden AeroGrow System Single Plant Picture

    The primary reason for using hydroponics to grow crops is that the yield per unit surface area is potentially much greater.

    Hydroponics is useful in areas where soil is not readily available. It is also a common method of growing plants for teaching and research purposes.
    1. It is especially important to meet a plant’s requirements when growing it with hydroponics, since the lack of soil makes the plant more vulnerable to changes in the environment.
    2. Several specific systems exist for growing plants hydroponically, which primarily differ in precise method used to deliver the minerals to the plants. Starting the plants from seeds is an important consideration in hydroponics.
    3. A hydroponics engineer must also be able to identify specific nutrient deficiencies based on the plant’s appearance.
    Diagnostic Hydroponic Plant Nutrient Deficiencies Infographic Flowchart Picture
    Original Source: http://www.flairform.com/hints/nutrient_deficiency.htm




    Requirements


    Plants have generally have the same requirements for light, water, temperature and oxygen whether they are grown in water or soil. The lack of soil means they may require a growing medium, and the plants may also need some means of support. A hydroponics engineer must also pay particular attention to maintaining the method of delivering minerals to the plants.

    Light

    Hydroponic plants are often grown indoors, so they often require the use of artificial lights, to achieve their best growth. Most plants need at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day to thrive. Ordinary lighting is too weak for this purpose, so you may need grow lights that produce at least 1,000 foot-candles of light. Grow lights typically use sodium lamps that operate under high pressure, which are quite expensive. This type of lighting is normally used only serious hobbyists due to their cost.

    Proper spacing is also important to ensure each plant in a hydroponic system receives adequate light, although the specific area depends on the particular plant. The minimum spacing is generally the same for plants in a garden. For example, tomato plants should have at least four square feet of space for each plant. Lettuce plants should be in rows at least nine inches apart with at least seven inches of space between each plant in a row. Cucumbers require at least seven square feet of space.

    The plants in a hydroponics system generally do not grow as well during the winter, even when they are in a greenhouse. This is primarily due to the shorter days rather that the lower temperature. Poor weather can also reduce the availability of light for greenhouse plants in the winter. You should therefore avoid starting the plants in the fall and growing them in the winter when natural light is at its lowest level.


    Water

    The difficulty in providing hydroponic plants with sufficient water depends primarily on the specific system in use. The water culture method easily provides plants with water, but adequate water can be a challenge when you use the aggregate culture method. This method requires you to estimate the water requirement of each plant. For example, a large tomato plant needs up to ½ gallon of water per day during hot weather. The plant roots can dry out and they may die when you use the aggregate culture method without providing adequate water. The lack of soil will cause the plant to recover from a low water level, even after you have restored the water to its correct level.

    The quality of water is also an important consideration in hydroponics. A high alkaline content is often responsible for poor growth in these plants. A high salt content can make it difficult to maintain the proper level of nutrients, which may require additional expertise in chemistry. A high sodium level is especially common with water that has passed through a water softener. The total salt content in a hydroponics system should remain below 320 parts per million.


















































































    Medium

    A growing medium allows hydroponic plants to root but does not provide nutrition. The best choice of medium depends on the specific technique you plan to use. Common media in hydroponics include baked clay, coir, rock wool, perlite, vermiculite, gravel, packing peanuts and wood fiber.

    Baked Clay

    Baked clay is a common choice for hydroponic systems that require tight control over the nutrients in the water. This material has a neutral pH, does not react easily with other materials and does not have any nutritional value. The manufacturer forms the clay into small pellets and fires them in a kiln at a temperature of 2,190 degrees Fahrenheit. The pellets expand in response to the heat, causing them to become porous. They will not shrink over time, although the shape of the pellets may be irregular. Baked clay is easy to clean and sterilize, typically with bleach, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. This property makes it an ecologically sustainable material. The biggest disadvantage of using baked clay is that root tips may penetrate the pellets, which can inhibit the growth of the plants.

    Coir

    Coir is the fibers from the outer shell of a coconut. It is also known as coco or coco peat when it is ground to a fine texture. Commercial coir that is to be used as a growing medium in a hydroponic system typically contains colonies of fungi in the trichoderma genus. These fungi protect the roots from bacterial infections and help them to grow. Coir absorbs excess water, making it difficult to over water plants that grow in this medium. Coir can also store excess minerals until they are needed by the plant.

    Choir Fiber Displayed on Broken Coconut
    Choir Fiber Displayed on Broken Coconut

    Rock Wool

    Rock wool is made from filaments of molten rock, usually basalt. It is generally inert to chemical and biological activity, and is the most common medium used in hydroponics. Rock wool has a long history as a successful hydroponic substrate but it is also a possible carcinogen.


    Perlite

    Perlite is a type of volcanic rock that comes from molten lava, which is composed of basalt, granite and obsidian. The high temperature of the lava causes these materials to fuse together in a process known as fusionic metamorphosis. This change also causes the rock to expand and form small, glass-like pebbles.

    Perlite can be used as a hydroponic medium in loose form, but it may be packaged in plastic sleeves. It is also a common ingredient in potting soil where it reduces the density of the soil. Perlite is very light in weight and may float to the surface of the water, especially with hydroponic techniques that use drain or float feeding. Pumice is similar in composition to perlite, but it is made from frothy and has a lower density.

    Vermiculite

    Vermiculite is also a volcanic rock formed by fusionic metamorphosis. It is similar to perlite, but has a greater ability to absorb water. This property allows vermiculite to store water and nutrients, which is especially useful for passive hydroponic techniques. Hydroponic growers often need to add perlite to vermiculite to increase the amount of air available to the roots of the plants.


    Gravel

    Gravel is a collection of rock fragments that can vary greatly in size and composition. The gravel used in hydroponics is small, typically the size of the peat. This media is most common in any traditional gravel filter bed that circulates water with electric. The primary advantages of gravel are that it is inexpensive, drains well and easy to clean. However, it is also heavy and requires a stronger container than other containers used in hydroponic. Gravel does not absorb water, and is suitable only for hydroponic techniques that provide water continuously. Brick shards are generally similar to gravel, although they require additional clinging and may change the pH of the water.


    Polystyrene

    Polystyrene is a type of plastic readily available in the form of packing peanuts. They are primarily used in closed tube systems, where the excellent drainage of polystyrene is in a band. Polystyrene is also very light in weight, which generally make it unsuitable hydroponic techniques that use open containers. Plants grown in polystyrene can absorb this material, which may make it unsuitable for growing plants intended for consumption. It is important to ensure that packing peanuts are made of polystyrene, as biodegradable peanuts will decompose into sludge.

    Wood Fiber

    Wood fiber is extracted from wood with friction and steam. This organic substrate is popular in hydroponics, because it is inexpensive and can maintain its shape for a prolonged period.

    Aeration

    Air is essential for plants to carry out photosynthesis. Plants that are rooted in loose soil generally require no special measures to obtain adequate aeration. However, plants will quickly exhaust the air in the water with some hydroponic systems. This requires the grower to introduce supplemental air, typically by bubbling it through the nutrient solution. Continuous flow and aeroponic systems do not require supplemental air since they provide a constant supply of water with fresh air.

    Nutrition

    All plants require specific elements in order to live. Soil normally provides these elements in adequate amounts, often without the need for fertilizer. Hydroponics engineers must specifically supply these elements to their plants. The primary elements that plants require include nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium. Additional elements such as iron, seeing, copper, manganese, chlorine, molybdenum and boron are required only in trace amounts.

    Temperature

    The temperature requirements for hydroponic plants are generally the same as they are for plants that grow in soil. Most plants can grow over a relatively wide temperature range, but only achieve their best growth within a narrow range of temperatures. For example, a cool weather vegetables such as spinach, or let us grows best at a temperature between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm weather plants may grow best at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

    Support

    The soil also provides physical support for terrestrial plants. Hydroponic plants typically must be fastened to a vertical structure to keep them upright. This generally requires the gardener to use stakes or strings.


    Systems


    Hydroponic systems deliver water to the plants with a variety of methods. The type of container that holds the plants also depends on the specific system. The general types of hydroponic systems include aeroponics, aggregate culture, aquaculture and continuous flow.

    Aeroponics

    An aeroponic system involves growing the plants in a closed container. The container must also be kept dark to prevent algae from growing on the surface of the nutrient solution. The roots are kept at 100 percent humidity with a misting system that keeps them from drying out. The containers may vary in size and shape depending on the specific plants, and may be lined with plastic. Tomatoes require a tall, narrow container to support their vines. Shorter plants such as strawberries grow best in an A-frame container that makes better use of space.

    Aeroponics is an advanced hydroponics systems that requires an experienced grower. The spray nozzles must be positioned so that it directly sprays some portion of the roots. They may spray water on the roots continuously or intermittently. A typical pattern turns the sprayers on for 20 seconds, then off for 40 seconds. The spray mixture often contains a fungicide to prevent the exposed roots from rotting.

    Aggregate Culture

    The aggregate culture method involves growing the plants in an aggregate material instead of water. This hydroponics system requires two containers. One container holds the aggregate material the plants and the other container holds the nutrient solution. A pump delivers this solution to the roots on an intermittent basis to provide the roots with nutrition and moisture. The solution then drains from the aggregate container, allowing the roots to receive air.

    An aggregate culture system typically pumps water to within an inch of the surface of the aggregate bed before it is allowed to drain from the container. The specific material may be any type of inert rock that does not contain calcium. Common choices include silica gravel, basalt and granite. Experimental agriculture systems may use other substances such as crushed marble, perlite or Styrofoam.

    It is important that the surface of the bed remain dry to restrict the growth of algae. The aggregate material must be coarse to provide rapid drainage of the container, typically with a diameter of at least ¼ inch. Larger material requires a more frequent delivery of nutrient solution, whereas smaller material takes longer to drain. Aggregate culture often uses a gravity-feed system. The nutrient solution flows from the nutrient tank to the aggregate tank by gravity over a period of about 10 minutes. The solution then drains from the aggregate tank into a storage tank over the course of 30 minutes. A pump delivers the solution back to the nutrient tank to repeat the cycle.


    Aquaculture

    An aquaculture system completely immerses the roots of the plant in a nutrient solution at all times. Hydroponic growers often start plants in fine media such as perlite, sand or vermiculite until they reach a certain size. They can easily wash this media from the roots and move the plants to an aquaculture system.

    Aquaculture hydroponics systems are the easiest to implement on a small scale, but it needs a large amount of water. The specific design can vary considerably, so long as it meets a few basic requirements. An aquaculture system must support the plants above the nutrient solution. It must keep light away from the solution to prevent the growth of algae. Aquaculture also requires a method of continuously aerating the roots.

    The container for an aquaculture solution is typically made of concrete or wood. A wood container will need to be sealed to protect it from the nutrient solution, usually with asphalt or plastic. It is essential to use a type of asphalt that does not contain tar or creosote, which will leave a film on the surface of the water. The size of the container can vary considerably, but it typically has a diameter of two to three feet and a depth of up to one foot. A mature tomato plant should have a container of at least two gallons. Common containers for an aquaculture system include an aquarium, wading pool or plastic pail. The container is typically covered with a sheet of plywood or Styrofoam to keep light away from the nutrient solution. Drill or punch holes with a diameter of about 1 inch to accommodate the plants.

    Short plants like spinach and lettuce usually can support themselves but tall plants such as tomatoes require artificial support. Pack cotton or some other flexible material around the holes to hold the stems of tall plants in place. Plants that grow vines such as tomatoes and cucumbers will also require additional support as they grow. This generally involves tying the vines to an overhead support.

    The nutrient solution in an aquaculture solution may continuously aerated by immersing a perforated hose in the solution. A pump can then deliver air directly into the solution. The rate of air flow is important, since too little air will not provide sufficient aeration and too much air can damage the roots. An aquarium pump may suffice for a small aquaculture system, but a large system may require a commercial air compressor. Add water to the container each day to keep the level constant. You will typically need to replace the nutrient solution every two weeks when you start the plants and decrease the frequency to once a week once the plants mature.


    Continuous Flow Systems

    A continuous flow system delivers a continuous flow of nutrient solution over the roots of the plants. This is the most common commercial method for raising plants hydroponically. A continuous flow system delivers the solution with a pipe. Small plant such as spinach and lettuce typically use pipe with a diameter of two inches, while large plants such as tomatoes may require a pipe with a diameter of a six inches. The pipe should be on a slight slope to allow the nutrient solution to flow freely across the plant roots. The pipe will have a row of holes drilled into the top, typically with a diameter of a least one inch.

    The grower typically starts the plants in the root cubes until they reach a certain size. The plants are then inserted into each hole in the pipe. Small plants will be able to support themselves, while tall plants will require support with string or wire.

    The nutrient solution in a continuous flow system is stored in a tank. It flows by gravity or is pumped through the pipes to keep the roots continually bathed in a nutrient solution. The solution then travels back to the storage tank and repeats this process. Supplemental aeration is not necessary with a continuous flow system since the nutrient solution aerates itself when it returns to the storage type.

    The pipe used in a continuous flow system can be made of several different materials. Polyvinyl chloride is a popular choice since it is commonly used in plumbing systems. The primary disadvantage with PVC pipe is its relatively high cost. PVC pipe must also be cleaned after raising each crop to prevent the spread of disease. A cleaning solution consisting of one part bleach and nine parts water is often used for this purpose.

    A continuous flow system may also use nutrient film to deliver the solution. This material is a black plastic film formed into a flexible tube with holes at regular intervals. A wooden tray must support the two since nutrient film is not rigid. The primary advantage of nutrient film is that it is considerably less expensive than PVC pipe.

    Plastic corrugated drainage pipe may also be used in a continuous flow system. A horizontal pipe carries the nutrient system, which typically has a diameter of two inches for small plants and six inches for large pipes. This pipe has holes cut along the top of a diameter of about two inches. Vertical plastic drainage pipes are placed into these holes and filled with peat moss. The plants are placed into each of these vertical pipes. Capillary action carries the nutrient solution through the peat moss and brings the solution to the roots. Hydroponic growers typically start the plants with another method, although they may also plant the seeds directly into the peat moss.



    Getting Started


    Hobbyists often need to run their hydroponics system outdoors, although commercial operations typically take place in a greenhouse. Common locations for a private hydroponics system include a patio, rooftop or back yard. The starting schedule for outdoor plants is generally the same whether they grown hydroponically or in soil. The primary steps for starting hydroponic plants are germination and making the nutrient solution. The identification of nutrition deficiencies is also an essential requirement for growing plants hydroponically.

    Germination

    Hydroponic growers can generally plant large seeds directly in aggregate culture systems since an aggregate medium will hold the seeds in place. These seeds can germinate normally and the grower can thin them according to the normal schedule for that particular species. Smaller seeds typically must be started with other techniques and transplanted to the hydroponic system when they are large enough to withstand the conditions of that particular system. All plants will need be started elsewhere and transplanted if you are using a water culture system.

    Hydroponic plants generally should be started in a manner that keeps the roots exposed if you are going to grow them in an aeroponic or water culture system. Plant the seeds in a starter medium such as perlite, coarse vermiculite or quartz sand. Water the seeds according to their normal starting requirements and keep them covered with moist paper towels. Remove the paper towels after the plants germinate and thin them as usual. Keep the seedlings moist with a nutrient solution since the starter medium does not provide nutrients. This solution should be ¼ the normal strength since the seedlings are not strong enough to benefit from the full-strength solution. Wash the starter medium from the roots when they ready to transplant to the hydroponic system. It is not necessary to wash every particle of the medium from the roots.

    Seedlings that will be transplanted to a continuous flow system should be started in a root cube. This cube will provide the seedlings with the extra stability and support they will require when you move them to the tubes of the continuous flow system. A root cube is made of a sterile material such as cellulose fiber, plastic foam or compressed peat and vermiculite. Containers made of pure peat or peat and perlite will disintegrate when you place the in a continuous flow system and may clog the pump.

    Solutions

    Pre-mixed nutrient solutions for hydroponic systems are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Advanced growers may also want to mix their own solutions. This allows them to experiment with different mineral concentrations, typically to optimize a plant’s growth producing a deficiency symptom. A nutrient solution contains macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are measured in relatively large quantities and the precise amounts of these substances are not critical. Micronutrients are measured in small quantities and the measurement must be accurate to ensure good plant growth.

    The ideal nutrient solution varies by plant but the following recipe is easy to prepare and provides good result for a broad range of plants. The salts in this recipe are commonly available and supply all the macronutrients required by most plants.

    The macronutrients for this recipe include the following:

    The magnesium sulfate and potassium phosphate should be reagent grade while the calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate may be fertilizer grade. Reagent grade chemicals are significantly more expensive than fertilizer grade chemicals. Dissolve each ingredient separately in a glass of warm water before adding it to 24 gallons of water.

    The micronutrients in a nutrient solution are used in small amounts and must be measured precisely. These ingredients should be reagent-grade chemicals, which are available in chemical supply stores or hobby shops.

    The micronutrients in a nutrient solution include the following:

    Dissolve these ingredients in warm water before adding them to the nutrient mixture. You may not need to add copper sulfate or zinc sulfate if you are using tap water, since tap water normally contains these compounds as impurities. Add sufficient water to the nutrient solution to bring the volume to 25 gallons.

    Substitute an iron chelate for iron sulfate if your water has a pH above 7.0, meaning that it is alkaline. Prepare an iron chelate by adding 1.5 ounces of iron EDTA to five quarts of water. Mix this solution thoroughly and add ¼ pint of this solution to the main nutrient solution. Prepare other iron chelates so that the final nutrient solution contains 1 part elemental iron per million parts of nutrient solution.

    Plants will release waste products into the nutrient solution as they grow, which will cause the water to become more alkaline, meaning the pH will increase. Hydroponics growers will typically add sulfuric acid to the nutrient mixture as needed to lower its pH to between 5.5 and 6.5. Large hydroponic systems may require growers to add acid to the nutrient solution every day.

    Growers may also add potassium hydroxide to the solution to increase its pH. Add water as needed to keep the level of the solution constant. Replace the entire nutrient solution every two weeks for seedlings. Replace the solution each week once the plants begin growing.


    Nutrient Deficiencies

    Nutrient deficiencies are more common when growing plants hydroponically, since the grower must add the nutrients artificially. Each deficiency produces a specific set of symptoms, so an experienced grower can often identify the deficient element by observing the plants. However, it is important to note that these symptoms may have other causes besides nutritional deficiencies.

    The non-metals needed by plants include boron, potassium, and sulfur. A boron deficiency can cause shoot tips to die, and it will cause the petioles and stems to become brittle. A lack of potassium can cause the margins of the leaf to become yellow and continue towards the center. It may also result in dead areas near the margins and tips of the leaves. A potassium deficiency can make the lower leaves become mottled. A lack of sulfur causes the upper leaves to be light green and the leaf veins to be lighter than the rest of the leaf.

    The primary metals needed for healthy plants include iron, manganese and magnesium. An iron deficiency causes the parts of the upper leaves that are between the veins to turn yellow while the large veins remain yellow. The tips and edges of the leaves may also die. A lack of manganese or magnesium may cause the upper leaves to develop dead spots. The small veins in the upper leaves may also remain green, giving the leaves a netted appearance.

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