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Everything You Need to Know About Hydroponics and Indoor Growing

Lettuce cultivated in a hydroponics and indoor growing system.

Are you new to hydroponics and indoor gardening?

Hydroponics can seem confusing to someone not familiar with the concepts of indoor growing or soilless growing, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. Hydroponics is an exciting and interesting way of growing plants. This guide is for anyone who thinks they would like to start out growing their plants using a hydroponic system and for people who already use hydroponic systems but could use a little extra help.

We all have differing gardening abilities, Some of us may not have ever grown anything before while others may grow all their food. This guide will summarize some of the most commonly asked questions about hydroponic gardening and the answers. This guide will also give you a list of products to try and suggestions of practices you may find useful as you continue your gardening experiences in hydroponics.

This guide attempts to flow in a natural step by step process by starting with the beginner’s basics and moving on from there to what all you can grow using Hydroponics and what products and tools can help you achieve the highest level of success. We will try to stick to the following format to give you an overview of hydroponics.

1 An introduction to hydroponics and indoor gardening.

1.1  What exactly is hydroponics?
1.2  What is the difference between growing inside compared to growing outside?
1.3  Why soilless? Can’t I use soil and grow inside?
1.4  What growing medium is the best choice?
1.5  What cautions should I take?

2 Growing what you want year-round!

2.1  What plants grow best inside?
2.2  Where do I find information on the plants I want to grow? 

3 Where should I locate my indoor hydroponic system?

3.1  What space requirements are needed to grow indoors using a hydroponic system?
3.2  What is the minimum height requirement if any?
3.3  What is the optimal temperature and humidity for my plants?
3.4  What other things should I take into account as I set up my hydroponic system?

4 How do you set up a grow room?

4.1  What do I need?
4.2  Why do I need a grow tent?
4.3  What is a ventilation system and why do I need one?
4.4  How do I make a lighting system?
4.5  How do I know which growing system is best for me?
4.6  What other equipment should I learn about for hydroponics?

5 Feeding my plants

5.1  How do I feed my plants?
5.2  Are there nutrients in the media?
5.3  What nutrients do plants growing in coco need?
5.4  How often do I need to feed my plants?
5.5  What additives should I give my plants and when?
5.6  What guidelines should I follow for mixing nutrient solutions?

6 Let’s grow!

6.1  How hard is it to get plants started?
6.2  What do I need to do once I start seeing root development?
6.3  When do I move them into my primary system without harming them?
6.4  How do I help my plants continue to grow and be healthy?
6.5  How do help my plants start to develop fruits?
6.6  How do I know it is time to harvest my fruits?
6.7  At the end of the crop is it too late to save my genetics of my plants?
6.8  How do I stop a bug infestation that threatens my crop?

7 How do I start the Process over again?

7.1  What do I need to clean up after I have harvested my crop?
7.2  How do I store my nutrients and boosters?
7.3  When do I need to replace my equipment?

8 One final thought.

Learning the basics of hydroponics and indoor gardening only takes a little bit of time and energy to learn.
Let’s begin with a quick introduction to hydroponics and indoor gardening. 

1. An introduction to hydroponics and indoor gardening

1.1 What exactly is hydroponics?
Although, you may already have some idea what hydroponics is let’s clarify it further before moving on. Hydroponics is a system or method of using water instead of soil to deliver nutrients to plants.

How this is achieved depends on the system chosen to get the nutrients to the plants by the individual user. Some conventional systems might drop the nutrients of use bubbles to get the nutrients to the plants. We will go into more detail about the different systems a little further on into this guide.

For the plants to properly accept the nutrients, the feed concentration must be mixed correctly with the water. You must check and adjust the pH level and conductivity of the solution. Don’t worry this only takes a few minutes.

Types of hydroponics systems

1.2 What is the difference between growing inside compared to growing outside?
There are a lot of similarities between growing inside and outside. Growing them inside gives you much better control of your plants than if they are outside. Growing them inside allows you to grow plants that might not normally be able to grow in your area if they were outside.
By creating optimal conditions for your plants, they can thrive and give us much more fruits than they might otherwise. Not a bad trade off for having them inside, is it?

1.3 Why soilless? Can’t I use soil and grow inside?
You can certainly grow your plants inside in soil. It may prove messier and provide fewer fruits for the same space, but is quite easily done (raccomended for beginners).
In between soil and hydroponics is Coco, an organic growing media that gives you exceptional yields and appears much more like traditional gardening. The fruits grown from Coco are quality fruits too.

Growing plants in soil

1.4 What growing medium is the best choice?
What growing medium you choose depends on what your goals and needs are. Often beginners like the look and feel of soil while a purist might prefer foods grown using an organic medium such as Coco.

For some, Coco is a giant step towards moving closer to hydroponics. Coco gives them quality and quantity of fruits.

Coco requires gardeners to regulate the pH and CF to nutrient solutions, but is no big deal and can be easily learned.
If you want a clean and efficient way to garden, then hydroponics is the pathway to take but does cut crop times while increasing yields. Yields using hydroponics are much higher even with the shorter crop production.

1.5 What cautions should I take?
The only things that could stop your success with hydroponics or limit it are the size of your grow room, extreme temperatures, bugs, and disease. If you have a suitable ventilation system, a pest strategy, healthy plants there is nothing to worry about but how soon you can harvest your fruits. Growing what you want year-round!

2. Growing what you want year-round!

2.1 What plants grow best inside?
Chances are you already have some specific plants you would like to try to grow inside, and that is not a problem because with the right system you can produce pretty much anything including some fruit trees and bushes to go with your vegetables.
The grow room you create for your indoor gardening makes virtually all plants flourish. You will need to adjust  to the specific requirements some plants have regarding feed strengths and how often they should be fed, what temperature to maintain them at and the humidity and a few other factors.
For instance, growing varieties of chilis or tomatoes are pretty straight forward to grow. However, some plants may require more care than others.

Grow indoor what you want

2.2 Where do I find information on the plants I want to grow?
It is imperative to research and know the requirements of each plant you plan to grow if you want to have high-quality yields and healthy plants.

3. Where should I locate my indoor hydroponic system?

3.1 What space requirements are necessary to grow using a hydroponic system indoors?
If you have a spare room, a garage or a closet it makes an ideal grow room. However, you can use any corner of any room of your house or even a cellar. For convenience we suggest you to buy a budget grow tent before splashing out on a state of the art system.

A 60 cm by 60 cm is a good starting point.

3.2 What is the minimum height requirement if any?
At least 160 cm is the least we recommend, but you might make it with 140 cm. Keep in mind that grow lights put off heat and you will need some space to avoid burning your canopy. Leave some space between the lights and your plants too.

3.3 What is the optimal temperature and humidity for my plants?
Try to have a temperature of around 22 to 28 degrees C for most plants. Some do require a different temperature, and that is why it is good to know everything you can about your plants before you grow them. This can be challenging during peak times for extreme heat or extreme cold to maintain a suitable range. Plenty of tips and help should you need it.
Since warmer air holds onto more water, you must bear in mind that when the temperature goes up so does the humidity. We recommend trying to keep your plants at a relative humidity of between 70 and 80% during propagation. Vegetables like a humidity of around 60-70% while flowers like a bit lower moisture and respond best to the 40-60 % range. To get the total advantage out of your grow room you will need a little more knowledge than this, however.

Temperature and Humidity Chart

When growing plants hydroponically, you must also remember that you have to take into consideration nutrient solution temperatures. Most times the root environment does best at around 18-20 degrees C. Equipment is available to help you achieve these goals which are made much harder by fluctuating extreme temperatures in either direction.

3.4 What other things should I take into account as I set up my hydroponic system?
Plants need fresh air, so this needs to be a priority. If there is no window to give them fresh air from outside, you can use the passive intake holes on the grow tent to at least help. Installing an intake fan to draw air into the grow room from another area is your next best plan. Be sure to think through the size of the growing area in term of both height and ground cover to make sure the air can get to all your plants.

4. How do you set up a grow room?

4.1 What do I need?
Now that you have a definite idea where to locate and house your plants you need to figure out what equipment you need. You will need a ventilation system, a grow lighting system, and a growing system. A grow box is better than attaching reflective sheeting to your walls, so you should consider it, as well.

4.2 Why do I need a grow tent?
While you can make your grow tent out of some wood and a roll of plastic sheeting, it will not give you the control over the plant’s environment that a grow tent will provide which maximizes your potential to succeed. A grow tent helps prevent bug infestations and other possible problems that might introduce disease to your plants.

4.3 What is a ventilation system and why do I need one?
One you have your grow tent up you need to work on a ventilation system for it. In most tents, the extraction element hangs down in the back of it which is hard to get to once your plants, lights, etc. are all in place. You will need a extractor fancarbon filter, and all the parts to do the ducting. Once it is ll set up, you will be able to quickly replace the air in your grow room to keep the environment in it fresh. You may also want to think about adding an extra fan for intake purposes.

Ventilation System Grow Room

4.4 How do I make a lighting system?
Consider getting the following to build the light system: a reflector, lamp, ballast, timer, contractor, and light hangers. When setting up your grow light kit, you will need to carefully take into consideration the size and height of your plants.
The more light typically gives you more growth but also can add the potential to burn your plants and be too warm and kill them.

Be careful where you place your reflector and lamp to help prevent harming your plants and optimizing their growth.
One way you can fix this issue is by installing an air-cooled lighting system. They attach to a fan that blows across the lights and helps keep them cool along with the area around them.

Reflectors are made to help guide the light to your plants. The better the design of the reflector the better the chances of the light reaching every area of the plant.
The lighting system will gradually decline over time and need to be replaced so that into consideration this when planning your system.
A light rail is often a more sensible away to go to give better coverage to all your plants.

4.5 How do I know which growing system is best for me
Every growing system we carry is excellent, but how do you choose the one that is right for you?
There is a wide-range of soilless growing systems available on the market today for hydroponics. They differ in how they deliver the nutrients and the application of it. For instance, Bubbler/DWC systems require the root system be submerged the whole time where Flood and Drain system submerge the roots and then drain off the nutrients. They each have their unique set of benefits to how they work.

You should take the time to study the different systems and then decide which one suits your needs best.
Soil and Coco growers are more restricted than other type producers in that there aren’t as many good systems to choose from for these mediums.  Another option is to use plastic round or square pots, then automate the feeds with a gravity fed system using something like the Autopot or a dripper-based system like Wilma.

5. Feeding my plants

5.1 How do I feed my plants?
To feed your plants in a hydroponic system, you will make nutrient solution by putting it in a bucket or tank with water. Then let it stand twenty-four hours to de-chlorinate it and then mix in an appropriate amount of base nutrient, which gives it the main elements it needs to help the plants grow. For added benefits, you can add stimulants and boosters. Know what your pH and conductivity affects the nutrients and plants and adjust as needed.

5.2 Are there nutrients in the media?
Some soils have enough initial nutrients to get through propagation and even the early stages of vegetation. Later though you will need to give them supplemental nutrients if you want to optimize their growth and production. These should be added in their grow and bloom stages of development. With soils, you do not have to worry about  CF or EC checks and adjustments.

5.3 What nutrients do plants growing in Coco need?
Coco special formulations will deliver the best results although you can use the same additives you use for hydroponics.

5.4 How often do I need to feed my plants?
Unless your plants are stand-alone plants, they should automatically be fed nutrients. Some people do top off instead of completely changing the nutrients out, but we feel it is better to change them out completely. Change it out at least every one to two weeks if you do just top off the nutrients the rest of the time. Use ¼ strength feedings in between as needed.
You stand-alone pots of soil or coco should be fed using a watering can, and you should lift them to see how heavy they are afterward to help you gauge when they need to be fed again. The lighter ones will need to be fed sooner than the heavier ones.

5.5 What additives should I give to my plants and when?
For plants growing in soil stick to a soil-specific additive. You have plenty to choose from when looking for a soil-specific boosters.
If you use Coco or hydroponics, you will have an even larger selection to choose from to enrich your plants. There are a large variety of stimulants to add to increase your yields if you desire too.

5.6 What guidelines should I follow for mixing nutrient solutions?
There are guidelines available on most of the nutrients. Please check the feeding chart


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