Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nutrient Issues

The one nutrient issue that I've run into in my ten some years growing hydroponically is the concentration issue. You can't have a liquid concentrate of hydroponic nutrient solution that delivers all the nutrients you need (at least none of the systems I've tried works as a single concentrate). The reason is that in concentrations some of the non-organic ionic compounds will change their loyalty and chemically reaction with other ions to precipitate out some of the important nutrients. This is undoubtedly a complex concentration related and perhaps pH related process as well, but take my word for it.
The result is that if you get nutrients in concentrated form but multiple solutions, there's a reason. Don't mix them in concentrated form. Instead add them separately to your diluted nutrient solution so you don't precipitate out any of the ionic compounds.
This also applies to single nutrient concentrates delivered in powered form. If you try to make life simpler by mixing them up in a concentrate they will precipitate out some of the nutrients and you'll end up with nutrient deficiencies. I know. It happened to me and I didn't realize what had happened until I read the fine print. Of course the fact that my plants were all deformed was a clue.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Warmth ...

It was actually warm today. I guess the Winter will be over soon. That usually means it is time to really start getting serious about this hydroponics thing. I was down in the basement today looking at rockwool cubes. I usually start my plants in 1" rockwool cubes with some dilute nutrient. There isn't much point in getting them started too early since then they just get large and unruly and if you don't have a place for them they end up all snarled and tangled together and you have a devil's own time getting them separated. So I'm not starting any seeds just yet. I'll probably wait until April sometime, maybe towards the end. Our last day for a freeze/frost in Harrisonburg is about May 17th ... although even then I've had some close calls. One year I pushed the season a day or two and ended up with most of my plants frozen and the nutrient feed tubes had frozen and I pumped all the nutrient out of the tank onto the ground. Bad day in Black Rock! So that has discouraged me from pushing the date too much.

This year there is a bit more to think about since I don't have a complete design for a series of passive systems. I'm not too concerned since some will be really easy (wick systems are that way) but some of the smart valve and modified float valve systems I'm thinking of still have some design time and some fabrication. That can probably wait until early May when I finish up at the college. As the Spring gets closer, the anticipation gets higher. I really love this hobby!