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HOME + GROW INFORMATION + HYDROPONICS FAQ

FAQ: HYDROPONICS

General Hydroponics Questions
What hydroponic System do you guys like the BEST?
What is a cheap and effective way to grow hydroponically?
How often should I water my plants in my hydroponic system?
How is capillary matting used in hydroponic systems?
What is the Ideal Water Cycle for HUGO Cubes?
I have some tomatoes that I started from seeds, however I started them late. Would hydroponic gardening help them grow and fruit faster?
How does the flavor compare to veggies from my outdoor garden?
What are the advantages of hydroponics over soil?
What kind of plants can I grow with hydroponics?
Can hydroponic plants be organic?
What is the best system for growing lettuce?
For small spaces, what are the pros and cons of the Emily's Garden Passive Hydroponic System and the WaterFarm Hydroponic Garden, and what do they come with?

Aeroponics
What is the difference between Aeroponics and Hydroponics?
How often should my pump go on and off for a NFT or Aeroponic system?
What is NFT?

Drip Systems
How do drip systems work?
How often do I water with a drip system?

Ebb & Flow/Drain-to-Waste Systems
What is Ebb and Flow?
How long should I water my plants in an Ebb & Flow system?
Is “Drain-to-Waste” really that much more expensive than running a recirculating system?
How long should I water my plants in an Ebb & Flow system?

AeroJet/JetGro
Why purchase a Jet Gro Series system over another type of hydroponic system?
What is a double-sided Jet Gro Series System?
What are the main differences between the regular AeroJet and the 4x4 and 3x3 Aerojets?
 

What hydroponic system do you guys like the BEST?
We get asked this question a LOT. Of course we do. . .and we definitely have to say that we like drip systems the BEST. They are easy to use, easy to clean, and they produce consistently great results time and time again. Drip systems provide tons of oxygen to a plant’s root system and contrary to popular belief, they do not clog up easily as long as they are built properly. (Please inquire as to how to properly build your drip system.) Along with the fast and healthy growth you will see, drip systems are very versatile. They can be run using any type of grow medium, ranging from coco coir to rockwool to hydroton grow rocks, even in a specialty soil based medium.

Remember in any type of system which uses a medium other than grow rocks, (such as Hydroton or HygroMite,) one must make sure the medium (soil, coco, rockwool, etc.) goes from wet and “heavy” to barely moist and “light.” Aeration and drainage are of critical importance if you want your plants to thrive!

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What is the cheapest and most effective way to grow hydroponically?
It depends on how many plants you wish to grow. If you are growing only one or two you could purchase an individual hydroponic pot such as the SoloGro or Waterfarm

If you are planning to grow 5 or more plants, you'll probably end up using a Drip System or an Ebb and Flow. See below for more information on these kinds of systems.

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How often should I water my plants in my hydroponic system?
How much you need to water depends on three things: the type of plants you're growing, the size of the plants, and the type of medium you're using.

The first thing to decide is whether your grow medium needs to retains or repels water. You'll want your medium to dry out somewhat between waterings, so if you are using a medium that holds a lot of water, you'll need to water less frequently. If you are using a medium that retains almost no water, you will need to water more frequently (some growers using a very water-repellant medium such as Hydroton often water constantly, without on/off cycles)

Second, keep your eye on your plants before and after waterings. This is a surefire way to tell if you're watering them too much or too little. If your plants wilt before you water, but perk up immediately afterwards, they're thirsty. You should water them a little more. But if your plants wilt right after water, you're overdoing it. Give your plants a little more time between waterings. Our suggestion is to start off watering your plants 2 to 3 times a day. (If the environment is very hot, you'll need to water more. ) Increase slowly as needed to reach the optimum watering schedule for your plants.

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How is capillary matting used in a hydroponic system?
Cappilary matting is an inactive sheet of growing medium which retains and distributes water evenly thoughout its area. It is often used with potted, soil plants as a way to bring water to plant roots without watering each plant. The capillary action of the mat and potting soil draws moisture up to plant roots for a constant supply. Plants draw only as much water as they need.

Capillary matting is often used in NFT systems to ensure that young plant roots receive enough moisture and nutrients. It also serves as a buffer in case the pump stops working.In ebb and flow systems, capillary matting can be used to surround the grow medium and keeps medium moist and helps deliver nutrient-rich water to the starter cubes on top of the system. It can also be used to "wick" the nutrient up from a reservoir and to plants, thus (in theory) negating the need for a pump.

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What is the ideal watering cycle for Hugo (6x6 Rockwool) cubes? With or without 3 ft. Rockwool Slabs?
This is another very common question for us. Rockwool has really made a comeback in the last 5 years with the emergence of the new 6x6 HUGO Blocks. Again, what is most important is that rockwool goes from wet to barely moist before it is watered again. The most common mistake with rockwool (and what generally is responsible for its ‘bad rep’) is that it is over-watered. Rockwool holds about 80% water and 20% air when oversaturated and needs to dry out (similiar to a soil-based medium) before it is watered again. In an ideal environment, Hugo rockwool blocks generally need watering once a day in the vegetative growth stage and twice a day in the Bloom stage.
If slabs (we prefer 8” Expert slabs that are 3ft. long,) are to be employed with Hugos, then you will want to make sure that once the roots have grown down into the slabs that both the cube and slab go from wet to barely moist before being watered again. Again, in an ideal environment the slabs and cubes will be watered once every other day in the Vegetative stage and once a day in the Bloom stage.
What is extremely important to glean from all of this is that rockwool REALLY needs to go from WET to BARELY MOIST before it is watered again. So, even though we just provided a neat watering schedule for either Hugos or for slabs plus Hugos (all grow spaces are different) this really will NOT work unless your medium goes from wet to barely moist again between waterings. Also, make sure you do not squeeze the 6x6 blocks or the Expert slabs. . .if you do, the absorption of water is decreased and less uniform.

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I have some tomatoes that I started from seeds, however I started them
late. Would hydroponic gardening help them grow and fruit faster?
Hydroponics is a great option for tomatoes and produces excellent fruit. One of your best choices is to use a system like the WaterFarm to grow the tomatoes in from seed to full bloom. However we recommend that you chose one or the other. Since you're starting these a little late what will really help you is light. We suggest you try giving the plants some strong fluorescent light such as the T5 until they are about a foot tall and that will help them catch up. I hope this helps answer some of your questions. Hydroponics is known for producing some really great tasting fruit and vegetables and we highly recommend it. Take some time to do some research about hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables online.

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How does the flavor compare to veggies from my outdoor garden?
Don't be surprised if your hydroponic vegetables taste better than the ones from your garden.
Because hydroponically grown plants get everything they need, when they need it and without
stress they are able to grow much healthier than their organic cousins. Remember with soil,
important micronutrients are often "locked away" where your plants cannot take full advantage
of them. That's why hydroponics is so great! You have complete control over the type and quantity of minerals your plants are feeding on. This advantage often produces fruits and vegetables that are far superior to organic produce in taste, color, size, and even nutritional value.

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What are the advantages of hydroponics over soil?
Hydroponically grown plants maintain optimum nutrient and moisture levels, so they grow faster
and healthier. No soil means no weeds and no soil-born pests or diseases. Another advantage is root systems stay smaller on hydroponically grown plants, allowing the plant to focus its growth energy on producing plant mass rather than roots. This means you can have more plants per square foot of growing space, and more yield! Lastly, hydroponics is a water-wise way to grow.

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What kind of plants can I grow with hydroponics?
Just about anything, although some plants are more delicate or require more space than others. Here some of the veggies we suggest: tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, squash, snow peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, chard, hot chilies, and broccoli. Also, you can grow all kinds of herbs,leafy greens, flowers and house plants.

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Can hydroponically grown plants be organic?
Growing organically and hydroponically can be done but it can be a bit of a challenge.
Hydroponics is based on immediate and 100% availability of nutrients. Organic fertilizers typically break down over a period of time via bacterial action in the soil. Organic hydroponic nutrients are available, however because the nutrients are in a more raw form, your plants may grow a bit slower. Beneficial microbes have come along way in last 3-5 years. Now, with a proper balance of microbes you can break down all organic materials and feed them to the plant quickly and directly, thus speeding up growth even faster than with mineral-based nutrition alone. Organic nutrients also tend to clog drippers and small tubing. Many growers still use standard hydroponic nutrients and supplement them with organic additives such as humic and fulvic acids, kelp, guanos and beneficial microbes.

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What is the best system for growing lettuce in?
The 'best' way is for you to decide, but many commercial lettuce growers choose to use NFT systems for a variety of reasons. This is mainly because NFT is less labor intensive than some other kinds of systems, as there is less grow media to deal with (that also makes it less expensive to product lettuce). The systems are easy to clean, and finally, the style of NFT growing is well suited to the quick growth and frequent harvesting of lettuce.

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For small spaces, what are the pros and cons of the Emily's Garden Passive Hydroponic System and the WaterFarm Hydroponic Garden, and what do they come with?
The Emily's Garden comes with 16 oz of Hydrofarm's All Purpose Nutrient. Since it has 6 pots, it is really easy to remove some plants and add new ones without distrubing the others. That is nice especially if you have plants maturing at different rates. This is a good system for smaller plants, although people have used the system to grow tomatoes. The main problem with this system is the reservoir is small, and if you have 6 large plants, they will need a refill every day. This is a passive system the plants wick the water up. It is great for herbs and lettuce.

The WaterFarm comes with (3) 8 oz bottles of the General Hydroponics Flora Series nutrient (1 bottle each of the Bloom, Micro, and Grow). This nutrient system is more flexible then the nutrients that come with the Emily's. The nice thing about a 3 part solution is that you can tailor to the plant's growth stage, i.e. either bloom or vegetative stages. The WaterFarm is good for one or two large plants. Again, the WaterFarm's reservoir is pretty small and needs regular refilling. This system uses a drip (top-down) feeding method.

You will most likely need more nutrient then what comes in the package. There will probably be enough to get you through your first crop but you will need more for subsequent crops.

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What is the difference between Aeroponics and Hydroponics?
Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics. The roots of the growing plants are suspended in the air, and they are misted by high pressure sprayers. The sprayers break the nutrient solution into small droplets and saturate the roots. The levels of oxygen in the water are kept high by the constant circulation of the water. Experiments with aeroponics have shown that plants can grow up to 50% faster than in regular hydroponic systems.

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How often should my pump run for a NFT or Aeroponic system?
In these systems where there is no growing media to hold any moisture, the roots can dry out very quickly. Watering cycles need to be frequent and it will be up to you to determine what that takes. Some NFT growers leave their systems on continuously. To be safe, you could begin watering every half hour and ease off until you find the perfect point. Most growers opt for 1 minute on / 5-10 mins off.

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What is NFT?
Nutrient Film Technique systems are some of the most productive available, and they are often the chosen method of commercial growing. Plant roots are grown in a light-tight and shallow channel. Nutrient solution is continuously circulated, flowing over the roots up to 24 hours per day. The name of this growing method was so coined in order to stress that the depth of the liquid flowing past the roots should be very shallow, to ensure that sufficient oxygen is supplied.

A wide range of vegetables and ornamental crops may be grown in an NFT system. Depending on channel width, NFT is great for plants as diverse as tomatoes and lettuce.

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How do hydroponic drip systems work?
You have most likely heard of a top-down watering system. This is the same concept as what you would use in your yard. With hydroponics. Drip systems operate very simply. A pump has tubing connected to it which then branches off to smaller tubes feeding many plants. It works just like the drip irrigation system in your yard. Nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant where it then trickles down through the grow media and into the roots and finally drains into the reservoir where it is recirculated.

Drip systems are the most widely used hydroponic systems in the world. They are commonly used in commercial facilities for growing long term crops like tomatoes and peppers. Drip systems provide plenty of aeration (more than ebb and flow) because plant roots are never totally submerged, but are never allowed to dry out. There is also the additional aeration that occurs from water falling back into the reservoir.

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How often do I water with a hydroponic drip system?
A Drip System may be left to run continuously or it may be turned on and off with a timer. A good standard to go by is on for an hour and off for an hour, however we suggest experimenting to see what works best for you and your plant.

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What is Ebb and Flow?
The plants in an Ebb and Flow are usually grown in pots with their roots supported by a medium of perlite, rockwool or expanded clay pebbles. The pots sit in a Growing Tray which in turn sits above a reservoir filled with nutrient solution. The growing tray must be higher than the reservoir because the system relies on gravity to do part of the work.

A pump in the reservoir is connected to the bottom of the tray. When the pump turns on, the tray fills with water. When the water level reaches a pre-determined height, through the use of the overflow fitting, the water falls back into the reservoir. When the pump turns off, the water runs back down through the pump into the reservoir.

Ebb and Flow allows for high density planting while providing a well oxygenated root system. The ebb & flow method supplies fresh oxygen to the root system of plants in two ways. First, as the tray is flooded with nutrient solution, carbon dioxide rich air is pushed out from around the root system. When the pump is turned off, the tray is drained and oxygen rich air is drawn down to the roots. This oxygen is then used by the plants until the next cycle begins. When the nutrient solution drains back into the reservoir, it also splashes upon impact, adding much additional aeration.

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How long should I water my plants in an Ebb and Flow system?
In an Ebb and Flow system, you are flooding a tray with nutrient solution to feed your plants. The roots are basically underwater for a short period of time. You don't want to keep the roots flooded for too long or you'll risk drowning them. Here's what we suggest: water just long enough to completely flood your tray and then let the system drain. Most timers are set for 15 minute increments or less. The shorter the amount of time to fill the tray and reach the overflow level the better. . .we want the roots to be fully submerged in water for as little time as possible; living primarily in an air based (oxygen rich) environment for as long as possible.

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Is “Drain-to-Waste” really that much more expensive than running a recirculating system?
Drain to waste provides more control over your plants and helps to prevent diseases. A common concern is that a drain-to-waste system will waste too much nutrient due to excessive amounts of “waste run-off.” This is simply not the case. A dialed in “drain to waste” system will only waste 10-15% of the fed nutrient solution as “run-off.” An example of this is as follows: A given garden uses 5 gallons of water to feed all the plants. Tthe “waste" run-off will only be 1/2 to 3/4 of one gallon of solution. If using “drain to waste” with coco, soil or rockwool, the frequency of watering is down to a minimum (usually once a day or once every other day.)

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How long should I water my plants in an Ebb & Flow system?
In an Ebb & Flow system, you are flooding a tray with nutrient solution to feed your plants. The roots are basically underwater for a period of time. You don't want to keep the roots flooded for too long of you'll risk drowning them. Here's what we suggest: water just long enough to completely flood your tray and then let the system drain. Most timers are set for 30 minute increments, so you may have to flood the tray a little longer than it takes to reach overflow level. That's ok. Just don't keep your roots submerged for longer than 1 hour. (Remember plant roots are like people, they need oxygen. If you keep your plant's roots submerged in water for too long the poor things will die.)

Most growers choose to control irrigation with a timer. A typical schedule would involve several short one-hour water cycles per day, but the duration and frequencies of watering cycles varies from one system to another and is dependent on the crop, the plant size and environmental conditions.

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Why purchase a Jet Gro Series system over another type of hydroponic system?
We really believe that these hydrogardening systems are the most innovative and best designed in the hydroponics industry. They are crafted from super sturdy material and are easily assembled, maintained, and cleaned. Plus, they are much higher quality than many other systems you'll find on the market.

Besides the superior quality and ease of use of these systems, they are also outstanding in their flexibility and expandibility, with a million ways of connecting different numbers of trays to share the same pump and reservoir. You can fill a giant grow area with one system, or you can build a system just to match the size of a small closet. It is simple to add a second reservoir if you wish. You can put the system on wheels, or get a perfectly matched light stand. No other company offers this kind of customization and flexibility.

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What is a double sided Jet Gro Series System?
First let's understand what a single sided system is. A single sided Jet Gro System is basically one grow table which can be expanded as long as you'd like. It includes a pump and a reservoir. It is a great choice if you have a narrow grow area or maybe just one side of a room to work with. A single tray can be put up on wheels and can be matched with a light stand.

A double sided system is basically two single systems running together off the same pump and reservoir. This sort of set up can make excellent use of space. This can be achieved through an array of different layouts, for example with the reservoir hidden under one system or another, or placed directly in between the systems.

The arrangement we find most useful is to arranage two 8-tray Aerojets® with a 40 gallon reservoir underneath one of them, equipped with one high pressure pump and a float valve attached to an incoming main water line.

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What are the main differences between the regular AeroJet and the 4x4 and 3x3 Aerojets?
If you are planning on explanding in the future, the AeroJet lets you add on trays to its existing format. It also allows you to open each tray individually if/when you need to see the roots or access the drain(s). That said, it's substantially more costly compared to the 4x4 or the 3x3 AeroJets. We are quite fond of the 4x4 and/or the 3x3 systems. There is only one drain and you can still lift the cover to get to the roots. The main drawback, however, is that it is not expandable. Although you can, if you wish, add a trellis stand, a light stand, or even put it on wheels.

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