Starting your crop within a hygienic system will go a long way to helping prevent disease and insect problems. This means washing and scrubbing your system thoroughly so that no residues, such as old leaves and medium are remaining. Ensure that you also rinse the system thoroughly so that any detergents or disinfectants you’ve used to clean the system are removed before planting.
Water quality is critical to ensuring great crop outcomes. We recommend that your water source has an Electrical Conductivity (EC) lower than 0.2 EC and that it is clear and free from visible particulates. If your water source is not of this quality, you should consider using a Reverse Osmosis system to reduce its EC or other filters to improve the purity of your water source.
The ideal growing environment consists of temperatures between 15-25° Celsius. When temperatures exceed 25°C, high air flow becomes very important to reducing the risk of diseases and pests that occur at higher temperatures and humidity. If your growing environment has temperatures regularly above 30°C, you should seriously consider using air conditioning to reduce the temperature. As air conditioning is most efficient when air is recirculated, you may need to replenish your growing environment with CO2 to maintain its concentration between 1200ppm and 1500ppm within the growing environments air. If airflow and/or air conditioning isn’t able to keep humidity below 85% you should also consider using dehumidifiers.
Sunlight or Lighting
Generally the more intense the light your plant receives, the greater your yield will be. If growing outdoors, be mindful of avoiding shade when choosing a position for your plants. When growing indoors, be sure to provide a good quality light source, with high wattage. Indoor growing lights have advanced rapidly over the last few decades, with LEDs the choice for expert growers, as they convert more electrical energy into usable light, which has the added benefit of keeping the growing environment cooler. While older lighting types such as High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide are cheaper upfront, the bulbs degrade over time and will need to be replaced after 3,000 to 5,000 hours of use to maintain yields. We also advise you to be wary of big claims from new lighting brands, with it best to stick to proven products from reputable companies.
Electrical Conductivity (EC)
EC levels indicate the concentration of salts and nutrients in your feed water. Ideally start with water that has minimal dissolved salt content (below 0.2 EC) and then add nutrients until the EC reaches recommended levels according to the maturity of your crop.
To measure EC you will require an electronic EC meter. It is best to buy an EC meter manufactured by a reputable brand. Be sure to calibrate before use to ensure the EC meter’s accuracy and follow the care instructions to ensure it measures correctly into the future.
The pH levels of your feed water significantly impact the availability of nutrients so it is very important to maintain appropriate levels for nutrients to perform at their best. The optimal pH can differ between varieties/strains of the same crop species, so it is best to get advice from your seed or seedling provider as to the appropriate pH. If however this information can not be obtained, we recommend that you operate with a pH between 5.5 to 6.5. Having a pH below 5 or above 7 will have a noticeably negative impact on the performance of your crop.
Adding nutrients to your feed water will always lower its pH level, so it is always best to correct pH after adding the nutrients. Either use pH testing strips or a pH meter to measure your pH levels and follow the instructions of the test correctly. Make sure to also take care of any measurement equipment and calibrate before use to ensure its accuracy.
Maintaining Correct EC and pH Levels
It is important to check the EC and pH levels regularly, preferably daily to ensure that they are both at their optimum. With systems where the water is recycled this is as simple as testing your feed water regularly.
With a system where feed water is not recycled, it is best to test both the feed water and also the water that drains off your crops. Variations between feed water and wastewater can develop, which will indicate that nutrient has built up in your medium.
Because nutrient build-up is a common issue with some mediums, such as coco peat. It's good practice to flush your crops with fresh water that does not contain any nutrients, on a weekly basis during warmer months and on a fortnightly basis in cooler months.
A healthy root system is critical to your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients. Any time the leaves appear discoloured, which indicates a nutrient deficiency, it is critical to check the root zone, as this is likely to be the cause of the nutrient problems. To avoid root issues, we recommend using root activator and root conditioner products, particularly if your growing environment regularly exceeds 25°C. Root system issues can also arise as a result of your roots drying out or being too wet for an extended period of time. Be mindful that you may need to adjust your watering with the seasons, so that you're not overwatering in winter or under-watering in summer.
Insects & Fungus Control
When it comes to insect and fungus control, prevention is better than cure. We recommend routine spraying with insecticide and fungicide at least once a week, even if there is no apparent insect or fungus problem. Sometimes insect and fungus species can become immune to a product if you use it regularly. We recommend alternating between products with different active ingredients to prevent this adaptation. There are a large range of both organic and inorganic products for controlling insects and fungus. It is best to seek advice from your local rural or hydroponic store to select products that best suit your conditions and preferences.