Category Archives: Hydroponics

The Definitive Guide to Dealing with Spider Mites

Spraying flowersIf you have one of hundreds of different species of plant, you could have a spider mite problem. Spider mites infest the underside of plants and they can destroy them. They can be hard to detect unless you’re looking for them, and extremely annoying, but they can be exterminated if you know how. So, this guide will give you all of the information you need about spider mites, including how to look for their signs and how to get rid of them for good. This is definitely something that you need to do if you want to keep your plants or garden healthy and undamaged.

What Are Spider Mites?

Spider mites are tiny creatures that infest plants, gardens and greenhouses. They look similar to minute spiders, but they are not actually Arachnids. They are part of Acari Tetranychideae, which has over 1200 different species, and they live on the underside of plants. They can spin silken webs and feed on the plant leaf. They are prevalent because there are hundreds of plants that they are able to feed on. You can recognize them by the webs that they make, and by their reproductive activities. They lay eggs that are transparent at first, and often, this webbing is spun around the eggs as well, which is what gives them their name. They are a little less than one millimeter in size, so they can be seen with the naked eye if you look carefully.

Signs to Look For

So, how do you know if you have a spider mite infestation? As mentioned, one good way is to look for the webbing. It will usually be rather thick in comparison to a spider web – more like a cocoon than an actual web – and it will often stretch from one plant to another. However, the first thing to look for is damage to the plant itself. If you look at the leaves of a plant and you noticed small brown dots (sometimes they can be yellow) then look closely at the plant and see if you can find any strands of webbing. Spider mites are visible to the naked eye, but they are extremely tiny, so finding one may not be easy. If you see a cocoon-like structure on the underside of the plant it means that the mite has laid its eggs, which take less than a week to hatch. They reproduce ideally in conditions where the average temperature is 85 degrees or higher and the humidity is 60% or less.

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites

Ladybird on plantThere are several methods of getting rid of spider mites, and depending upon what you prefer and what kind of plants you have that are infested, your methods may differ. Some people prefer natural ways of getting rid of spider mites, and others don’t have a problem getting rid of them by chemical means. However, one thing to keep in mind is that your method of dealing with them will also differ based upon how deep your infestation goes, and how long the affected plans can stand up to the rigors of being eaten by the mites. You’ll have to carefully weigh all of the factors and then choose the best method for you personally.

One thing that you’ll want to make sure you do prior to any method, or even as prevention to keep mites from infesting any healthy plants is to make sure that your plants are getting enough nutrition. Give plants the right amount of water and nutrients and make sure that they are receiving enough sunlight. Healthier plants will have less chance of being vulnerable to mite infestation.

Solution One: The Water Method

The first method that we’re going to discuss is a natural remedy for spider mites that you can do quickly and get rid of them (usually) for good. However, this method does have the disadvantage of being impractical if you have more than one or two plants that are affected.

Solution Two: The Shaking Method

If you find a mite on the underside of a plant (they are tiny, red, brown, green or yellow dots) then shake them off onto a piece of paper. Ensure that you have gotten the mite by checking with a magnifying glass.

Solution Three: The Removal Method

Remove plant leaves that have obviously been infested by spider mites. Place them into a plastic bag and throw them away. If there are too many on one plant, throw it away to prevent the infestation from spreading to your other plants. Remember, they lay eggs on your plant and spider mite young reach maturity in just a little over a week from the time the eggs are laid.

Solution Four: The Rosemary Method

You can use rosemary oil, or a natural pesticide that has rosemary oil as its main ingredient and safely kill the spider mites without harming either your plants of the beneficial insects that your plant may need.

Solution Five: The Predator Method

You can also purposely infest your garden or greenhouse with bugs that are natural predators to the spider mite but are harmless to your plants like ladybugs and some species of parasitic mites. You can usually find them at any large nursery or garden centre.

Solution Six: The Natural Pesticide Method

Neem oil and AzaMax are both natural pesticides that are harmless to your plants and can be used to effectively kill the spider mite or to prevent its appearance in the first place. They are made of organic materials and cannot harm your plants or the beneficial parasitic mites.

Solution Seven: The Miticide Method

Miticide is the last solution on our list, and it is listed at the end for a reason. Miticides are rather harsh chemicals used to kill mites, and there are many different types on the market. If you plan to use this method, you definitely need to do some research and ensure that the miticide that you are using will not harm the plants that you are applying it to.

Why Use Hydroponic Systems?

HydroponicsMany people are attracted to the use of hydroponic systems to grow fresh herbs and vegetables in smaller spaces. There are even greenhouses and nurseries that grow their plants in a special growing mix and feed them through the water supply. More and more people understand the necessity of finding sustainable methods of growing our food, methods with a minimal impact on the environment, solutions to feed the growing population of this planet. If we ignore the warnings sent by our planet, we are soon going to see our most valuable resource depleted, so your children may never be able to enjoy the world as we know it. Permaculture, hydroponics and alternative energy production sources are in the attention of scientists from all over the world.

There are multiple reasons why people prefer hydroponic systems to traditional ones. One of these reasons is the lack of fertile farmland. Additionally, another reason, as good as the first one, is the lack of large water supplies. If you can’t cultivate and water a garden properly, you won’t harvest too many goodies, so you should make sure you find the technique that works best for your specific situation. Just think about people who are too old or too weak to cultivate and maintain a garden. They are doomed to a poor nutrition, as there’s nobody to help them grow their food as they once used to. These people could do fine with maintaining a hydroponic system to supply them with fresh vegetables. Thanks to modern technology, automation is possible and relatively affordable. Back in the 80s, it was even hard to imagine a wireless phone or a remote control, not to mention other technology wonders we take today for granted.

For hobbyists or home gardeners, soilless gardening is a much better solution than traditional gardening. In a hydroponic system the plants grow in a sterile environment, so weeding isn’t necessary. Moreover, there are no pests to attack the crops, so you can make sure you are going to harvest healthy foods. If you do your hydroponics gardening right, your plants are going to be healthier and more vigorous than the ones grown by traditional methods. This is possible because you can easily control that the plants get the right amount of nutrients needed for their optimal development. In nature, things aren’t always like this, so plants may suffer and even die. Gardeners can’t control nature. They can love and cherish their plants, but they are powerless in front of the unleashed elements. A summer storm can bring a true disaster. This never occurs in hydroponic systems.

Another beauty of such systems is the possibility of automating them with timers and remote monitoring. You can program your system to maintain the exact plant growth requirements without the need for your intervention. This also means you have the freedom to take a longer time off your garden without fearing your plants are going to suffer. Automatic systems are going to keep on feeding them with or without you around.

hydroponics green vegetable in farmIn terms of cost effectiveness, hydroponics wins again. Such techniques allow the application of water and nutrients directly to the roots of each plant. This eliminates waste, as you are only going to use the precise amount of substance needed and not more. Moreover, water is reused, so there’s no waste. Besides, the evaporation is also reduced. This enables a much better sustainability than in case of traditional agriculture or gardening, where water is wasted a lot through evaporation or field run-off. It is true that you can’t organize extremely large hydroponic systems. However, thanks to their excellent productivity, such systems may enable you collect more than one harvest per year, thus making them worthwhile.

There’s another benefit of hydroponic gardens. It is their accessibility. Unlike real land, these gardens can be set wherever you need. They can be close to markets, thus cutting the transportation costs and reducing the waste caused by long transportation times. Moreover, you can place these gardens where you have some space available, even if it is in the desert. you won’t need any natural resources, so you can grow healthy plants in the most arid areas without any problem. This could be a very good idea for supplying remote communities with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of importing such produce from far away places. There’s a lot of food waste caused by long storage time, so the sooner we can bring the goods on the market, the better it is for everyone, from producers to distributors, retailers and consumers. This is a simple way of supplying people living in arid areas the fresh food they need to be healthy and to provide their body the essential nutrients.

Starting a small hydroponic garden is relatively simple and fairly inexpensive. Almost everyone can try it on a small scale in the beginning, and expand it after they see how it works. There’s information widely available everywhere on the web, so if you want to give it a try, all you need to do is find a good guide, read it and follow through. Even if you only grow some herbs you use in your cooking to start with, it is still something. A small success today could mean a greater motivation to scale your garden to the extent where you are going to be able to feed your whole family with fresh vegetables all year round.

Hydroponics Facts And Demystifying The Myths

cucumber plantBefore looking at the different purported myths about hydroponics systems, it is essential that you first of all understand what a hydroponics system is and what it is all about. A hydroponics system is a system that allows gardeners to grow and cultivate plants without using soil. The name quite literally means working water and comes with plenty of benefits to the user considering that it easily eliminated the problems that are synonymous with traditional gardening.

Often, these systems are associated with the cultivation of vegetables. However, they can be used to grow all types of plants, including ornamental bloomers and flowers. Considering that these systems do not use any soil, plants that are grown hydroponically never experience most of the issues soil-grown plants experience like infestation by pests that thrive in the soil, poor drainage or salt build up. At the same time, these systems provide gardeners with environments that they can grow specific plants that would have otherwise not grown under their normal conditions.

The great thing about hydroponic systems is that the user is given the power to carefully control the environment in which they plant their produce. With such a system, gardeners are able to grow plants in and out of season allowing them to enjoy flower and vegetable yields all year round. At the same time, you can easily eliminate temperature and lighting issues by regulating these aspects to your specific liking.

Basically, there are 6 types of hydroponics systems. These include:

1. The Wick System – This is the simplest hydroponic system there is. It is a passive system; meaning there are literally no moving parts. A nutrient solutions is placed in a reservoir where it is drawn using a wick into the growing medium.

2. The Water Culture System – Of all active hydroponic systems available, the water culture system is by far the simplest. It is made up of a Styrofoam platform which holds the plants directly above the nutrient solution. Air is supplied using an air pump. The bubbles created push the nutrients and supply oxygen to the plant’s roots.

3. The Ebb & Flow System – This hydroponics system works through temporarily flooding the grow-tray with the nutrient solution before draining the solution back to the reservoir. The system usually employs a timed pump submerged in the reservoir.

4. The Drip System – Drip hydroponic systems are probably the most commonly and widely used hydroponic systems. Basically, these systems use a timed pump that is submerged in a nutrient solution in the reservoir, the timer pumps small amounts of the nutrient on to the growing medium up top providing the nutrients required.

5. The Nutrient Film Technique System – This system features a constant flow of nutrients to the roots of the plants via the nutrient solution that is pumped on to the grow tray and slowly flows to the other end where it drains back into the reservoir.

6. Aeroponic System – This system is without a doubt one of the most high-tech hydroponics system you will find out there. Like the NFT, plants in this system basically hang in the air but unlike the NFT system where the nutrients flow past the roots, in this option the roots receive the nutrients via a mist of the nutrient solution created by a timed pump that is submerged in the water.

tomatoes in a greenhouseThere always has been a lot of controversy and myth surrounding hydroponics systems. However, most of these myths are misconstrued perceptions about these systems. This article will now be looking at demystifying some of these myths allowing you to better understand this systems, what they really are and how they truly are.

Myth #1: Hydroponics Systems are a New Technology

Nope! The interesting thing is that this technology has been around since the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt who enjoyed vegetables and fruits grown using this system. Ever heard of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? There is reason to believe that these were actually hydroponic gardens. As such, hydroponics systems are not that new, but just a bit different.

Myth #2: Hydroponics are Unnatural and Artificial

Plant growth in a hydroponics system is very much natural and real. All that a plant requires to grow are the basic things, and these are light, water, air and nutrients; things that a hydroponics system supplies to the plant when it needs it. There are no genetic mutations taking place within the equipment nor are there mysterious chemicals being added or introduced to the plants.

Myth #3: Hydroponics is Bad for the Environment

Not true. As a matter of fact, hydroponics is safer and kinder to the environment than most cultivation options available like traditional gardening approaches. For instance, a hydroponics system uses about 70% to 90% lesser water than traditional gardening approaches. At the same time, any chemicals used within the system like fertilizers are held within the system. There are no runoffs meaning that chances of water pollution are lower.

Myth #4: Hydroponics are Too Expensive

This is another lie that you should not believe. Yes, there are things that you will need to buy and things that you will need to get to upgrade your system as you grow and expand. But, most of these expenses are a onetime cost. At the same time, most of the things required are not that expensive and you would be surprised that you could create a thriving hydroponics garden using a sizeable budget.

There are many more myths that accompany the use of hydroponics. However, it is important to note that most of them, if not all of them, are never true. If you are a person that is in to gardening, this is one gardening option that you should consider trying out.

Hydroponics 101

Hydroponics is a type of hydroculture that allows you to grow plants and vegetables in a ‘mineral nutrient solution’ and without the need for soil. By growing plants this way, it then becomes much easier to grow them indoors and often the result is that the plants will grow better and more efficiently, resulting in better looking and tasting produce.

But is hydroponics right for you? What are the positives and negatives? And how does it all work? Read on and we’ll take a look at the basic theory behind hydroponics and at whether it might be right for you.

HydroponicsHow Does All This Work?

To understand how hydroponics works, it is first useful to understand how plants work. We are often led to believe that all plants need soil to survive and thrive but in fact there is no reason that this is the case.

Plants are able to grow thanks to a process you’re probably familiar with – photosynthesis – which uses sunlight to and a chemical called chlorophyll to create carbon dioxide, glucose and oxygen. It’s that glucose that the plant uses for energy and which then allows it to grow and thrive.

And as the astute of you may have noticed… there’s no mention of soil there anywhere.

Normally we grow plants in soil for a few reasons:

  • It’s convenient (most of us have a lot of it in our gardens)

  • It serves as an anchor for the roots to help the plants stay upright

  • It contains nutrients which the plants need to feed off of

But soil isn’t convenient if you don’t have a garden and there are actually more efficient ways to achieve the other two points.

A piece of plastic with holes for instance can be used to hold the plants in place. And meanwhile, water infused with nutrition can be used to provide the plant with the nutrients it needs. Often you will see hydroponically grown plants hanging along plastic racks with their roots dipping directly into the nutrient rich solutions.

In other cases, an inert substance such as gravel can be used. Here the plant isn’t submerged directly into water but the term ‘hydroponic’ is still generally used.

The Benefits of Going Hydroponic

So why might you decide to do away with soil and start growing things hydroponically?

One obvious reason is that you don’t have space in your garden. If you’re looking for a way to garden indoors that won’t involve making lots of compost mess, then this is an excellent choice.

Another reason that many people love hydroponic gardening is that they believe it’s more efficient and can result in better yield.

Why?

Well for one, hydroponically grown plants have their roots submerged directly into a cocktail of nutrients as opposed to having to find nutrients as they seep into the soil. In other words, they have a much richer and more immediate source of food and there’s never any shortage. This in turn means there’s no need for their roots to spread out and explore the ground and that means you can pack a lot more plants into a much smaller area. This is again a big benefit of hydroponics for those who are forced to bring their plants indoors – you’ll still have space for other things!

Another advantage of smaller root systems is that the plants then have to use less energy growing roots and can put more energy into growing leaves and stems. Thus they can grow quicker, larger and more healthily.

Then there is the fact that you will be able to avoid a great many of the pests associated with soil. Slugs and aphids are less of an issue and because your plants are indoors, they won’t get tormented by strong winds or hail either. Disease is less common and essentially you end up with a ‘super plant’.

More advanced hydroponic set-ups actually use timers and computers to release nutrients too. This means the entire process is automated, creating far less work for you looking after your plants and ensuring the very most efficiently controlled environment. In some cases, even lighting will be controlled by a timer meaning your plants will never skip a beat.

This all also means that you can theoretically grow some more exotic and delicate plants at home that otherwise might struggle.

tomatoes in the greenhouseThe Drawbacks

Not everyone loves hydroponics though and it’s certainly not for everyone.

For some people, tightly controlled and almost sterile environments like those used for hydroponic gardening will take some of the joy out of gardening. If you are gardening for pleasure rather than to produce the best yield, then you might find that this set-up can be a little soulless and less rewarding.

What’s more, creating a fully functional hydroponic garden can be fiddly and expensive. You’ll need hydroponic containers of course, pumps, lights, nutrients and potentially automation for everything.

And while hydroponically grown plants will thrive with ease when everything goes to plan, they also happen to be much easier to kill. With everything so tightly under your control and with such a delicate equilibrium to maintain, it only takes a small mistake for your plants to die. With traditional gardening you can afford to be a little more cavalier in your approach and the hardier plants will still survive.

Conclusion

So is hydroponics right for you? Who can stand to benefit from them?

Hydroponics is one option for growing plants indoors and is a little more manageable on a large scale than other options. If you’re artistic of course, you can enjoy indoor gardening with hanging baskets, bottles and other creative strategies – but that won’t be an option for everyone. If you’re looking to start more traditional gardening and growing vegetables but you don’t have a lot of space, then hydroponics is a good choice.

Hydroponics will also likely appeal to the scientifically minded. If you enjoy creating ecosystems, tweaking variables and ‘hacking’ biological systems, then this can be just as rewarding as any traditional gardening.

Using Silicon In Hydroponics

HydroponicsThe very nature of hydroponics is water, but there are many things that can go into that water to help plants grow. Potassium silicate has been brought up as an additive to help plants grow and maintain sustainability throughout the growing season. People have been adding various products to soil for years, trying to keep plants healthy and silica may be hydroponic equivalent of burying a banana peel in your garden.

What Is Potassium Silicate?

Potassium silicate is a type of silica salt created by adding potassium hydroxide with silicon hydroxide. In hydroponics, it’s generally introduced in water solution made up of 3.7 percent potassium and 7.8 percent silica. Outside hydroponics, it’s used in woodworking to protect against fire, metal cleaner and corrosion inhibitor. It’s the primary way to get silicon to your plant.

Gardeners should remember to examine your waters pH levels after adding potassium silicate in case it throws off the balance. It comes in powder form, flake and a variety that can be sprayed. It doesn’t matter how you get silicon onto your plant, just do it. It’s like the Terminator of hydroponics.

Makes Plants Strong Against Disease

Hydroponic plants can be sensitive to pathogens such as fungi and bacteria, but introducing silicon can help shore up their strengths against these deadly diseases. When silicon is introduced into the planting system, it can act as a barrier between powdery fungus and your plants. It can also find itself in the cellular walls of the plant where it can keep parasites and bacteria away from the stele.

If a fungal infection has already started, then place the silicon on the plant immediately to help stop the spread not only on your plant, but also to those surrounding it.

tomato plantResists Wilting, Insects And Stresses

There is nothing worse than seeing your crop slowing wilting away in front of your eyes. Silicon found inside the cell walls acts as a barrier and protective layer and increased the plant’s tolerance to higher than normal levels of minerals as well as mineral deficiencies.

It’s necessary to occasionally use cuttings and plugs from your plants. Silicon increases their stress tolerance and loss of water because of transpiration happens at a higher temperature.

In its sprayed form, silicon discourages infestation by aphids and other biting insects. The silicon layer acts as an intense barrier against the insect’s jaws. It can also be a sap sucking inhibitor for various insects.

Silicon Is Necessary

Silicon is a necessary addition to plant growth in hydroponics and plants that go without it can be in big trouble. Plants that don’t get enough silicon often don’t pollinate or bear fruit. It’s like a miracle drug for hydroponic planting and too many people don’t realize it until it’s too late.

While hydroponics is all about being natural and using only water, the addition of a few additives can be critical to the survival of your crop. Silicon helps plants throughout the growing season and to help create better and healthier fruit.

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