Caring for Your Hydroponic Reservoir
Growers love to purchase new equipment, especially when this equipment takes center stage in their grow area. As a result, items that remain in the background often get neglected. However, these items serve as critical components in the overall success of the garden and overlooking regular maintenance of the components could lead to disaster. For instance, the hydroponic reservoir plays a crucial role in the garden, as it stores the food used by the plants to grow and thrive. A failure of this component could lead to disaster. What steps must a grower take to maintain the reservoir and keep it in working order?
The nutrient solution temperature needs to remain between 65 and 75 degrees. High temperatures bring about a decrease in dissolved oxygen levels in the system. When this occurs, the environment becomes conducive to root rot. On the other hand, low temperatures slow plant growth.
Hydroponic systems with a small reservoir benefit from the inclusion of an aquarium heater. This device provides the heat needed to keep the nutrient solution at the appropriate temperature range. However, growers might find the nutrient temperature gets too hot rather than too cold. A reservoir chiller helps in keeping the temperature down, or a grower might choose to build a box or cover for the reservoir. This shade the reservoir and keeps the temperature at the desired level.
If the temperature needs brought down quickly, add ice to the reservoir. Make certain you don’t cool the water to a level below the desired temperature range. Doing so harms the plants as much as a water temperature that is too high.
Keep the Reservoir Topped Off
Evaporation removes water from the hydroponic system, as do plant processes. In a circulating system, monitor the water level and top it off as needed. This is required more often in smaller reservoirs, but owners must check every reservoir regularly for the proper water level.
Complete Water Changes as Needed
Hydroponic systems require water changes. However, the schedule for the changes varies by the system setup and owner preferences. Some experts recommend growers change the water weekly or bi-weekly. Nevertheless, owners who thoroughly know their system and make use of an EC meter find they can extend the interval between water changes without difficulty.
The EC meter provides information about the amount of fertilizer present in the water. What it cannot do is share information about the amount of the specific nutrients present. Plants take up nutrients at different rates, and growers must take this into consideration when topping off. A buildup of certain nutrients may harm the plants. By changing the water regularly, the system owner ensures the water has the right chemical balance. Fresh water minimizes buildup within the system and provides an opportunity to clean the reservoir. Keep this in mind as you go to determine the proper schedule for your hydroponic system, as clean water remains essential to healthy plants.
If the nutrient system appears cloudy, murky, or translucent, complete a water change immediately. Doing so minimizes the growth of algae while ensuring the purity of the solution. A pure solution ensures every plant gets the food it needs to thrive.
Healthy roots require a well-oxygenated nutrient solution. Plant processes require this solution, which is accountable for stimulating the growth of the organism responsible for strengthening the plant’s root system. Experts recommend the hydroponic system owner add an extra air stone to the system to ensure the plants have access to a sizable amount of dissolved oxygen.
Some hydroponic systems lack a filter, and owners need to correct this immediately. Every system benefits from the inclusion of a filter, as it blocks debris and plant matter from making their way into the nutrient reservoir. However, the filter needs regular cleaning to prevent buildup, as pests love the buildup and will make the reservoir their home. While deep water culture systems don’t require a filter, the owner must remove floating debris from the nutrient solution to prevent issues.
Monitor pH and EC Levels
Owners must properly maintain the EC and pH levels in the hydroponic reservoir. Plants thrive when the pH range remains in the 5.5 to 6.5 range, although the level needed for optimum nutrient uptake depends on the plants being grown. When the pH remains unbalanced, owners find plant growth is stunted and the harvest impeded. Experts recommend testing the nutrient solution and growing medium pH daily, so growers can make changes promptly to prevent problems. Test the EC level at this time. The proper EC level depends on the plants present in the hydroponic system.
Every owner needs to check their equipment regularly to catch problems early and correct them. A broken pump or aerator could significantly damage the crop before the owner realizes they have an issue. The same is true of connections, and it doesn’t take long for the plants to sustain damage when a system component fails. Keep extra parts on hand to address problems quickly, as things tend to break when obtaining the necessary parts is difficult.
As plants grow, owners might feed them more to encourage additional growth and a large harvest. Doing so actually harms the plants and burns the roots. The plants take up nutrients at a steady rate, and an excess of fertilizer could lead to the death of the plants. Furthermore, the excess may clog the reservoir and prevent it from doing its intended job.
The reservoir in a hydroponics system hides in the background while carrying out its job. Don’t assume because it isn’t a component in the forefront of the system or as visible as the plants that it can be neglected. Monitor the reservoir regularly to detect any problems early before the plants sustain damage. Although this may appear to be time intensive, it pays off. Nobody wants to spend days, weeks, or months growing plants only to have them damaged beyond repair because of a reservoir issue. By monitoring and maintaining the reservoir, the grower can prevent this disaster.