Plant growth depends on water for a number of reasons, especially in a hydroponic garden. Water is the thing that drives the plant transpiration cycle. Without water, plants would not be able to uptake nutrients or transport nutrients within their tissue. Plant transpiration is discussed more in the temperature and growth page.
Water vapor also makes up the humidity in a grow room. These are both important concepts to understand. Since they have been covered in the other plant growth sections, we will spend our time here discussing the quality of the water you use to make up your nutrient solution.
Water is a carrier and transporter of nutrients, both TO your plants as well as WITHIN your plants. While H20 facilitates many plant growth processes, and despite the fact that many of these processes cannot take place without the presence of H20, most of the water itself reacts very little with the nutrient molecules in it. Of course, that is only true if you are using distilled water or water that has been passed through a reverse osmosis filter.
The biggest thing to avoid is using well water that smells like eggs (too much Sulfur) or that leaves rust colored stains in the sink or toilet (too much Iron). Always test your water before using it in a hydroponic system!
While water itself will not cause nutrient uptake problems, the dissolved salts and minerals also present in your water just might. distilled and reverse osmosis water should show a TDS of zero ppm on a properly calibrated TDS meter. As this number increases, the possibility of a nutrient uptake problem also increases. So here is what you can do to avoid any problems...
Get a glass of tap water and check it with a calibrated TDS meter. If the TDS of your water straight from the tap is greater than 200 ppm you definitely should use distilled or reverse osmosis water to avoid problems. 150 ppm should be usable, as long as no more than 50 ppm of that total comes from sodium compounds.
The majority of the dissolved solids in municipal (city) tap water come from Calcium Carbonate. Plus, sodium levels in general are not usually high enough in municipal water supplies to cause a problem. While living in Cleveland Ohio, I used the tap water regularly for several years with no problems.
To finish making my point, 100 ppm of Calcium Carbonate in your water is basically like 100 ppm of nutrients in your water that your plants can never use. Every single major hydroponic nutrient manufacturer will tell you the same thing...to get the maximum plant growth from their recommended feeding instructions, the water you begin with needs to have a very low TDS or EC reading (preferably zero).
Let me take a shot at this one...I believe plants will take up the calcium carbonate before they will take up other forms of calcium that play a vital role in the plant's ability to uptake and use some of the other nutrients efficiently. This could cause some nutrients to be used faster than others, in which case signs of a nutrient imbalance and/or nutrient deficiency would soon follow. This is a nutrition mess best avoided altogether!
Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
What is colloidal humus?
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.
One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It's a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It's natural. it's spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.
My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and....only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!
Years and years of experience and results can't be argued with....the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work....specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years' worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World's Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!