Are the effects of low pH in a hydro system realy bad?

by Mary

Using a pH meter or pH drop test kit is half the battle to avoiding pH problems
The pH levels in the hydroponic system were high. My buddy added some pH down, and unfortunately went too far. Now my levels are reading around the 4-3.5 range. How will this effect my plants? I know that within 12 hrs the water will be back around 5.0-5.5, but in the meantime I was wondering how bad they would get...thanks in advance...

Answer: The main concern with pH is nutrient availability. If nutrients are not available, the plant cannot take them up and use them. In general, having your pH a little too low and allowing it to float back up into the appropriate range is not a problem. Of course, this is only true to a certain point. At some point you make the pH of the solution acidic enough to do permanent damage to the roots of your plants. If that happens, you will certainly know about it....all of your plants are likely to die.

I used to have a friend who would mix his nutrients up at a pH of 5.2, knowing the pH would float up over time and require correction. He swore he never had any problems as a result of the low pH, but every plant and every strain will behave a little different. Keeping that in mind, take a close look at the nutrient availability chart below.

Every drop of water and nutrient solution should be adjusted to a pH of 6.2, where maximum nutrient availability occurs

Several nutrients quickly become unavailable as the pH of the soil (or nutrient solution) go either below 5.8 or above 6.8 very much. If you operate your hydroponic system in these ranges for too long, your plants will begin to display symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. This is true even if all the nutrients are present!

Humic acids and Fulvic acids, found in products like Liquid Karma and Diamond Nectar, are called chelators. In their presence, nutrients become available even when pH levels are not in their ideal range
If you find you are running your nutrient solution outside of the ideal pH range quite a bit, you should seriously consider using a nutrient supplement that contains some humic acid, fulvic acid, or both. These substances help to keep nutrients chemically available to your plants even though pH levels may be outside of the ideal range. For more detailed information on how to maintain your nutrient solution properly, be sure to check out my how to grow hydro page. I hope this helps you out Mary, and Happy Growing!

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(10 week update below)

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 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...

Epic Nutrient Change

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 24 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)...

Homemade Cloner

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 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.

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 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! If you can master the technique, 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...

High Efficiency

The ultimate 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! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->


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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 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

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!

The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!

If you've found this site helpful at all, I would really appreciate it