Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why do I use Silica Stone?

Why do I use Silica Stone? 1) Silica stone is completely reusable after a thorough cleansing and it will not clog over time.......

Why do I use Silica Stone? 2)The internal porosity allows the granules to absorb moisture and to slowly release it back to the plant as required. As a result of the uniquely shaped granules, the media achieves an excellent air to water ratio in the pot. This is particularly important to discouraging root rot while encouraging oxygen flow and healthy root formation.

 Why do I use Silica Stone? 3) It does not break down like other media, and can used to successfully cultivate plants from seedling to specimen. Silica stone's composition is predominantly silicon dioxide, which results in the media slowly releasing silica to the plant, which is particularly important to cell growth.

 Why do I use Silica Stone? 4) When lining the bottom of a pot with silica stone, the silica stone acts as a reserve reservoir so plants can get the extra moisture they need in the later stages of growth. They then slowly add micro-nutrients into the root zone for further growth and disease resistance.

 And finally....Why do I use Silica Stone? 5) They do not roll around and under things when accidentally (and inevitably) dropped as does hydroton. Marbles everywhere!!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Additional "Tips" Part 2 (Support)

With the inherent ability of hydroponics to grow large plants in a relatively small container, care must be taken in providing support for the plant as it grows. 

Lettuce and most greens are easy since they tend to grow "bushy" and fill "out" over the container. Tomatoes and other fruiting plants tend to expand vertically in a bigger proportion than horizontally and considerable force is then exerted on the small container base.  Since the roots are "free floating" and provide no real support, the risk of a plant toppling is real and can cause many problems not only to the plant, but to the system itself and other plants in the area.

An easy technique is to find the appropriate size tomato "hoop" as can be found in any box store or garden center.  These work well "upside down" because they provide a solid base on the floor.  Measure first to insure the bottom hoops will fit over the reservoir and onto a solid, flat surface.  Be very careful of the exposed ends since they will now be on top and at eye level.  Bending them inwards and curving downward should alleviate this hazard.  Square hoops work as well, but again, insure the hoop will fit before purchasing.

But since this is about "frugality", a stick trellis is probably the best method for not only cost, but flexibility in size and strength.  Gather three to four 6'-8' sticks or branches of about 1" - 2" diameter.  Lay them out in the sun for a few days to dry and expose any bugs that have hitch-hiked to birds or to the sunlight. This is especially true if you will be using them indoors.  Trim any remaining branches and bark to aid in tying the plants to the supports.


Once dried and ready, simply build a "teepee" around the base of the reservoir or container and fasten the meeting point with twine or wire. Some bracing may be needed around the base to prevent the legs from sliding, but once there is weight from the plant they tend to stay in place quite well.

As the plant grows, use discarded nylons torn into strips as a means to secure the plant to the legs.  Another option is cheap yarn, but the key is to find a material that is flexible and will not cause abrasions to the plant such as would wire, zip-ties, or zero-stretch string.

Use your imagination in suport techniques and allow the plant all the room it needs to grow while preventing the dreaded "tip-over"!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Some helpful hydroponics tips

I thought I would share some things learned over time.  Some the hard way.

*  When adding nutrients after a complete or partial cleaning, use a milk jug to mix the entire batch of nutrients in one gallon of water.  This allows the ability to shake and mix very well without having to stir the entire reservoir which can be quite messy!  Add a couple gallons of fresh water and turn the aerator back on.  Slowly add the one gallon mix to the reservoir.  Fill the remainder of the reservoir with water and slowly stir if needed.  This tip can greatly speed up the process as well as insure the nutrients are much more thoroughly mixed.

*  If using tap water from a treated source, let it stand for 24 hours with the container lid removed.  This will allow chlorine or other sanitizing chemicals to dissipate preventing any reactions with the plants or nutrients.

*  Reuse your media by soaking soak in a bath of 1/4 cup bleach to five gallons of water.  Rinse well with cool water and let dry before bagging.

*  Check your pH at a minimum every other day.  Daily after 1/2 the expected use time.

*  Record each of your actions in a journal for easy reference.  You will be amazed at how often you need to recall a nutrient change, harvest, light change, germination length, or transplanting method. I set up my journal specific to each batch from seed germination through final tear down and cleaning.

More tips to follow.......

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Keeping Out the Light (And Algae)

How do you keep the light of your nutrient solution?

Nutrient solution is ready and willing to grow some incredible algae (and the ugly side effects) with just a little artificial or actual sunlight.  Since algae spores are everywhere, a nice bath of highly oxygenated and nutrient rich liquid is a perfect "swamp" to set up a nice colony.  Once algae gets established, the fight is on and this is a fight that is easily avoided.

Since the solution is below the medium level, it is easy to assume that no light can penetrate, but in reality, it can and will easily penetrate coir, hydroton, silica stone, or any other medium.  All it needs is a few hours to establish, so prevention is the key.  And it is relatively easy.

Simple light-proof coverings are all that is needed.  The nice little black, neoprene covers are great and can be found in any hydro shop or catalog.  They are made to fit any net pot size and have a convenient slot of which the stem is tightly surrounded.   Since it is neoprene and can "stretch", it can grow with your plant.  It is also durable and washable as needed.

Another item is Mylar.  This is the stuff those crazy balloons and emergency blankets are made of and with a little research, can be found cheaply.  Since it can also be used as a more efficient solution to aluminum foil in reflecting lights towards the plants, hydro shops and catalogs sell rolls of it.  It is easy to work with and keeps every one of those valuable photons working to help your plant grow.

I happened to find some closeout emergency blankets or "space blankets" as they are commonly called and ended up with the equivalent of several sheets for just a couple bucks.  It cuts easily and can be easily taped or glued to the surface of a DWC or Ebb and Flow Table.  Just cut some slots for the plant's stem to slide through and you are set.  Not only have you protected your solution from algae's much needed light waves, but you have added additional reflective properties to your grow area.  Use some of the extra Mylar to drape along the sides of the grow area as well.  Every photon counts!

Do a little research and internet searches for these blankets before committing to a roll of the full retail stuff.  It's always nice to save a few extra bucks since this is "Frugal Hydroponics"!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Videos on Youtube

Thanks to everyone for the great responses and questions on Youtube.  The videos were fun to make and by the responses, informative as well.  Frugal Hydroponics "How To" videos.

Some of the requests are in regards to nutrients, pH balancing, root care, and cleaning.  I am intending on producing a couple videos with these topics in the near future, so check back.  I will also post the update on this blog as well.