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"!