A year ago, I tried my own DIY hydroponics set-up without thorough understanding of the technique. Fortunately, I was successful growing my Brassicas! Here’s how I did it:
However, my tomatoes grew but did not bear fruits. So, I attended a seminar about hydroponics and there I learned my mistakes as a beginner. I listed ten of those!
1. Early or late seed pregermination
Pregermination of your seeds is a crucial part and this should be done 1-2 weeks before transplant. Seeds usually can germinate without any nutrient because they have reserved ‘food’. As the seedlings grow this reserved food will be used up and if you transfer the seedlings days after they consumed their food, these seedlings can experience stress which can eventually limit growth. On the other hand, premature transfer of seedlings might mean that some important plant organs are not there yet to successfully grow in a hydroponics set-up.
2. Bad choice of planting material
Herbaceous plants or plants with soft stem like lettuce are commonly grown in hydroponics. But, not all plants can be practically grown in a hydroponics set-up. Maize, an herbaceous plant, can be grown in a hydroponics but this is not a practical thing to do if you are into large scale farming because of the farm gate price of maize versus the associated cost of the set-up. If you enter the hydroponic world mainly for business, consider doing a cost and return analysis. Also, make sure to choose a plant that can thrive in this kind of environment.
3. Incorrect size of container
There are plants that are bigger than lettuce but can be grown in hydroponics. One of these plants is tomato – I mentioned that I tried growing one but was unsuccessful and I realised that I underestimated the rooting capacity of this plant and used a small container. With this kind of set-up, the small container I used was always empty and the leaves of the tomatoes were droopy by the end of the day. Think of all the crops you want to grow and either you choose a plant that will fit your container or get a container with proper size for your chosen plant.
4. Use of fake nutrient solution
These days, it is easy to buy bottles, label hydroponics solution and sell. Do not get fooled. Look for legit sellers. Fake nutrient solutions can lead to wasted time and resources. Your plant will die if the solution set you bought is just water and coloring because basically it does not have the nutrient your growing plants need. There are different hydroponics solutions in the market you can choose from which are true nutrient solutions. Here’s where you can get one (https://shopee.ph/SNAP-Hydroponics-Solution-Set-(August-SALE!)-i.86521262.5717286140)
5. Improper mixing of nutrient solution
As I said a while ago, there are different hydroponics nutrient solutions in the market. Some brands offer the solution in solid form and other in liquid and both need to be incorporated in water, and they usually come in sets (solution A and B). One is macro- and the other is micronutrient – both are important in a hydroponics set-up. They are made separately and making the stock solution needs to be done in a chronological order – one of the reasons is to prevent the build up of salts making the nutrient/s unavailable to plants.
6. Harsh pH
Too high or too low pH of the nutrient solution affects availability of nutrients in the solution. Most nutrients are available at pH around 5.8-6.5. But hey stop right there! You do not need to buy your pH meter right away. Hydroponics solutions in the market are often product of thorough research and intended to be used by consumers easily. Just follow the instructions carefully and you will most likely end up with nutrient solution at favourable pH.
7. Uneven surface
First, make sure that you have a levelled set-up – that the height of one end is the same with the other. One thing I experienced during my first hydroponics attempt was the uneven growth of my plants. The plants in the first half of the box were bigger than the other half and I found out that the surface where I put my box was uneven; the side with higher elevation had smaller plants. If you want your plants to grow almost evenly, then double check your set-up for uneven surfaces.
8. Too high or too low nutrient solution in the container
Fully submerging the roots in the solution will create an environment with low to no oxygen. For plants to grow, oxygen is a vital part. Depriving your plants with oxygen means killing them. Meanwhile, plants with roots that barely touch the solution are not getting enough nutrient and water which can lead to dehydration and eventually death of your plants. So, monitor the roots and the level of the nutrient solution – there should be enough space for the roots to get oxygen, water and nutrients.
9. Extreme weather conditions
Just like your plants grown in the soil, plants grown in hydroponics do not like extreme sunlight and heavy rain. Extreme sunlight can cause death of your plant if left unattended because of high transpiration rate brought by high light intensity and high temperature. Rain on the other hand is not needed by your plants in the hydroponics system because aside from your plants are practically submerged in water, the rain can further dilute the solution. Better establish your system in an environment with roof and enough light.
10. Allowing light to pass through the container
You do not want algae to dominate in your hydroponic system because aside from they are messy, they can also compete with your plants. Algae are plant-like and they need water, nutrient and light – your set-up is their perfect place! Growing plants in a sterile environment is tricky especially if you are a beginner. Preventing any light to pass through your container is the easiest way you can do to prevent growth of algae.
For those who are about to start their own hydroponics system whether as a hobby or business, try not to repeat the mistakes I did as a beginner. This will prevent wasting of time, energy and resources.