An Introduction to Hydroponics

Introduction to growing

By Acorn Horticulture

So you decided to take up the wonderful hobby of indoor growing but unsure where to start?? We have all been here at some stage; dazed and confused at the many different set ups available, the different mediums, the many different nutrient companies that all say their product is the best on the market bar non… Well there’s a very important part of growing that many seem to overlook before they choose their method and their range of nutrients, your environment.

The Set-up
The first decision to make is where to set your area up. This decision rests entirely on you and what space/resources you have available to you. There are some things to consider when making your choice:

1. Do you have enough power outlets for what you require? Lights, air pumps, extraction and intake fans, air circulation fans, growing method or system (a lot of automated systems require power).

2. Do you have access to fresh air for your intake? This is very important as plants require fresh air to perform well (the air contains carbon, nitrogen and moisture which your plants need) and an outlet for your outtake to expel warm air from your grow room.

3. How easy is it to get to your water supply?

Lets talk about ventilation a little bit.

This is one of the most important factors in your set up which is often overlooked, adequate air movement in and out of your growing space. Now the size of your room will dictate the size of your fans you require. Most indoor growers use a larger outtake fan than intake to create a negative pressure in the room and ensure all waste air is dispelled through your exhaust. As a general rule of thumb the air should be exchanged in the room at least once every 5 minutes. This however doesn’t take into account lights in the room (lights cause major heat) or pressure from the amount of ducting used (reducing the efficiency of the intake and outtake fans) so more volume of air is required to be moved to compensate for these factors.

If you’re unsure about what fans to use for your set up, email us, call us or come into the shop and have a chat with our helpful staff, they will be able to give you advice on what sized fans are required for the size of your room and how many lights you are using.

An important point I would like to point out – Carbon makes up an important part of a plants growth. This is a nutrient that is often overlooked or even forgotten about entirely!!! The plant takes in carbon through tiny little openings on the leaves called stomata. Without proper exchange of air in your grow room the carbon will be at a minimum therefore hindering your plants growth!

Spectrum and strength of lighting required
This is another massively important factor for your growing environment, lights. It’s a well known fact that plants cant grow without light as its a major part of their food source (via photosynthesis) and as plants are used to growing outside in the sun (a major source of light) they are going to need something a little stronger than your average house lights.

Most indoor growers use HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting which work great for the required needs of plants. There are a few different types of lamps used but dual spectrum lamps are used most commonly, blue and red (there are dual spectrum lamps available that deliver both.) Blue (Metal Halide Lamp) is used more for the vegetative stage and red (High Pressure Sodium) is used more for the flowering stage although most growers tend to use the dual spectrum lamps as they put out both spectrums of light which improves overall growth and quality of plant and of course saves a few pounds in only buying one lamp.

There are many other lights on the market today like the fluorescent, LED and plasma to name but a few.

Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL) is used by hobby growers and professionals alike for many different reasons ranging from vegetative lighting to supplemental lighting helping HID’s in flower.

The Advantages of fluorescent lighting:

• Low heat output (the bulb gets slightly hot but is no comparison to a HID bulb)
• Low energy use (they come in 55w strip lights, 125-250w cfl lamps and T5 units with multiple strip lights)
• Broad use of light spectrum

The disadvantages of fluorescent lighting:

• Much lower power output than HID (not stand alone lights for flowering).
• Very low canopy penetration.

LED’s are growing more and more popular as alternatives to HID lighting although they haven’t surpassed them as the choice for growers worldwide.

The advantages of these lights are numerous:

• Low power usage
• Produce a broader spectrum of light.
• Give off minimal heat

The disadvantages:
• Lower humidity significantly
• Less canopy penetration than HID.
• Much less power output than HID (subsequently less yield)

Plasma lighting is still in its infant stage although there are a few of companies that make them (Gavita being among the most successful) they have a long way to go before they will reach the hobby growers room. These produce light as close to the spectrum of the sun as possible so have a major advantage over it’s rivals but costs significantly more too.

Advantages of plasma lighting:

• Full spectrum lighting
• Low heat output

Disadvantages of plasma lighting:

• Expensive (as its still in new stages of development) £995 currently
• Less power output than HID

This is just a few simple idea’s on what you need to set up your grow room before you attempt to grow anything indoors. Remember, environment is the number 1 factor that decides whether a grow will be successful or not. Think of it like your own working conditions, if you’re too warm your work will suffer as you’re not in your comfort zone. Too cold and you will almost stop working as your fingers and toe’s begin to seize up. Plants are no different in this respect, they need to be in their perfect environment to perform properly.

In the next section we cover the different types of automated grow systems, their advantages and disadvantages and which will work best for you.

Acorn Horticulture.