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Hydroponic Air Farms

Water, water everywhere.

Water is an often overlooked component in hydroponics. Ideally, we would use distilled water. That way we would be starting from a completely neutral gallon mix. The real world is more murky.

Chlorine, fluoride and the added salts that most water softening systems use, will all skew your results. We use a 10% chlorine solution to clean the pails and components between plantings, but we make sure that we rinse and clean thoroughly before planting the next crop. Fluoride is also not good for plants.

As most of the ingredients in hydroponic nutrient mixes are salts themselves, the salts used in water conditioning can also alter the characteristics of the mix.

What a quandry! It sounds impossible! It need not. First, accept that unless you use distilled water, whatever you use will be imperfect. This isn't the end of the world. With some simple precautions and observations you can get excellent results with what's readily available.

If your water has a chlorine smell, then you may be better off with bottled water from the market. Chlorinated water may work with flowering plants, but vegetables may tend to concentrate the chlorine. A good resource will be your area Agricultural Extension Center for information on the effects of chlorinated water on vegetables.

If you've got softened water, you'd do well to invest in a pH meter. It will help to keep your pH balance toward the acidic side, which is best for most plants. A TDS (total dissolved solids), sometimes called an EC (electrical conductivity) meter will help you to determine your optimum solution strength for your plants at each stage of their growth. The combination meters are fine, but your best buy is the waterproof variety. If you want to buy them one at a time, I'd suggest the TDS (or EC) meter first. An inexpensive pH kit can be bought at your local pet store in the aquarium supply section. You should pick up some pH Down while you're there, as you'll use a lot more of that than pH Up.

We're lucky here, in that we still have well water. It has its own problems, the main one being mineral content. It can block some of the nutrients from being absorbed by the plants. It can also overload some of the micro-nutrients that are included already in the nutrient concentrates that we buy.

Regardless of what the meters read, no matter the books or recommendations, the ultimate judge of your solution will be the plants themselves. If they thrive, then you've done well and if you've logged your procedures then you'll be able to duplicate your results.



Copyright 2000
Glenn Rice
Air Farms
New Tool Co.
Reprinted with permission.

Growing Ideas

Fabric Workshop - Hydroponics - Cryan Studio
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