Prevent Hydroponic Plant Problems
The smart solution to the most common troubles that afflict indoor gardens is to stop them before they start.
Threat: Additives and other unnatural compounds in tap water can contaminate nutrient solutions.
Know: Water from municipal treatment plants often has chlorine and other chemicals.
Do: Install a reverse osmosis filtration system (starting at $150) or buy a pitcher with a filter that purifies water.
Threat: When your nutrient solution’s pH is outside the healthy range, your plants may be malnourished.
Know: Plants need a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 to efficiently absorb nutrients. Be aware that synthetic fertilizers—high in salts—lower the pH.
Do: Use organic fertilizer. Adjust pH as needed with natural white vinegar (acetic acid) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Threat: Grow lights are hot and can scorch leaf tips. If plants are too far from the light, the stems grow tall and thin.
Know: The bulbs of high-intensity grow lights can get hotter than 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do: Set up lights 6 inches (for 250-watt bulbs) to 2 feet (for 1,000-watt bulbs) above the plants and raise the lights as the plants grow to keep the distance constant.
Threat: A hot grow room is a breeding ground for fungi that rot plants and clog hydroponic systems.
Know: High-powered lights throw off heat that, with the moisture in the room, raises the humidity.
Do: Eliminate and prevent fungal diseases with nontoxic, sulfur-based fungicides. A dehumidifier reduces the moisture in the air and makes the room less hospitable to fungus.
Threat: Stale air deprives plants of the oxygen and carbon dioxide needed for photosynthesis.
Know: Talking to your plants actually helps (because you exhale CO2), but they also need constant fresh air.
Do: Run small fans or—even better—set up an exhaust fan and vent system.
Threat: Whiteflies, spider mites, thrips, and other pests find their way even into indoor growing rooms.
Know: These pests suck on plant juices and leave behind sooty mildew that is just as damaging.
Do: Use sticky traps to capture flying pests and use a neem-based spray to eliminate pests’ eggs and adults climbing on your plants.
Threat: Plant diseases lurk everywhere—on your hands, tools, and every surface in your grow room.
Know: You spread disease when you handle healthy plants after you’ve touched afflicted ones.
Do: Discard diseased plants immediately. Sanitize your hands, tools, and surfaces with rubbing alcohol.
Remember: Like people, stressed plants are more vulnerable to diseases and other problems. Synthetic fertilizers promote unnatural growth that strains plants energy.