LED Lighting for a better heat control

August Heat Wave Expected

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August Heat Wave Expected

August Heat Wave Expected

So, I am sure that most people including growers and regular gardeners look forward to long sunny summer days. Of course its time to relax in the garden with your friends and family over a glass of beer or two. Possibly just doing some watering chores and making sure the greenhouse is well ventilated. However according to the weather forecast things are going to hot up in the August of 2021 here in the UK.

So, we have recently witnessed a good week of hot weather and we all know how uncomfortable it can be for us mere mortals. Spare a thought for the plants grown indoors. Good growing conditions require a temperature in the region of 28c! Hence to produce a good crop. However, things can become more unstable if the temperature reaches the 30C+ range outside. Our British homes are built to keep the cold out and the heat in with plenty of insulation. Unfortunately, during heat waves then the homes become stuffy and overheated. Thus making it difficult to sleep on sultry evenings.

Coincidently, plants feel the heat too and often stress out ending in a poor crop of fruit or flowers. The main problem in hot weather is of course the heat given off by the grow room lights. So, many people have their lights fitted with an adjustable ballast. Enabling the heat produced by the lights to be reduced. The ballast wattage can be turned down via its settings to reduce the amount of heat produced by the bulbs.

Importantly, the Lumatek 600w digital ballast provides a stable precise voltage to the lamp and is available online from your local Hydrostore.

LED to the rescue!

Of course the “rescue ship on the horizon! is going to be the LED lighting units. These units although expensive at the moment give off no heat. Therefore giving the grower more control over temperature. Smaller growers are already embracing this marvellous technology. Indeed I recently bought an LED lighting unit from a guy who claims to have had a double delivery. The unit was a bargain and was installed to give my citrus trees extended day light hours through Autumn to Spring. Thus enabling my citrus trees to carry on growing until they were put outside for the summer months.

The temperature was controlled by a greenhouse fan heater and all worked very well. As I have said these LED lighting units are more expensive to buy in the first place! However they pay for themselves because they actually use between 50 and 70% less electricity than the more traditional HPS bulb system.

Good Extraction System also helps

Of course most indoor growing set ups are fitted out with some sort of extraction system. These systems change the air in the growing room replacing warm air with cooler air. So, this combined with a control unit such as a GSE Controller will automate the process. So, as the temperature rises from outside conditions the system will start to work over time to keep the conditions more stable and the plants happier.

An extraction system reduces heat build up by drawing in cool air and then transferring warm air out of the growing area via ducting and a carbon filter. If you introduce a fan controller with temperature probe, your extraction system will automatically react to the temperature you set it too which also allows you to control you grow rooms temperature. Most plants hate to grow in a stuffy overheated environment and can cause growing restrictions leading to a poor quality crop of whatever you are growing.

So with the correct equipment in use then all should be well and the best results will be achieved.

strawberries

Hydrostore-Growing Strawberries using Hydroponics

Hydrostore-Growing Strawberries using Hydroponics

Hydrostore-Growing Strawberries using Hydroponics

This time of year is synonymous with growing sweet, ripe and succulent strawberries. In my opinion it probably the most liked fruit in the UK. So, it is certainly mine and I have already started the ball rolling by buying some bare rooted plants from the famous Scottish fruit growers “Ken Muir“. Strawberries come in a few different varieties, which are Early Midsummer, Midsummer, Late Summer, and perpetual.

So ,I am growing some mid and late summer varieties for a little variation. I must confess that I will be splitting the growing methods this year. Bare rooted plants should be planted as soon as the arrive from the growers. Subsequently, then I planted the bare roots on arrival in individual three inch pot. The pots were squeezed into a space in my heated greenhouse. Since then they have now started good growth and are at the moment outside hardening off.

This year however will be a bit different. So I will wash the roots off and grow six plants using the hydroponic system. of course the rest will be planted out using the more conventional soil method in a wooden crate.

Quicker fruiting expected in Hydroponic system

According to my reading then strawberries will produce fruit much quicker when grown hydraulically. I am looking forward to my experiment and am also thinking that the fruit will be kept cleaner and free from the dreaded slugs. So, The ones grown in the wooden crate will require protection from the fruit being splashed. like all my experiments the I will keep the readers of my blogs informed.

Excitedly, I believe that strawberries can be grown throughout the year using a heated facility along with lighting equipment. So, I should have enough room in my heated greenhouse to try this out. I can root cuttings the the many runners that strawberries produce in any growing season.

Although, it looks like the strawberries require any special attention then it is worth a mention about the plants crown. So, when planting strawberries you must not plant them too deeply. The plants have a crown which must protrude above the growing medium whichever method of growing that may be used. Consequently, if planted too deeply then the strawberries can become susceptible to root rot and botrytis and quickly die off.

Finally, growing pots and air pumps can be purchased online or collected from your Hydrostore Wakefield branch.

peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hydrostore-Beginner Peppers

Hi here is my second Hydrostore blog for the month of April 2021. Once again there are many things that I am learning on my into the world of growing without soil, hydroponics!

So if tomatoes are my favourite salad crop then peppers are certainly my second. Peppers provide a massive variety of colours and flavours. Of course from the red hot chili peppers such as “Scotch Bonnet” to the milder bell peppers that we use in regular salads. So some of the hotter peppers grown do in fact require hotter temperatures to grow them. Here in the North of England it depends on the type of summer that we are experiencing!

The spicy peppers are used mainly for cooking spicy dishes and are popular for spicy Indian dishes and West indian cooking. Of course we can buy a spicy pizza covered in spicy hot peppers if we like that kind of thing. However I generally stick to the mild flavoured bell peepers that come in many shapes and colours. Most peppers start off as green coloured fruit and later turn into the colour of choice. Hence, from bright red to yellow and even dark purple. Of course all these colours add brightness and colour to a great mixed summer salad! My mouths watering as I am writing this!

Try growing peppers the hydroponics method

Peppers are easy to grow and only suffer the usual pests. White fly and other aphid species are the general worst enemies. These can be controlled by the usual methods of spraying with soapy water or using a commercial brand such as “plant magic” bugicide from your local Hydrostore online, in different sized containers. So, a good way of determining the colour of bell peeper to grow is to buy one in your favourite colour. Say in this case yellow. The seeds can be removed and generally the plant will turn out to be the same colour as the parent plant, in this case yellow.

This year I am going to try germinate the seeds using the paper towel method. This is a popular way of germinating many plant species. Including peppers and tomatoes. The seeds are carefully wrapped between two lairs of tissue paper and placed in a saucer of water. The paper must be kept wet and not allowed to dry out!

The seeds will eventually germinate and small green shoots will appear. So, these small plants will then be placed singularly inside of a rockwool cube. Always try to handle the seedling with great care. The rockwool is then to be placed inside a 3ins net cup. It is important to buy net cups with a lip around the top so that it fits snug inside the plastic tanks lid. Incidentally, I will be growing four pepper plants inside my 18×15 ins black plastic tanks (Totes) .

The tote lids have four holes cut in to take the 3 ins plastic net cups. I will then add “nutrients” into the water and place the cups and pepper plants into the tank lid and therefore the tank of water. In my case it will be CX hydrobase. So, I will be trying this out for the first time and will keep my readers up to date with the results. I shall also be using a small aquarium pump to circulate oxygen to the plants via the tanks water supply.

My set up will be in my greenhouse once the weather warms up. There will be plenty of light at this time of year! Of course this method can be used indoors by adding a LED lighting unit to your growing kit.

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

Hydrostore-Long Winter in 2021

So, this year has been a long cold winter. Especially for us growers who should be getting growing around this time of year. My own situation is that I have a heated greenhouse for my citrus trees. However it is too cold to move them outside onto a sheltered spot. Moving them gives me space to plant out my seedlings and prepare for the tomato plants into their final planting spot.

Accordingly, I have not yet planted my seeds and realise that I am running out of time. This year I have decided to try some different seed varieties. I love to grow the big size tomatoes that are generally very tasty and a good choice for summer salads (Thats if we get a summer this year?)

I am a great fan of watching “YouTube” videos and I think they offer some great advice. Especially the different choices of tomato seeds that I have never heard of before.

Kellogg’s Breakfast and F1 Super Mama

This year I will be trying five different varieties from Nickys Seeds. Consequently these will include the much raved about Kellogg’s breakfast and another heirloom variety the F1 Super Mama.

These seeds will be planted this time by using the soil-less method of “Rockwool Blocks” . These are only £7.50 for 150 blocks to sow your seeds into. Of course the seeds are then placed into the blocks singularly. Hence they are then covered with a small quantity of “vermiculite“. Vermiculite, can be bought in small or large quantities. However I prefer to buy the larger bags because this is something that is important when growing hydroponically.

The blocks are always to be pre-soaked before placing one seed in the centre hole. Some growers advise placing two seeds and then selecting the strongest seedling when they have germinated. However these seeds are very expensive any you only get ten seeds per packet. So to me you should just plant a single seed. The blocks are then placed into a tray of water until germination. I prefer to use a heated propagator unit for better results as long as the area where the seedlings will be grown on is also heated.

Dont forget the in this weather then rooms in houses can become very cold without any form of heating. I am sure that there will be growers pout their who have made this mistake in the past. Losing plants due to stress because of a drop in temperature in the middle of the night. When the seedlings have germinated they can be grown on to whatever system you prefer.

Auto Pot System

This year I am going to grow my larger crops using a flexi water tank that feeds an Autopot system . These systems come in many sizes but the nine pot system is ideal for my space in the greenhouse.

Once the system is set up it just a case of training your plants as they grow, (I prefer to use large canes). Water tank levels must be watched with the added A and B nutrients also added to the correct dose. This year I will try out CX Hydro base from Canada. So, when your plants start to grow you must remember to taking out any side shots, between the stem and the main branches.

Also remove any dead leaves and give the plants plenty of room to grow flowering buds for a good crop. All the products necessary to grow a good crop most plants are available online from “Hydrostore” in West Yorkshire.

Hydrostore-Growing Basil

Hydrostore-Growing Basil

Hydrostore-Growing Basil

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Hydrostore-Growing Basil

So basil is an important herb that we now use in many types of cooking. Unfortunately, I must confess that I not a fan of this important plant. During my learning curb of growing by using hydroponics systems then it is probably the most important herb to grow!

There are many different types of basil plants that can be grown. However I think the main ones are >

  1. Sweet Basil
  2. Genovese Basil
  3. Thai Sweet Basil
  4. Purple Basil
  5. Lemon Basil
  6. Lime Basil
  7. Lettuce Basil
  8. Spicy Basil

So lets get on with the growing of these plants using the hydroponics method. Firstly, they can be started off in two ways! Of course by germinating seeds and secondly by taking cuttings from established plants. Of course for first time growers then seeds are the best option. However if cuttings are available then they can be rooted within a week.

Basil should be grown indoors or in a greenhouse. Because, they are a warm climate plant. So 16 to 25 Celsius would be the best temperature to get good results. When using the hydroponics system then the best start would be to use “rockwool blocks“. Seeds can be sown in the blocks without having the need for transplanting. Other mediums can of course be used ! Including perlite, vermiculate, coco coir and peat moss. However peat moss is becoming more unpopular here in the UK. Methods of digging the peat out of the ground are a concern to conservationists.

All these growing mediums are available online from your local “Hydrostore’s website“.

Fungus a problem to young basil plants.

Whichever way you propagate the young basil plants then they should be grown on using a traditional hydroponics system. However another important point is that basil seedlings are susceptible to attacks from the “Pythium fungus”. As in my other posts then it is important keep your growing area and equipment as clean as possible. Sterilisation is very important and Pythium is a substantial threat to your newly grown seedlings.

Growing areas should be warm but well ventilated. This applies to many crops grown in warm conditions and indoors. Canadian Xpress Wilt Guard, is a great product that can be used to prevent Pythium and other fungal disease found in the plant growing world.

So, after treatment the plants can be moved onto plastic mesh pots and inserted into appropriate growing medium of your choice. Basil grows very well using the hydroponics system. I must confess that I have found basil difficult to grow using normal soil based methods. Consequently, I have in the past give basil a miss. However, I am looking forward to my first attempt growing these herbs in a soilless way using hydroponics.

Finally, the best way to harvest basil is to clip off the top two thirds of the leaves for kitchen use. Importantly, new growth comes from the base of the plant, similar to say spinach or broccoli. However cutting basil for kitchen use should be restricted to say three times but this will give you more than enough basil for normal usage.

As a visual person then I think its great to look at a good video. So here is one about basil.

Hydroponics from the Start

Hydroponics from the Start-Beginning with growing lettuce.

Hydroponics from the Start

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Hydroponics from the Start

Hi as an older gardener then I have to give some thought into starting off with hydroponics. So, its hard to get into my head that you dont need soil or indeed a garden to grow things. My first hydroponics venture came with growing tomatoes. However this was done by using “clay pebbles” and a Canna Coco Natural. Of course this is a well known grow media. A replacement for growing in peat moss and made from pure coco fibre. As a result I now use this product for all my plant growing needs. The product ensures a perfect air and water retention ratio. It’s is made by Canna from its high-performance grow media range. Ensuring rich root growth and accelerated plant development.

However, I am now going to try to use pure hydroponics to grow my first lettuce plants. So, my first thought was that I could control the actual lettuce plants that I need. I dont know about you but previously I am a victim of over growing my salad crops. Consequently I will feel more positive about only growing the amount of salad crops that will be required. I can plant out as many lettuces that I will need to last me a few weeks and then replant a second tray. Of course if it is required.

Herbs can also be a good crop to grow.

This method also looks good when growing certain herbs as well as different lettuce types. However I want to cover this in a separate blog post! lettuces grown in a plastic tray and a polystyrene sheet cut out to fit the young lettuce plants in side a mesh pot with a lip so that it fits into the hole perfectly. So the tray is then filled with water up to the root system of your lettuce plants.

Importantly, the you will have to add nutrients to the water to feed the fast developing plants. My local hydroponics store has recommended that I try “CX Hydro-base” mixing part A and part B to the correct quantities. of course I will be trying this in the second week of March in my slightly heated greenhouse. Light should be no problem! Of course you can also use some sort of solar lights for indoors growing.

Also I believe that I should also use a small air pump for oxygenating the you plants. I have seen in tests that this vastly improves the plants growing capabilities. Consequently, this is an extra expense but the pump can be used over and over again.

Asa visual person myself I have decides to add a good video about the early learning days for growing with this hydroponics method, please enjoy!

Growing Food-First time Hydroponics Tomato Growing

Growing Food-First time Hydroponics Tomato Growing

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Growing Food-First time Hydroponics Tomato Growing

So , I am starting off my growing experience by experimentation! In other words I am going to start at the beginning by setting up my own hydroponics planting systems from the very basic ideas available.

Of course in the past couple of years I have made a start by creating a set up for a different way of growing some tomato plants. Of course I also used the traditional growbag method ! Just to compare the results if this was going to be possible. Tomatoes are always a favourite fruit to grow. Because the are fairly easy for a beginner to try and the final product, (large juicy tomatoes) are always a popular gift to any visitors to your garden. Including of course your friends and family.

Equipment from Leeds Hydrostore

Simply because my daughters husband works their then I decided to take his advice and tell me what equipment I should be needing to set up my tomato growing system. When I visited the well equipped store then I was unclear to the things that I would require. First thing was to be somewhere to store the water! So I chose the large 400 litre Flexi-Tank . I found this very easy to erect and it slotted into the corner of my 12ft x 10ft greenhouse perfectly.

The next piece of equipment was to be an “auto-pot system” . This was to be connected up to the water tank to supply my plants with water and nutrients. Although I found the connecting up of the various small pipes and plastic connections a little fiddly, but finally it was then complete.

Once in place it was ready for planting up. I was going to use “Canadian Xpress Hydro Grow” for the first time. The growing medium comes in two parts A and B. However I found the instructions easy to follow and added it to the now full water tank. Believe it or not this was going to enable me and the wife to have a few days holiday, without worrying about the tomato plants getting stressed out dur to lack of watering .

So, the plant medium that I chose was to be a mixture of “clay balls” and “Coco natural Coir“. These were supplied in 50 litre bags and easy to handle. So, after the set up was all ready then I planted my young tomato plants and sat back to see what would happen. Consequently, having never done this method of growing anything before before!

Growbags at the same time

So, at the same time them I planted out ten growbags using this traditional method and watering by hand. I must say the hydroponics method truly produced the best results. I was amazed at the amount of water and nutrients that the plants would use to grow properly. My tomato trusses went right up to the greenhouse roof producing truss after truss of excellent quality tomatoes.

This was in the end to be the far better method of growing and I will not be using growbags any more. The results of the hydroponics method were tremendous. So, we had fresh grown tomatoes right in to the autumn and I cant wait for the new season to begin again.

Hydroponics

Air flow

Air Flow

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Air Flow

Air Flow and its importance in Hydroponics

So, I must confess that “air flow” was a thing taken for granted amongst gardeners with glass houses or polytunnels. However, it is thought that airflow is even more important in the art of hydroponic growing. Of course the larger areas are more likely to self evacuate and move the oxygen(O2) after the plants have taken in the Co2 (carbon dioxide). Amateur growers would simply open the growing area vents and doors when required.

I myself have a modern greenhouse with automatic vents. These vents are opened according to the vents releasing and changing the air. Thus, creating a proper air flow and changing the gases to suit the plants. Of course this action naturally supplies your plants with the Co2 that they require.

When visiting the large growers then you cant help notice the giant electric fans that these huge glasshouses posses. The large fans not only heat the glasshouses to extend the growing season, but create the conditions to exchange the gases that are beneficial to the plants.

Fans and filters important in hydroponics

Air Flow

Because of the size restrictions used when growing plants in homes and out building. Then it is imperative to combine your system with a good air flow system using filters and fans where possible. Fans and filters are available at any good hydroponics stores including our stores in West Yorkshire.

Exchanging the Air

Strangely enough what we know as “Air Exchange” is a bit like circulation. Except but not just so. Simply put then “Air exchange” (an open ventilation system) is a means of bringing air from the outside replacing the air on the inside. So, this could be known as circulation. The air circulation replaced and exchanges the different gases and even humidity and temperature will be affected.

As I said earlier like opening the ventilators on your greenhouse on a hot sunny day. Letting out the hot humid air. Replacing it with fresh cooler air from outside. Of course it is all about growing your plants in a controlled manner.

Plants require light and water to thrive

As many of us gardeners know! Then plants require light, water and breath mainly carbon dioxide to produce and store the energy. Combined these four components have the affect of enabling the plant to store the energy produced. Serving as the main building blocks for the plants to develop and indeed grow. Plants also release energy through respiration when it is required.

So, in their growing environment this can lead to an uneven balance of gases! Given off in the leaf and air area of their environment. Add together the affects of warmth and humidity given off by the suns energy or some other light source. Of course this is where the different systems of growing comes into play. The regular greenhouse/polytunnel scenario will be ventilated by circulation controlled by doors, windows and ventilators. large commercial growers will also incorporate giant fans into their operations.

For indoor growers using special growing units then a system of fans and ventilators must be used. So, to crate the correct growing balances.

ventilation helps control diseases

Most of us gardeners know the importance of good ventilation when it comes to disease control. A poorly ventilated growing room will result in too much moisture on the leaves. Attracting the spores from dreaded diseases such as “powdery mildew”. spores from Moulds and pathogens will thrive if given the right conditions including poor ventilation and humidity. Damp leaves are an open invitation to letting in these moulds and diseases.

Experienced growers, soon learn about the art of ventilation and its importance when growing in a hot climate or a hot sunny spell. Since my first ever greenhouse many years ago then ventilators were an optional extra. Bringing it up to 2018 when I bought my last greenhouse then it came with no fewer than 6 separate ventilators. How times have changed!