Having the right environment is essential for your garden. Key elements to a proper garden room environment include humidity, temperature, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), and air circulation/exchange. The ideal humidity for a garden room is between 40 to 60 percent. Some plants will like higher humidity, but remember that higher humidity can lead to problems with fungus and disease. Temperatures in your garden, or garden room, should be between 68°-75 ° Fahrenheit. Temperature changes will lead to variations in humidity levels, so avoid drastic temperature changes that happen in short periods of time. Bug problems tend to occur at higher temperatures. Keeping your garden at 70° Fahrenheit is an easy way to deter bugs. Your plants also need CO2 to grow. Assuming you have good air circulation/exchange, your garden room will naturally have between 300-400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2. Higher levels of CO2 should accelerate growth rates. If you choose not to supplement CO2 in your garden room, it is important to address the air circulation/exchange so that your plants will receive fresh CO2. There are plenty of meters, air conditioners, humidifiers, de-humidifiers and environmental controls to help you monitor and control these important aspects.
Start With Good Water
The water you use for your plants will determine how well your plants will grow, regardless of what you add in terms of nutrients and supplements/additives. PPM (Parts Per Million) and EC (Electrical Conductivity) are the measurement of the salts in a solution. There are plenty of EC/PPM meters to measure this. Though, neither PPM nor EC will tell you what is in your solution/water but instead are indicators of the solutions ability to conduct electricity. Ideally, you want to start off with a low PPM or EC then you can add nutrients specific to your plants requirements. You can reduce the PPM of your water using a Reverse Osmosis (R.O.) unit, and then build your nutrient solution around what your plants need. pH (potential hydrogen) measures the acidity or alkalinity of your solution on a scale of 0-14, and there are many pH meters and pH test kits available to measure this. A solution is considered acidic below 7 and basic at 7 or higher, and there are Alkaline or ‘pH Up’ and Acid or ‘pH Down’ products available to adjust the pH of your nutrient solution. Nutrient “lockout” occurs with high and low pH levels. When working with hydroponics you typically want your pH to be between 5.8 and 6.3. When growing in soil or coco you want your pH between 6.3 and 6.8. The most important rule to remember with pH is to avoid extremes. The pH scale is exponential, meaning that a 0.1 change in pH means a 10 fold increase/decrease in acidity or alkalinity. A solution with a pH of 6.6 is 10 times more acidic than a solution with pH of 6.7.
Choose a Method
Ebb & Flow or Flood & Drain gardens flood and drain a tray of plants with a nutrient solution at regular intervals. A drip garden provides nutrient solution to the plant through tubing & emitters (drip stakes) to each plant. Aeroponic growing mists an oxygenated nutrient solution directly to the roots of a plant. NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) gardens create a slow moving nutrient solution ‘film’ that flows over the roots of the plants. Organic methods have become a popular and preferred method of growing, especially for fruits and vegetables. Choose the size container you want, an organic soil/medium, an organic fertilizer and water by hand.
Choose a Medium
Growing mediums act as an anchor for the plants root system. Some add nutritional value to your plants while others simply give the roots something to hold on to. Some mediums to consider are soil, soil-less mixes, coco, hydroton, rockwool, or silica stone. Coco is available in both loose and compressed form. Coco is made from the husks of a coconut, and it is very pH stable and provides good moisture retention and natural aeration qualities. Hydroton or clay pebbles are made from expanded, pH neutral clay. They tend to hold water well and have great oxygen to water ratios, making hydroton suitable for both hydroponic and soil gardens. With proper sterilization techniques, hydroton can also be reused. Rockwool is made from stone that is heated and then spun into fibers, similar to the process of Cotton Candy. It is then compressed into starter cubes, grow blocks, or slabs. This medium has excellent oxygen to water ratios as well. Rockwool tends to have a higher pH, so pre-treating with 5.5 pH balanced water or a rockwool conditioning solution is recommended. Rockwool works best in a drip or top feed system. Silica stone is a rock that contains high levels of silicate which helps slow transpiration rates of plants. This is especially helpful in garden rooms that have temperatures above 85° Fahrenheit. Silica stone is pH neutral and environmentally friendly. Like hydroton, silica stone can be reused and is suitable for both hydroponic and soil gardens.
Like humans, plants require food (nutrients) to grow. Nutrients come in organic and synthetic varieties and are available in both liquid and dry form. Nutrients can be separated into two categories, macro and micro nutrients. The macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The micronutrients or trace elements include sulfur, iron, manganese, boron, molybdenum, zinc, copper, and chlorine. If the nutrients are deficient or are abundant you may see burning, curling, or yellowing. You do not want to over or under fertilize. There are many types of nutrients/fertilizers available on the market. You can purchase organic, synthetic/mineral based, or a combination of both. Most nutrients/fertilizers will have N-P-K ratios (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) on the front of the bottle. In the vegetative or growth stage the “N” will typically be higher. In the flowering or bloom stage the “P” will typically be higher. You may also consider implementing additives/supplements into your nutrient mix. Additives/supplements can boost microbial activity at the root zone, increase size, flavor, and aroma. When used together, nutrients and supplements will help you achieve maximum results.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) is the preferred lighting in a garden room. The two types of HID lighting commonly used are MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium). MH lamps deliver more of a blue/green spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the vegetative/growth stage. HPS lamps deliver more of an orange/red spectrum, which is ideal for most plants in the flowering/bloom stage. Another type of lighting that is ideal for plant growth is T5 fluorescent lighting. T5 lighting is a high output fluorescent light with low heat and minimal energy consumption. It is an ideal light for cuttings, seedlings, mother plants and short growth cycles. All plants require light in order to grow and bloom. Most plants grow and bloom according to the amount of light they are given. In the vegetative/growth stage plants typically want 18-24 hours of light. In the flowering/bloom stage you reduce the amount of light your plants receive to 10-12 hours per day. You want to make sure the light comes on and off at the same time everyday (just like Mother Nature). The best way to accomplish this is by putting your light on a timer. Please contact us for more information on which light is best for you.
There are many different meters available for testing pH, PPM, EC, temperature, humidity, CO2, and light levels. Single meters are available as are combination meters that test and/or monitor your environmental conditions. The important thing to remember is your garden will only be as good as the limiting factor. Water, nutrient, light, temperature, humidity, CO2, and air exchange/circulation are the elements to a successful garden room. By dialing in these elements, you will ensure a successful and bountiful garden. There are plenty of meters and environmental controls available to help you with this.
There are many items available to help your garden grow. Organics, controls, fans, blowers, filters, relays, additives, supplements and the list goes on. Contact us to discuss what the best accessories are for your garden.