All living things need space in which to live, grow, and reproduce…and plants are no different. However, they are different in that they cannot move from place to place to make the best use of available essentials like water, air, and light. Unlike other living things, plants have to get these essentials from the limited space in which they grow. Plants can therefore be more vulnerable to deprivation of essential nutrients if they are not provided enough space. Therefore it is important in hydroponics, just as with conventional cultivation, to carefully assess the space your plants will need and plan ahead. Always be aware of their increasing space requirements as they grow. Spacing of plants is an important aspect that needs to be carefully considered and properly addressed for a successful hydroponic system. In the event that plants are grown too close to one another, they will likely receive less than the required amount of light. Depending on how close they are grown they can also receive less air/CO2 than they require for proper growth.
When plants are just seedlings or cuttings they can be grown in close proximity, but as they grow their need for space will increase and they will need to be moved or thinned out. In farms and gardens, this is achieved by removing the smaller or weaker plants thus making space for the stronger and more aggressive plants to grow. With more “living space” now available for the remaining plants, they can efficiently utilize the available area for healthy growth. More area for growth means more air flow to prevent mildew and more light for photosynthesis.
Benefits of Spacing
A number of studies conducted on flower yielding plants grown for essential oils have established the growth enhancing benefits of spacing, pruning and growth hormones. The results of these tests have shown that pruning and spacing can substantially boost flower yield. Increases from 18% to 37% were recorded in these tests. It was also observed that plants treated with a low dose (50ppm) of some type of hormone solution containing auxins or cytokinins also responded with higher yields. These types of studies have demonstrated that yields can be increased with proper spacing and the addition of some type of growth promoter. But how much space should be allowed between plants for the best results? The rule of thumb is a minimum of 18 inches apart and a maximum of 30 inches, for plants that are less than three feet tall. For anything more than this amount of space, you will experience smaller yields.
Tips for Starting out Plants
Here are some great tips for preparing and planting your crop:
1. Plant cuttings right away. Plan ahead. Don’t wait for the cuttings to arrive or be cut and then prepare for transplanting. You will waste valuable time getting things into place; meanwhile the plants and the cuttings will begin to lose vigor and wilt. Keep your soil, growing media, etc. ready at hand.
2. Smokers should thoroughly wash their hands or use latex gloves.
3. Remember what you have learned about spacing. Plants grown too close to one another are weaker and more likely to fall prey to a host of diseases, as well as being less resistant to pests. Weaker plants are slower to grow and reach maturity; they yield less fruit or flowers.
4. Cuttings should be exposed to weak or diffused light before being introduced to full HID lighting. The lights should also be positioned no less than 3-4 feet above the new plants or seedlings
5. Begin on a regular feed program at the earliest and start at half of the manufacturer’s recommended level for new cuttings, increasing as your plants grow and you learn their tolerance.
6. Night temperatures should ideally be maintained between around 68° and around 74 ° Fahrenheit during the day. Extremes of temperature cause much harm to plants, especially in the beginning stages.