Welcome back folks to another Talking Shop with HTG Supply, where we dive into the hottest topics and issues facing growers today. Last week we looked at bloom boosters and when or how to properly use them.
For this week’s Talking Shop, we will be covering pests in the garden, how to identify them, methods of prevention, treatments, and recovery. In this post, I will be specifically focusing on one of the more shared pests that plagues most indoor gardeners – fungus gnats.
Fungus gnats belong to two major families, Mycetophilidae and Sciaridae, and there are over 2000 known species in existence today. Some researchers claim that there are still 2000+ species left to be discovered! When gardening indoors it’s more likely that you would see flies belonging to the Sciaridae family vs. flies belonging to the Mycetophilidae family. Fungus gnat adults are grayish black in color with long legs. Their wings can be either clear or dark depending on the species. They look like a tiny cross between a fruit fly and mosquito with the largest adults growing to be around 1/8” long. Adult fungus gnats can live up to a week laying over 300 eggs in the process. The adults can easily be seen flying around the room or “dancing” on the top soil of potted plants, especially when watering. If conditions are ideal, eggs will hatch within 4-6 days. Typically found in the top 1”-2” layer of the substrate, fungus gnat larvae are incredibly small (only a few millimeters long). These little guys can be hard to see due to their near translucent bodies. I recommend having a 30-60x loupe on hand to assist in the process of identifying any pest. The pupal stage lasts 3-5 days before the next generation of gnats are able to leave the soil and begin reproducing. Their entire life cycle lasts about 3 – 4 weeks.
Understanding the conditions that bring on an infestation are imperative. Fungus gnats absolutely love a moist environment with high humidity. Over watering heavy peat moss or compost containing substrates increases the risk of a fungus gnat infestation. Even hydro systems utilizing sterile media like rock wool are susceptible to a fungus gnat infestation due to over saturation of the substrate. Adult gnats are also attracted to chlorotic and necrotic plant matter, e.g. dead leaves or other plant debris in the garden. For the most part these docile adults are a nuisance. They are harmless in the sense that they won’t directly attack you or feed on living plants. However these adults will continue to spread the infestation by laying hundreds of eggs, and it’s really the larvae that do the damage. Sciaridae larvae will actually feed on a plants roots leaving nearly microscopic holes behind in their wake. These holes then become a breeding ground for all sorts of pathogens (ROOT ROT). In addition to wilting, loss of vigor, and overall poor growth, a dense population of fungus gnat larvae may cause chlorosis in a plant. This in turn attracts more adults – further perpetuating the infestation. Seedlings, cuttings, and younger plants are the most at risk from fungus gnat damage.
The best offense will be a strong defense – I’m talking about preventative maintenance. This means making sure your garden space is as clean as possible. Picking up fallen leaves and sweeping up debris is a must. If you are hand watering plants, be sure use trays or saucers to collect any run off. Best practices would be to remove the excess runoff from the garden as well. Using an inline pump or shop-vac works well, especially with larger hard to move plants. Be sure to avoid over watering all together, particularly substrates with high water retention. Try to take note of how heavy a saturated pot feels. There should be a noticeable difference in weight when you go to water again. Using a moisture meter can make all the difference if you are having a hard time judging this for yourself. I personally gauge my watering on what I call the finger test. Simply stick your index finger into the top 2-3” layer of substrate and feel the moisture for yourself.
Using physical barriers such Gnat Nix or Rice Hulls as a top dressing will not only help prevent pests but these products can significantly reduce their numbers. Gnat Nix is a silica based product that will act similar to diatomaceous earth in that it will cut up any soft body insect that tries to crawl through. When transplanting, it’s a great idea to leave yourself some room (about an inch) at the top of your nursery pot for any top dressing product such as these. Having the Gnat Nix below the rim will really cut back on messes down the road.
What if you are past the point of preventing an infestation? Chemical pesticides can be harsh on the plants and/or toxic towards you and your pets. Luckily there are a number of physical, biological, and natural (plant based) controls at your disposal. The first thing to do is set out yellow sticky traps, the adults are attracted to the color and get instantly stuck the moment they land on the glue. This helps control numbers and gives you a good idea of how bad the infestation really is. Make sure you are allowing your substrate to dry! Again, over watering is the main culprit when dealing with fungus gnats. This is more common when temps are cooler and transpiration rates are lower. Allowing the top inches of substrate to completely dry prevents eggs from successfully hatching and will deter females from laying new eggs.
A great biological control to consider would be predatory nematodes (Steinernematid & Heterorhabditatid species), or as I like to call them “hired bugs”. You can typically find certificates for predatory nematodes at your local HTG Supply. Once you fill out the certificate online, your nematodes arrive 2-3 days later either in a powder form or soaked sponge. Depending on the species, nematodes may require refrigeration but should always be used sooner than later. Once watered into the substrate, these microscopic worms will seek and destroy fungus gnat larvae.
Another great biological control to consider is Bacillus Thuringiensis – or BT for short. BT and an amazing bacteria that is completely harmless to plants and humans, but have a knack for killing off all sorts of destructive worms and larvae. BT has been used for some time with controlling caterpillars, but is now finding a place controlling fungus gnats, mosquitoes, and even thrips. Scientists have even developed GMO crops using BT! Pests will often consume BT assuming its food, only to be killed by it shortly after.
If the physical and biological controls just aren’t enough, try out a few products from Sierra Natural Science (SNS). They have a number of plant based and natural pesticides in systemic and “contact kill” form. SNS 203 uses a blend of clove and rosemary oils to dehydrate and kill pests with a secondary function of attacking algae and fungus. This helps cut down the source of food for the pests. SNS 203 can be used in either a foliar spray or root drench for immediate results. SNS 209, a systemic control, also uses rosemary oils and extracts, but also humic acid and saponin. SNS 209 is watered into the roots and is taken up by the plant and stored in its own tissue. Pests will then die if they consume the plant tissue containing SNS 209, others may no longer be attracted to the plant all together.
Regardless of what your weapon of choice may be, persistence is key. Treatment typically takes several weeks before an infestation is completely under control or eliminated. It’s advisable to employ multiple methods for the best and quickest results.
Now that you have the fungus gnats under control, it’s time to repair the damage done. Remember that larvae feeding on roots left behind breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty root rot causing pathogens. With bad infestations, it is almost certain that root rot has come into play. Especially if you are seeing a noticeable decline in the gnat population, but your plant is still suffering from poor growth and vigor. In this case you may need to rinse your substrate with a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution to completely kill off the rot and sterilize the root zone. A 29-34% H2O2 concentrate should be used when mixing up your solution. Hydrogen peroxide from the local drug store (brown bottles) will only be 3% and simply are not strong enough. Please be careful when using concentrated H2O2 products. These are very caustic concentrates and should be handled and stored with all the proper-precautions. Always read the directions! Unfortunately, hydrogen peroxide won’t just kill the bad microbes, but all the good ones too.
After a successful sterilization and flushing of the root zone, it is time to re-inoculate the substrate to get the roots active and happy. I like to use Stump Tea not only for the beneficial microbes but for all the extra nutrients and food it supplies to the rhizosphere. I will typically couple Stump Tea with some sort of light nutrient. Boomerang, the “come back formula” from FoxFarm is a good option here because of its wide variety of included macro and micro nutrients. With-in a week you should be able to resume with your regular feeding, and hopefully back on track to a heavy and healthy harvest.
Thanks for reading this week’s Talking Shop with HTG Supply. I hope you were able to learn something today, and if not, thanks for reading anyways! If you enjoyed our post, please like and share the post with your friends. Be sure to check out the other 15 HTG locations great Talking Shop posts on Facebook and share them with your friends. Be safe, good luck, and good growing!
Smells in the garden can be really problematic. When it comes to managing smells in the garden, carbon filters are a must have.
How it Works
The carbon used inside of a carbon filter is activated before it’s put into the canister. That means it is heated up to just the right temperature to cause the carbon to become porous. The pores in the carbon are the real trick to its ability to clean the air. As the air moves through the carbon, the particulate gets caught in the carbon pores. Carbon will absorb almost anything, including moisture, odor particulates, mold and fungus spores, and pollen. As air is pulled through the carbon in the filter, the particulates in the air stick to the carbon and the air coming out of the other end is clean and free of any particulates that might cause odors.
On the outside of a carbon filter is the pre-filter that traps dust and larger particulate that would otherwise clog the pores in the carbon filter faster. Replacing a pre-filter is easy to do, and contributes to the longevity of your carbon filter. It’s recommended to replace your pre-filter once it becomes noticeably dirty. This will allow your carbon filter to work to its full potential.
Use & Maintenance
It’s recommended to use a high-velocity fan to pull the air through your carbon filter. Pulling air opposed to pushing air allows the pre-filter to screen larger particulate before entering into the carbon. Air can also be pushed through the filter, but doing so renders the pre-filter useless, and shortens the life expectancy of the filter. Also, by pulling the air through the filter as opposed to pushing the air through the filter, the air moving through the fan will be cleaner, thus helping your fan run smoother and reducing the amount of moisture that flows through it.
Carbon filters go bad when all of the pores in the carbon (or most of the pores) are filled with particulates, or when air pathways open up for air to flow through untreated. Air will travel the path of least resistance so if the carbon filter isn’t packed correctly, the carbon in the filter won’t work correctly. This is why building your own carbon filters isn’t recommended. It would be a difficult task to replicate the process that a carbon filter company uses to pack their filters at home.
Proper Fan / Filter Sizing
When sizing a fan for your garden, there are a few things that you will want to take into consideration. High-velocity fans are rated in CFM or cubic feet per minute. When deciding which fan to buy, you will need to calculate how many cubic feet the area is that you’re trying to treat. This can be done by multiplying the length x width x height. Since the fan is rated in CFM, the easiest way to figure out which fan will fit your room is to use feet when doing your calculation. (Example 10’x8’x8’ = 640 cubic feet) For optimum cleaning ability, the air in your room needs to be recirculated once every one to three minutes. By dividing your area size by 3, you will have the minimum recommended CFM (Example 640/3 = 213 CFM). An important note to keep in mind is that a filter will add resistance to your fan, and on average, the CFM will drop by ten to twenty percent depending on the filter you choose. So a fan rated at 213 CFM will actually only run at about 192 CFM at most, and as low as 171 CFM with an appropriately sized filter attached.
Carbon filters come in many different sizes and shapes, and there are also lots of fan options on the market. Some manufacturers will give you a recommended fan and filter combination depending on the size of the area that you’re treating. Generally speaking, any six-inch filter and six-inch high-velocity fan should work just fine together, and any combination of four-inch fan and four-inch filter should work well together. The larger the filter you purchase, the more carbon inside of the filter, and the longer the filter will last. However, that rule shouldn’t be taken to extremes. An undersized fan will not be able to effectively pull air through a very large filter, and a lot of the carbon in the filter will not be utilized in that scenario. So matching an eight-inch filter with a four-inch fan may not work out so well.
Scrubbing Carbon Filter Setups
When using a carbon filter as a scrubber, you are not exhausting the air within the room. Your fan is connected to the filter and is pulling air through the carbon filter without exhausting it out of the room. This has the advantage of giving air in the room multiple passes through the carbon filter. As a carbon filter starts to reach the end of its life, air pathways start to form within the carbon, and some of the air will flow through the filter without being cleaned. By giving the air multiple passes through the carbon filter, you are able to better manage smells and extend the life of the filter. This method is also practical for someone using expensive CO2 supplementation, so as not to exhaust the CO2 out of the growing area.
Exhausting Carbon Filter Setups
When using your carbon filter as an exhaust as opposed to a scrubber, after the air is passed over the carbon, it is then expelled out of the room by the high-velocity fan. This method is especially common for a hobbyist grower that is using one fan to cool the lights in the room and run the carbon filter. This is an efficient way to reduce heat and humidity in a garden and manage smells at the same time. Although it may shorten the life of a carbon filter slightly, the benefits can greatly outweigh the shorter life span of the filter by providing an easier way to manage temperature and humidity.
When it comes to managing odors, a carbon filter is simply a must have, and its benefits aren’t limited to just treating smells. We carry a large variety of carbon filters and high-velocity fans here at HTG, and we would be happy to help you figure out which setup would be best for you. Stop in today and or browse our website to check out our selection including fan filter combos from GrowBright that will get the job done at a great price!
By: HTG Supply Traverse City on 08/25/2017
Our Talking Shop topic this week is all about air pruning your root zone. Fabric pots, such as Phat Sacks and Smart Pots are the preferred pot for many growers. Solid plastic pots work but once the root mass runs out of room it begins circling around the pot becoming root-bound. This circling can eventually “strangle” the root mass. When root tips dry out, a signal is sent to the plant that triggers more inner root development. This signal leads to root hairs, which are actually a single cell that elongates as it reaches out looking for air pockets. Oxygen is important for cellular respiration in the root zone just as carbon dioxide is important for a plant above the soil surface. Fabric pots allow the root zone to get the maximum amount of aeration from all sides which air prunes your roots as they reach out looking for oxygen. Lack of oxygen from oversaturation can cause root cells to cease energy production, eventually leading to roots dying off. Oversaturation also leads to anaerobic conditions that breed harmful bacteria and fungi.
Drainage Benefits – Fabric pots like Phat Sacks and Smart Pots dry out faster requiring more frequent watering/feeding which maximizes the root zone allowing for more nutrient uptake from your media. Phat Sacks brand pots are built with handles that wrap all the way under the pot giving even support when lifting established roots. It is important to note that any pot, especially fabric, must be moved with the utmost care because the roots and mycorrhizal fungi network are very delicate and can be damaged easily. It is also more difficult to overwater fabric pots and they can effectively be used to bottom feed.
Clean, Store, and Reuse Easily – Fabric pots are also convenient when it comes to cleaning. A good shake outside and a light bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution cleans them effectively, and only minimal scrubbing is necessary to remove roots and dirt. They dry quickly in front of a fan or in the sun before reuse or folding up for storage.
Use for Any Grow – Fabric pots come in a range of sizes from 1-gallon to 200-gallon holding capacity. The larger 100 and 200-gallon pots also come in an optional “raised garden bed” version which only measures 12” tall. These shorter pots are excellent for herb and vegetable beds but we do recommend using the standard sized Phat Sacks or Smart Pots if you are growing root crops such as carrots and potatoes. The large Phat Sacks are easy to put up and break down for storage or to relocate the next growing season.
In closing, the consensus here at HTG Supply in Traverse City is that fabric pots are a winner! We all use them, and as any experienced gardener eventually finds out, Phat Sacks, Dirt Pots, Smart Pots, and any other brand of fabric container will generally produce better results than a conventional plastic pot. Stop into HTG Supply TC to see Phat Sacks in action here in the shop, or check them out online for more pricing and size info.
By: HTG Supply Beltsville on 09/01/2017
Improving your yields, flavors, and the overall quality of your flowers, fruits, and veggies is often a challenge for indoor growers. Although many solutions help you grow bigger yields, the single most important factor is lighting. Addressing inconsistencies in your lighting can be easily handled with the integration of a double ended HID unit.
Double Ended (DE) lights are quickly becoming the choice of growers interested in overall yields balanced with good resin and oil production. DE lamps produce light with both High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide technology like a mogul base (single ended / SE) lamp. DE technology offers several advantages over traditional lamps such as improved IR and UV delivery, which helps produce better oil and resins in your fruits and flowers. DE lamps are also made of quartz glass, which enables them to run at higher temperatures and produce more overall light, which helps to produce larger yields than their standard HID counterparts. Although DE bulbs are slightly more expensive than traditional bulbs, they can last between three and six months longer, making them more cost-effective over time. It’s also easy to integrate DE lamps into your standard lamp system. The principle concern with DE lamps is heat, and mitigating it through proper exhaust techniques is quite simple. DE lamps, unlike their mogul base counterparts, aren’t designed to be air cooled, but DE lamps are designed to project heat upwards, making a top-mounted exhaust fan effective in removing most heat. In a sealed environment, a portable AC unit or other HVAC measures can be employed to keep temperatures constant. If you are concerned about the temperature effect of DE lamps, HTG Supply also offers the Revolution DEva, which runs at cooler temperatures due to its unique design.
The light coming from both standard and DE HID lamps is actually being emitted in really fast flickers, which the human eye perceives as constant. The Revolution DEva fires at 100 Hz (100 flickers per second), compared to other Digital DE/SE lights which typically fire at 120 kHz (120,000 flickers per second). This massive difference in firing reduces overall temperatures and associated electromagnetic interference (EMI), which has been shown to be detrimental to plant growth. With the Revolution, you greatly minimize your temperature concerns, completely eliminate EMI concerns, and extend the life of your DE bulb. The DEva is also compatible with Revolution’s lighting controller, which controls up to 512 DEva units and automatically adjusts lighting power based on temperature readings to avoid hurting your plants.
Another great cost effective DE option is the AgroMax Signature Series, which offers a 1000 watt DE lamp, reflector, and ballast in one easy to mount package. The Signature DE is also compatible with the AgroMax Signature Series Master Controller, which adjusts lighting output for up to 100 units and provides an automatic temperature shutdown when necessary.
HTG Supply offers a number of DE lamp options including the Revolution DEVA, the AgroMax Signature Series, the Gavita Pro 1000 DE, and our DE Socket Adapter, which converts your existing SE lamp hood into a DE fixture. We also offer DE bulbs from AgroMax, Hortilux, SolisTek, and more. If you have any questions come see us at the store, we will be happy to walk you through our options!
Many gardeners are becoming more accustomed to growing and propagating clones. Clones provide a quicker route to assured yields by eliminating the guessing game when it comes to plant genetics and plant sex. The most assured way of growing healthy adults from Clones is by taking them from a healthy stock “mother plant”. Maintaining mother plants is also incredibly easy, with the focus being on monitoring and control, and a healthy mother plant can live for years if cared for properly.
Environment for Mothers
Although mother plants can be sustained in both hydroponic and soil/soilless mediums, it is typically better to use a soil/soilless environment due to ease of use when working with the lower strength nutrient regimens recommended for them. If using a soil/soilless environment it is best to use the largest container possible to prevent the Mother Plant from becoming root bound too early into their life cycle. A 20 gallon fabric grow pot filled with Premier Pro Mix HP is an excellent indoor mother plant container that can easily sustain a stock plant through multiple clone harvests. If you choose to sustain a mother plant in a hydroponic system it is best to provide preventative treatment for root-borne diseases that can plague older plants. H202 can be applied directly to your reservoir to kill many diseases as well as some insect eggs and larva. Temperature and humidity levels should be monitored and kept at levels consistent with those typically recommended for the plants you are cultivating. Airflow levels can be increased by directing fans at the mother plant, which can help develop better clones by producing stronger stems and promoting better nodal dispersion. The easiest way to control your mother’s environment is by using a grow tent like the HTG Silverback series. These tents allow the grower to fine tune the mother plant’s environment and control risk of disease or pests.
Mother Plant Lighting
Mother Plants need to be maintained with light periods long enough to keep them from going into their flowering/bloom phase. Long light periods are recommended, for many species an 18/6 (on/off) lighting schedule maintains vegetative growth. Although you can use LEDs or HIDs (HPS/CMH), it’s far more cost-effective to use CFLs or fluorescent lighting. A 4 foot 4 bulb T5 grow light provides an excellent light source for mother plants with a mere 212-watt draw. HTG Supply offers several fluorescent options to meet all space requirements. HTG Supply also offers an entire line of CFL bulbs in various spectrums that can improve nodal dispersion, resulting in greater numbers of superior clones.
Base Nutrients for Mother Plants
Although mother plants require nutrients to develop well, they do not use as much as is typical for flowering plants. Even a large mother can be sustained with as little as a quarter of the recommended dosage from most nutrient lines. A general misconception about mothers is that they require high nitrogen levels, but in reality, they require a broad-spectrum approach to produce superior clones. A good broad-spectrum nutrient like Bat Guano Company’s Super Tea, FloraNova Grow, House and Gardens Soil, Bio Canna / Canna Terra from Canna Nutrients, or Buddha Grow from Roots Organics can provide the foundation for your Mother and with a few minor amendments can drive superior Clone production.
Supplements & Amendments
The key to producing strong clones is healthy stem and nodal development, producing both vigorous candidates as well as strong nodal development. To produce strong stems and nodal development, an amendment that provides a hormonal boost is advised. The two hormones that play a role in this development are cytokines and auxins. Cytokines are plant hormones responsible for reducing internodal spacing, which results in a bushier plant with more clone candidates. Auxins are responsible for plant strength and rigidity, which helps clones grow to their maximum potential. There are many amendments available that contain cytokines and auxins typically derived from kelp and seaweed, such as MaxiCrop, Fox Farm’s BushDoctor, Atami B’Cuzz Foliar, Vegamatrix Hard-n-Quick, Nectar of the Gods Poiseidonzyme, Advanced Nutrients B-52 and Roots Organics Serene. A good rooting amendment can also be added to help promote a strong foundation for your growing mother, in turn producing a bushier plant with more clone sites. HTG Supply offers a wide range of rooting amendments such as House and Garden’s Roots Excelurator Gold, Atami Bloombastic, General Organics BioRoot, or Technaflora’s Root 66.
In addition to a nutrient amendment, you can also provide your mother plant with beneficial organisms to promote a robust root system. Mother plants appreciate beneficial organisms, which help your root system flourish by refining nutrients for easier uptake by your plants, keeping the rhizosphere clean by removing waste in your soil, and by inoculating against root-borne diseases that can plague older mother plants. HTG Supply offers many options including Great White, Orca, Mammoth P, Roots Organics’ Oregonism, and Advanced Nutrient’s Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice.
General Care and Maintenance for Mother Plants
Mother plants require pruning/trimming to continually produce healthy clones. Damaged or unhealthy areas of the plant should be pruned regularly. Due to the value that some mother plants represent, it is also best to observe strict cleanliness standards and employ nitrile gloves if possible. In a soil environment, it is imperative that soil PH and EC levels be regularly monitored to prevent growth problems.
Ask the Doc: 8 Site Cloning Bucket
By: HTG Supply Taylor on 09/15/2017
This week for Talking Shop we are going over some tips for helping you to produce some of the healthiest roots possible. Typically seen as the mass of pearly white fibers of healthy root mass, the humble root hair is just a single cell thick. Root hairs tend to be quite delicate, yet they give real estate in the enormous surface area provided to absorb water and nutrition. As a root promoter or booster, we are looking for anything that will increase lateral branching, increases overall surface area, can help fight pathogens, increase nutrient uptake, and provide the plant with much-needed sustenance. Most “root boosters” tend to be highly flexible with different nutrient lines and feeding schedules because they are reliant on different means to boost root growth. These methods include but are not limited to; inoculation of beneficial bacteria and fungus, triggering of enzymatic processes, amending of plants diet.
In order for plants to grow and properly develop, they require certain nutrients that are not always abundant in our mediums. Over time, however, with vigorous plant growth we all strive for comes nutrient level depletion. A healthy root system is necessary for plants to absorb other nutrients as well, and therefore, is critical to the plant’s overall health and vitality. Plants will cease to grow unless the soil’s nutrients are replenished. Base nutrients and supplements are used to restore nutrients to prevent deficiencies and ensure consistent vigorous growth. Each nutrient serves a multitude of roles in the development and life cycle of plants. Phosphorus is essential for strong root growth and thus a key point in this article. Fertilizers rich in phosphorus are not only used to promote root growth and to correct excessively high nitrogen levels, which can injure plant roots. Phosphorus is one of the three plant macronutrients, along with nitrogen and potassium. Being these nutrients play such a vital part in the growth of plants, and adequate supply of nutrients can be depleted quickly from mediums, the need for supplementation is apparent. In addition to its role in plants’ proper root growth, phosphorus is needed for fruit, flower and seed development. Not to mention, it is used for photosynthesis as well as cell division.
Another way to boost root growth and benefit overall plant health is to inoculate with beneficial mycorrhizae. The primary function of beneficial mycorrhizae is the ability to exchange nutrients with the surrounding environment and the host plant. With the increase in surface area and the protection they offer to the plant’s roots, the Mycorrhizae is able to seek out a lot of nutrients for its host. Mycorrhizae also assist with the uptake of water, inorganic phosphorus, mineral or organic nitrogen, and amino acids through specialized transporters on the individual membrane. Once the water and nutrients are absorbed, they can be transported to the host, which in return will supply carbon completing the symbiotic relationship. This relationship between the mycorrhizae and plant can have a great impact on the surrounding environment. In areas where drought is expected, the plants that are able to use the mycorrhizas increased surface area will obtain more water and will have a major advantage over those without this symbiotic relationship. The same can be said about environments that are low in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The plants that can have this association with mycorrhizal fungi will again have a greater chance of inhabiting this area because of the helping hand from the mycorrhizal inoculation at the roots.
Enzymes help to facilitate the breakdown of dead root matter. This will consequently turn the dead root matter into simple sugars that can then be consumed by beneficial bacteria and fungi. Enzymes are proteins that are made primarily of amino acids that tend to act as catalysts. Enzymes will facilitate, energize, and expedite reactions on a molecular level. Enzymes are specific to what they catalyze. Only when the proper enzyme locates the correct substrate, will the biochemical reactions take place. For instance, when cellulase breaks down cellulose into simple sugars, you will not have to worry about the cellulase interacting with anything else because it can only react with cellulose. This simple fact is the reason it is important to choose to incorporate the proper enzymes for your roots, but more importantly, to get rid of material deemed unwanted without affecting the good for the overall health of your garden.
Following these practices will enhance every aspect of growth, development, and ultimately, yields in your garden. Optimizing your root zone will build the foundation you need to get the best harvest possible, and HTG has everything you need to do so!
Welcome back folks to another Talking Shop with High Tech Garden Supply in Prospect Park. Each week we try to discuss something different or unique that will help you become a more prolific and knowledgeable grower.
This week I wanted to cover another emerging trend that has some growers scratching their heads and asking themselves “can that be done?”. I am referring to using organics in a hydroponic system. Organics and hydroponics are two different cultivation techniques that are often considered to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Hydroponic growers can often claim faster growth rates and heavier yields, whereas the organic gardener will claim better flavors, aromas, and overall presentation of a crop. Hydroponics utilize inert or neutral substrates coupled with a salt (mineral) based nutrient solution to provide the plant with all the necessary macro and micro nutrients. Organics, however, make use of soils and compost to provide the same elements of nourishment to a plant. Hydroponic fertilizers, for the most part, are synthetic salt based – and when added to water, they will quickly break down into charged particles (ions) that rapidly interact with a plants roots. On the other hand, organic compounds require assistance to be broken down into an available form – this is usually accomplished slowly via a diverse web of beneficial bacteria and fungi. The difference in how nutrients are rendered into an available form is the main reason organics traditionally did not work well in hydroponics.
Recently I have been noticing a surge in growers looking to take on the challenge of marrying organics and hydroponics into a best of both worlds hybrid system. More than likely you have heard about Aquaponics, which uses fish as the main source of nutrients for a hydroponic solution. The fish waste is broken down by worms and microbes and then taken up by the plants. The plants act as a filter of sorts – keeping the water clean for the fish. This is one of the more common routes a grower may take when trying to merge organics and hydroponic, however these systems can be quite difficult to master as it also heavily involves aquaculture. Aquaponics systems do a great job of generating high amounts of nitrogen, but will often lack in the production of Phosphorus and Potassium. This makes Aquaponics a suitable choice for leafy green crops, but may leave something to be desired in terms of heavy fruiting or flowering crops. The folks over at Microbe Life do a great job at catering to the Aquaponic gardener with their fish friendly line of nutrients and supplements. These products can really make all the difference if the fish in your Aquaponic system are struggling to keep up with a demanding crop. Microbe Life products are available at select HTG Supply locations.
Another hybrid technique that has been increasing in popularity is called Bioponics. This technique takes any standard hydro system (ebb &flow, DWC, NFT, ALT, etc) and substitutes the use of synthetic nutrients with all organic compost teas and plant derived nutrients. The key to a successful Bioponics system, much like with any organic soil, is the use of beneficial microbiology. Beneficial microbes, like Trichoderma, actually require solid organic material to colonize and thrive. If you are using Coco fiber as a substrate in Bioponics, this should give the microbes enough space to colonize, but what if you are using expanded clay pellets or Rockwool? Regardless of the substrate, best practices will always call for a bio-filter. A bio-filter is a heavily aerated space or chamber that houses substrate and materials on which beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microbes can colonize and grow. This area should be inoculated with a diverse array of microbes regularly for best results. Water is drawn from the reservoir, passes through the bio-filter, and is then returned back to the reservoir. As the nutrient solution passes through the bio-filter, the organic compounds can be broken down by the microbes – converting the compounds into available ions. Beneficial bacteria and fungi will also cycle back into the reservoir and will colonize the plants roots, assisting with nutrient uptake while adding protection against nasty pathogens (the more good guys in the colony, the less room there is for bad guys). This exchange of water will also increase the oxygen levels in the water, creating a more conducive biosphere. Incorporating fish into Bioponics is always an option, but again, can add another layer of complexity with the associated aquaculture involved.
So why Bioponics? What are the benefits of this hybrid style of agriculture? For starters, this is a cost efficient way to grow that is also environmentally friendly. Using 100% organic fertilizers will ensure that there is little to no EC build up due to excessive chlorides (often seen with synthetic nutrients). If there is no accumulation of chlorides, there is less of a need for a reservoir change. With Bioponics it is very common to wait 2-3 weeks before exchanging water, with some growers claiming that they never have to completely exchange their reservoirs! This can save you a tremendous amount of money when compared to standard hydroponics, which calls for exchanging water every 7 days. If changing your water our every 3 weeks makes you nervous, consider using submersible pumps that also offer an aeration feature. The added aeration can help prevent negative pathogens from breeding and will promote more vigorous root growth. Danner Manufacturing offer an extensive line of submersible pumps (Supreme Hydro-Mag) equipped with Venturi adapters that simultaneously aerates the “return” water flow. Another obvious reason a grower may choose to go with Bioponics would be quality. Crops grown with soilless Bioponics retain the same enhanced flavors and aromas typically reserved for organically grown soil crops. Bioponics offer superlative yields over crops grown in soil and aquaponics, but doesn’t yield quite as heavy as traditional hydroponics. Of course the variety of plant you start with significantly impacts what you will finish with, regardless of gardening techniques. Bioponics requires a skilled grower that has experience with both hydro and organics and is certainly not for the faint of heart. However you have the skill set and are up for the challenge, the benefits are extremely rewarding, especially in terms of quality.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Talking Shop with High Tech Garden Supply in Prospect Park, PA. Feel free to join the discussion by posting your comments below! Be sure to check out some of the posts coming out of our other 15 retail locations for even more Talking Shop! Be safe, good luck, and good growing!
By: HTG Supply Roseville on 09/29/2017
Compost Teas… What are they? What do they do? You’ve probably heard the term being used before at the grow shop or among other growers, but you never really learned what this whole tea thing was about. Maybe all of this talk of “brewing” and “teas” for plants just sounds weird to you, but if you’re unfamiliar with this practice read on, or your yields could be missing out big time!
Brewing a compost tea is the process by which one extracts, multiplies, and grows nutrients, bacteria and fungi from natural sources. To do this, gardeners will often introduce bacteria/fungi into an aerated reservoir or bucket of water mixed with molasses. The Molasses becomes food and thus fuel for the bacteria to multiply, while the fungi begins to grow larger. The more bacteria present in your brew, and the larger the fungi grows, the greater your root mass and nutrient uptake will be. Bacteria works to assist with nutrient uptake, while the fungi develops upon, and in turn, grows your root mass. The bigger the roots, the bigger the fruits, and this is a great way to achieve root growth.
Using Teas is an amazing way to let your plants thrive and grow in a way similar to what occurs naturally in the environment. Mimicking Mother Nature is something growers have done for years, and brewing your own teas is a big part of that. Many growers like to use worm castings within their brews as well, but the term compost tea derives from using mature garden compost as the main ingredient. Garden compost is rich and diverse with tons of bacteria and fungi straight from your environment. Traditionally the gardener would introduce the compost in some kind of filter bag (still using the molasses as stated above), and introduce natural low strength food sources for your plant as well as microbes. More often than not, these various food sources include kelp (microbial food as well as a natural root growth stimulant), humic acid (utilized to naturally uptake micro nutrients while also adding more food for microbes to eat and break down), and fish protein (naturally occurring amino acids which are easily converted into available nitrogen for the plant).
When you stop into HTG Supply, one thing you’ll notice right away is the variety of products we carry that are related to compost tea. Whether you want to start with brewing your own traditional compost teas or adding microbes that are ready to brew, we’ve got everything you need to get going today. Grab a bag of “Ancient Forest” or Bountea humisoil, and add a rich source of highly broken down, aged forest material, loaded with microbes for your brews. Try a bag of Detroit Worm Castings with some Hi Brix Molasses by Earth Juice, and get a tea brewing with some Great White by Plant Success. Also be sure to check out our highly popular Stump Tea. Our premixed and ready to brew Stump Tea is loaded with bacteria and fungi, and is widely used by growers across the country.
By: HTG Supply West Springfield on 10/06/2017
Strap in, this one’s more of a tutorial instead of an editorial!
I use a sort of RDWC system that is basically a hybrid of 3 different types of hydroponic watering systems. I like the ebb and flow system, the DWC system, and the drip system. I really like the DWC watering method because you have the plant submerged in a nutrient solution of water all the time while continually aerating the water with the essential oxygen that the plants need to flourish during the growing process. Without the constant aeration, roots will ‘drown’, so to speak, and the plant(s) will die. I also like the idea of the ebb and flow system as well. I was impressed by the way ebb and flow systems worked – filling only a few times a day and then staying empty for most of the day, which makes direct aeration of the site bucket unnecessary. However, with that being said, I didn’t like the fact that the buckets didn’t drain completely. I wanted to come up with a system that gave you the best of both worlds. So I took the ten gallon Slucket with the 8″ Slucket net pot lid and some ¾” barbed elbows, and went to work.
I came up with adding the drip system to allow me to get the plants from seedlings in the propagator to the vegetative stage faster. This knocks a week or two off the vegetative stage and allows for more harvests per calendar year, instead of waiting for a larger root system to transfer into the hydroponic system. I chose the Slucket because of the 10-gallon capacity and the ability to completely drain it. I use a 4” O2 disc to aerate the Slucket.
I used the 4” O2 disc because it worked perfectly for what I needed – something to cover the hole to allow for proper drainage and to prevent it from clogging with roots and growing medium. They work great because they have suction cups on them that hold the stone off the bottom just enough to allow for smooth drain-and-fill without the clogging hassles we’ve all run into in the past. So, to make this all make sense, I had to come up with a fill-and-drain system that was suitable to what I envisioned in my head.
That said, ebb and flow systems stay drained for the most part and only feed 3 to 4 times a day, where a DWC system is constantly full and is aerating at all times. I put the system on a feeding schedule that keeps the buckets full for 40-45 minutes per hour and I circulate the water out for 15 minutes per hour, keeping the Sluckets totally empty for 10-15 minutes per hour depending on your pumps. While the Slucket’s empty, I have a drip system set up to drip right over the plant while the bucket empties, which feeds the plants during this period and in turn produces a larger root mass in the 8” net pot lid, with clay pebbles as a medium.
I get a massive root system in the Slucket itself as well. This maximizes all available areas in the bucket to produce a greater root zone. We all know better roots = better fruits, right? I found that by doing this, it allows me to transplant my seedlings into my hydroponic system more quickly, giving me more harvests per calendar year, and I use the drip system throughout the whole life cycle of the plant. I found that I get larger yields running my system this way.
Just sharing the love for gardening and spreading the knowledge of what I find, because that’s how we do it here at HTG.
Good luck and Happy Growing!
Talking Shop! This Week – Fluorescent Lighting!
This week we are going to look at high-output T5 fluorescent lighting and the best applications of this technology. Undoubtedly, most growers are familiar with fluorescent lights. With the possible exception of millennials, I would even go as far as to say that most growers’ first attempt at gardening indoors involved using some form of fluorescent light – I know mine did! Fluorescent technology has definitely seen its advances over the years, from the antiquated T12 and T8 shop lights your dad used in the garage all the way to the ultra-efficient High-output T5 lamps which have become the premier option for fluorescent grow lights. High-output T5s vary from their T12 and T8 ancestors in a number of different ways. For starters, T5 lamps have a smaller diameter at 5/8” vs. T8 lamps at 1” and T12 lamps at 1 ½” diameter. High-output T5 lamps also boast higher wattages per lamp (54 watts) and generate more PAR and lumens per watt than their predecessors. Manufactures like AgroMax and Hortilux offer T5 lamps in a considerable variety of enhanced spectrums. All of these lamps are designed from the ground up to be more conducive to horticulture as opposed to what T8 technology currently offers, or what the now discontinued T12 may have ever offered. Although T5 Fluorescent technology has taken a bit of a back seat to the likes of HID and LED systems, there are still plenty of applications where T5 lighting really shines. Pun intended.
High-output T5 lighting is still one of the best options for propagating seeds and rooting clones. Specifically, T5 lamps in the 6400K spectrum deliver the ideal light for starting strong and healthy seedlings. This spectrum works equally well while trying to root freshly cut clones. HID lights tend to be too intense and hot for seedlings. High-wattage HPS and MH lights frequently cause seedlings to stretch too much, causing the sprout to topple over. HID lights also typically consume more energy than T5 fluorescent fixtures – thus costing more on the electricity bill. There are definitely some nice LED fixtures available that do a great job at seed starting, but LED technology is easily two to three times more expensive to buy into vs T5 fluorescents. Immediate affordability is a huge advantage of fluorescent lighting; a four-foot-long four-lamp T5 fixture can comfortably power a 2’x4′ propagation area and will only cost you about $130 total for the fixture and the lamps.
When comparing Fluorescent T5’s side by side to Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium, it’s no secret that you can achieve heavier yields by utilizing HID lamps as your driving force in vegetative and flowering cycles. However, you can really bolster your crop quality and yield by adding supplemental T5 lights! Fluorescent T5’s can be used on the outskirts of a grow plot to illuminate the shadowy areas, and can be run vertically up the sides of your grow area to help get light through to the under-canopy growth. Some growers will even run T5s facing upward underneath their plants. Plants’ photo-receptors are actually located on the top of the leaf, so this last type of supplemental light will only offer marginal benefits, but there’s very little harm in covering your bases. 6400K Veg, 5500K Pro-Veg, 10000K and Pure Par Veg lamps can all be used to supplement leafy greens or vegetative cycles. AgroMax 3000K Bloom, 10000K +UV, and Pure Par Bloom lamps work fantastically for any fruiting and flowering stages. AgroMax even offers a PURE UV lamp with the highest amount of UV-B (75%) available in any T5 lamp! Supplementing your plants’ growth with light from PURE UV T5s for a few hours each day during the final week or so before harvest has proven to significantly increase the amount of essential oils a plant will produce. This means improved flavors and exceptional aroma!
Fluorescent T5 lighting can certainly take a plant from seed to harvest all by itself, with some decent results in quality too, but you won’t be shattering any records in terms of yields. Fluorescents are an accessible and affordable form of lighting that is best used on your youngest plants or as supplemental lighting to a more intense light source in the garden/greenhouse, but whatever you do with them just know that they’re excellent lights with a lot of uses and benefits.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Talking Shop with High Tech Garden Supply in Prospect Park. Always feel free to join the discussion by posting your comments below and be sure to like/follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! Also, don’t miss out on the Harvest Sale happening all month long on HTGSupply.com – just enter CASHCROP17 to get 10% off select harvesting supplies at checkout!
Good luck and Happy Growing!