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"How To" Hydroponic Systems, Plant Nutrients,  Lighting


How-To Maintain Hydroponic Systems
 

How-To Maintain Your Plant Nutrients Reservoir

How-To Determine What Size Water Pump You Need

How-To Choose Between HPS and MH and Fluorescent Hydroponic Lighting

How-To Determine What Size (Wattage) Hydroponic Lighting System You Need

How-To Test for pH in Plant Nutrients solution

How-To Choose Which Plant Nutrients to Use

How-To Avoid Plant Nutrients Disorders

How-To Feed Your Hydroponics Plants

How-To Increase Propagation and Plant Cloning Success

How-To Do Plant Cloning

 

How-To Maintain  Hydroponic Systems

As with soil-based production, producing crops in hydroponic systems always requires maintenance.  The following list may seem like a lot of work; however, as you become experienced most tasks and checks will only take a few minutes each day.

Daily

*  Check Reservoir for water levels, pH and TDS fluctuations.

*  Check grow room temperatures and humidity percentages.

*  If you use CO2; the CO2 system should be checked to ensure that it is working correctly.

*  Check watering system.  If a pump fails it should be replaced immediately.  If drippers are blocked they should be cleaned or replaced immediately.

*  Check plants for disease and insect infestations.  It is always best to stop disease and insect outbreaks early.  The longer an infestation is left the more difficult it will be to cure, yield losses will be high and crop failures are possible.

*  Check plants for leaf discoloration and deformities that may be caused by such problems as nutrient deficiencies or nutrient burn (over feeding), as well as leaf curl from lights being too close.

*  Crop hygiene is extremely important.  Cut off and discard diseased leaves.  If a plant is badly diseased, it is always better to throw out one or two plants to control disease outbreaks than it is to destroy a complete crop.  The same applies to insect infestations, especially spider mites.

*  General maintenance - failed light bulbs, light movers, fans, loose ducting, leaks etc. should be replaced or repaired.

Weekly

*  The growing medium should be flushed once a week to stop nutrient lock up.

*  Complete reservoir change should be done weekly to prevent nutrient imbalances and bacteria build-up.

*  Foliar spraying for disease and insect pests should be done weekly to prevent outbreaks.

End of Each Crop

*  The hydroponics system should be completely sanitized at the end of each crop.  This will minimize disease carry over to the next crop.

*  The grow room should be sanitized with insecticides and fungicides.  Walls, floors, ceilings and equipment should be wiped down to remove insects/eggs and fungi spores.  The cleaner the grower is in his growing room the fewer problems he will have in the following crop.

 

How-To Maintain Your Plant Nutrients Reservoir

We recommend that you change your reservoir once a week.  This entails "dumping" your reservoir and re-filling it with fresh water and nutrients.  The reason for this is that as the plants feed, the nutrient solutions will fall out of balance.  Also, bacteria grows at a geometric rate.  If you change your solution every week you will decrease the possibility of bacteria becoming a problem.  While it is possible to go longer between changes if you are using reverse osmosis water instead of tap water, you still have the bacteria issue to contend with, so unless you are using something to inhibit the bacterial growth, you should still change your reservoir weekly.


How-To Determine What Size Water Pump You Need

There are three types of hydroponics pumps to choose from; submersible, non-submersible and semi-submersible.  The submersible pump sits and pumps completely submerged in the nutrient solution.  The non-submersible sits on the outside of the nutrient solution.  The semi-submersible sits in the solution to pump but the top of the pump must remain dry. 

My personal preference between the three choices is the submersible pump.  It's small, compact, powerful and easy to use.  It will last for years and you don't have to worry about keeping a pump like the semi-submersible dry as it can tend to fall over into the water and destroy itself.

The size of your pump doesn't depend on the size of your reservoir, rather it depends on how far you need to pump your water and how much water you need to pump.  You want to avoid overworking your pump, so in choosing the proper pump you will want to choose one with at least 20% more power than needed.  To find out your appropriate pump size you will need to determine how much water is necessary to fill your tray.  If your tray is in the shape of a rectangle or square then you will need to apply the following formula to determine its volume:

Length (ft) x Width (ft) x Average Depth (ft) x 7.5 = ? US gallons

This will give you the total gallons that your tray can hold.  It is a good idea to always get a pump that is at least 20% larger than necessary to avoid overworking it.

After you've determined your volume requirements you need to find out how far "up" the water needs to be lifted in order to reach the tray.  Simply measure the distance between your pump and the entry point in your tray; most systems will have a distance of under 3'.  This vertical distance will have an adverse affect on the pump and this affect must be accounted for.  In essence, the greater the vertical distance the water must travel, the stronger the pump needs to be. 


How-To Choose Between HPS and MH and Fluorescent Hydroponic Lighting

There are two primary types of lighting used to grow plants.  High Intensity Discharge (HID) is by far the most common, and includes Metal Halide (MH), which is used primarily for the vegetative stage of growth.  Halide is a white light which provides light in a more natural color and is usually used for the beginning stages for plant growth.  The other type of lighting is the High Pressure Sodium (HPS) which is yellowish in color and is used during the flowering or fruiting stage. 

Another popular type of plant lighting is Fluorescent lighting.  Fluorescent lighting is used primarily for starting seedlings and cuttings, but T-5 to T-12 fluorescent bulbs are strong enough to grow short plants from start to finish.  It is important to note that not all fluorescent lighting is the same and only certain types should be used for growing plants.  Most (if not all) standard fluorescent tubes are fine for illuminating a garage or office, but usually lack the spectrum and intensity needed to sustain plant growth.  It should also be noted that if you are growing houseplants that require very little light to sustain growth, you can probably get away with some of the inferior types of fluorescent lights.  But, if you are growing plants that need plenty of natural sunlight in order to thrive (such as vegetables and flowers), you will be extremely unhappy with the results you get from these bulbs.

There are three types of fluorescent bulbs that are considered suitable for plant growth: Standard tubes with enhanced spectrum (such as the Verilux), Compact fluorescents and T-5 fluorescents.

Verilux

Verilux bulbs look similar to the bulbs you typically find in shop lights and offices.  The main difference is that, unlike standard tubes which lose their intensity and spectrum in as little as 6 weeks, Verilux tubes retain their properties much, much longer.  They also have a spectrum that is extremely close to natural sunlight.  They can be used in any standard shop light fixture.  The should only be used for growing houseplants, orchids, or for starting seedlings or cuttings.

Compact Fluorescents

These bulbs are available in a variety of wattages ranging from 95W up to 200W.  They produce a higher lumen output than regular fluorescents, and are available in 6500K (daylight) for vegetative growth and 3000K (red) to enhance flowering.  Unlike regular fluorescents, compact fluorescents do not require a fixture, since the ballast is built into the base of the bulb.  They require  a socket (the same type of socket you would use for an HID bulb) and a power cord, and can be used with or without a reflector.  Using a reflector, however, will direct more of the light down onto the plants.  Another common use for compact fluorescents is to hang them vertically, usually without a reflector, in between large plants to provide supplemental side lighting.  Compact Fluorescents can be used for growing houseplants, orchids, or for starting seedlings or cuttings.  For plants that do not require full sunlight, or for varieties that tend not to stretch under weaker light, these bulbs can be used for the entire vegetative stage, and in some cases flowering as well.

T-5 Systems

T-5's are the best fluorescent light bulbs available.  They are similar to standard fluorescent tubes, only much smaller in diameter.  They put out far more light than standard fluorescents, and have a much better spectrum as well.  T-5's must be used in a T-5 fixture; they will not work with standard fixtures.  They are available in different sizes and configurations, ranging from 2' two bulb fixtures up to 4' eight bulb fixtures.  The eight bulb fixture is approximately equivalent to a 600W HPS lighting system.  T-5 bulbs are available in 6500K (daylight) for vegetative growth and 3000K (red) to enhance flowering.  T-5 systems are excellent for starting seedlings and cuttings, and in many cases take plants from start to finish, provided you keep the plants on the short side.

There are also T-8's and T-12's that are even better.

How-To Determine What Size (Wattage) Hydroponic Lighting System You Need

There are two things to consider when deciding what size lighting system to use: the actual area in which the plants will be taking up, and how tall you want your plants to grow. 

Seedlings and Small Plants:     Fluorescent lights are lower in light output which makes them better for starting seedlings and smaller plants.  150-175 watt lights are primarily used for seedlings or cuttings, though they can be used for growing plants to maturity if the plants are kept short.  250 watt systems are good for areas up to 2.5' square at the most, as long as the plants don't get taller than about 2'.  While you can start seedlings with Sodiums and Halides, make sure the light is further away from the plants.

Large Plants:     Larger plants need the bright light that halides and sodiums can provide.  400 watt systems cover a primary area of about 3' x 3', or up to 4' x 4' max.  600 watt systems cover a primary area of about 4' x 4', or up to 5' x 5' max.  1000 watt systems cover from 4' x 6' up to 5' x 7'.  The taller you plan to grow your plants, the higher the wattage needed.  This is because the light intensity diminishes by 50% for every foot you move away from the bulb.  So, if your plants reach 4' tall, then the leaves at the bottom of the plant are receiving only around 12% of the light that the top of the plant is getting!

Each Hydroponic Indoor Gardening area is different, however, basic guidelines for Hydroponic Lighting are:

  • HID Grow Lights for plants (Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium) and Fluorescent T5-T12 Grow Bulbshave the light intensity to grow your Hydroponic plants through full cycle
  • Fluorescent Grow lights for plants are economical to buy; MH Grow Lights and HPS Light System Bulbs are safer, more economical to run, and more efficient for tall Hydroponic plants
  • Quality MH and HPS Grow Lights generally produce from 120 to 140 lumens per watt
  • A 3'x3' hydroponic indoor area requires about 18,000 lumens
  • 250 watt HID Hydroponics Grow Lights produce about 29,000 lumens
  • 250 to 400w Grow Lights are effective for 9-12 sq ft Hydroponic indoor areas, based on the height of your Hydroponic plants
  • 600w Grow Lights are generally effective for 12 to 20 sq ft Hydroponic gardening areas, &
  • 1000w Grow Lights are generally effective for a 20-40 sq ft Hydroponic indoor area
  • Choose your Grow lights for plants first, then choose  the Hydroponic Grow Light Reflector and Ballasts to fit your exact Hydroponic Indoor Gardening Grow Light System

Ballasts:          

Magnetic ballasts have been the standard for decades.

The Digital Ballast represents a breakthrough in HID lighting, and offers many benefits:

*  Works with both MH and HPS bulbs

*  Energy savings of up to 30%

*  Produces no heat

*  No start-up spike of electricity

*  Power factor (efficiency rating) is 99%

*  Consistent wattage output - improves bulb life

*  Components are American-made

*  No stroboscopic (flickering) effect - as close to natural sunlight as you can get

*  These ballasts also have a built-in safety feature.  If an open circuit exists while trying to ignite the lamp, the ballast will stop and then attempt to ignite the lamp again every 30 seconds for 2 minutes.  The ballast will then go into a sleep mode for 30 minutes and then repeat.  This saves many dangerous and unnecessary attempts to ignite and burn out the ballast, which could result in safety hazards.

Reflectors:

The reflector is undoubtedly the single most important factor to consider when choosing a lighting system.  The reflector dictates whether the light is concentrated on the plants, or splashed up against the walls.  While some bulbs are a little brighter than others, a quality reflector can reflect up to 50% more light straight down onto the plants than a lower quality reflector.  Here's a common mistake that first-time growers make.  They see a reflector that is advertised as covering up to an 8' x 8' area (with a 1000W bulb installed).  Then they see another reflector advertised as covering only a 4' x 6' area, and for more money too!  Which would you choose?  Well, consider this: Let's say that a 1000W HEPS bulb puts out 140,000 marbles, each marble representing one lumen.  You pour this jar into an area that measures 8' x 8'.  You get a pretty thin layer of marbles.  Now, pour this same jar into a 4' x 6' area, and you have a much thicker layer of marbles, right?  Is it starting to make sense?  Stay away from the reflectors that throw the light all over the place, unless you are growing houseplants!  The smaller the area covered, the brighter it will be, and the better your plants will grow and yield.  Horizontal hoods are the best choice for plants that require a lot of light, such as most vegetables and flowers.  Horizontal hoods direct the light straight down on the plants, throwing more intense light over a smaller area.  This is by far the most popular choice among growers.  Air-cooled hoods have flanges that allow you to hook an exhaust fan to the hood to suck out the hot air generated by the bulb, thus reducing the amount of heat in the grow room.

Bulbs:

How often do I need to replace my bulbs?

Natures Hydroponics recommends that HPS bulbs should be replaced at least every 12 months (8 months or less is ideal).  MH bulbs should be replaced every 9 months (6 months or less is ideal) for maximum efficiency.  The use of a light meter would be the best and most accurate way in which to measure your bulbs output as well as to help with bulb replacement timing.

What is the difference between an MH Regular and Super Bulb and how do I know which one I need to buy?

A Metal Halide Super Bulb has a higher lumen (light) output, and is almost always position oriented.  These bulbs have a pin sticking out of the side of the mogul (base) where the bulb screws into the socket.  These bulbs require a position oriented socket that is designed to catch the pin so that the bulb is rotated into the correct position, otherwise the bulb will not perform as expected.  In addition, these Super MH bulbs must be burned in a horizontal position only.  All other bulbs (non-position oriented), including the MH regular bulb, can be burned in either a horizontal or vertical position (i.e. they are universal) unless otherwise noted in the individual bulb description.

General:

What is a recommended lighting schedule for Vegetation and Flowering?

For Clones/Seedlings and Vegetative Growth, Natures Hydroponics recommends using an 18 hours on/6 hours off lighting schedule.  In order to induce your plants to flower we recommend subjecting your plants to a 12 hours on/12 hours off lighting schedule.


How-To Test for pH in Plant Nutrients Solution 

pH stands for "Potential of Hydrogen" and is the symbol for the hydrogen ion (H+) in liquids.  pH is the measurement of the hydrogen ion concentration in a particular medium such as water, soil, or nutrient solution.  More simply, it refers to the acidity or alkalinity of that medium.  pH has a range from 0 (acidic) -14 (alkaline), with 7 being neutral.  For hydroponics we are aiming for a pH between 5.5 to 6.2 (slightly acidic); this is suitable for most hydroponic crops.  For soil, we want the pH a little higher but still slightly acidic; around 6.0 to 6.5.  Ensuring that the pH remains within this range will help maintain good plant health.  Keeping the pH in this range ensures that nutrients are readily available to the plant.  Once the grower goes above or below this optimal range certain nutrients start becoming unavailable to the plant (i.e. iron deficiencies will appear at a pH of 6.5 and above).

Newer growing mediums like perlite, rockwool and expanded clay have a neutral pH and will not alter your nutrient solution.  Some of the other materials that have been used for hydroponic growing in the past, including peat moss, saw dust, and vermiculite are often unstable and will affect the pH of your nutrient solution. 

All hydroponic growers need to test the pH of their nutrient solution for successful growing.  The pH of a solution can be tested using a standard pH test kit (sample vial with drops of indicator solution), litmus test strips, or a digital pH meter.  Litmus paper and standard test kits are cheap and easy to use; however, the degree of accuracy isn't very high.  Digital pH meters, although more expensive than the alternatives, are easy to use and very accurate.

Altering Your pH:

If you find that your pH is too alkaline (too high), you can increase acidity (lower pH) by adding white vinegar, sulfuric acid or "pH-Down".

If you find that your pH is too acidic (too low), you can increase alkalinity (raise pH) by adding baking soda or "pH-Up".

When adjusting your pH, it is important to add small amounts, measuring as you go, until you know exactly how much to add per gallon of water to reach the desired level.

Following are target pH ranges for various garden crops

   *  Beans 5.8 - 6.2                     *  Cabbage 6.3 - 6.5              *  Cucumbers 5.7 - 6.2                                     

   *  Eggplant 5.7 - 5.9                 *  Lettuce 5.7 - 6.2                *  Melons 5.4 - 5.6                 

   *  Peas 6.3 - 6.5                      *  Peppers 5.8 - 6.2               *  Radishes 5.8 - 6.2         

   *  Strawberries 5.8 - 6.2            *  Tomatoes 5.8 - 6.0               

If you plan to grow a variety of crops, some compromise will be necessary.  Growing plants with like needs together will yield the best results.


How-To Choose Which Plant Nutrients To Use

There are many brands of nutrients that are available to hydroponic growers.  The grower should first decide if they want to grow organically or conventionally.  The type of growing medium will also determine what type of nutrient a grower should use, i.e. if coco growing medium is used then you should consider using nutrients that are designed for coco (like Canna Coco nutrients).  The crop stage will also determine what nutrient should be used, i.e. a vegetative nutrient formula should be used when a plant is in vegetative stage (such as Super Veg A and Super Veg B).  Ultimately, the brand of nutrient which the hydroponic grower should use is purely up to the grower to decide. 


How-To Avoid Plant Nutrients Disorders

 

 

 

Nutrient

Deficiency

Excess

Nitrogen

Older leaves turn chlorotic and may eventually die.  Plant is stunted.  Foliage is light green. Plant becomes over vigorous, leaves become very dark green.  Fruit clusters have excessive growth and fruit ripening is delayed.

Potassium

Older leaves appear chlorotic between veins, but veins remain green.  Leaf edges may burn or roll. Uncommon to show toxicity.  Secondary manganese deficiency may occur.

Phosphorous

Stem, leaf veins, petioles turn yellow, followed by reddish-purplish as phosphorous is drawn from them into the new growth.  Seedlings may develop slowly.  Fruiting is poor. No direct toxicity.  Copper and zinc availability may be reduced.

Calcium

Plant is stunted.  Young leaves turn yellow.  Blossoms die and fall off.  Tomatoes may develop brown spots on the fruit. No direct toxicity.

Sulfur

Younger leaves become yellow with purpling at base.  Older leaves turn light green. Small leaves.

Iron

New growth pales, veins stay green.  Blossoms drop off.  Yellowing occurs between veins. Very uncommon.

Magnesium

Older leaves curl and yellow areas appear between veins.  Young leaves curl and become brittle. No direct toxicity.

Zinc

Leaves become chlorotic between veins and often develop necrotic spots. Reduces availability of iron.

Molybdenum

Older leaves turn yellow and leaf margins curl. Rare.  Tomato leaves may turn bright yellow.

Copper

Pale yellow.  Leaves become spotted.  Plant is stunted. May reduce availability of iron.

 

How-To Feed Your Hydroponics Plants

Whether you choose to grow your plants using organic hydroponics or regular hydroponics is based upon what you choose to feed your plants.

The following is one example of an organic hydroponics feeding plan that works well and is less expensive than professional hydroponics fertilizers, which tend not to be organic.

With seaweed based fertilizer, you do not need to supplement with liquid seaweed for trace nutrients.  Seaweed is also high in plant hormones, eliminating the need to supplement for these also.

Another popular method for organic hydroponics is to make a nutrient tea with worm castings and bat guano.  You may want to add maxicrop liquid seaweed and Thrive Alive B1 at 10 ml/gallon to add hormones and vitamins.

For the vegetative stage, put two parts worm castings to one part high nitrogen bat guano to make your tea.

For the flowering stage, use one part worm castings to two parts high phosphorus bat guano to make your tea.

Place the organics in a sock or pillow case and make your tea in 3 to 5 gallons of water.  A TDS or EC meter is very helpful to tell how strong the nutrient solution is.  Organics mixed in this way will seem to turn out a different strength every time.

Before use, determine how strong the nutrient solution should be, based on the stage of your plants life cycle.  The tea will likely be stronger than you need.  Simply add plain water until the solution is at just the right strength. 

Last, make sure you check the pH before using.

Picking an Organic Hydroponics System

The only difference between hydroponics and organic hydroponics is what you choose to feed your plants.  However, there are some hydroponic systems that do not work well with organic hydroponics.  Even organics with very few particles floating around will still clog drip emitters and spray heads.  Because of this, hydroponic drip systems or aeroponics is not recommended.

The hydroponics methods that work best with your organic nutrients are:

      *  Hand Watering

      *  The Reservoir Method

      *  Flood and Drain (aka ebb and flow)

      *  The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

      *  The Wick System 

How-To Increase Propagation and Plant Cloning Success

There are a few guidelines for successful propagation that when followed, can dramatically improve the ultimate success rate.  These are listed below.

Sterile Conditions and Equipment

Before attempting to germinate seeds or propagate cuttings, have all necessary equipment ready.  Make certain that tools, equipment and trays are sterile.  Scalpels, secateurs, or scissors should be razor sharp.  If a previous crop was infected with disease, this is even more crucial.  The entire growing environment should be thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution and this process should include all equipment that will come into contact with the new seedlings.

Suitable Propagation Medias

      *  Rockwool Propagation Blocks

      *  Compressed Peat "Jiffy Pots"

      *  Perlite/Vermiculite Mix

Preparation of Growing Media

Correct preparation of the growing media chosen can markedly improve the ultimate success rate.

Rockwool Propagation Blocks

Rockwool propagation blocks should be rinsed with a 1/2 strength nutrient solution to which has been added 4 drops of pH lower solution for each 2 liters of nutrient.  Allow the blocks to soak in this solution overnight if possible then discard the solution and just prior to sowing seeds, rinse the propagation blocks with 4 liters of 1/2 strength warmed nutrient solution to which has been added 4 drops of Rootzone Accelerant and 5 drops of Superthrive.  Before planting ensure that the blocks have drained completely.  Rockwool should be moist but not wet and should never be allowed to sit in a pool of nutrient/water.  If the blocks are dripping they are too wet.

Jiffy Pots

Jiffy pots are compressed peat pellets that expand when soaked in water.  Before use they should be soaked on a 1/2 strength nutrient solution to which Superthrive and Rootzone Accelerant have been added.  It is important to follow the directions for use on the labels of these products to avoid burning the new shoots once the seeds germinate.  Once the pellets have expanded they should be removed from the soaking solutions and allowed to freely drain, after which seeds can be sown.

Perlite/Vermiculite Seed Raising Mix

Perlite/Vermiculite seed raising mix consists of 50% Perlite and 50% Vermiculite.  This should be thoroughly mixed and wetted with a 1/2 strength nutrient solution to which Superthrive has been added.  Allow this mix to drain freely and then sow the seeds just below the surface of the growing media.

pH

pH is important not just for established plants but also when propagating.  Always maintain pH levels between 6.2 - 6.8 pH.  pH levels should be tested and adjusted if necessary before sowing seeds and at least weekly throughout the growth of the plant.  Incorrect pH levels can cause toxicities of some nutrient elements and cause other nutrient elements to be unavailable to the plants therefore adversely affecting plant growth.

Temperature and Humidity

Maintaining constant temperature of between 20 - 28 degrees Celsius encourages rapid germination and healthy seedlings.  It is important to note that the faster clones or seedlings establish, the higher the success rate and the healthier your plants will be. Temperature and humidity play an important role in successful propagation.  Clones or seeds should be placed in a cloning chamber to promote a warm, moist environment.  While humidity is important, monitor the chamber daily to avoid excessive condensation build up.  As a rule, if water droplets trickle down the sides of the chamber, it is too wet and the vents should be opened, as extremes of temperature and/or excessive humidity will inhibit germination and the establishment of healthy seedlings.  

Light

For propagation purposes, fluorescent light is ideally operated for between 16 - 18 hours per day.  The light should be operated by using an electronic time switch to ensure that the ON time and OFF time are the same each day.  As fluorescent lights are of a low intensity they should be positioned as close to the plants as possible.

Watering

Seedlings and clones need only a light mist spray to keep media moist and raise humidity, and provide food for the young plant.  When misting, it is best to use a warmed 1/2 strength nutrient and Superthrive to avoid burning the tender young shoots.


How-To Do Plant Cloning

Cloning involves preparing a small cutting taken from a mother plant, treating the cut stem with a rooting hormone and placing the prepared stem cutting in a cloning chamber.  The clone should grow roots and become an independent plantlet exhibiting identical characteristics to its' mother plant.  Most soft or semi-hardwood cuttings will have developed roots within a week to ten days.

Cloning is simply the process of taking a cutting from a mature female plant in the vegetative stage and inducing it to grow roots.  Clones will replicate the mother plant in every way, thereby making it crucial to have a mother plant of outstanding quality.  The newly rooted cutting can be induced to flower immediately, or it can be put under a vegetative light cycle to attain a larger size.

As soon as the clone is large enough you can begin to take cuttings from it.  This can be done infinitely without any loss of desired qualities.

The Mother Plant

It is important to choose a mother plant carefully.  When selecting a suitable mother plant consider the following:

      *  Aesthetic qualities, shape, density of leaves, compactness and size.

      *  Heavy flowering/fruit production.

      *  Disease and insect resistance.

      *  Early maturation.

      *  Clones well and produces strong new plantlets.

Your mother plant should be healthy and stress free.  Cuttings coming from a stressed mother plant may root poorly, be slow growing, produce poorly and become mutated.  It is important to reinforce that the condition of your mother plant is paramount to the success of your clones.  As a general guide do not take more than 20 - 30% of the vegetative material from each mother plant and do not take cuttings from the mother plant more than three times.

Cloning - The Cloning Kit

The following items will help you to achieve successful cloning:

      *  Fluorescent fixture with two full spectrum fluorescent tubes per fixture.

      *  280mm x 340mm Drip Tray, Seedling Tray and Plastic Grow Top.

      *  Growool Propagation Blocks - up to 3 fit a standard nursery seedling tray.

      *  Hormone rooting compound such as "Clonex", "Eziroot", or "Rootex-L".

      *  Heating pad or propagation mat.

      *  Superthrive - anti stress agent.

      *  Plant Root Zone Accelerant - hormone to enhance the development of roots.

      *  Reputable nutrient solution and a thermometer.

      *  Timer.

      *  New razor blade single edge and pruning shears or sharp scissors.

      *  Spray bottle for misting clones.

How to Take Cuttings

Before you begin to take cuttings, all equipment should be ready and in good working order.  All equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and the cloning area should be as sterile as possible.

Step 1.  Rinse the propagation blocks with a half strength nutrient solution to which has been added 4 drops of pH lower per two liters.  Let propagation blocks soak for up to 10 hours prior to cloning in this solution.  Discard soaking solution and just prior to cloning rinse blocks again with 4 liters of half strength warmed nutrient solution to which has been added 4 drops of Rootzone Accelerant and 5 drops of Superthrive.  Insert thermometer into cubes and allow temperature to reach the green zone before cloning commences.  Temperature should be maintained day and night within the range of 20 to 30 Cent if cloning is to be successful.

Step 2.  Select cuttings - cuttings can be taken from anywhere on the mother plant provided the stem is of the correct thickness.  Stem thickness should be between 4mm to 6mm diameter.  Take cuttings with about four sets of well developed leaves and approximately 100 mm to 150mm in length.  The topmost growing shoots make excellent cuttings, however, make sure the wood is of the correct thickness and not too green or too woody.  You may wish to take a number of cuttings at one time, immerse them in an ice cream container, or similar, filled with tepid water to which you have added a few drops of superthrive anti-stress formula.

Step 3.  Take the single edged razor blade and begin trimming your cuttings.  Take cuttings one at a time from tepid water and now trim bottom two sets of leaves flush with stem.  Trim approximately 50% of leaves by cutting across the leaf surface.  It is hard for the cutting to keep these large leaves alive and they usually wilt and fall off if not cut in half.  Cut the stem at forty five degrees across the bottom leaf nodes.  Gently scrape the cut area around the bottom of the stem.  This disrupts the cells on the stem surface and helps them change into root cells.  Take whatever rooting hormone you have purchased and dip the bottom of stem into your rooting compound.  Tip **Do not dip directly into rooting hormone bottle.  Instead pour some off into a small container such as a thimble and discard what is not used.  This saves you introducing any bacteria or disease into main container.  Store main bottle of rooting hormone in refrigerator after opening.

Step 4.  Now you are ready to put the cuttings into the growool propagation blocks.  Gently insert the stem into the cube making sure the stem does not protrude out of the bottom of the cube.  After all the clones have been prepared and placed in the propagation blocks you may water the block again with half strength nutrient solution to which you have added Superthrive and Root Zone Accelerant.  Water the blocks until nutrient freely runs from the blocks.  Allow to drain for a few minutes then place blocks inside the cloning chamber and place the chamber over the heating pad.  You should close the vents on the grow top for the first three days.  Check moisture and temperature for the first couple of days and mist cuttings morning and night with water to which you have added a couple of drops of Superthrive.  Be careful to ensure that you do not have water sitting in bottom of tray.  Growool cubes should be able to freely drain at all times.  Place cloning chamber under fluorescent fixture for approximately 16 - 18 hours per day.

Step 5.  After three days, open the vent on the Grow Top.  Monitor progress of clones for another 4 to 5 days.  By this stage it should be time to take Grow Top off the unit and expose clones to normal air - still continue misting morning and evening.  Again monitor nutrient and moisture levels in the propagation block.  By the end of a further 5 to 8 days you should be able to see root hairs protruding from the propagation blocks.  Healthy roots look thick, white and hairy.  Sickly roots look thin yellowish or brown and hairless.  The clones with the healthiest roots will be the same ones you will be proud of at harvest time. 

Step 6.  When your cuttings are well rooted and have begun to shoot it is time to transplant them into your growing system.  Slowly introduce them to full strength nutrient and place them under an H.I.D. light system.  Remember the new clones are tender and exposing them rapidly to a full strength H.I.D. lamp after the fluros would be a shock.  Care should be taken to acclimatise your new clones to the brighter light.  Start by raising the  H.I.D. lamp approximately one meter above the clones for the first few days.  Slowly lower the lamp over the next week until the lamp is at the correct height.  This will ensure a smooth stress free transition to growing under H.I.D. lamps.

General Tips  When setting up and maintaining your cloning box, take care to provide your clones with the best propagating environment and care possible.  To ensure fast rooting and high success rates, high humidity, 16- 18 hours fluorescent light, proper air circulation, strict attention to cleanliness and correct bottom heat are of the utmost importance.

Humidity should be 80-85%.  If air in cloning room is dry, mist more often.  Black leaf edges, black spots on leaves and mushy stems (damping off disease) are all indications of too much moisture and poor airflow.  It is also essential that you provide adequate bottom heat.  The cuttings and their cubes should be warm 24 hours per day.  Often people fail to clone successfully because they do not provide bottom heat and clones will root poorly when nighttime temperatures dip under twenty degrees centigrade.

Remember:  Stress is bad.  The faster your cuttings develop roots, the less stress they will endure.  Any stress the cuttings are exposed to can result in a decrease of final yield by up to 50%. 

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