2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results: Mills Nutrients is the Winner!

2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results

2014 Fertilizer Experiment Poll Results

The results are in and after 2 months of voting on the Atlantis Hydroponics fertilizer experiment poll all of you (our loyal readers) have spoken and I am happy to report that the winner of the January 2013 fertilizer poll is: Mills Nutrients bio-mineral fertilizer line.  We will run the experiment using Mills Nutrients side by side against  General Hydroponics Flora Duo using separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants will be lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium ViaVolt bulb.

Check back soon for pictures of the experiment and also for our next poll where once again, you will decide what products Atlantis Hydroponics tests. Thank you for your readership and your participation.

A New Year Means New Hydroponic Experiments!!!

2014 Fertilizer Experiment

Atlantis Hydroponics’ Potential Fertilizers for Testing in 2014

Although many of us are still reveling in the wonderful 2013 holiday season, I have already turned my attention to the upcoming year. I have been given the opportunity to test some great new hydroponic fertilizers designed to ensure that our 2014 crops are the biggest and best ever…and I would like to share this opportunity with all of you!

There is one dilemma: There are too many products from which to choose.  So I propose you, the readers, pick which products are tested in my experiment. The experiment will be conducted under a 600 watt HID light in a 4′ x 4′ side by side drip to waste hydroponic system. The potential fertilizers for testing are: Mills nutrients bio-mineral fertilizer line (a great Dutch organic/synthetic fertilizer), ROCK nutrients line of chemical fertilizers, Bio Tabs time release biological organic fertilizer line, Xtreme Nutrients line of fertilizers guaranteeing to produce a great grow, and last but not least the well known 3 part (grow, micro, & bloom) line of fertilizers from Humboldt Nutrients.

Vote for what you would like to see tested. Vote early. Vote often. Encourage others to vote. Vote for what you want and I will test, document and share ALL of the results.

Have a Happy New Year and thank you for your readership and participation.

The Rules of Growing

An Amazing Grow Room Built Inside of a Cave: Birds Botanicals

An amazing grow room built inside of a cave: Birds Botanicals

Most of us live a technology-packed, fast-paced life with push notifications influencing our behavior as we walk down the street, and our pockets constantly buzzing, dinging, and ringing as we sync our ever-busier schedules from phone to tablet to desktop. It is no surprise that we have lost touch with Mother Nature. Whatever the excuse for our lack of connection with the earth, the fact remains that sometimes what we need most is our hands in the dirt as a reminder that all of our scientific innovations and accomplishments still pale in comparison to the magic of a seed sprouting and growing into the very food that sustains our bodies. Gardening is for everyone. It is a reconnection with nature, a time where we can think in peace, pound our frustrations into the soil, and all the while regain a Zen state of being. No matter your schedule or living situation there is a type of garden that will fit your life!

Traditional Gardening:

The Backyard Garden – Simple and easy. Find a sunny spot in your yard and dig away. Any size plot will do, just stick your shovel in the ground and start turning the soil. Add plants or seeds and you have a garden!

The Raised Bed GardenFor the DIYer or those of us that have less than ideal soil, simply buy or build a raised bed, fill it with soil, and start your seeds.

The Square Foot GardenFor the space challenged, the urban gardener, or the balcony bound, a container or a few 3-5 gallon pots of soil along with a little planning and some organic seeds, and you are on your way to food self-sufficiency.

Urban / Modern Gardening:

 The Closet Garden – For anyone with a closet to spare. Protect the floor, reflect the light  (more on that in a minute), add a grow light, soil, and some seeds, and you can be a year round farmer.

A Great Example of a Grow Room: See Why Below...

A great example of a grow room

 The Grow Tent GardenThe simplest and fastest way to have a garden that meets your needs, as well as the needs of your plants. A perfect fit for every space (they come in lots of sizes), with all of the forethought already built in, it will make your garden a lush cornucopia in no time.

The Vivarium – This terrarium-style garden can be designed to meet the needs of more exotic plants, but for you “Type A” control freaks out there this might be what you are looking for. These little gardens are designed to be tiny working ecosystems behind glass. Attractive and compact, it is a perfect fit for your high rise apartment overlooking the concrete jungle, adding a bit of nature back to your brick bastion. Check out Orchid Karma for an exciting look at Vivariums.

A Vivarium is Like a Living Painting in Your Home

A Vivarium is like a living painting in your home

The “Out of the Box” Garden:

The Trailer Garden – Although not every gardener’s cup of tea, this type of garden is proving to be perfect for dooms day preppers and businessmen alike. It’s essentially a re-purposed  shipping container transformed into a cash cow or an end of the world Eden. Check out our friends at Podponics in Georgia for a more in-depth exploration of this contemporary take on farming.

A Shipping Container Makes a Great Garden...

An impressive garden built inside of a shipping container

The Cave Garden – I admit this one is a bit of a stretch as most of us do not have a vacant cave in our real estate portfolio, but this is really cool. What can you do when your mine shuts down, and you are left with a maze of tunnels winding inside the earth? Well if you are smart you may turn it into an underground farm. Check out Bird’s Botanicals to see how this gardener made an environment without sunlight into a horticultural oasis.

The Rooftop Garden – With a strong movement towards locally grown produce and a desire to reduce carbon footprint, many gardeners have transformed urban rooftops into productive and profitable farms.

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So what do these different gardens have in common? Basic needs. All plants require that five basic needs be met: Light, Air, Water, Fertilizer, and Substrate. Let’s examine how these needs are met by growers using the the various gardening methods above.

A Rose Grower Has Chosen To Use High Pressure Sodium Light to Grow Their Roses Indoors

A rose grower has chosen to use high pressure sodium light to grow his roses indoors.

Light:

Light provides the input of energy for the chemical process of photosynthesis that turns carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. Outdoor gardeners simply utilize the sun as their light source; after all it is free and effective on all but the cloudiest of days. Indoor growers like the closet gardener may employ a variety of light sources to provide energy to their gardens including fluorescent, HID, LED, and plasma lights. All mentioned will work for providing the energy necessary for photosynthesis, but some might be better suited to your needs. Talk to the associate at your garden specialty or local hydroponic store to find the best light for you.

Air:

Air is a category that encompasses several factors including carbon dioxide, temperature, and humidity. All of these are critical to plant growth and are all important to account for in any type of garden.

Carbon dioxide naturally occurs in the air we breathe (and ironically by the air we exhale), but the 400+ parts per million (PPM) in the air may not be sufficient if there is not enough air exchange or air movement in the garden. Outdoor gardeners have it pretty easy in that the natural movement of air ensures they always have enough CO2.

Indoor growers who have constructed rooms and grow tent gardeners must actively work to ensure their plants receive adequate CO2. For a grower just starting out a grow tent can be a good option. The grow tent manufacturers built in all of the same universal and necessary features of a grow room, affording a novice grower a well designed grow space without the years of experience necessary to design a grow room on their own.

A Well Designed Grow Room: Grow Tents offer all of the Same Features with Less Work

A well-designed grow room: grow tents offer all of the same features with less work.

One of the best things about grow tents are that the manufacturers, knowing that CO2 is necessary, have designed ventilation holes for both the intake and exhaust of air. Exhausting the air with an inline fan creates negative pressure inside the tent, and allows for the passive (or active if a second fan is also used) flow of fresh CO2 rich air from outside via the intake flaps. A gardener can also choose to supercharge their indoor garden by utilizing either bottled CO2 or a COgenerator to increase the available amount of CO2 in the room to 1500 PPM, but we’ll touch more on methods of adding CO2 to grow rooms in another blog post.

Achieving the Proper Temperature Inside The Cave Garden Took 6 Months: Now it is Perfectly Controlled With Just the Heat From the Lights & a Network of Fans

Achieving the proper temperature inside the cave garden took 6 months. Now it is perfectly controlled with just the heat from the lights and a network of fans.

Temperature requirements vary with the plant, and although most plants can survive for a short time outside of their ideal temperature range, longer exposure to extreme temperatures will slow growth and possibly kill them. Some orchids for example, like the Phalaenopsis (2nd most grown potted plant in the world) prefer a minimum of 65°F but prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50°F will cause severe damage or even death. That is why I must tip my hat to the ingenuity of David Bird, the cave gardener. He knew the ambient temperature of the cave in the mid 50s combined with HID lights would increase the temperature by 15+ degrees providing ideal temperatures for his tropical plants. Cooling is accomplished with fans pulling colder air from unheated areas deeper inside of the cave, while simultaneously exhausting the warm grow room air.

Humidity is sometimes overlooked by gardeners, but a necessary factor to be aware of and mitigate. Plants will grow in a wide range of humidity but some are more finicky than others. Humidity being too high can result in an environment that is overly hospitable to mold and bacterial infection, while low levels of humidity can stress a plant as it tries to replace moisture constantly lost to transpiration. The vivarium gardener must keep a watchful eye on their humidity as the small volume of air in the garden allows for rapid swings in humidity with slight increases in temperature. Often both a humidifier (to raise the humidity) and an exhaust fan (to lower humidity) are built into the design of a vivarium.

Water:

Water is necessary for all life, and one that all of our gardeners must supply. Fresh water can be provided from any number of sources including streams, reservoirs, ponds, aquifers, and wells. One of the simplest and best sources of water is rainwater. Using a simple rain water collection system and a rain barrel allows our rooftop gardener or square foot gardener to provide fresh water to their garden. When it comes to water, the question isn’t just its source, but how to use it. For plants growing in either soil or soilless mix, the best advice comes from a sage old orchid grower who said, “You can never water too much, only too often.” What he meant by that is if you water a little bit every day the growing medium will stay wet and the roots will rot. Conversely if you water a 1 gallon pot with 20 gallons of water the growing medium will be fully saturated but as long as you wait until the growing medium dries out appropriately your plant will not suffer. In fact heavy watering will help prevent fertilizer build-up in your growing media.

This Roof Top Herb Garden Relies on Rain Water for Irrigation

This rooftop herb garden relies on rainwater for irrigation

Fertilizer:

There are 16 elements that plants must have, although some would place that number in the twenties. There are many brands and formulations of fertilizer to choose from, and none of them are “the best.” That is because different plants, growing mediums, and growing environments all necessitate different fertilizer choices. So what do our square foot and back yard gardeners do? Many make their own fertilizer using grass clippings, leaves, and organic kitchen waste, by tossing it into the compost bin. It takes just a few months for free, supercharged, rich compost for their gardens that feeds the plants an organic diet rich in minerals and nutrients, while improving the quality of their soil.

Square Foot Raised Bed Garden

In a square foot garden, using rich organic compost helps improve the soil

Substrate:

The growing medium can have a significant impact on the success of any garden by determining several factors: moisture, pH, drainage, fertilizer retention (CEC), and oxygen content in the root-zone. There are many growing mediums to choose from: soil, soilless, LECA stone, diatomite, perlite, vermiculite, coconut, redwood fiber, sawdust, recycled glass (Growstone), volcanic rock, gravel, rockwool, and even air. Each of the growing mediums listed above (and by no means is it an exhaustive list) have attributes and differences that will make them more or less effective in a particular application. However, sometimes you just do not have many options, like the two inventive youths from Swaziland who took the limited materials they has access to (sawdust and chicken manure) and used them as the media for a hydroponic science experiment, winning $50,000 and the Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award.

Regardless of the type of gardener you are, the style of gardening you practice, or the crops you grow, the five basic needs of plants will always need to be addressed. The better you are at meeting the fundamental needs of your plants, the greater amount of attention you can devote to the details which differentiate a good gardener from a great one. With so many gardeners and innovative methods of farming coming into practice, remember the basics of growing remain the same.

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Hydroponic Fertilizer Experiment Update #2

Fertilizer Experiment Update

Fertilizer Experiment Update
APTUS & Heavy 16 on Left / GH Flora Duo on Right

Time for another update! We started our experiment testing Heavy 16 fertilizers and APTUS additives versus General Hydroponics’ Flora Duo a little more than 2 months ago. We are growing super hot peppers called Trinidad Scorpions, and they have really taken off!

To refresh your memory, or if you’re just joining us for the first time, the experiment is set up with separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants are being lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium Hortilux SUPER HPS bulb. Here are some numbers for all of you keeping track:

Fertilizer Experiment Metrics

Fertilizer Experiment Metrics

And now for some more pictures:

All Plants in the Experiment

All Plants in the Experiment

GH Plants

GH Plants

Heavy 16 & APTUS Plants

Heavy 16 & APTUS Plants

Monster Branching on GH Plant

Monster Branching on GH Plant

Monster Branching on Heavy 16 / APTUS Plant

Monster Branching on Heavy 16 / APTUS Plant

Hydroponic Fertilizer Experiment Update

Aptus Experiment week 4

Heavy 16 and Aptus vs GH Flora Duo Experiment WEEK 4
Flora Duo plants  in the Foreground, Heavy 16/Aptus plants in the back

We started our experiment (which all of you voted for) about a month ago: testing Heavy 16 fertilizers and APTUS additives versus General Hydroponics’ Flora Duo. Although super hot peppers (like the Trinidad Scorpion) are fun to grow, they do not grow quickly for the first few weeks. At four weeks in, these young pepper plants are growing vigorously, but it is too close to call…

The experiment is set up with separate drip to waste reservoirs, feeding individual plants in the same 4′ x 4′ Botanicare grow tray. All of the plants are being lit by a single 400 watt High Pressure Sodium Hortilux SUPER HPS bulb. Check back soon for more results.

Heavy 16 and Aptus Experiment

Heavy 16 and Aptus on Left, GH Flora Duo on Right—Top View

And the Winner is…

Heavy 16 & APTUS  vs GH Duo

Which Fertilizers Will Work Better? Check Back Soon and You Decide…

In one of our recent blogs, Atlantis Hydroponics let the world decide which fertilizer experiment we would conduct, blogging the results in real time as they occur. The winner of the experiment poll from the blog Which Hydroponic Fertilizer is Best? Experiments with a Purpose! is:

Heavy 16 and Aptus versus General Hydroponics Flora Duo, garnering 41.82% of the vote!  We will be setting up a side by side trial garden to compare how these fertilizers and additives perform. We are very excited to test Heavy 16 and Aptus as they are two brands that we currently do not stock; as a policy, Atlantis Hydroponics only carries fertilizers and additives that measure up to our high standards of quality after in-house testing by our hydroponic research and development team. Check the Atlantis Hydroponics Blog frequently for pictures and updates of the experiment.

1 Day Sale! 15%-50% off Saturday, November 17th

hydroponics on sale, atlantis hydroponics sale, grow lights on sale,

Canna Lovers, Get all your Canna Nutrient and Coco questions answered at the Atlanta West Midtown location by a Canna Nutrients Rep, along with prize giveaways, and complimentary snacks and refreshments!

Web Shoppers, order Online and receive 15% off orders placed 11/17.

Use hydroponic promo code ILOVEHYDRO at checkout.

Accidental Discoveries: How One Mistake Can Save Your Garden!

How Someone Else’s Mistake can Save Your Garden

How Someone Else’s Mistake Can Save Your Garden

Humankind has benefited time and time again from chance insights made during scientific research.  Among the multitude of accidental discoveries are: champagne, crazy-glue, Post-it® notes, LSD, and penicillin.  Just think how much less fun life would be without champagne and penicillin! Today I will share a story with you that will help your hydroponic garden…and you guessed it, it is a discovery that was made by accident.

In a research laboratory at a large university a lowly graduate student had the unenviable task of mixing up the nutrient solution for the department’s experiments from scratch.  This meant individually adding chemical compounds one at a time to tanks of water to build the fertilizer specifically matched to the particular experiment.  Universities often use custom formulated fertilizers to allow for a higher degree of control which also save money by eliminating pre-mixed commercial fertilizers. The student accidentally used MgCl(magnesium chloride) when they were supposed to have used MnCl2 (manganese chloride).  A few months went by and the majority of the hydroponics systems in the laboratory developed severe Pythium infections.

Pythium is one of the most common pathogens hydroponic growers contend with.  It used to be considered a fungus but has more recently been classified as an oomycete (a group of fungus like-organisms.)  Pythium can cause severe root rot and poses a huge threat to hydroponic crops.   Pythium in its spore stage can move quickly in water and multiply, reeking havoc if left unchecked.

Due to the short duration of the university experiments (about 25 day cycles) the plants did not show visible signs of being deficient in manganese.  There was enough manganese from other sources to meet the minimal needs of the plants, but there was roughly a 15% reduction in yield.  It was not until later when they discovered the student’s mistake that they made the possible connection between the lack of manganese and the increased occurrence of Pythium infections, which led to experiments designed to verify that manganese had the ability to suppress Pythium.

It is well documented that copper is able to suppress microbial growth; however, copper in elevated amounts is toxic to plants.  To this point, manganese had not been examined to see if it too had any antimicrobial characteristics.  Manganese is an active ingredient in the well known commercial fungicide Dithane®.  So it was not a stretch when their research went on to reveal that manganese and zinc (as it turns out) demonstrated some level of microbial inhibition.  Unlike copper, slightly elevated levels of manganese and zinc in your hydroponic solution are not going to cause phytotoxicity, but they may prevent a costly attack of Pythium.

The moral of the story is that there are happy accidents in science and all we have to do is learn from them!  So add some extra zinc and manganese to your reservoir, sit back and sip some champagne.  You can rest easier knowing you have added a level of protection to your hydroponic garden (and you didn’t even need to use penicillin)!

Hydroponics and Gardening: They’re Older than Epcot!

Hanging Gardens of Babylon depiction

The “Roses are not yet in full bloom here – in fact they are scarce – and from all of the nurseries and all the garland-weavers we could just barely get together the thousand that we sent you…even picking the ones that ought not to have picked till tomorrow. We had all the narcissi you wanted, so instead of the two thousand you asked for we sent four thousand.” (Stewart, pg 6)*

The quote above was not a request for flowers for the recent Olympics, nor for a recent inauguration or state funeral, it was written on papyrus before the birth of Christ. It is a stunning reminder that although we are continuing the age-old tradition of gardening we should respect the developments and advancements that were made before us. We should strive to improve our skills as gardeners and gain a better understanding of our plants, our growing systems, and of the history that has come before us!

Gardening is not new by any means, and yet hydroponics is often considered cutting edge science. The truth of the matter is that hydroponics dates back hundreds- possibly thousands- of years BC. Hydroponics was not a technique relegated to a single culture either. There were the hanging gardens of Babylon, the floating garden of the Aztecs, and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics alluding to hydroponics. **

Let’s remember that the amazing display of hydroponic gardening at Epcot, and NASA’s work with hydroponics for the upcoming manned mission to Mars, owe their progress in some part to these ancient cultures.

*Stewart, Amy, Flower Confidential, Workman Publishing, 2007.

**Resh, Howard, Hydroponic Food Production . Woodbridge Press, 1997.

Indoor Garden Lighting (Part 1): Obstacles to Overcome!

A beautiful sun setting over the green grass

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Fiat Lux,” Latin for “let there be light,” is the famous quote that begins the third verse of Genesis.  We all know that plants need light to carry out photosynthesis and the best (and cheapest) way to get it is to use natural sunlight.  Alas, that is a luxury many of us don’t have.  We are relegated to growing our plants indoors; in closets and cubbies, in basements and bedrooms.  So for us, what is the best way to light our gardens?  We have several options: Fluorescents, HID (Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium), Plasmas, and LEDs.  What basic grow light information do we need to know when we choose how to light our garden(s)?  First we need to know what our obstacles are…

One of the biggest problems we as indoor gardeners face is that most of our lighting options produce heat, a lot of heat; approximately 3.4 BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour/per watt.  That means that a single 1,000 watt HPS light system generates 3,400 BTU of heat every hour.  A BTU is the amount of energy required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.  To give you an idea how much heat that is; each 1,000 watt HPS light radiates enough heat into a grow room to boil 3 gallons of water an hour!

Another obstacle for indoor lighting is the penetration of light through the plant canopy.  Light diminishes from its source with distance.  The relationship of light emitted from a point source (a bulb) and distance is known as the inverse square law.  The law states that the intensity of light changes in inverse proportion to the square of the distance or I (intensity) = L (light) / D (distance.)  That means that the intensity of light 2 feet away from the source is 25% of the intensity 1 foot from the same source.

The last challenge of indoor grow lights is that most lighting requires huge amounts of electricity.  In order to cover a 10’ x 10’ room high light plants require 4,000 watts of lighting or more.  The average American household uses 14,000 watts of electricity per day according to the Department of Energy so the above mentioned garden would account for 28.6% of their total electrical consumption.  Use this handy electrical usage guide to find out how much your electricty will cost per month.  With the cost of electricity ever on the rise the search for more efficient horticultural lighting has LED down several roads…  Check out part 2 of this blog series for a review of different types of horticultural lighting and how they stack up.  Bright sun inside of light bulb