Hydroponic Fertilizer Experiment: The Final Update

Back in February, we started our experiment to test how Heavy 16 fertilizers and APTUS additives performed compared to General Hydroponics’ Flora Duo. We have been growing Trinidad Scorpion peppers using 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. As a refresher, check out Update #1 and Update #2. After a little more than 3 months, we have had to end the experiment a bit early. While both fertilizers performed admirably, the experiment was hijacked by a massive number of aphids.

"Killer Aphids Invade Experiment"

“Killer Aphids Invade Experiment”

Final fresh weight results from the experiment

Final fresh weight results from the experiment!

Due to the fact that the aphids could not be controlled by organic pesticides, I have decided to end the experiment so as not to bias the results. The final results have been tallied, and the total fresh plant weight (weighing the stems, leaves, and flowers) is shown below. Thank you to all who voted for this experiment as well as those who have been following it diligently. If you have other experiments you would like to see performed, please email me at david@atlantishydroponics.com.

Atlantis Hydroponics in Moving Pictures

Our friends over at greenbookpages.com made us this awesome video featuring all five of our retail locations! It also highlights our excellent selection of General Hydroponics products.

If you’re new to our blog, here’s a little background on our company:

Atlantis Hydroponics™ opened its first store in 1998, with the drive to help make hydroponics the future of horticulture. We pride ourselves in providing knowledge and the best available products to our customers. Carefully chosen and tested equipment and nutrients ensure our customers have maximum results with their plants. We deal in practical, environmentally conscious methods, mastering how to garden effectively.

Teaching earth-friendly practices also translates directly to the community. Atlantis has participated in a number of science days, youth-oriented programs, grade school education, and even art exhibits. Check out our Community Outreach pages to learn more about the exciting things going on at Atlantis!

Hydroponic Fodder: Growing Grains to Feed Our Furry Friends

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

Deer Eating Barley Fodder

I was walking through my local pet store recently and noticed they were selling a small pot of grass for cats at what can only be described as an outrageous price. Is growing grass for pets making someone- or lots of someones- rich? This got me thinking about a hydroponic technique that is gaining traction worldwide: hydroponic fodder production of livestock feed. If hydroponically growing crops is such an efficient method of producing food for humans, then is it also viable for growing food for our pets and livestock?

Barley Fodder 1 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder One Day After Soaking

Growing fodder is the practice of sprouting cereal grains and then feeding the sprouted grains to animals. The process is fast, only taking about 7-8 days, and has demonstrated impressive results such as a 41% increase in beef cattle weight compared to those fed traditional food stocks. Fodder can be used to feed horses, deer, cattle, pigs, poultry, alpaca, sheep and goats, as well as dogs and cats to a lesser degree. Fodder has been shown to have 23 times more vitamin A than carrots, 22 times more vitamin B than lettuce, and 14 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits according to Howard Campion, a fodder system manufacturer.

Barley Fodder 2 Day After Soaking

Barley Fodder Two Days After Soaking

Sprouting grains for human consumption dates back centuries in Asian countries. Fodder production for animals has been in practice as early as the 1860s when European dairy farmers began sprouting cereal grasses to feed dairy cows in the winter. Currently there are countless farmers worldwide supplementing their livestock feed with fresh grown fodder. Fodder has the benefit of sprouting with very little water consumption, making it dependable in times when drought would normally reduce hay and feed production. A 10 meter by 13 meter building outfitted with fodder growing systems can produce as much food for livestock as 298 acres of grassland.

Fodder production is a simple process as long as you provide the correct environmental conditions as well as a sanitary growing environment. The ambient air temperature needs to be maintained between 63-75 degrees Fahrenheit; the ideal humidity range is from 40 -80%; the water temperature must be kept between 53 -75 degrees Fahrenheit; and the pH of the water should be between 6.2 and 6.4. The general procedure for growing fodder is to take a high quality cereal grain (alfalfa, barley, millet, oat, red wheat, ryegrass, or sorghum) and soak them in a solution of water and a sterilizing agent like the food grade hydrogen peroxide ViaOxy for 24-48 hours. The soaked grains are then laid evenly in flat bottomed growing troughs or channels that allow for complete drainage and irrigated for roughly 2 minutes every four hours. Within 7 days the fodder is mature and ready to be fed to your animals.
The growth rate is pretty amazing, as seen in these pictures.

Barley Fodder 4 Days After Soaking

Barley Fodder Four Days After Soaking

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

Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Do the holidays stress you out? Making the perfect plans, crafting the perfect decorations, buying the perfect gifts…it can all be a bit overwhelming at times. Well, take a deep breath, get out your shopping list and pen, and prepare to be relieved.

We have done some of the work for you this year!

You might not realize it, but we really do have something for everyone here at Atlantis Hydroponics. To illustrate that, we have come up with a few gift ideas for some of the special people in your life. Read on, and relax…

Your Partying Neighbor

He’s a good guy, really. When he’s awake…

Your Partying Neighbor

He only seems to sleep during the day. He likes his AC/DC loud. He’s definitely a little wild, but he brings in your mail and feeds your cat when you’re out of town. He’d love some Atlantis Hydroponics swag, like a Koozie to keep his beer cold, or a Tee to add to his epic black shirt collection. Can’t decide? Just get him a Gift Card so he can figure it out for himself. It’s even good online, so he can shop at any hour he likes.

 

Your Hippie Sister

She’s a rare breed of clean hippie.


Your Hippie Sister

She lives for yoga. She gives you death glares when you forget to recycle. She’s talking about making her own soap. Get her something that will satisfy her inner Earth Child, like an Herbal Oil Extraction Kit or ECO Kitchen Compost Collector Bin. And since she’s so into sustainability, she’ll love a book on DIY Aquaponic Gardening.

Keep the tomatoes coming, Mom.

Keep the tomatoes coming, Mom.

 

 

 


Your Retired Mother

She has always loved to garden. Every time you visit, she sends you home with bags of homegrown produce. She is WAY into the good food movement. Get her a Complete Propagation Kit, some Heirloom Sow True seeds, and our Precision Pruning Shears, and she’ll be happily growing indoors through the winter or ready to get a jump start on her spring garden. Is she tired of digging up her yard or running out of room? A variety of Raised Bed Planters will make her gardening life much easier.

Grow me some flowers, boy!

Grow me some flowers, boy!

 

Your Unemployed Boyfriend

He eats all your chips. He spends most of his time playing Call of Duty 4 with his loser friends. But he makes you laugh, and he’s pretty cute, too. Maybe a new hobby will spark some ambition in him! Give him a Complete Grow Room or one of our Grow Light Systems, and he might just be paying for dinner in no time. A Collapsible Herb Drying Rack would be a great accessory for his Grow Room, too.

He thinks he's Bob Vila.

He thinks he’s Bob Vila.

 

 

Your DIYer Dad

He’s dependable, determined, and handy as all get out. (At least he thinks so.) He built his own deck and retiled his own bathroom. He loves beer. Maybe he’d like to try his hand at brewing his own? A Beer Brewing Starter Kit and Extreme Brewing Handbook are the tools he needs. If he’s frugal and loves his yard, a Rain Barrel Kit could be an exciting new project for him that will keep his lawn green and his wallet fat.

He's in college already...

He’s in college already?!

 

 

Your Exceptionally Bright Nephew

He’s only 12, but he’s already smarter than most people you know. You’re super proud (and only a little jealous), and you want to encourage his quest for knowledge. His curious little mind will love the hands-on nature of the Jr.Ponics Aquaponic Fish Garden and the Hydroponic Science Fair Kit, and the Hydroponics and Microfarms CD-ROM will answer all the hydroponic questions he has that you don’t know the answers to.

She knits flowers. Now she can grow them, too.

She knits flowers. Now she can grow them, too.



Your Etsy Girlfriend

She knits, she sews, she makes jewelry. She makes you walk to the neighborhood farmers’ market with her every week. You had never tried kale until you met her. Get her started on her urban farming dream with the Build Your Own Raised Garden Kit and Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. If she lives in a small space, the Emily’s Garden System is a perfect way to try out hydroponics without taking up a lot of room.

Bring the gift that gets stolen three times during Dirty Santa.

Bring the gift that everyone wants to take home.

 

 

Your Office Gift Exchange

It comes around every year. Whether your office draws names for Secret Santa or makes a game out of it with Dirty Santa, you struggle to find something that everyone will like. Maybe keep it seasonal with a Thirsty Light® Snowflake Christmas Tree Water Sensor. A Grobal Self-Watering Planter would make a great addition to any co-worker’s office, and the Tomato Planter Kit and Raised Bed Garden is an easy way to get anyone started on their way to a green thumb. Even your boss will like it.

See? Something for everyone! Hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas and checked a few people off your list. Shop online at atlantishydroponics.com or in one of our five hydroponic retail stores.

Happy Holidays!

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.

Lumens are for Humans but PAR is for Plants!

Prism Splitting Light

Prism Splitting Light

It blew my ten-year-old mind when my “all knowing” grandmother told me that the Blue Jay we were watching was in fact not blue. She explained that light is composed of many colors, and it is the colors that are reflected, not absorbed that our eyes perceive as the color of an object. This is a necessary reminder that what is perceived might not be what it appears to be. For decades the indoor gardening community has used Lumens as the standard increment for the measurement of light. Lumens were unfortunately a poor choice, here’s why.

Diagram of How a Prism Works

Diagram of How a Prism Works
coutesey of freedigitalphotos.net

Lumens are essentially a measure of brightness based on human perception. Precisely, a lumen is equal to the light emitted by one candle falling on one square foot of surface located one foot away. This however presumes a human as the perceiver of the light. Plants “perceive” light differently; from a plant’s perspective, light that is useful for photosynthesis is not necessarily bright. Light, or more specifically, visible light is made up of wavelengths of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from 380-770 nm (nanometers). Plants utilize wavelengths from 400-700nm for photosynthesis. Brightness does not accurately describe if the light will be more or less useful to a plant.

Light can be characterized in other ways when discussing its benefit to plants. Color temperature is often referred to in the horticultural industry on lamp boxes to describe the color of the light emitted by the lamp. Does 4,000K grow a plant better than 7,500K? Color temperature is listed in Kelvin (K), which is a measurement of temperature. The temperature of what you might ask? It is a description of the relative whiteness of a piece of tungsten steel when heated to that particular temperature in degrees Kelvin. This accurately characterizes the color of the light as we perceive it, but color temperature again fails to address how effective a particular light source will be at providing the energy necessary to drive photosynthesis.

Don’t get frustrated by this inadequate information. There is in fact a measurement that precisely describes how effective a particular light will be for growing plants; PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation). PAR spectrum accounts only for light or more precisely photons emitted between 400-700nm. Scientists have concluded that it requires about 9 photons to bind one CO2 molecule in photosynthesis [6CO2 + 6H2O (+ light energy) C6H12O6 + 6O2]. Even though blue photons have more energy it has also been found that there is little difference between the effectiveness of red versus blue photons at driving photosynthesis as long as the photons are within the 400-700nm range. This leads to a direct correlation between the number of photons produced in the PAR spectrum by a given light, and the photosynthetic potential of that light.

Photons are emitted by light sources in very large numbers so we do not talk about billions or quadrillions of photons, instead we refer to them using the multiplier moles (which stand for 6.0221415 x 1023) To make the numbers even more accessible, the number of moles is often divided by 1 million resulting in micro-moles (μmol). Light sources emit photons continuously over time so the number of micro-moles is more accurately described as μmol/per unit of time (most commonly seconds).

When trying to quantify how effective a light source is beyond the total output of μmol/per second, you must consider one last piece of information… the size or area of your garden. Inevitably some of the photons produced will not reach your garden. So the most accurate representation of a light source’s ability to drive photosynthesis will take into account the area being lit and how many photons reach that given area per second; usually a square meters. That representation which actually summates the effectiveness of a light source for photosynthesis is written as μmol/m2/s. This descriptor is actually referred to as Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density or PPFD for short.

So in light of all of the information above, let’s remember that lumens are not a useful descriptor of a light’s ability to drive photosynthesis. I think I will sit back with a drink, and digest all of the information about PAR & PPFD while I watch the not blue Blue Jay outside my window.

Key to Success- Keeping a Clean Hydroponic System

Clean Hydroponic System

Want to grow happy, healthy plants every time? Well here’s a tip that could help you keep your garden on a nonstop path to success. The hydroponic system your plants live in will run more smoothly and efficiently with a little attention to detail. Plants are living organisms, and they attract many other forms of life to your garden. The photo above shows what your plant nutrients will grow in addition to your plants. Algae is generally harmless, but allow it to grow out of control and you might end up with a big mess on your hands.  Not only does it produce a terrible grow room odor, algae can harbor pathogens and even consume valuable nutrients before your garden plants (what a waste of fertilizer)!

It takes only a few minutes and some elbow grease to make your hydroponic system look as good as the day you bought it. Routine cleaning will ensure that no mess is too much to handle! And did you know that your equipment will last longer if you scrub it from time to time?

My favorite things in life do not include scrubbing hydroponic flood tables, but routine cleaning beats having to buy new equipment. This holds true for all types of hydro systems as well as water pumps. Deep Water Culture buckets, for example, will perform better and your plants will be healthier if you scrub them lightly with warm water between each nutrient change, rather than simply pouring out and replacing water. Cleaning can also help you avoid pH spikes and root rot.

Clean Hydroponic System

Keeping your indoor garden tidy is just like going outside to a raised bed garden and pulling weeds, it has to be done.  If we don’t weed our gardens or clean our tables then the stuff we don’t want to grow will take over and cause all of our valuable time, energy, and garden plants to go to waste.  And who wants to watch their garden die?

Well maintained gardens will thrive and in return reward their gardeners for a job well done. Clean equipment not only looks good, it helps to keep disease pathogens and pests in check. So if you’re really in it to win it, remember that cleaning is a small price to pay for the happiness of your garden, and happy gardens make happy growers!

Are All Bulbs The Same?

Hydroponic Eggplants

After my one millionth discussion about light and constantly explaining why some bulbs cost so much more than others, it seemed like a good idea to conduct a side-by-side garden comparison to demonstrate the difference between plants grown under standard HPS grow lightsand Full Spectrum Metal Halide lights. For our experiment, we grew ‘Pingtong Long’ Eggplants under 150 Watt HPS bulbs and 250 Watt MH bulbs. Sounds to me like everyone is convinced that HPS is the only way to get the big harvest, but I suggest taking a look at the following pictures to decide what looks better to you.

Below you can see the difference between fruits grown under varying color spectrums.

The HPS light produced 5.4 GPW (grams per watt) for a total harvest of 1.8 Lbs of eggplant.
Hydroponic Eggplants

The Full Spectrum MH Light grew a whopping 6.4 GPW for a total yield of 3.6 Lbs of fruit!

Hydroponic Eggplants

The color of light is just as important to consider in the development of your plants as plant nutrientsand air circulation. So the next time you visit your local grow light store and ask for the “cheapest” bulb on the shelf, remember these photos and think about the harvest you want from your garden. Happy Growing!

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)!