If you’re new to hydroponics, or greenhouse growing in general, you have probably come across numerous issues that you scramble to resolve through internet forums, gardening friends, or anybody you imagine that may have answers. Nobody likes to lose a crop, especially if it’s part or all of your income. Here are a few things to do and to look out for to make sure you’re on top of any problems that may come up in your hydroponic greenhouse.
Scouting for pests is one of the most important daily activities for hydroponic growers. Especially in the Summer months, the climate controlled environment you create for your plants are perfect for whitefly, aphids, and many more, and they’ll have no problem colonizing your crop. Two little bugs can turn into thousands overnight and you’ll spend months trying to fix the situation. Place sticky traps near your crops so you can understand the bugs in your environment. There are different color traps for different insects, so be sure to have the correct trap for the pest of interest.
If you find pests, removal is almost always necessary. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can be employed with ladybugs or wasps, but generally that is better to use in a preventative fashion. Natural pesticides like Neem Oil work for many pests, but be careful when you apply it, it can have negative affects on your plants worse than the pests themselves. There are also different commercial pesticides you can use, but they should be sprayed sparingly and only in the case of emergency. Nobody wants to eat that stuff!
The health of your plants highly depends on the health of your water chemistry. You may be keeping your nutrient solution at an adequate electro conductivity and pH, but nutrient imbalances can’t be detected without a lab test, which is generally out of the question for the smaller farmers. Knowing the general uptake of your plants help, especially if you have multiple varieties in one reservoir. Also, keep an eye for salt buildup on your growing medium. A little is alright, but if it’s increasingly noticeable, it’s time to flush your system. One of the best preventative measures is almost always flushing the system. If you have water and nutrient at your disposal, you should try to flush a reservoir every 2-3 weeks in a grow cycle. It keeps your water chemistry predictable and hinders any colonies of algae and pythium that may be developing.
Always look for discoloration in the leaves of your crop. Even a slight shade darker or lighter than expected means something is going on with it’s nutrients. There are many different forms of deficiencies, but generally it’s from incorrect nutrient solution or issues with uptake, caused by pH or lighting. There are too many issues to go through here, but take notes and search on the internet. If you’re detailed in your searching, you’ll be able to find out causes for almost any deficiency your crop may have. There will always be tasks at hand in your greenhouse, but if you’re on top of everything and prevent issues from becoming overblown, it’ll be a much more enjoyable and productive experience.