Posts published on September 2010

Growing Indoor Plants


Whether you have lots of light or very little light, one can grow an indoor plant in the home or office. However, there are elements to need think about before selecting a house plant, such as light exposure, space, temperature and humidity in the room. A huge selection of indoor plants is readily available. Do […]

Drip Feeding Hydroponics?


This article touches on the construction of a DIY drip feeding system. Drip systems are common in European hydroponics cultivation. Each plant is fed individually through feeding tubes which are connected to a pump hooked onto a timer that activates at pre-set times. Drip systems reduce the possibility of bacteria or fungal infection. Most home […]

Energy Efficiency- T5 Lighting


T5 lamps are the latest and most energy efficient lighting technology obtainable in the fluorescent lighting industry. They use 45% and 12% less energy than its T12 and T8 predecessors. The T5 lamp provides peak light output at 35 °C (95 °F) air temperature. (By contrast, the T8 and the T12 lamps provide peak light […]

Organic Bountea


What makes Bountea so effective? The Bountea Growing System will totally revitalize your soil ecology.  No matter what soil type, the microbes, minerals and trace elements in Bountea ensure your soil becomes increasingly fertile with every application. Unhealthy Soil Unhealthy or dead soil is low in humus and has little or no microbial life. Plants […]

Solar for Hydroponics


Is the rising cost of electricity threatening the viability of your operation? Many are asking if solar is the solution. Can solar produce enough electricity? How is it stored so it is available when needed, night or day? What does it cost? How long will it take to pay for itself with electric savings? Will […]

New Loyalty Cards


Next time you come into the store, ask about how our Loyalty Cards can save you money. Here are some of the advantages Your discount will be “locked in” and available hassle free at ANY of our stores regardless of who is helping you as your card will guarantee you the lowest discount possible Free […]

Go Green: Conserving Water with Hydro


Hydro versus Soil?!? Which conserves more water? Hydroponics is  a closed system, which means that all of the water used is recirculated.  The water used for soil gardening either seeps into the ground or evaporates leaving no possibility for it to be collected and reused. Generally hydroponic systems use only 5 to 10 percent of […]

Cutting Edge Question and Answer


1) What is the best temperature for my reservoir? The most beneficial temperature for your nutrient solution is around 52-68°F. In order to achieve this range you can get an inline water heater or a submersible water heater for colder conditions. An inline water chiller works in extreme heat conditions. 2) What is the optimal […]

Nutrient Strength Monitoring



Along with pH, nutrient strength readings and monitoring are probably the 2 most important basic techniques you can employ in your chase for the best crop possible.

Whereas pH monitors the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, TDS ( Total Dissolved Solids ) measures the relative concentration / strength of nutrient salts in your nutrient solution. TDS – or Total Dissolved Solids normally uses 1 of 2 scales, PPM ( Parts Per Million ) or EC ( Electro-Conductivity ). Both scales are accurate and convenient for monitoring the strength or concentration of your nutrient solution.


I like to think of pH and TDS readings as a kind of dashboard for my plants performance. TDS is like the tachometer on your car. It tells you how far or fast you’re pushing your plants with a nutrient solution. Plants respond to TDS just like a car does in real life to a tachometer. The higher the revs, the faster the car accelerates, BUT, if you push your cars revs into the red zone for too long bad things start to happen – FAST! It’s the same thing with plants. Having a higher nutrient strength results in faster growth and development – but only up to a point – go past your plants red line and into the red zone and bad things start to  happen – really fast!


The optimal nutrient strength for your plants will depend on 3 things – the age of your plant, the type of plant and individual variations amongst plants.

For example most older ( more than 4 weeks old ) fast growing plants can safely handle nutrient strengths up to  1200 PPM ( 2.4 EC ) once they are past the seedling or juvenile stage. Some individual plants can handle much higher concentrations than this – up to and over 2000 PPM ( 4.0 EC )!

The other way to get your plants to safely handle larger amounts of nutrients is to use a 3rd generation nutrient that incorporates ionic channelling technologies, such as Dutch Master GOLD NUTRIENT. These technologies allow for a typical plant to handle much higher nutrient strengths than normal. A plant that could handle only 1200 PPM ( 2.4 EC ) on a regular nutrient can easily handle 1600 PPM ( 3.2 EC )  with an ionic channelled nutrient like Dutch Master GOLD. Currently only Dutch Master GOLD NUTRIENT has this ionic channel technology.

The best way to tell if you have reached your plants maximum nutrient concentration ( the red line ) is when you start seeing the very tip of your leaves turn brown or yellow. This often looks like a small burn ( which it is ). Once you see this you know you have reached your plants maximal nutrient strength.

Once you know your plants red line or nutrient strength limit, it is a good rule of thumb to not let the nutrient concentration get more than 150 – 200 PPM beyond this ( 0.3 – 0.4 EC ).


Monitoring your nutrient strength is easy as many manufacturers give you precise schedule values for their nutrients. Dutch Master has made this easy for you with the industry’s easiest and most powerful Nutrient Calculator! Simply enter your tank size and your base nutrient and the calculator does all the rest! It really is that easy!

Monitoring your nutrient strength should be done on a daily basis for hydroponic systems as your nutrient strength can tell you a lot about what is happening with your plants. As your plants use water or food, your nutrient strength will change to reflect that. When your plant is using a lot more water than nutrient then your TDS value will increase. When your plant is using a lot more food than water then your TDS value will go down.

Mostly these values fluctuate ( go up and down )  by not more than 100 to 150 PPM ( 0.2 to 0.3 EC )  however when they do, you need to take action. If your solution ( or runoff values for hand watering ) changes by more than 150  to 200PPM (  0.3 to 0.4 EC ) then you need to either replace the solution in your reservoir, or replace the nutrient solution in your reservoir and perform a flush. Typically you will need to do the latter as nutrient solutions tend to rise over time.



Performing a flush is an easy task to do. You simply run your preferred flush solution, pH adjusted, through your system and monitor the runoff of this solution returning to the reservoir or out of the bottom of your pot. Keep running the flush solution until that runoff or return solution is approximately the same TDS ( PPM / EC ) value as your pH adjusted flush solution. After your flush is completed simply dump your flushing solution and make up a new full strength reservoir as per your feed schedule or nutrient calculator recommendations.


Now that we know the basics of monitoring and taking corrective action based on our nutrient strength readings, we must also learn about one vital aspect.

I have seen more people kill their plants or cause major problems with an incorrectly calibrated TDS meter than almost anything. As much as a TDS meter gives you power over your plants, an incorrectly calibrated one can cause a lot of problems. The most common but least understood problem is battery voltage. A meters battery will slowly lose charge as the meter is used over time – pretty straight forward, right?  Wrong!  Once the meters battery loses voltage past a certain point, it begins to affect the meters readings in a negative way. As the battery voltage lowers so too will the meters readings. Quite often this reading will be many hundreds of PPM’s lower than what the real reading is. End result? Quite often people will severely over feed their plants and when they burn, who gets the blame? The poor old nutrient manufacturers! Your meter should be calibrated weekly and the battery changed every month or the first time you notice that you have to calibrate your meter up when using your calibration solution


Calibration and care of your TDS meter is vital if you are to get accurate readings. An incorrectly calibrated or poorly maintained TDS meter can cause as many, if not more, problems as using no meter at all! Calibrating and maintaining your TDS meter is simple and takes virtually no time at all! For greatest accuracy calibrate your meter at least weekly in a good quality calibration solution. Make sure that you purchase a calibration solution that is applicable to your meter. Meters using the PPM scale should use a PPM calibration solution and meters using EC should use an EC calibration solution. Try and obtain a calibration solution that is close to the median range of your feeding solution. This is normally between 1000 and 1400 PPM ( 2.0 to 2.8 EC ).

Also ensure that the probes of your TDS meter are clean. You can purchase TDS probe cleaning solution from your local hydroponics store. A good rule of thumb is to clean your probes just before you calibrate your meter.



Correct pH control is a critical but often overlooked aspect when growing in hydroponics or soilless mediums like Coconut Coir or Sunshine mix.

In its simplest context, the pH of your solution determines how much of the mineral elements you supply your plant is accessible and ready for uptake by the plant.


The term pH, refers to a scale from 1 t o 14 that measures the acidity or alkalinity ( concentration of hydrogen or hydroxyl ions )  of a solution.  1 is extremely acid and 14 is extremely alkaline with 7 being neutral ( equal concentration of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions ). This scale is what’s known as a logarithmic scale meaning that for every one point increase or decrease in pH reflects a 10 fold change in acidity or alkalinity. For example a pH 6 is 10 times more acidic than a pH 7 and a pH of 5 is whopping 1,000 more acidic than ph 7!

You can see then how quickly things can change or get out of control in a hydroponic solution.

Plant nutrients are available across a range of pH with the optimal pH being 5.5 for Hydroponics and Coco Coir and a slightly higher pH of 6.3 for soil based systems. These 2 pH values represent the values that allow the plant to take up the maximal amount of all mineral elements. Go too far above or below and certain elements begin to become unavailable to the plant.

Get this simple control wrong and your plants will suffer suboptimal nutrition at best and at worst your plants will suffer from multiple nutritional deficiencies or even die in extreme cases.


The best way to control pH is via the use of a common acid ( pH down ) and alkali  ( pH up ). The best ones to use, and ones which are available at all good hydroponic or gardening stores is Phosphoric Acid for pH down and Potassium Hydroxide for pH up. These are chosen because they do not add harmful elements to your nutrient solution. Phosphoric acid adds Phosphorus and Potassium Hydroxide adds Potassium both essential plant nutrients.


Once people realise how important pH is to their crops success, their natural tendency is to over manage the pH of the solution. In our desire to keep the pH at the most optimal value many gardeners adjust their pH when it moves even the smallest amount from the ideal value. However, in doing so many gardeners actually sabotage their own results – in the most unlikely way.  When gardeners over control their pH they inadvertently add large amounts of either phosphorus or potassium. This can cause the nutrient solution to become unbalanced and elements to begin to be locked out as the nutrients interact with each other in undesirable ways as the concentrations of particular elements become too high. This is most often seen with the use of too much pH down which can cause Phosphorus induced zinc deficiency. The common symptom of this deficiency is small or underdeveloped flower s – not what we want to experience!

The best way to control pH is to start with a well balanced nutrient like Dutch Master GOLD NUTRIENT that doesn’t shift pH excessively. GOLD NUTRIENT’s unique technology allows it, in most situations, to remain within an ideal pH band.  Once you have set your initial pH to either 5.5 ( Hydro or Coco users ) or 6.3 for soil users then there is no need to adjust it until it either falls below 5 or above 6.2. pH will naturally fluctuate from day to day as the plants draw on different ratios of elements. In most cases, with a good nutrient like GOLD NUTRIENT, the pH will stay within this range and will not need to be adjusted often. Generally the pH of a solution tends to rise during the grow cycle ( as the plants take up more nitrogen which causes the pH to rise ) and to fall during flowering when the plant has a preferential draw on Phosphorus.

As the mineral elements in a nutrient solution are quickly used by the plant, it is a good idea to replace your nutrient solution at least once every 2 weeks ( in hydro ) or to flush at least 2 times a week ( in soil ).

The other important time to replace your nutrient solution is if it raises or lowers by a full point or more within 24 to 48 hours. This either indicates the plant is under stress, or more commonly the plant is rapidly depleting the nutrient solution of either nitrogen ( when the pH goes up ) or Phosphorus ( when the pH goes down ).


pH can be measured using colormetric strips ( that run a particular color when dipped into the nutrient solution ), pH indicator solution ( this also turns a particular color at different pH values and is matched to a color chart )  or a pH meter. The first 2 options are very inexpensive and are great for those on a tight budget but the best and most accurate way is to use a well ( and often ) calibrated pH meter. A good digital pH meter can be bought for under a hundred bucks these days and is a great investment, along with a good calibration solution to keep it accurate.

As we can see pH is very, very important but controlling it is a simple and relatively stress free procedure.


Prior to calibrating your meter it’s a good idea to place a small piece of foam, soaked in pH buffer 4.0, into the end of your pH meter probe cap. This will ensure that your probe remains suitably hydrated and will maintain its full life.

Calibration and care of your pH meter is vital if you are to get accurate readings. An incorrectly calibrated or poorly maintained pH meter can cause as many, if not more problems as using no meter at all! Calibrating and maintaining your pH meter is simple and takes virtually no time at all! For greatest accuracy calibrate your meter at least weekly using good quality calibration solutions and a 2 point calibration check. Calibration solutions for pH meters are called buffer Solutions. It is vitally important to use both pH buffer 4.0 and pH buffer 7.0 to ensure that you have the greatest meter accuracy and to ensure that your pH probe is not worn out.

To calibrate, first begin by decanting a small amount of pH buffer 7.0  into a small receptacle just big enough to immerse your pH meter probe into.

Never dip your meter directly in the bottle of buffer solution or return any used buffer to the bottle. This avoids contamination and inaccurate readings. Now dip the probe of your pH meter into your small receptacle and calibrate to pH 7.0 according to your meters calibration directions. Next, rinse off your probe and receptacle in some clean water, shake the excess water and fill your small receptacle with pH buffer 4.0. Now dip the probe of your pH meter into the receptacle. Your meter should read within 0.2 pH points of 4.0 ( pH 3.8 to  pH 4.2 ). If your meter does this then congrats – you just calibrated your pH meter! If your meter reads either above or below the figures listed then we need to re perform the calibration sequence but in Reverse. To do this once again insert your probe into the pH 4.0 Buffer solution and perform your meters calibration sequence. We have now just calibrated the meter to pH 4.0. Now rinse your pH probe and the receptacle in some clean water and shake the excess off. Next, decant some pH buffer 7.0 into the receptacle and dip your pH probe into the receptacle and once again calibrate the meter ( this time to pH 7.0 ). Now rinse the probe and the receptacle again and recheck at pH 4.0. This time your meter should read within 0.2 pH points of 4. If it does not, then it means your pH probe has come to the end of its life and needs to be replaced. In most instances this means you will have to replace your meter if the probe is not detachable.

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