Thursday, October 19, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing!

My partner and I started panicking the other day, when during one of our regular inspections we discovered that the roots of our butterhead lettuce plants were clumping together and looking very much like mush covered in brown slime. At first we thought it was root rot, but it had no smell.

Since all our nutrients and additives come from one company, Advanced Nutrients, I immediately called their technical help line to get to the root of the problem (no pun intended). Their suggestion was that in a hydro operation, it is advisable to use Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice at half strength, especially if they are used in conjunction with Carbo Load, Liquid or Powder.

The man explained that at full strength in a hydroponic situation the carbohydrates in Carbo Load energize and increase the size of the beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbe colonies in the above products to such an extent, that it defeats the original purpose—to enhance root functions such as nutrient absorption and resistance to pathogens.

He suggested flushing the system with a mild solution of HyOx (which will kill off about 50% of the microorganisms), then reintroducing the Voodoo Juice only at half-strength. Piranha and Tarantula are too aggressive in certain situations. SensiZym would also help to strengthen the root systems.

He mentioned that if we’re adding Barricade into the mix, we should add it to our pre-mix tank the night before, to give it a chance to dissolve completely. Barricade is highly alkaline, so taking frequent pH readings of the nutrient solution is essential.

Many growers make the mistake of mixing all the ingredients and then taking one reading, thinking that they’ve arrived at the correct pH. Advanced Nutrients suggests that whether you mix in a bucket or a pre-mix tank, like we do, you should take pH readings every half-hour, and you’ll notice how the readings fluctuate for the first while.

Once you get the same pH reading for two or three half-hour periods, then you’ll know that your mixture has settled and it’s ready to be administered to your plants, provided the reading is the level you’re looking for. The proper pH depends on your grow medium. In water, such as our Nutrient Pond, you want your pH at 5.6. If you’re using coco coir as a medium, for instance, your reading should be 6 pH. In soil the ideal reading is 6.3 pH.

The advantage of using Advanced Nutrients pH Up or pH Down, is that you’re getting a pure concentrate that has been configured for you, rather than having to guess how many lemons to squeeze to make your mix more acidic. The competing products on the market are watered down, so they are more costly when you compare them to the concentrates.

I asked what we could do in order to accelerate the growth of our lettuce, and the tech guy discouraged us from using any bloom stimulant, since we definitely do not want our lettuce to start flowering and go to seed. Instead, he suggested using Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, which contains natural seaweed-derived growth stimulants, as well as the major vitamins needed for plant health.

In addition to B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B12, panthothenic, folinic and folic acid, Seaweed Extract also includes vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (tocopherol), two vitamin A precursors, and vitamin K. The vitamin E content of seaweed is particularly useful in horticulture, featuring a complete set of isomers. This molecular structure is similar to that found in wheat germ oil.

Seaweed extract can be used in the root zone, or as a foliar spray. Used in the latter fashion, it stimulates metabolic processes in the leaves of our Boston lettuce plants, making leaf-locked nutrients available to the whole plant. Its natural antibiotic properties help our lettuce plants develop resistance not only to mildew and fungi, but also spider mites, aphids, and scab infestations.

He also suggested SensiZym, which we’ve already been using. It not only accelerates growth, but is also well suited to a water-rich vegetable like lettuce. It helps the absorption of water-borne elements necessary for a healthy lettuce plant.

The living organisms in SensiZym have a long shelf-life and they complement the microbes found in Voodoo Juice. These two products work symbiotically, to help create and maintain a healthy root system, which is exactly what we need after our mishap.

This incident has once again reminded Chuck and I that too much of a good thing is not necessarily good for you or for our hydroponically grown lettuce crop. The race is on to produce 400 heads of lettuce each day just a little bit faster, taking 34 instead of 36 days from start to finish. Wish us luck!

posted by silvio @ 3:06 PM   0 comments


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