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How do you choose which products you use? Thankfully we’re well beyond the days when a pair of tits plastered across an advert is likely to influence you into buying anything other than a bra or a can of stank deodorant.

But, more often than not, people tend to play it safe by sticking to what they know. By that logic you’re never likely to move away from the first product you try, which means you could well be missing out on a better alternative. Of course you could go to the internet for help; in all honesty the hydroculture community are a very generous collection of people. But, who’s to say that ‘xGr0wma5tr1995x’ isn’t arguing his little heart out in favour of one product, simply because he hasn’t tried any others? Even if he has worked his way through everything available in his local hydroponics shop, there are any number of environmental factors which could differ wildly from his setup to your own. We’re all about the expertise at Hydromag. Each issue, we’ll be lining up a number of experts to talk us through a particular type of product. Obviously they’ve all got something to sell, but that’s the point; if you’re going to make a living off a particular product, you need to be damn sure that it’s up to muster and the only way you can do that is through years of tireless research and development.

The shock of moving from full feed to zero feed can be too much for (plants) to cope with.

Tom, Biochemist from Plant Magic

When your crop enters the last two weeks before harvest, it enters a critical phase. But amongst many growers an increasing sense of hesitancy creeps in as to what to give your plants. Some keep feeding up till the last few days, some flush with plain water, some reduce feed to minimal levels. An increasing number of growers are turning to tailored flush products for the last week or two. Have they been persuaded into buying something they don’t need, or are they in fact wisely helping to give their crop the ideal finish? The answer is that they understand the needs of their plant for the beginning of harvest time.

As a plant reaches the end of its flowering cycle a special type of nutrient is required. Firstly it has to contain some NPK. This is essential as the shock of moving from full feed to zero feed can be too much for it to cope with, forcing the plant to use up the sugars that should be going towards the fruits. Secondly hormones should be present to help the plant to use up any excess nutrients in the plant sap and complete the ripening of the fruits and increase the plant’s production of sugars. Thirdly the nutrient should be keeping the pH in an ideal window with little or no acid. Additional acid at this point can create a chemical taste in the fruit whilst the addition of phosphoric or nitric acid upsets the NPK, and a high pH can lead to harsh flavours derived from alkaline molecules like chlorophyll. Finally a flush nutrient allows any beneficial bacteria or fungi to remain unaffected where using de-mineralized water can lead to microbe starvation and death.

Plant Magic Plus® Flush has been designed to provide enough nutrition to plants to maintain their health and contains natural plant hormones to help the plant finish fruiting and produce carbohydrates such as sugars to assist with flavour. PMP’s Flush is available in soft or hard water variants to stop the need for any pH modification and has been designed based on samples taken from all around the UK. As well as helping your plant in the final phase of the fruiting cycle, PMP’s flush can also be used after over-fertilization. Emptying the reservoir tank and replacing with a solution containing a flush nutrient can help the plant to release the excess nutrients and regain health. Flushing with water to combat over-fertilization can stress the plant and the signs of over- and under-fertilization can be confused, leading to continual flushing when the plant is actually showing signs of hunger!

We have all been guilty of over-feeding our plants at one time or another.

Gemma, Marketing Manager from Vitalink

As most growers are aware, flushing single harvest crops at the end of the plant’s life cycle can improve flavour and quality. A lot of growers will flush using just water, but scientific trials show that using a flushing agent will help the plant to redirect the leftover nutrient and elements to where the plant will benefit from it most, giving a better overall yield. Flushing helps the plants to cope with this sudden shortage of nutrients, resulting in healthier final stage plants and potentially increasing yield.

The benefits of flushing do not end here. Flushing will help to transport any nutrients still within the plant to where they will be used, which helps to promote faster ripening of the plants. This is because ripening can often be delayed if unused nutrients are stored within the plant during the final stage of their life cycle, when they could be used elsewhere. Flushing facilitates the easy transportation of these leftover elements towards the reproductive organs, which helps to maintain the overall plant quality and improves yield.

We have all been guilty of over-feeding our plants at one time or another. This can seriously stress the plants, resulting in stunted or malformed growth and in extreme cases, potentially killing them. Stopping feeding and just using water will not enable the problem to rectify itself as quickly and may also lead to a deficiency at a later stage. Using a flushing agent helps to rebalance the nutrient within the plant and allows for a smooth and rapid return to a normal feeding regime.

VitaLink Flush (now known as VitaLink Finale) can be used at any time during a plant’s life cycle to correct over-fertilisation, freeing the clogged up nutrients within the plants. Made from natural minerals and plant extracts, VitaLink Flush is particularly useful when the taste and texture of the crop is important. This product is most commonly used in hydroponic systems, but also gives great results when used with soil as well. All of the VitaLink products have been developed by highly qualified plant scientists in collaboration with a UK university; they are scientifically proven to give plants healthy growth and maximum yield.

You’d be forgiven for being hesitant, as Tom from Plant Magic points out, about introducing something new to your crops in those critical final weeks. For that reason, we suggest you prepare early; pick which flushing agent you plan to use and get familiar with it long before you get to that final stage.

Gemma from Vitalink isn’t wrong when she says ‘We have all been guilty of overfeeding our plants at one time or another’, even if we aren’t keen to admit it. A mid-cycle flushing does offer you the perfect, albeit fraught, chance to familiarise your plants with whichever flushing agent you’ve chosen to use.

For the best chance of success, you need to try out a range of products to figure out which works best for your situation. Test each product on a sample group before introducing it to the rest of your crop. As ever, a good working knowledge of the quality of your water source is essential. The qualities of your water source can change overnight, not just from season to season or place to place, but from something as seemingly minor as heavy rainfall.


This series continues with Bloom Boosters, here.

This article was originally published in Issue 003 of HYDROMAG (January – February 2013).

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