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In the third of our ‘Five Things…’ series the team from One Stop Grow Shop outlines five simple but essential practices that every grower should be doing, but can often overlook. 

1. Replace your aging grow lamp

hydroponics, lamps

Something that growers learn about pretty quickly when they start out is the direct correlation between usable light and potential yield. Everybody loves to experiment with new lighting fixtures and reflectors, but it’s easy to forget about the grow lamps themselves. As time goes by, high intensity discharge lamps produce decreasing levels of light for every watt of power they consume, which slowly eats into your yields. We recommend replacing standard 230V HPS lamps after each full grow, and 400V HPS and CDM lamps at least once a year. This will help to maintain the efficiency of your indoor garden and maximise the size of your crop.

 

2. Check your VPD with an Infra-Red Pocket Thermometer

VPD, Hydroponics

Lighting alone is next to useless if your plants don’t receive that light in the correct environment. Tracking vapour pressure deficit (VPD) allows you to fine-tune your room conditions to facilitate peak growth rates, increasing or decreasing humidity levels where needed. VPD readings describe the capacity for moisture to move from the plant and out to the surrounding atmosphere, using information gathered about the conditions in the room, and the temperature of the plants themselves.

Some of the equipment used to calculate and regulate VPD can be out of reach for beginners and hobbyists, requiring centralised controller units, plant cameras, professional lighting fixtures and a big initial investment. The good news is that you can replicate aspects of this tech with a twenty-pound infra-red thermometer and a regular grow-room hygrometer (everyone should already have one of these!). Point your I-R thermometer at the canopy to take your leaf temperature readings, then use your hygrometer and a VPD chart to find out whether you’re in optimal ranges. The process is more involved than running an automated controller system, but well worth the effort. The information it generates will allow you to tweak your room conditions to maintain peak photosynthesis, for faster growth rates and bigger yields. Get this right and you can really start smashing your targets.

 

3. Accelerate growth rates with Mammoth P

Hydroponics, Mammoth P

Mammoth P arrived on the scene last year, surrounded by a ton of hype. Now, after hearing the customer feedback and trialling it for ourselves, we’ve had an opportunity to find out why. It was developed by a group of PhD soil microbiologists from Colorado State University, who’d set about looking for ways to make nutrients more available to crops grown by the agricultural industry.

The bacterial culture used in Mammoth P is fully patented, and is unlike any other culture found in nature, having been bred over many generations to select for the properties that were most conducive to rapid plant growth; the main focus being the uptake of nutrients, namely phosphorus. Mammoth P effectively breaks down the bonds that keep phosphorus locked in the substrate, utilising the nutrients that you put in your tank more effectively. This approach triggers serious bloom-boosting effects without having to add in extra mineral salts, which can further compound the issue.

Based on feedback so far, Mammoth P is having a positive impact on the size and health of people’s crops, though outcomes will vary slightly depending on how well you were administering and flushing out nutrients to begin with. It’s not the cheapest booster out there, but it has a concentrated formula that goes a long way, and it comes with a money back guarantee from the creators. Used at 0.16ml per litre in hydro, a £47.95 bottle is good for 750 litres of feed.

 

4. Train your plants properly

hydroponics, trellises, plant support

To get the most from the light generated by your lamp, you’ll need to prune, train and support plants to ensure that they get as much coverage as possible. The goal is to create an even canopy, so that every photon of light hits plant material – and not the floor… Any light not directed at plants represents wasted energy, making your indoor garden less efficient in the process. And of course, you’ll want to make sure that the sidewalls in your grow room are as reflective as possible, so that any light hitting them gets directed back where it’s needed.

Don’t allow your plants to become too bushy, or you’ll create shaded areas that slow down levels of development. Learn to strike a balance when removing excess leaves, ensuring that air can flow freely around plants while leaving enough material on to utilise the light energy in the room. There are a multitude of products out there for training and support, but circular trellises are a particular customer favourite. Push them into your substrate when you’re potting-up and they’ll provide a 360-degree framework from which to manage and support branches. This allows you to train your plants to grow outwards, not upwards, making better use of space. And don’t forget to turn your plants as regularly as possible to expose plants to light from as many different angles as possible.

Trellises, great as they may be, are not always practical in every growing method. If this is the case for you, then use an elastic support net instead, which can be fitted into the corners of your tent or grow-room, doing a similar job.

 

5. Use a root-pruning pot

Hydroponics, root-pruning, air pots

Traditional solid-sided pots have served us well, but they have a big drawback: root-circling. Root-pruning pots eliminate this issue by encouraging a different growth pattern. As roots grow out towards the side of the container, they get ‘air-pruned’. The tip dies off, which sends a signal to the plant to send more shoots out from the centre. What you end up with is a dense, radially structured root mass that completely fills the entire container, not just the outer edges. There are few types to choose from, each with their own advantages, but the basic principle remains the same.

An added benefit of root-pruning pots is that, because the root-zone is more exposed to the air, they naturally increase levels of oxygen, which is needed for cellular respiration. This has a huge impact on the health and development of new roots, while helping to prevent crop-destroying diseases, like pythium. As experienced growers know, strong roots are the foundations for healthy, productive plants.

Increased air exposure does have another implication, in that it allows containers to dry out more quickly, so plants will need watering more frequently. This is not a problem for growers running active systems, but it can be a bit of a pain if you’re hand-watering. You can account for this easily enough by choosing a slightly bigger pot than usual. Either way, it’s certainly worth the effort for the pay-off. Make the switch and you won’t look back.

 

Follow One Stop Grow Shop on YouTube for more tricks of the trade.

Read the first in our ‘Five Things..’ series here.

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