New and Learning
(Temple Hills MD USA)
My NFT Hydro System
I have been a fan of your site for a long time now; it has helped me so much in getting myself set up to start hydro gardening in my brand new (finally!) greenhouse! I am a total newbie to hydro gardening, but have enjoyed a small veggie/herb patch outdoors for years. I have built my own hydro systems, armed with photos and instructions found online from various sources. I have taken your advice on using the Flora series of nutrients.
For the most part I think I have been enjoying Beginners' Luck. However, I have had one royal battle with what turned out to be spider mites (not diagnosed until the damage was too severe to save the plants) and one disaster with a failed timer on the pumps. Live and Learn, as they say.
I am currently seeking info as to why my plants, while seemingly strong and healthy, are merely growing taller and taller without producing blooms/fruit. I have been reading about "topping" the tomato plants, and plan to try that. In the attached photo, which is of my NFT system, I have tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, squash, strawberries and lettuce. The only things that are producing are the cucumber plants. The rest appear healthy and strong but either have no blossoms or a few blossoms that do not set fruit. The lettuce is limp and straggly.
I know this is vague information and that there are a lot of things that could possibly be the trouble. The greenhouse is cooled by fans to exhaust the hot air, and there is a ceiling fan to circulate a gentle breeze over the plants. I mist the plants twice a day, and refill or replace the reservoir solution as necessary. I am using the recipe for "transition to blooming/fruiting" stage. The light is natural sunlight. I am in Maryland and like everyone else have experienced a very hot summer this year. Many days it is well over 100 in the GH and not a lot cooler at night. I suspect this may be the primary problem (too hot) but I'm also concerned about whether I'm doing something wrong with the nutrients or some other facet that I can control--like do I need to put in supplemental lighting closer to the smaller plants (lettuce)?
Any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for all you do to help everyone learn more!
Jeni in Maryland
Answer from Stella/Simon:
Gosh, what an impressive system you have put together! Hope we can help out.
I definitely suspect the record high heat wave is to blame for your crops not fruiting. The optimum temp range for hydroponics is between 70-80 degrees. 100+ is definitely too hot. You need to get it cooled off in there, maybe with stronger exhaust fans. Some other random ideas:
1. Make sure to use the "blooming" stage of nutrients, not growth or transition.
2. Try to wrap some insulation around the nutrient vats to try to get the temp of the solution down. Drop an aquarium thermometer in there and tie to the pump so you can retrieve it easily. Hot nutes will kill or retard the plants. If you have the funds available, you might even consider a chiller for the vat; but those are costly.
3. Consider putting some shade cloth over the top of the greenhouse, at least during the hottest part of the day. They should get plenty of sunlight from the side walls. And think of some way to increase air circulationa and exhaust that built up heat better.
4. If you are misting the plants while hot sunlight is shining down on them, this can actually "steam" them, and damage them.
Well, there's some ideas to point you in the right direction. Hope other hydro fans join in with other helpful ideas!
Good luck to you and hope this helps!
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