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Hydroponics Indoor Gardening Test: Soil Versus Rockwool

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In our previous episodes about hydroponics garden comparison testing, we’ve covered some fun and interesting territory as we detail how an indoor grower tested the performance of six clones growing in soil and fed only water compared to six clones growing in rockwool and fed synthetic and synthorganic hydroponics nutrients.

Along the way, we’ve seen how the scientific method is applied to hydroponics garden testing so you can reliably determine how deliberate changes in nutrients, climate, root zone media, C02, lighting technology and other variables affect your crops.

In the test situation we’ve been tracking, the grower was curious about claims that plants grown in rich soil could provide fast growth and big yields similar to what you’d get growing in soilless hydroponics.

So the grower custom hand-mixed a batch of fertile soil, rooted 12 clones from the same mother, and then grew six of them in soil and six of them in rockwool side by side in the same garden.

The soil plants were fed water without added nutrients. The rockwool plants were fed water to which synthetic and synthorganic nutrients were added.

What differences were found?

The grower observed that the soil-grown plants were lighter green and somewhat faster growing in the early weeks of grow phase. But this growth was mostly vertical. The plants grown in rockwool did not gain as much height, but they did exhibit more branching and shorter profiles.

As the grower noticed that his hydroponics plants were a much deeper green compared to the soil plants, he had his first experimental dilemma to resolve. He had not anticipated a situation in which the test conditions would cause him to make a change in his nutrients program.

You see, in most cases when plants are overly green, it means you’re overfeeding some elements, or there are nutrients absorption problems.

He had intended to test his regular nutrients program against soil-grown plants that weren’t fed any nutrients. He decided to continue with his regular feeding, without adjusting his nutrients, to ensure that the experiment was fair, reasoning that if he started tinkering with his synthetic nutrients to try to correct a problem, fairness would dictate that he also provide soil additives to his soil plants if they evidenced a problem.

By the time he was ready to flip his plants into the 12 hour light cycle, he noticed that the soil-grown plants were about 10% taller than the rockwool-grown plants, but were about 15% less densely branched than the rockwool set.

If he had not been conducting a test in which all parameters had to remain identical, he would have let his soil plants  grow a while longer so they looked as mature and ready for bloom phase as his rockwool plants already looked.

And when he compared the amount of time it took his soil plants to develop flowers compared to the rockwool plants, it was obvious the soil plants were on a slower internal schedule.

His nutrients-fed plants developed their first floral sets within 10-11 days after staring the 12 hour light cycle. His soil plants took 14-16 days.

Throughout bloom phase, despite the fact that all 12 plants were from the same motherplant and growing in an identical environment, the plants growing in rockwool outpaced their soil-grown sisters in floral development and maturation rate.

In fact, as the plants reached 53 days in bloom (the usual amount of days for that variety to be ready for flushing), the rockwool plants were ready for five days of flushing, and then harvest. The soil plants were not mature enough to be considered ready for harvest in 5 days.

The grower had to make a hard decision about this. He had wanted both sets of plants to grow an identical number of days in bloom phase so his harvest weight test parameters were completely uniform.

On the other hand, if he harvested his soil plants when they weren’t fully ready for harvest, he could lose valuable harvest weight and quality.

What he did was harvest the rockwool plants when they were ready, and allow his soil-grown plants to fully mature (to the same point that they rockwool plants had matured).

This meant that his soil plants finished 8 days later than his rockwool plants. He had to take this into account when he did his final tallies and evaluations concerning the yield performance of each set of plants.

In our next episode, we will discuss more of what the grower learned about the differences between soil-grown and rockwool-grown plants.

But for now we can see several important details:

  • The soil grown plants had a more natural leaf color than the plants grown in rockwool
  • The soil-grown plants grew slightly faster, but more vertical and less dense, than did the synthetic-fed plants
  • The soil-grown plants took longer to start flowering
  • The soil-grown plants took longer to be ready for harvest

Please refer to our earlier articles in this series if you’ve missed them. Hydroponics gardening is fascinating, and we are fortunate to be able to test methods and materials to find out how our plants do under different circumstances.

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Hydroponics gardening and soil gardening depend on good watering. RosebudMag.com
Last modified on Wednesday, 20 October 2010 21:20

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