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Learning the Language of Your Hydroponics Plants

Your plants’ leaves speak loud and clear, if you know their language. Your plants’ leaves speak loud and clear, if you know their language.

Plants talk to us. They signal their needs and they express their appreciation. When they’re lush and green with fat, happy flowers, they’re saying thanks.

When their leaves are off-color and drying up, they’re letting you know they’re having problems.

Before you think I’m hallucinating, let’s remember that your plants’ leaves speak loud and clear, if you know their language.

Wilting leaves that are dull, lifeless and hanging down, combined in extreme situations with a main stem that’s drooping, tells you its time to see if your root zone is too dry.

On the other hand, leaves that are folded down (rather than hanging down) from main stalk and side stems that have maintained their rigidity- that’s a sign of overwatering.

Paying Attention to Your Plants’ Need for Nutrients

From a nutrients perspective, the most important way plants signal you is by their leaf color and condition.

In healthy plants that are being fed the right nutrients in the right ratios, your leaves are going to be lime green from tip to stem and from side to side. Their color will be uniform throughout the leaf, including leaf veins and edges.

If your leaves are showing any other color, your plants are telling you something’s wrong. It might be nutrient problems . It might be that your HID bulbs are too close to your plant canopy so your leaves are getting burned.

But the most common message your leaves are sending you is that there’s an oversupply or undersupply of one or more nutrients.

Nitrogen problems are a common occurrence in hydroponics gardens. When you see yellowing leaves (most often the larger and older leaves first), with the yellow starting at the tip and gradually causing the entire leaf to go yellow, you’ve most likely got a nitrogen shortage.

For sure, the language of plants is tricky, and you have to pay careful attention to accurately determine what they’re saying. For example, if you see yellowing of only the youngest leaves (new growth), that’s not a nitrogen problem- it’s a sulfur problem, even though yellowing is the primary symptom.

It gets even trickier, because each of the 14 essential nutrients your plants need interact with each other and can influence nutrient absorption.

Look at phosphorus issues and you’ll see what I mean. Leaves that turn deep blue-green with red or black spots, and which begin to curl and bend, are telling you there’s a phosphorus deficiency. But if there’s too much phosphorus, it affects your plants’ ability to absorb zinc.

Zinc deficiency shows up as twisted leaves and pale yellow leaf color.  You might attempt to remedy the apparent zinc deficiency by adding extra zinc, but because the problem is actually caused by too much phosphorus locking out zinc, your remedy isn’t getting to the root of the problem.

Not only that, the complexity increases as you troubleshoot nutrient issues. Let’s say you really did have a zinc deficiency, and it wasn’t caused by phosphorus. Because zinc deficiencies can masquerade as iron or manganese deficiencies, it’s best for you to augment all three elements if you think you have a problem with one.

Remember that before you ever adjust individual nutrients, you first ensure that your nutrient water pH is in the sweet spot, and you also check to make sure that your garden climate and plant hygiene (no pests or pathogens) are in order.

Then you flush your root zone with pure, pH-balanced water and a root zone cleansing agent, and mix yourself a new batch of nutrients.

If the problems persist, and your plants are free of pests and pathogens in a good climate environment, the problem might be your nutrients. You want to be sure  that you’re using only the highest quality nutrients that are designed and tested for your plants, containing multiple chelates, and an ironclad performance guarantee.

It’s especially important for you to get into an integrated nutrients system; many growers get into trouble by combining shallow base nutrients with bloom boosters that have the wrong P-K ratios.

You get the most consistent growth and the biggest yields when you use an integrated nutrients program. Why? Because the scientists who design an integrated nutrients system ensure that their bloom boosters and other additives all work well together.

Understanding the Important Information
Your Stems, Stalks, Growth Rates and Plant Structure Give You

How else do your plants talk to you? Their growth rate and physical structure are important for you to pay attention to. If your plants aren’t gaining height, girth or floral density at average or better than average rates, you have something to fix.

Or if your plants are growing fast, but they have spindly stems, long distances between internodes, or airy, thin flowers, you’ve got some diagnosing to do. It could be a nutrient problem (perhaps too much nitrogen) or a too-hot grow room.

It helps if you’ve been keeping notes on how your crops develop and mature over time.  That way you’ll know if your crops are on schedule or experiencing a problem.

You can also benefit from the strain-specific timing data that most quality seed sellers provide. For example, if you’re growing a strain listed as “45-60 days bloom time” but you’re barely seeing any floral development 30 days after you flipped your plants to 12 on-12 off, then your plants have a problem you want to fix as fast as you can.

The keys to learning the language of plants are to pay close attention to your leaves, plant structure and growth rate. Off-color or curling leaves, leggy plants that lack density and sturdy branches, or plants that grow too slow are all messages for you to heed to protect your gardening investment.

Also invest in a hydroponics-oriented book that features clear, in-focus color photos of leaves with various nutrient deficiencies and other photos of plant problems. This kind of hydroponics gardening reference book is a must-have for serious hydroponics growers like you.

© copyright RosebudMag.com, 2010



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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 June 2011 21:40

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