Why is pH Important for Hydroponics?
There are a lot of things to manage when it comes to running fully functional hydroponic systems, and monitoring your pH levels is one of the most important. If you fail to do it on a regular basis, then your plants will suffer. Urban Garden Supply is a Portland garden supply and hydroponics store that has an awesome selection of gardening products. Our staff of gardening experts has the knowledge and experience to help you with any and all of your hydroponic or gardening needs. We have written this informative guide to show you how important pH levels are to a successful hydroponics setup, and how you can manage pH levels effectively.
First, we will go over what pH actually is. pH is a measurement of the concentration of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in a water-based solution. It is measured on a scale of 0-14, with 0 representing a very acidic solution and 14 representing a very basic solution. In an acidic solution, there are more hydrogen ions present than hydroxyl ions, and in a basic solution the opposite is true. A minimal change in pH corresponds with a major change in the concentration of hydrogen ions. For example, a solution that has a pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 7. Every plant has a different ideal pH level, so when you are considering setting up a hydroponics system it is important to select plants that all thrive in the same general pH range. Most plants grow better in a solution with a pH between 6 and 7.5. Using the wrong pH for your plants can affect their ability to absorb essential nutrients, and in some cases can even kill them. pH levels can fluctuate on their own, so it is important to pH test your nutrient solution daily.
There are three different pH testing methods: liquid kits, paper strips and digital measuring devices. The paper strips are the most inexpensive method, but they are also the hardest to decipher. The paper strips are coated in a pH-sensitive dye. When you dip the paper strips into your nutrient solution, they change color based on how acidic or basic the solution is. To determine the precise pH level, you compare the color of your paper strips to a pH color chart. Liquid kits are slightly more expensive than paper strips, but they are also easier to read and more accurate. Similar to the paper strips, you just add a few drops of special dye to a small sample of your nutrient solution and analyze the resulting color. The easiest and most expensive way to check your pH is with a digital meter. All you have to do is dip the meter in your nutrient solution for a few seconds and it shows you an accurate pH reading. One thing that all three methods have in common is that they should be used after you have added nutrients and mixed them in with the water.
If you measure the pH of your nutrient solution and discover that it is not quite where you need it to be, there are chemicals that can be added to restore pH balance. A couple of the most popular are phosphoric acid and potassium hydroxide. Phosphoric acid reduces pH levels, while potassium hydroxide increases them. Add these chemicals in small amounts until you have successfully balanced the pH level. If you are vigilant and stay on top of maintaining an optimal pH, your plants will grow and thrive.
Portland Hydroponics and Garden Supply
If you ever have questions about hydroponics or if you need high quality gardening products, visit Urban Garden Supply. We are passionate about our work, and we will gladly help you with anything you need.