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Balanced pH levels for max growth
It is common knowledge that a hydroponic garden can produce more yield in less time than outdoor soil growing can. This accelerated growth requires a little more work, though. The plants environment and nutrient solution must be checked and adjusted often to keep plant growth at its maximum potential. The electrical conductivity (EC) of the solution, the level of total dissolved solids (TDS), the nutrient balance, and more must be as precise as possible to help prevent algae and plant pathogens, and to ensure all the nutrients are absorbed and used by the plant for growth. However, no matter how accurate and balanced these levels are, they cannot complete their jobs unless the pH is balanced first.
The pH scale measures acid-to-alkaline balance, where 1 is the most acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is most alkaline. For most hydroponic crops a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5 is optimal. This acidic pH range within the crop keeps essential plant nutrients available and ready for uptake. If the pH level goes too low (acidic), acid salts will bind the nutrients and prevent them from being absorbed. When the pH level is too high, nutrients become unavailable and toxic salt buildup can occur which essentially prevents the plant from absorbing water. In both situations, your plants are dieing a slow death.
pH levels can be easily tested with inexpensive soil test kits or litmus paper, but these can be somewhat inaccurate and difficult for a novice to use correctly. For easy and precise measurement it is recommended to invest in an electronic pH tester. Although you usually get what you pay for, the less expensive models are close enough for casual use. The convenience of an electronic tester and its' reusability make it a much better and more economical choice over the long term when compared to a soil test kit.
Once you have determined your pH level is either too high or too low, an additive should be added to the solution to help balance out the levels. In hydroponics, these additives are commonly referred to as "pH UP", most often in the form of potassium hydroxide, and "pH DOWN", usually in the form of phosphoric acid.
Hydrotek Hydroponics recommends pH Up and pH Down solutions from the Cyco Platinum Series line. In keeping with their promise to produce only the highest quality products, the Cyco pH+ and pH- contain pharmaceutical grade ingredients without the plant damaging impurities or salts of a lower grade base material. For safety and environmental concerns, Cyco pH adjusters are concentrated and ship in United Nations approved packaging bottles. No redundant liquid filler is used to increase shipment costs and give the false impression of a larger quantity.
Due to the concentrated strength of the Cyco pH adjusters, it should be used sparingly. Add just a few drops at a time while testing the pH levels, and repeat the application until the desired pH level is achieved.
By checking the pH level daily and ensuring it remains stable and in the optimum range, your plants will have access to all the provided nutrients they need to achieve their maximum potential.