Starting a hydroponic farm is sometimes tricky. We are used to soil-based farming and switching to hydroponics is like changing from right hand to left-hand way of writing. However, you need to keep the following in mind when considering hydroponic planting.
Where do you start, seed or seedling?
If you start with seeds, you will have to plant the seed and allow it to germinate and grow gradually. On the other hand, you could start off with a seedling. A seedling is a seed that was planted in the nursery for transplant, then transferred to the actual farm where it is expected to grow and mature into a big plant.
For hydroponic farming, it is usually recommended to start with seeds and not seedlings for the following reasons:
- You can choose what seed type you want and not what you are given.
- Seed plant is problem free in their growth, unlike seedling that may be damaged while preparing it for planting because you have to wash off the soil on the root.
- Seeds help keep your hydroponic farm clean and sterile.
- Seeds keep your farm free from outside bugs, pests, and diseases.
- Seeds are cost-effective; and you are likely to get a better result in your yield.
How to grow your hydroponic seed nursery
You should have in mind that growing with seeds isn’t a game for the impatient. Growing seeds needs the right mix of oxygen, light, water, and temperature. You need to be in control of these elements for your seed to sprout and grow successfully. To be in control, it is best to create a miniature greenhouse using a grow tray and dome. The tray will contain clean, pure water. Additionally, you need a weak, half strength nutrient solution, making the water level rise halfway from the bottom of the starter cube. It is essential there is sufficient light and that the temperature is kept between 75 and 90 degrees.
For cold basement germination, it is best to use a heating mat to give seeds the warmth needed to sprout.
Starting hydroponic seeds
You will need some coarse and rough mediums to grow your hydroponic seeds. For this discussion, you will need a starter pot for germinating your seeds. You can choose Rockwool or stonewool start cubes. Rockwool or stonewool are heated stones that have cracked and stretched due to heating. Using Rockwool offers the best environment for your starter as it allows water and oxygen to get to the seed in the course of germination and after that. In your choice of the right starter, don’t choose anything that will clog up the waterway or that can break down and stop the growth process.
Preparing your hydroponic seeds for germination
- Get pure, clean water and soak your start cube in it for about an hour. After one hour take it out and remove the excess water by shaking it gently.
- Insert 2-4 seeds gently into each starter cube hole. Make provision for extra in case a few starter seeds didn’t sprout, and when they do, you can choose the best and strongest of them.
- Take the starter cubes to the nursery waiting for the seed to germinate.
- While in the nursery, keep adding water or the half nutrient solution to the tray, this will get the seed to start sprouting in a few days.
- Once the seeds start sprouting, it’s time to intensify the plant light gradually and slowly move the light closer daily until it’s less than 6” away from the plants.
- Start feeding the sprouts adequately with the mixed nutrient solution to accelerate its growth.
Transplanting your sprouted hydroponic seeds
- Move your seedling once the roots start poking out from the starter cube.
- The seedling will be available for transplanting in 2 to 4 weeks according to the type of plant.
- Get your growing media in the hydroponic system ready to transfer all the starter cubes and cover them gently.
- Add correctly mixed nutrient solution to the just transferred plants for a few days to teach the plant how to find its food (water and nutrient) source.
With the processes described above, you can start any type of hydroponic planting including cannabis, lettuce, strawberries or any plant you love.