13Jun/12Off

Which plants do you grow now?

Those new to the indoor growing experience often ask what plants can be grown hydroponically.  The answer is both straightforward and expansive – if it’s a plant, it can be grown through hydroponics!  Of course, some specific plants require certain conditions in order to grow to their fullest potential.  Here at the BIG Shop we thought we’d give you the lowdown on some of the most popularly grown crops, with a little growing advice thrown in!

Flowers, vegetables, fruits and more are all able to be cultivated through hydroponics, but if you are growing crops at home, think about what you will do with your harvest before you begin.  It’s no use producing thirty cucumbers if neither you nor anyone you know likes them!  It may seem like common sense but do take the purpose of your crop into consideration.

Good choices for first-time growers are generally herbs, fruits or vegetables – think about what you and your family make the most use of before deciding what to start with.  Herbs are a popular choice based on how relatively small the resulting plant is compared to how widely used the crops are.  If you don’t think you use many herbs and spices in your cooking now, just wait until you start growing hydroponically – you’ll find yourself adding more and more complex and sophisticated flavours to your favourite dishes in no time at all.

Anything with roots can be grown hydroponically, but it’s best to plan ahead and design your growing space around which crops you plan on cultivating.  If, for example, you’re looking to grow tomatoes (probably the most popular choice overall) or other vine-based plants, it’s recommended to provide your hydroponic system with a trellis structure or other type of support to provide an anchor as they grow.  These plants tend to grow upwards as well as outwards, so do remember to give each a fair amount of room.

Other growers may prefer to start with fruit, as fruits can only usually be grown and harvested at specific times of the year.  Especially with our usual unpredictable climate, many hydroponic growers across the UK have started cultivating strawberries, blueberries and grapes – as well as more tropical examples like watermelons and pineapples!  Strawberries are so popular because of their relatively high sale value compared to how little space they take up, and as a result are widely cultivated in commercial setups.

Even root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips and radishes can technically be grown through hydroponic means, if you submerge the crop itself in the solution instead of attempting to grow it above.  This is, however, a more expensive way of growing something that grows perfectly fine in natural conditions, so most growers steer clear as there is no generally accepted difference in the quality of hydroponic root vegetables over ‘regularly grown’ equivalents.

Make sure to stay tuned, you can be sure we’ll be back with more golden nuggets of advice and guidance on how to make the most of your hydroponic system.  For now – happy growing!

11Apr/12Off

Building your 1st indoor grow room Part 2 – Getting equipped

The idea of starting your own indoor grow room is one that appeals to many, but to the more amateur and less experienced grower, the process of starting out from scratch is daunting.  All those pieces of equipment – so much choice – so many chemicals!  Here’s where we at The Big Shop step in to lend a hand with a few words of advice, continuing from last week’s blog, which you can read here.  In the meantime, here are a few words about what you may need to get started...

Lights

The light set up of your growing system is probably the most important part – the process of photosynthesis in plants is how they grow, so the amount and quality of light is of paramount importance.  A single 600w bulb should be enough to cover around 5 feet of growing space, if positioned at least 5 feet above the crop.  More information on the importance of light can be found in a previous blog by clicking here.

Air Flow

Probably the second most important part of your grow room will be your air flow system.  The use of a small fan or two to keep air gently flowing around your developing and growing crops is invaluable if you intend to maximise your growing potential, but even more important is the incorporation of an adequate extraction system.  Find out more about this here.

C02

Carbon Dioxide is an essential ingredient for plant growth and crop production, being another major contributor in the process of photosynthesis.  Levels of C02 would normally drop in an enclosed area as your plants continue to use it up, and as a result their growth would slow and eventually stop.  Replenishing and maintaining levels of carbon dioxide, therefore, can lead to dramatically increased growth, and similarly incremented yields as a consequence.  For more details on the effects of C02, read more here.

Relays and Contactors

Your grow room equipment will need a steady supply of electricity, and it’s important that this is regulated to ensure safety.  If lights are turned off during the day and turned back on overnight, for instance, the sudden activation of many high-powered lights could create a small surge if not properly regulated.  At The Big Shop, we stock a variety of equipment to reduce the impact on your electrical supply.

Environmental Control

This encompasses everything from the pH of your growing solution to the temperature of your grow room.  In addition to the obvious potential pest problems, issues may arise regarding odours that may become problematic and should be dealt with.  The Big Shop stocks everything the new indoor gardener needs to cope with these environmental issues.

Stay tuned for more advice on setting up your first grow room, including what nutrients and other such products would be required.  Good luck – and happy growing from The Big Shop!

 

26Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Lighting

The main purpose of almost every growing system is the crop yield gained as a result.  Anyone creating a hydroponic system or modifying an existing one has a wide variety of factors to take into consideration that can directly affect this yield, such as;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Several blog posts over the past few weeks have been dedicated to these topics and more before now – however, today we’re focusing on the world of:

Lighting

It may be an obvious thing to point out, but the lighting in a hydroponic system is probably the most important part.  Photosynthesis is the process of absorbing sunlight and, using water and carbon dioxide, creating glucose (food) and oxygen.

The process of photosynthesis is the main influence on a plant’s growth and yield, so the importance of a lighting system cannot be understated.

A grow light has three essential components – the lamp itself to produce light, a ballast to regulate the power input of your lamps and a reflector to best direct the output of the lamps.  The interaction between these three parts is essential in the assembly of a functional and effective lighting system.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps come in three varieties for different growing periods, each with different light outputs optimized for specific stages in a plant’s development.  Metal Halide lamps, for instance, emit more blue spectrum light, which is more effective on plants in the early, vegetative stages of development, while High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps produce more red spectrum light specifically for flowering periods.  Some types of lamp, such as Grolux or Sunmaster Dual Spectrum lamps, emit light from both the blue and red spectrums and can, as a result, be used for growing throughout the cycle.

Ballasts come in two major types – magnetic and digital.  Magnetic ballasts work by using a copper coil that becomes electromagnetic as power is drawn through it and into the lamp.  This magnetism reduces the amount of power that can be drawn through the coil, thus regulating what goes into the lamp.  Therefore, the bigger the coil, the higher wattage lamp can be safely powered.  Digital systems use a circuit board instead of an electromagnetic coil, losing far less energy through heat and noise than their magnetic counterparts.

Lamps don’t focus light on their own; that’s the job of a reflector.  Reflectors take all the light energy put out by a lamp and reduce wastage by focusing as much as possible at your crops.  This process means that your plants can absorb the same amount of light with less energy expense on your behalf, and is important in making sure your system is economical.

One more thing to remember is that all lamps produce heat – excess heat isn’t good news for your plants at all, as you can read in our blog entry here.  Don’t forget, you can always ask our experts at The BIG Shop for advice relating to this or any other growing topics.

23Mar/12Off

Control the environment of your growroom – Air Flow

If you’re thinking about starting a hydroponic grow room, or are looking for advice on how to maintain or improve an existing one, you’ve come to the right place.  We at the BIG Shop have been running a series of blogs to help seasoned growers and those aspiring to earn their first green fingers alike - here are the major topics we’re covering;

  • Temperature
  • Smell
  • PH Levels
  • Water treatment
  • Nutrients

Some of these issues have already been addressed – browse our previous blog posts for more details – but today we’re focussing our attention on a very important part of any hydroponic system:

Air Flow

Plants, like all living creatures, need to respire (breathe) in order to survive.  You may well already be aware that plants photosynthesise in light by taking in energy, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce food (glucose) and oxygen (O2) – but it’s also essential that they can reverse the process comfortably.

Respiration is biochemically the inverse of photosynthesis, as it uses up glucose and oxygen to produce energy for their own use and releases carbon dioxide along with water vapour.  This process provides plants with the energy to grow – which after all is the crux of any hydroponic system.  Giving your plants nutrients is fine, but without the correct levels of gases to break down those nutrients into useful energy, their food source will be wasted.

In the wild, plants respire constantly but only photosynthesise in sunlight.  They have, therefore, developed to photosynthesise at a more concentrated rate to make the most of the short space of time in which the process can be carried out.  It stands to reason, then, that in a hydroponic growing system where plants are under lighting for longer than they would otherwise be, they photosynthesise more than they respire - meaning that the natural balance of gases with which their growing processes are at their most productive is not achieved without a little outside help.  Put quite simply – a good supply of fresh air will increase your crop yield.

That’s where we come in – we stock a range of fans, filters, ducting, kits and accessories to make your extraction system as efficient as possible.  Taking into consideration the heat output of your lamps as well as your available space will help you make the most of your setup.  We recommend, however, getting the highest output fan within your budget, even if your setup is a small one – when run on low power a larger fan can still have a considerable output while keeping noise to a minimum.  Take a look at our range of Torin High Output Acoustic Wooden Box Fans for several examples of this concept.

Don’t hesitate to contact us via telephone or email for some professional guidance and advice tailored around your specific requirements – air circulation is a massively important part of your hydroponic system, and it’s essential that you don’t neglect it.

20Jan/12Off

Planning your growing room part three

We’ve looked at traditional indoor gardening techniques in the past two blogs to help guide you towards a successful growing career with your plants as you begin planning your growing room. Growing plants indoors isn’t always a soil-based practice. Sometimes, growers do away with the soil and opt for hydroponics instead.

Hydroponics is a simple method of growing crops without soil. This can be a huge benefit for those who want to grow their crops indoors, but don’t actually want the hassle of growing in soils.

Benefits of using hydroponics in your growing room

One big advantage to hydroponic practises is the removal of soil from the growing equation. Without soil, the growing environment is a more closed loop. You create a nutrient-rich solution with water that is completely level-controlled. In growing hydroponically, you keep costs of water and nutrients to a greater control and reduce any unnecessary outgoings for your indoor gardening. In troubled economic times, this is particularly advantageous for any growers that need to restrict their gardening spend.

Growing hydroponically reduces the risk of plant disease or pest problems within your growing environment. Due to the water solution being directly in contact with the roots, each plant gets appropriate and maximum nutrition. This gives the plants an immediate boost. There is also improved and stronger aeration that gives plants a refreshing stimulus.

What can go wrong with hydroponics?

Soil is a balancing environment for soil and it’s also very supportive. Soil can keep a plant alive for longer when something goes wrong within the growing room. When plants are grown hydroponically, they are in less nurturing environments such as gravel, clay pebbles or perlite. That means that these environments are less failsafe than soil-growing, which means that plants or crops can ‘die’ very quickly if something interferes with the growing environment. Hydroponic crops require more care than other growing, but they can produce impressive results.

Soilless growing

Hydroponic plants  are self-contained within their own growing pots, racks or multi-flow systems and provided with the right amount of nutrients in order to survive and grow with amazing life. Hydroponics growing environments can be started off on a small level and then advanced up if you find success in growing your plants this way.

The BIG Shop has hydroponic systems of all shapes and sizes to suit your growing needs from the ground up. We can offer a multitude of amazing hydroponic accessories and systems to give your plants the best shot at life going forward.

 

 

 

10Jan/12Off

Planning your growing room part two

In last week’s blog, we looked at planning out our growing rooms in order to make sure that our growing efforts and crops are as successful as they can be. We took the time to focus on the specifics of tanks, tents and lighting choices for your plants. This time, we’re looking at plant nutrition choices and growing items that will give you the ultimate yield from the crops you’re nurturing.

Our growing rooms are personal to us. We take our plants into our house, so we want to get the most out of their time with us. We want full, healthy plants or thriving crops for us to enjoy time after time, so we need to think  about every aspect of our growing rooms in order to achieve this same level of quality each time without fail.

Nutrients for hungry indoor plants

Nutrition for your plants may look confusing or overwhelming, but it’s really a simple step in getting your plants everything that they need to grow. Plants need a broad variety of ingredients to maintain healthy growth within an indoor garden.

Liquid fertiliser comes in all sorts of varieties. If you want fast growth and don’t mind synthetic ingredients, there are chemical fertilisers that will provide both macro and micro-nutrients to your crops. These will give you impressive results in the growth of the roots and the plant itself.

Of course, some people are much more selective when it comes to growing their plants. They want to grow them in the most natural way possible without any chemical fertilisers or pesticides making their way into the growing room. There are bio-fertilisers to choose from with some weird and wonderful ingredients. These options are completely organic in order to provide your plant with natural nutrients during its life-cycle indoors. The organic option yields a higher quality crop and gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your crop is naturally and lovingly grown.

Growing aids

We all want our crops and plants to thrive indoors, so planning our growing rooms has to give some consideration to the benefits of growing aids. There are plenty of enriched ‘super-soils’ available to give your plants a super-boost when they’re growing up.

Organic soils will give a natural boost to crops with natural additives, nutrients and even weird and wonderful things like worm manure, garden peat and peat moss.

The BIG Shop is able to give you expert advice on the right nutrients and growing aids for your crops. Our experience in indoor gardening has given us the ability to guide our customers on the right sort of growing room and accessories for their needs without cluttering up the conversation with sales-speak. We want to help you to nurture your crops and grow them successfully every time, using only the best and most appropriate equipment.

 

1Jan/12Off

Planning your growing room

Planning your growing room part one: tanks and lighting

When planning your growing room, it’s important to start to think about the kinds of crops or plants you wish to buy. Once you know the varieties, you can plan out your growing room accordingly and take steps towards cultivating a strong, healthy growing room with crops that flourish instead floundering. This first part of our ‘planning your growing room’ blogs looks at the

Crops and plants need as much care and attention to thrive as owning a pet does. You care for them from seed all the way through to cultivation; and because you have decided to take steps towards indoor gardening, you have the added personal touch of growing them within your own home from beginning to end. Outdoor gardening has a more detached sensibility because the plants or crops remain separate from the home itself. Indoor gardening allows you to be more directly involved in the life-cycle of the crop because you are the primary caregiver, rather than allowing nature to do most of the work.

Choose your growing environment

Depending on which plants or crops you’re going to grow, you need to make the choice between growing tanks and growing tents. Both have their strengths and the choice will depend entirely on what you need to grow.

Growing tents provide a vertical, light-proof and portable solution for your growing room. If you grow different varieties and like to regularly harvest and re-grow, the grow tent is your best option for maximum customisation.

Growing tanks lie flat on the floor and represent a more compact growing environment. If your chosen plants/crops grow upwards and outwards, the growing tank is probably not right for your growing room. Nutrient Film Technique allows a film of nutrients to circulate past the roots of your plants. This simple, nourishing solution swims over the roots consistently to keep your plants healthy all the time.

Shine a light on your growing room

Light is one of the most essential elements to keep your plants healthy and, most importantly, alive. Planning out your growing room has to give serious consideration to the basics of lighting in order to maximise the productivity and life of the plants.

In order to simulate the best that the sun has to offer, there are blue spectrum and red spectrum lights to encourage the growth. Red spectrum lights make for the best choice if you want to grow flowering plants or fruit in your growing room. Red is good for encouraging the hormonal changes in your plants, which in turn improves yields. Blue spectrum lighting is better for growing vegetables.

The BIG Shop can advise you on planning out your growing room and we can offer our expertise on hydroponic indoor gardening in order to give you the best results with the right equipment for the crops that you wish to grow. Please get in touch for more information.