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Indoor Gardening

Growing Microgreens with the uHarvest™

Growing microgreens with the µHarvest™ is incredibly easy!!
  1. Pick your favorite microgreen seeds and soak them with water in the base of the µHarvest™ for 4-8 hours
Soak your microgreen seeds in water for 4 - 8 hours 
  1. Spread your microgreens seeds into the growing tray. The seeds should be spread evenly, with only a single layer of seeds in the µHarvest™.
Spread your microgreen seeds evenly in the µHarvest™ growing tray. 
 
  1. Water them 2 times per day for the first several days, and then 1-2 times per day as the seeds sprout. It is best to keep them covered during this time.
 
  1. When your microgreens begin to reach to top of the pot, you may begin exposing them to indirect sunlight. This usually occurs around day 4-5.
 
 Begin exposing your microgreens to indirect sunlight when they reach the top of the pot
 
  1. Allow the microgreen leaves to become more vibrant and open as they are exposed to sunlight
Your microgreens will become more vibrant when they are exposed to indirect sunlight
 
  1. Remove your microgreens form the µHarvest™, trim and enjoy!
Enjoy your beautiful µHarvest™ microgreens 
 
That’s it!  No pesticides, no herbicides, no GMO’s and no soil.  Just fresh, delicious, home grown microgreens to save you time and money at the supermarket.
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Let’s Grow Together!!

How to Pickle Your Vegetables

Vinegar-Based Pickling:

Pickling is a great way to extend the life of the vegetables you grow.  It also happens to add a deliciously sour, tangy zing that’s fun to enjoy independently or as part of a dish.  “Quick Pickling” with vinegar is the easiest way of doing it.  The process uses the acidy of vinegar to preserve your vegetables.  Over time, foods pickled with vinegar will lose some of their nutritional value, but that doesn’t mean they won’t stay delicious and crunchy over time.

What Can Be Pickled:

You can pickle any fruit or vegetable you want.  Cucumbers and peppers are popular favorites, but many folks enjoy pickling beans, radishes, squash, tomatoes and much more as well.  I’ve heard that even pickled strawberries provide a unique and tasty treat.

How to Pickle:

A basic pickling brine only requires a few basic ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1 Cup of Vinegar (white vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Kosher or Pickling Salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • You may also want to add items like garlic, peppercorns, dried herbs or mustard seeds to provide unique flavors

While you’re bringing your brine to a boil, place your veggies in an empty glass jar.  When your brine begins to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Then, after letting your brine cool slightly for ~10 minutes, pour it into the jar with your veggies, seal it and place it in the fridge.  Now you can enjoy your pickled veggies in a few hours, or in a few months.

More Tips on Pickling:

  • Many folks like to roast or dry vegetables before pickling them. This can bring out new flavors.
  • If you’d like to preserve your vegetables as long as possible, you can Brine them before you pickle them. The extra salt helps with the preservation of your pickled items, and can help with the taste and crispiness as well.
  • Some of your vegetables may change color from being pickled. Blanching them in boiled water for 2-3 minutes, and then placing them in an ice bath will help to preserve their color.  The type of vinegar you choose will also impact color.  Distilled white vinegar and white wine vinegar will lead to the least discoloration.

Pickles

Growing a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables with Hydroponics

Many people ask about growing different types of fruits and vegetables together, when growing with hydroponics.  When growing fruits and vegetables with hydroponics, you will generally grow fastest if you stay within the recommended PPM and pH range for individual plants (see below).  However, your plants will still grow well outside of those ranges.  The most basic impacts of growing outside of those ranges are:

  • Less food production
  • Changes to the taste of produce

We try to provide cherry tomatoes, herbs and lettuce when iHarvesters are just beginning to grow because it's a great way to learn about the trade-offs and personal preferences involved.  Many herbs and lettuce varieties grow best at lower PPM levels of ~600-800 PPM (although several do well at higher PPM levels as well).  Tomatoes, on the other hand, prefer much higher PPM levels of 1,400 - 3,500 PPM.  My suggestion is to start growing everything at 600-800PPM.  What you will discover is that everything grows well, but your tomatoes will be very slow to produce flowers and ultimately fruit.  After harvesting your first batch of lettuce and herbs, you can increase your PPM to 1,000.  At this point, your tomatoes are likely to begin slowly producing flowers and fruit.  The same can be said for other fruiting plants like cucumbers.  However, you may notice changes to the taste of your herbs and lettuce.  Lettuce, for instance, may start to taste more bitter.  Depending on your taste buds and your preferences, you can manage your PPM up or down, and choose different varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow based on the chart below.

You may notice other issues caused by growing plants outside of their optimal PPM range.  For example:

  • At lower PPM’s tomatoes and cucumbers can become more susceptible to disease like ‘powdery mildew’ disease
  • At lower PPM’s, some pepper plants will not be able to produce healthy fruit
  • At higher PPM’s some lettuce varieties will have ‘tip burn,’ which makes the edges of the lettuce look burnt

Growing plants that are all within the same PPM range will always be the safest and fastest route.  If you want to grow tomatoes and peppers at higher PPM levels, but also want leafy greens, consider replacing your lettuce with spinach, because spinach prefers higher PPM levels.

However, experimenting with the method described above may also allow you to find a more creative balance of fruits and vegetables that you enjoy growing.

Nutrient and pH Chart for Hydroponic Gardens

Plant

pH

EC

PPM

 

 

 

 

Basil

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Bean (Common)

6.0-6.0

1.8-2.4

1400-2800

Bean (Broad)

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1400-1800

Bell Peppers

6.0-6.7

1.8-2.8

1400-2000

Broccoli

6.0-6.5

2.8-3.5

1960-2450

Brussell Sprouts

6.5-7.5

2.5-3.0

1750-2100

Cabbage

6.5-7.0

2.5-3.0

1750-2100

Cauliflower

6.0-7.0

0.5-2.0

1050-1400

Celery

6.3-6.7

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Chives

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Cucumber

5.8-6.0

1.7-2.5

1190-1750

Eggplant

5.5-6.5

2.5-3.5

1750-2450

Lavender

6.4-6.8

1.0-1.4

700-980

Lemon Balm

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Lettuce

5.5-6.5

0.8-1.2

560-840

Melon

5.5-6.0

2.0-2.5

1400-1750

Mint

5.5-6.0

2.0-2.4

1400-1680

Pak-choi

7

1.5-2.0

1050-1400

Parsley

5.5-6.0

0.8-1.8

560-1260

Pea

6.0-7.0

0.8-1.8

580-1260

Peas (Sugar)

6.0-6.8

0.8-1.9

580-1261

Peppers (Bell)

6.0-6.5

2.0-2.5

1400-1750

Peppers (Hot)

6.0-6.5

2.0-3.5

1400-2450

Pumpkin

5.5-7.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Sage

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Spinach

5.5-6.6

1.8-2.3

1260-1610

Squash

5.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Strawberries

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.4

500-700

Swiss Chard

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.3

1260-1610

Thyme

5.5-7.0

0.8-1.6

560-1120

Tomato

5.5-6.5

2.0-5.0

1400-3500

Watercress

6.5-6.8

0.4-1.8

280-1260

Watermelon

5.8

1.5-2.4

1050-1680

Zucchini

 6.0

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

 

There's more great growing information in the links below:

Let’s Grow Together!

White Fuzz on My Plants

Overview:

The type of white, fuzzy fungus that grows directly on your plants is most often referred to as ‘powdery mildew’.  It is a common fungal disease that impacts plant leaves and stems.  It’s different than the beneficial fungi you may see growing in your hydroponic media.  Powdery mildew attaches to your plants leaves and stems.  In most cases, it will not kill your plant, however It spreads rapidly and can have a negative impact on the growth and aesthetics of your plants.  Therefore, you will want to remove it.

Steps for Removing Powdery Mildew:

Step 1: Remove plant leaves with powdery mildew on them.  Because powdery mildew can be difficult to get rid of, and because it can spread quickly to other plants, you will want to immediately remove plant matter with visible powdery mildew. 

Step 2: Spray your plants with a natural remedy to remove any powdery mildew that you can’t see.  There are several home remedies for removing powdery mildew, but vinegar and water is my favorite.  It won’t leave any visible residue on your plants, and it works great.  Vinegar works to remove the mildew because it is highly acidic, and ultimately burns the mildew.  However, if your solution of vinegar is too strong, it will burn your plants as well.  Add about 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to every 16 ounces of water in your mixture.

Keep a close eye on your plants for the next 3-5 days.  Continue to remove any leaves you see with powdery mildew, and re-apply your vinegar and water solution as necessary.

 There's more great growing information in the links below:

 

White Fuzz on My Growing Media

Occasionally, a small amount of white fuzz will show up on your growing media.  This is likely a beneficial fungi that grows naturally on both soil and hydroponic media.  It is part of a healthy ecosystem where moisture and organic material are present.  You do not have to worry about it negatively impacting you or your plants in any way. 

As your plants grow, the fungi will disappear from view.  But if you prefer, it is ok to remove it with your fingertip or a Q-tip.  You can also add a drop of hydrogen peroxide to remove it.

Keep in mind that this white fuzz will not grow on your plants.  There is a similar looking, but different fungi that grows on your plants.  It is called Powdery Mildew.  You will want to remove it so that your plants are as healthy as possible.   Learn more about powdery mildew here.

 

 There's more great growing information in the links below:

Flushing Your Hydroponic Reservoir

Introduction:

I am occasionally asked whether it is necessary to “flush” or completely change out the water in the iHarvestTM.  Water in the iHarvestTM never has to be flushed, however doing so may offer benefits.  For most users, I would suggest doing this very infrequently (perhaps every 6-12 months), unless they notice a change in the growth or taste of their fruits and veggies.

Science Stuff:

The reason you may want to flush the water in your hydroponic garden is because your plants will sometimes uptake more of one nutrient than another.  Over time, this can lead to an imbalance of nutrients in your reservoir, as less utilized nutrients can build up over time.  There are a wide variety of opinions on this matter, but only 1 scientific study that I’ve found.  The study is titled ‘Water and Nutrient Reuse Within Closed Hydroponic Systems.’ It compares lettuce grown in a system where the water is flushed, to lettuce growth in a system where the water is reused.  The study takes place over 2 months and demonstrated that lettuce produced in both systems yielded essentially the same quality and amount of lettuce.  

You may find yourself mixing and matching different nutrient solutions over time, as you grow more than just lettuce and herbs.  This may be a reason to flush your system more often.

How to Flush Your System:

The easiest way to flush your iHarvest is with a siphon pump.  Simply wait for the water level to get low (but never below the level of your pump), and siphon the rest of the water out.  Home Depot and Lowe’s carry siphon pumps you can buy.

Conclusion:

Flushing your hydroponic reservoir less often (or not at all) saves money, time, nutrients and water.  It is more sustainable for you financially and it is more sustainable for the planet as it saves water and nutrients.  However, flushing your water every so often may provide tastier fruits and vegetables over time.  I suggest that you begin by flushing your system every 6-12 months.  If you find that it makes a difference to your taste buds, keep doing it.  If you don’t find that it makes a difference, you can flush your system less often or not at all.

 There's more great growing information in the links below:

How to Start Growing with Your iHarvest

Starting your seedlings:

If you purchased a seedling starter kit at IGWorks.com starting your seedlings will be easy.

Propagation Kit

  • Assemble the kit and place it on the heating mat
  • Place 1-3 seeds in each rapid rooter pod
  • Make sure the pods are nice and wet, but that water does not pool up in the kit
  • Watch your seedlings grow, and place them in the iHarvest when they’ve sprouted

If you didn’t purchase a seedling starter kit, don’t worry.  You can make your own kit by using Tupperware covered with plastic wrap that you poke a few holes in.  Or, you can use the paper towel method, which works like this…

  • Dampen your paper towel with water so that it is plenty moist, but not dripping everywhere.
  • Place your paper towel in the plastic zipper bag (the bag should be wet, but not pool up with water)
  • Place your seeds in the plastic bag, on top of the moist paper towel
  • Zip the plastic bag at least ¾ of the way shut
  • Place the bag in a warm spot, away from direct sunlight. Placing the plastic bag on your TV cable box or similarly warm (but not hot) surface works best
  • Open the bag daily to allow some fresh air to circulate around the seeds
  • Wait for your plants to sprout, and transfer them to the rapid rooter pods before placing them in the iHarvest

You can also grow by dropping 1-3 seeds in each of your rapid rooter pods, placing it in the net pot, and waiting for them to grow.  Your seedlings will start off a little slower (7-10 days), but you'll be growing in no time!

Managing your Nutrients and pH:

*Keep Nutrients and pH solutions away from children and pets.  Read the directions and warnings carefully.

Before placing your seedlings in the iHarvest, you will want to condition the water so that it provides your plants with the proper nutrient and pH balance.  When starting your seedlings, please do the following:

  • Fill your reservoir to be ~50% full by adding 5-7 gallons of water.  The max fill of the reservoir is the top of the filter, but it is good to leave some room to add more water later, if you mistakenly add to many nutrients during setup.
  • Using the small measuring spoon included in your bag of Maxigro, slowly add Maxigro nutrients to the reservoir.
  • Either stir the nutrients in the water, or wait for the pump to cycle water for about 10 minutes with the nutrients to ensure they dissolve well.
  • Make sure your EC meter is set to PPM, by hitting the shift button until the screen says PPM
  • Measure the PPM with the included EC/TDS sensor. You will want a PPM reading of above 600 and below 750 for your seedlings.  (Read here for more information about what to do as your plants get bigger).  When your PPM is between 600 and 750, it’s time to adjust your pH. 
  • Use General Hydroponics pH Up and pH Down solutions to manage your pH after adding nutrients. It’s best to use plastic gloves when handling pH solutions, but at least make sure that you wash your hands afterwards. 

pH Up and Down

  • Measure the pH with the included pH sensor. You will want your pH to be between 5.8 and 6.5.  If your pH is below 5.8, then add the pH Up solution.  If your pH is above 6.5, then add the pH Down solution.  A little bit of pH solution goes a long way, so you should not have to add more than a few tablespoons in most cases.
  • Either stir the pH solution in the water, or wait for the pump to cycle water for about 10 minutes with the pH solution to ensure they dissolve well.
  • When your pH is between 5.8 and 6.5, check your PPM reading again to ensure it remains between 600 and 800. If you add additional nutrients or water to manage your PPM, make sure to check your pH again.
  • Continue to check your Nutrient and pH levels on a daily basis to make sure they stabilize. Once they have stabilized, you will only need to check them once or twice a week.

Let’s Grow Together!

 

 There's more great growing information in the links below:

Growing Plants from Seeds

Introduction and Basics:

Growing plants from seeds can be a difficult process.  Older seeds, or those exposed to extreme temperatures or environments will have difficulty sprouting, and some plants are famous for having low germination rates no matter how well you treat them.  While there is nothing that you can do to guarantee that every seed you plant grows, you can significantly increase germination rates with a few, simple tips.

Tip #1 – Keep your seedlings from ever becoming dry (but don’t have them drenched in water)

Tip #2 – Keep your seedlings in a warm environment.

Tip #3 – Avoid exposing your seeds to direct sunlight.

A propagation kit with heat mat and humidity dome is a terrific way to propagate your seedlings before planting them in soil or hydroponic growing media, but they are not free.

Germinating Plants With Paper Towels

There’s also a very inexpensive means of growing seedlings that works almost as well, and all you will need is a plastic zipper bag and paper towels.

  • Dampen your paper towel with water so that it is plenty moist, but not dripping everywhere.
  • Place your paper towel in the plastic zipper bag (the bag should be wet, but not pool up with water)
  • Place your seeds in the plastic bag, on top of the moist paper towel
  • Zip the plastic bag at least ¾ of the way shut
  • Place the bag in a warm spot, away from direct sunlight. Placing the plastic bag on your TV cable box or similarly warm (but not hot) surface works best
  • Open the bag daily to allow some fresh air to circulate around the seeds
  • Wait for your plants to sprout, and transfer them to your growing media

That’s it!  Using a propagation kit or germinating with paper towels and a plastic sipper bag on a warm surface will significantly improve your germination rate.

Let’s Grow Together!

 There's more great growing information in the links below:

Pruning, Trimming and Topping Your Indoor Garden Plants

Overview:

When gardening fruits and vegetables indoors, you’ll want to grow as much as you can in a small space.  One means of doing this is to use ‘Dwarf’ varieties of plants, as described in a previous post titled “Small Plants that Yield Big Indoor Harvests.”  Whether you’re using dwarf varieties of plants or not, you will find that proper pruning will result in healthier plants that produce fruits and veggies all year long.

What is Plant Pruning?

When gardening indoors, pruning, trimming and topping your plants will result in more bushy and compact produce that yields more fruit.  Because you’re removing branches, some people are concerned that they are hurting their plant and prefer not to prune or top off their plants.  However, once you try it you will recognize how much you’ve benefited your plant and all the other plants growing nearby.

When and How to Prune Your Plants:

  1. Top off your plants while they are young to encourage them to grow out, rather than up. The picture on the left is a pepper plant that I “topped off.”  That means that I cut off the top of the plant to slow it's progress growing up, and to make the plant more bushy and compact.  I could have topped off this pepper plant even earlier and lower than I did.  The picture on the right demonstrates the how topping off plants results in fuller growth.  The result is more compact and ‘bushy’ plants that will spend more energy producing fruit and less producing leaves and long branches.

 

Recently Topped PlantTopped Pepper Plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Trim your plants when they begin reaching too far beyond the iHarvest, or when they grow in a space that should be occupied by other plants. Your plants all want lots of light.  Plants reaching too far towards the light, or infringing on the space of other plants, block light from other plant material.  Keep your plants well-trimmed to ensure they all get enough light.  Check out the before picture on the left and the after picture on the right, below.

 

Before TrimmingAfter Trimming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Prune dead, dying and significantly discolored branches and leaves. This will ensure that your plants are expending all of their energy on growing fresh leaves, fruits and vegetables.  It will also ensure that unhealthy branches and leaves aren’t blocking valuable light from healthier areas trying to grow bigger and stronger.

 

 

Conclusion:

Pruning, trimming and topping your plants does not have to be done often, and it usually requires less than a minute or two of your time.  You’ll be rewarded with bushier, more compact plants that produce healthier fruits and vegetables all year long.

 

There's more great growing information in the links below:

Let's Grow Together!

Small Plants that Yield Big Indoor Harvests

Overview:

A lot of people question whether they can grow cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and other large vegetables with their iHarvest indoor garden.  The answer is yes!  But, if you want to get a high yield out of your plants, you’ll want to choose varieties of these plants produce lots of fruits and veggies in small spaces.  These varieties of plants are generally referred to as Dwarf variety, or sometimes Bush variety plants.  A Google search for Dwarf variety tomatoes or Dwarf variety cucumbers, for example, will provide a lot of great results.

What are Dwarf Variety Plants?:

Dwarf varieties of plants are simply plants that are smaller than normal for their species, but they generally provide the same sized fruit.  Also, they often provide more fruit in a more compact space.  There are dwarf varieties of trees that can be grown indoors with proper lighting, such as the IGWorks Grow Lights.  And, there are dwarf varieties of vegetable and fruit plants that are perfect to grow hydroponically, in small spaces.

Examples of Dwarf Variety Plants for Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening:

  • Red Robin Cherry Tomato
  • Fairy-tale Eggplant
  • Robin Hood Fava Bean
  • Dragon Tongue Bean
  • Desiree Dwarf Blauwshokkers Garden Pea
  • Mini Love Watermelons
  • Bush Pickle (Cucumber)
  • Butterbush Sqash

Conclusion:

You can find many more dwarf variety plants by Googling ‘dwarf variety’ and then the type of plant you’re looking for (i.e. Dwarf Variety Tomatoes).  Not all dwarf varieties are equal.  Some take up less space than others, so research how much space each plant is expected to take up.  And, keep in mind that dwarf watermelons, for example, still take up a significant amount of space.  But, with proper pruning, you can still grow plenty of them in your iHarvest indoor garden!

Speaking of pruning plants, check out this article on pruning plants.  It’s all about how to keep your plants small while encouraging the growth of lots of fruits and veggies!

There's more great growing information in the links below:

Let's Grow Together!

Propagating Plants from Cuttings

A Quick Intro to Propagating Plants from Cuttings:

Growing a plant from a cutting offers at least two distinct advantages over growing from seed? 

  • Plants grown from cuttings will often grow more quickly than those grown from seed
  • Plants grown from cuttings have the exact same genetics as those of the original plant

Plants tend to grow much more quickly in hydroponics than they do in soil, so that’s not why l grow some of my plants from cuttings.  I grow from cuttings when I have a plant that grows much more fruit than others.  For instance, I recently planted 5 tomato plants from seed at one time.  After a couple of months, I realized that one of them was producing much more fruit than the others.  The only way to make sure that the next plant I have produces more fruit than others is to clone it.  I’ll do the same thing with peppers and other plants.  You may want to clone a plant because it produces more fruit, the fruit tastes better, the plant grows faster, or even because you like how it looks.  How do I clone a plant?  Please read on...

How to clone your favorite plants:

  • Step 1: Cut a 4 – 5 inch stem off of your plant. Make the cutting at an angle, below a small group of leaves.  Make sure to use stems absent of flower buds and disease.  Plants will often create new roots just below where a leaf existed, so you want to use a cutting that has at least 2-3 sets of leaves attached.  Cutting the stem at an angle increases the surface area available for the plant to absorb water and nutrients. 
  • Step 2: Remove all but a few leaves from the top, making sure to remove the largest leaves. Removing most of the leaves means that the stem has less foliage to support, while still having the opportunity to photosynthesize and grow.  Plants will also lose most of their water through their leaves, so removing the largest leaves will make life easier on your cutting.

Pepper Plant Cutting for Propagation Indoors

  • Step 3: Use a homemade rooting solution. Store-bought rooting hormones are available, but most of them warn you not to use them on edible plants.  Warning or not, I personally won’t use them in my hydroponic garden.  Use a natural rooting solution instead. 
    • Willow Bark Extract – Willow bark is likely the best natural rooting solution available today. It contains natural plant hormones that are great for rooting new cuttings.  It’s pretty easy to make your own willow bark rooting solution if you have a willow tree nearby.  There’s lots of information available for that on the Web.  Otherwise, you can purchase organic willow bark extract.  Adding two drops to a small glass of water is all you need to help grow roots from your cuttings more quickly.  If the water becomes murky over time, just replace it.
  • Step 4: Place your cuttings in a glass of water. Simply placing your cuttings in a warm glass of water in a spot that receives plenty of indirect light will allow many of them to grow roots.  Some of your cuttings won’t make it, but that’s ok.  Just make sure to take at least 2-3 cuttings of each plant to increase your odds.  Once your cutting begins to develop roots, you can place it in your growing media, and move it into your iHarvest hydroponic system.

Tomato and Pepper Plants being Propagated from Cutting Indoors

There's more great growing information in the links below:

Let's Grow Together!

The Science of LED Grow Lights for Your Indoor Garden

Introduction:

Indoor Gardening isn’t exactly a new thing, but LED’s are changing the way we light our indoor gardens.  LED lights are more efficient than traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights.  That’s because LED lights convert nearly all of their energy (95%) into light, while other lights turn a significant amount of energy into heat.  But, there’s another very important reason that LED’s are more efficient when it comes to growing plants.  With LED lights, we have the rather unique ability to customize the type of light that is emitted, and that means we’re not wasting energy to create light that doesn’t help our plants grow.  At the end of this article, you’ll understand the science behind why grow lights come in many different colors, as well as why some LED grow lights cost so much more than others. 

Plants Only Use the Visible Light Spectrum for Photosynthesis

It’s important to know that plants only use visible light (the colors of light that we see every day) for photosynthesis. However, as the chart below demonstrates, the complete spectrum of light is far greater than just the visible light spectrum.  On the outer edge of the visible light spectrum is Ultraviolet (UV) light and Infrared Radiation (IR).  UV light is the invisible light emitted by the sun and other sources that will cause sunburns when we don’t wear sunblock.  IR light can only be seen with special equipment, like night-vision goggles.  Even further out from the visible light spectrum are light waves that we don’t traditionally think of as light.  These include X rays, Microwaves and even Radio Waves.

Light Spectrum for Understanding LED Grow Lights

One of the most important things to understand is that scientists have demonstrated over and over again that plants only absorb visible light for photosynthesis.  Plants do react to other forms of light like UV, but that reaction is typically negative.  I’m told that marijuana growers actually use UV light to induce the production of psychoactive chemicals like THC, which seem to be produced in part as a defense mechanism against the damaging effects of UV light to the plant.

What is PAR?

PAR stands for “photosynthetically available radiation.”  PAR is made up only of visible light, because this is the only light that plants use for photosynthesis.

For decades, many indoor growers have used Lumens to measure a grow light’s efficacy, but the industry is getting smarter and turning to PAR.  Lumens are used to measure the brightness of a lamp to the human eye.  But plants and people see light differently.  Humans see yellow and green more brightly than other colors.  Therefore, yellow and green lamps may have higher Lumen values than red and blue lights that put out just as much actual light, and which plants are likely to respond better to.

PAR measures all light from the visible light spectrum equally, and does not measure light outside of the visible light spectrum, which does not help the plant photosynthesis.  So, for plants, the PAR value of a light is currently the best basic measurement of a grow light’s brightness.  Accurate PAR meters are quite expensive and generally cost $500 or more.  Inaccurate PAR meters can be purchased for much less, but there’s really no point to owning an inaccurate PAR meter. 

The best way to get PAR values for your grow lights, assuming you don’t want to purchase your own PAR meter, is to check with your reputable grow light manufacturer or provider for the PAR rating of their lights. 

How Much PAR do My Plants Need to Grow?

The amount of PAR your plants require depends on what you are growing, as well as how far away from your plants the light is.  Generally speaking, leafy greens like lettuce only need a PAR value of ~200, whereas tomatoes and other plants that flower and produce fruit require 400-500 or more PAR.  Unless you place your grow light right on top of your produce, you will need an even higher PAR rating from your grow light, to take into account the distance between your plant and the light source.

In the example below, you can see a very powerful grow light that puts out nearly 1,900 PAR (measured in umol) 8 inches from the source.  Very few lights put out this much PAR, and they are typically quite expensive.  This light will emit 1,900 umol every second.  But at 23 inches from the source, the strength of the light is reduced to 890 umol.  The PAR value is reduced further and further as you get further from the light source.  When we get to 6 feet away from the light source, our PAR value is down to ~100umol, which means we would have trouble growing even lettuce well.  So, always make sure you understand not just the PAR emitted from the light, but that every 8 inches or so away from your light, the PAR value will be reduced by ½ or more.

Full Spectrum Grow Light PAR and Lux Ratings

There are many inexpensive grow lights on the market that make big claims, but they will ultimately leave their owners disappointed.  This issue is especially rampant on the internet.  Remember to check the PAR value of any light you purchase.  Also, remember to take into account how far your light will be from your plant to ensure there is enough photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) for your plant to flourish.

  • Leafy Greens require 200 PAR for proper growth
  • Tomatoes, cucumbers and other flowering/fruiting vegetables require 400-500 PAR
  • Fruiting Trees should be given 600 PAR or more

What is the Temperature of Light I Should Use?

Interestingly, ‘Kelvin temperature’ is the metric used to describe the visual color that a light emits.  As you can see in the chart below, ‘warmer’ light temperatures that have a red color have a lower Kelvin rating.  On the other end of the spectrum are ‘cooler’ temperature lights which have a blue color and higher Kelvin rating.

Kelvin Temperature Scale for Indoor Grow Lights

Different temperatures of light have different impacts on plants.  Generally, higher temperatures (blue) light encourages photosynthesis which leads to bushy plants that don’t feel inclined to elongate and reach for more light.  This is great if you want to grow in a compact space.  Lower temperature (red) light reduces photosynthesis and signals to plants that that it’s time to flower and produce fruit.  Plants put under a red light will also be more inclined to stretch and grow taller, as opposed to growing bushier and more compact.

IGWorks focusses on providing full spectrum lights with a natural color temperature of between 4500K-6500K as these are most pleasing to the eye.  They also allow plants to grow bushy and compact, without hindering the ability of plants to flower and fruit. 

What Color of Light Should I Use?

LED lights can come in almost any color.  Plants respond most to red and blue light.  Interestingly, plants generally respond less well to green light.  In fact, the reason that plants appear to be green is that they tend to reflect green light, while they absorb other parts of the light spectrum more readily.  This is why a large scale or industrial grower of plants will often use a combination of red and blue lights to photosynthesize their plants.  They don’t want to waste electricity producing green and even yellow light, which plants use less effectively. 

Red and Blue Spectrum Indoor Grow Light

However, for those of us growing produce in our living spaces, it’s probably worth the extra pennies it costs to produce a nice full-spectrum color that will be more natural and pleasing to the eyes.  Full-spectrum grow lights will often come with a chart, which shows the distribution of blue, green, yellow and red light that is emitted.  See the example below.

Full Spectrum Grow Light Wavelengths

Conclusion:

We hope this article has provided you with a thorough background on indoor grow lights, and what to look for when you decide to purchase them.  Remember to make sure that your grow light has the appropriate PAR rating for the particular plant you’re growing.  Additionally, if you’re growing in a part of the home used for leisure and recreation, make sure you get a grow light with a color you’re going to enjoy, which is generally between 4500 – 6500 Kelvin.

For more helpful tips on indoor gardening, look no further…

Let's Grow Together!

Nutrient and pH Chart for Growing Fruits and Vegetables with Hydroponics

Looking for a great chart describing the proper nutrient and pH levels for gardening all of your favorite hydroponic fruits and vegetable?.  Look no further.  Here's your DIY guide to growing farm fresh veggies and more, indoors.

Adding Nutrients and Adjusting pH in Your Hydroponic Garden

Overview:

When growing with hydroponics, ensuring you have the right nutrient mix is essential to both the growth and taste of your plants.

Adding nutrients and pH balancers to your hydroponic solution should be a multi-step process.  And before you begin, you should always make sure that you have a hydroponic TDS (Total Dissolved Liquids) or EC (Electrical Conductivity) sensor and a pH sensor available.  These sensors are relatively inexpensive.  They’re available at your local hydroponics shop, Amazon.com, and soon IGWorks.com.  If you’ve purchased an iHarvest, you will be receiving a TDS and pH sensor with your purchase.

Note that TDS sensors and EC sensors are actually the same thing, but most sensors convert from an EC value to a TDS value.  It will be obvious to you what value is being provided, as EC values generally range from 0 – 5, and EC sensors have values much higher (typically from 100-2,500). Whether you're using a sensor that produces EC or TDS results, you can use the chart at the bottom to get your nutrient and pH mix right for the fruits and vegetables you want to grow.

TDS and EC Sensors:

Let’s briefly discuss what these sensors are and how they work.  As stated above, both EC sensors and TDS sensors are the same thing, but they produce different values.  Both sensors use electrical conductivity to measure the amount of nutrients in your hydroponic solution.  Electrical conductivity is exactly what it may sound like…it’s a measure of how well a material conducts electricity.  This is relevant to your hydroponic garden because hydroponic nutrients are made up primarily of mineral salts, which are a great conductor of electricity.   By measuring EC in your hydroponic solution, you are basically measuring the amount of nutrients that are contained in your hydroponic solution. 

There are limitations to what EC/TDS sensors can measure.  For instance, you can’t measure the amount of individual nutrients that exist in your hydroponic solution with these sensors.  You won’t be able to tell the specific amount of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K) or other nutrients that exist in your solution.  Sensors that are capable of this cost many hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.  So, unless you’re a professional grower you will probably want to avoid that expense.  Not to worry, though.  Measuring exact amounts of nutrients is not required for the vast majority of us, and here’s why…

N-P-K Ratio:

On each and every hydroponic nutrient solution you purchase, you will see 3 numbers.  These 3 numbers represent you N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) Ratio.  While your hydroponic fruits and vegetables require more than these 3 elements, these 3 elements (N-P-K) are the most important elements in your nutrient solution.  For the purpose of growing healthy and great tasting vegetables, these are the elements we will focus on in this article.

So why don’t you need to buy an expensive nutrient tester that tells you exactly how much Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (N-P-K) you need?  It’s because the N-P-K ratio is listed on your hydroponic nutrient solution, and because your fruits and vegetables will generally absorb these in equal amounts.  Personally, my favorite nutrient solution is called MaxiGro.  The MaxiGro nutrient solution ratio is 10-5-14, which is great for growing fruits and vegetables.  More advanced growers may want to have a nutrient solution with more Phosphorus for flowering and fruiting plants, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.  Think of the MaxiGro solution ratio this way…in every scoop of nutrients that you put into your hydroponic reservoir, there will be 10 Nitrogen’s, 5 Phosphorus’ and 14 Potassium’s.  And for every 10 Nitrogen’s, the average fruit and vegetable will absorb approximately 5 Phosphorus’ and 14 Potassium’s.  That means the N-P-K ratio in your nutrient solution stays at 10-5-14, and you don’t need to measure the exact amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.  A 10-5-14 ratio is about the same as a 2-1-3 ratio, which is what I suggest you use when growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  You can add a solution with additional Phosphorus if you’re growing more fruiting and flowering plants.

Adjusting Your TDS:

Measuring your TDS will produce a reading that tells you how many nutrients are in your reservoir.  More nutrients means that there will be a higher TDS (or EC) reading.  For simplicity, I suggest you break plants up into two categories:

Category 1: Leafy Greens and Herbs – These plants tend to desire lower amounts of nutrients in their hydroponic solution.  You should add nutrients until your meter shows a reading of between 600-1000 TDS.  I suggest using a TDS reading of 800.  One of the exceptions to this rule is Pac-Choi, which prefers a TDS reading closer to 1,200-1,400.  Spinach also likes higher TDS ranges, but tastes quite good at lower ranges as well.

Category 2: Flowering Fruits and Vegetables – Flowering fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers prefer higher nutrient levels, which corelates to higher TDS values.  For these plants to flower and produce fruit, you should focus on creating an TDS range of between 1,500 and 2,000.  This also applies to broccoli, cabbage (not lettuce) and hot peppers, which like to be towards the top end of that TDS range. 

Make sure that after you add nutrients to your hydroponic solution, and before you measure the TDS, you allow the nutrient solution to mix thoroughly with the water in your reservoir.  You can mix them manually, or you can let the pump do all the work by letting it run for 15 minutes after adding the nutrients.  If you do not allow the nutrients to mix properly, your EC measurement will be incorrect.

Adjusting Your pH:

pH is a scale used to specify how acidic or basic your water solution is.  pH is also an incredibly important aspect of your nutrient solution, as the pH level determines how well your plants are able to absorb nutrients. You can control this with your pH sensor and the pH up and down solutions.  These are provided with the iHarvest, or available online.  Keeping your pH between 5.8 and 6.5 will work very well for almost anything you want to grow.  If your pH is below 5.8, add a small amount of pH up and test again.  If your pH is above 6.5, add a small amount of pH down and test again.

Make sure that after you add your pH up or down solution, and before you measure the pH, you allow the nutrient solution to mix thoroughly.  You can mix the solution manually, or you can let the pump do all the work by letting it run for 15 minutes after adding the pH adjuster.  If you do not allow the nutrients to mix properly, your pH measurement will be incorrect.

TDS and pH Balance:

Now that you’ve adjusted your TDS and your pH, it’s time to check your TDS again.  That’s because adjusting the pH can impact your TDS reading, and adjusting your TDS can impact your pH.  Make sure that both measurements are where you want them before you are done.

Maintaining your TDS and pH Balance:

TDS and pH balances can swing back and forth over time.  While you’re beginning to learn hydroponics, I suggest that you check the pH and TDS balance daily.  Over time, this won’t be necessary.  You’ll get a feeling for how often you need to check based on a variety of factors.  For instance, using organic nutrients tends to induce the TDS to swing more often.  And, I’ve found that once a system has been running consistently for a while, it tends to stabilize and you will only have to check it once or twice a week.

Nutrient and pH Chart for Hydroponic Gardens

Plant

pH

EC

PPM

 

 

 

 

Basil

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Bean (Common)

6.0-6.0

1.8-2.4

1400-2800

Bean (Broad)

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1400-1800

Bell Peppers

6.0-6.7

1.8-2.8

1400-2000

Broccoli

6.0-6.5

2.8-3.5

1960-2450

Brussell Sprouts

6.5-7.5

2.5-3.0

1750-2100

Cabbage

6.5-7.0

2.5-3.0

1750-2100

Cauliflower

6.0-7.0

0.5-2.0

1050-1400

Celery

6.3-6.7

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Chives

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Cucumber

5.8-6.0

1.7-2.5

1190-1750

Eggplant

5.5-6.5

2.5-3.5

1750-2450

Lavender

6.4-6.8

1.0-1.4

700-980

Lemon Balm

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Lettuce

5.5-6.5

0.8-1.2

560-840

Melon

5.5-6.0

2.0-2.5

1400-1750

Mint

5.5-6.0

2.0-2.4

1400-1680

Pak-choi

7

1.5-2.0

1050-1400

Parsley

5.5-6.0

0.8-1.8

560-1260

Pea

6.0-7.0

0.8-1.8

580-1260

Peas (Sugar)

6.0-6.8

0.8-1.9

580-1261

Peppers (Bell)

6.0-6.5

2.0-2.5

1400-1750

Peppers (Hot)

6.0-6.5

2.0-3.5

1400-2450

Pumpkin

5.5-7.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Sage

5.5-6.5

1.0-1.6

700-1120

Spinach

5.5-6.6

1.8-2.3

1260-1610

Squash

5.0-6.5

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

Strawberries

5.0-5.5

1.0-1.4

500-700

Swiss Chard

6.0-6.5

1.8-2.3

1260-1610

Thyme

5.5-7.0

0.8-1.6

560-1120

Tomato

5.5-6.5

2.0-5.0

1400-3500

Watercress

6.5-6.8

0.4-1.8

280-1260

Watermelon

5.8

1.5-2.4

1050-1680

Zucchini

 6.0

1.8-2.4

1260-1680

 

The iHarvest® Indoor Garden

 

There's more great growing information in the links below:

Let's Grow Together!

5 Smart Tips for Growing Hydroponic Veggies Indoors

Growing, harvesting and indulging in the food we grow ourselves feels great.  But, many of us have limitations when it comes to gardening.  We may live in apartments, condos or homes that don’t have the outdoor space to garden.  Others live in climates that are not hospital to gardening for large portions of the year.  That’s when growing indoors can be a great solution.  And growing with hydroponics may be the smartest solution considering plants can grow 3 times faster when you do!  Whether you’re using an iHarvest indoor garden or not, here are 5 great tips for using hydroponics to grow food indoors, anytime of year.

How to Pollinate Your Indoor Fruit and Vegetable Plants

Many people look at me with disbelief when I tell them that I’m growing tomatoes, cucumbers…even peaches and pineapples indoors.  One reason for these looks of disbelief is that people wonder how these plants get pollinated indoors.  Fortunately, learning how to pollinate your flowering plants so that they will produce fruits and vegetables is easy. 

Tips for Identifying and Removing Bugs from Your Indoor Garden

From lettuce and herbs to pineapples and peach trees, today’s technology allows indoor gardeners to grow our favorite produce indoors, all year round.  Keep your indoor gardens pest free with these simple tips.

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Recipes

Kale Chips

Oven-baked kale chips make a healthy snack. Try other seasonings to “spice” them up a bit. Use fresh kale from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Sage And Onion Stuffing

This sage and onion stuffing can be used to stuff a 12-14 pound turkey or simply bake as a side dish. Use fresh sage from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Chive Mashed Potatoes

Snips of chives add both color and flavor to creamy mashed potatoes. You can use fresh chives from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Creamed Mustard Greens

If you like creamed spinach, try this easy side dish twist that uses mustard greens instead. Use fresh mustard greens from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Cucumber Coleslaw

Make this fresh-tasting coleslaw any time of the year. Cabbage mixed with cucumbers and a tangy dressing. This salad is a great way to use cucumbers and dill from your IHARVEST.

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini bread is a classic quick bread and a great way to use a surplus of fresh zucchini. Bonus: this bread freezes great! Use zucchini from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Seared Pork With Bok Choy

Quick seared pork is perfect for busy weeknights or any day you’re short on time. This Asian-flavored recipe has a sauce with a bit of a kick to it and is served with rice noodles. You can use fresh bok choy, hot peppers, and green onions from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Jalapeno Poppers

The ultimate party food! Spicy jalapenos are stuffed with creamy cheese and then deep-fried. Use fresh jalapenos from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Tuscan Bean Soup

This simple bean soup is hearty and satisfying. It's a great way to use fresh spinach and rosemary from your IHARVEST.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Sweet bell peppers are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, rice, tomato, and cheese. An easy weeknight dinner. Use the bell peppers and tomatoes from your IHARVEST in this recipe.

Classic Italian Seasoning Blend

Using a variety of fresh herbs from your iHarvest, you can make your own classic-style Italian seasoning blend.

Stir-Fried Sesame Beef and Peas

Using snow peas or sugar snap peas from your IHARVEST, you can have this flavorful Asian-inspired beef stir-fry recipe ready in minutes.

Cucumber Mint Water

This refreshing, antioxidant and vitamin-rich drink is a great way to use cucumbers and mint from your IHARVEST. 

Swiss Chard Frittata

Use the Swiss chard and green onions from your IHARVEST in this recipe. Frittatas can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and are a great way to include vegetables in your meal.

Italian Grinder

This sandwich is a great way to use cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes from your IHARVEST. The Grinder is the New England version of a hoagie, hero, or sub sandwich.