In order to gain the maximum potential from your plants the environment or climate in which they are grown is of paramount importance. Is the temperature too high or too low? Is the humidity correct for your chosen species? Do you have enough lights and are they on for enough time? Are you over exposing your plants to light? These and many other questions have to be answered before you can hope to grow a healthy and productive crop.
Let’s look briefly at the various factors involved. Growing plants indoors means that you have to create similar conditions to the outside environment. This may seem both obvious and easy; however ask yourself do you really want to duplicate the outside conditions? Why not? Well, where is the advantage of growing in artificial conditions? Outside the climate or environment is very variable, sometimes good and sometimes bad, you really wouldn’t want to replicate the conditions of a hurricane, or a sharp early morning ground frost, would you? Where indoor growing really scores is in the ability to provide all of the optimum conditions for healthy plant growth.
So what do you need? Having decided upon your preferred hydroponics system you now need to promote the right environment. The healthy plant requires a good supply of water and balanced nutrients. It needs the right kind of light for the correct period of time each day. Your plant will need some kind of support for its structure, especially as it matures and grows heavy with harvestable produce. As in outdoor plants there is also a need for the temperature to be within a certain range. Too cold and your plant will not thrive, but remain a poor stunted thing. Too hot and it may well dry out, then the leaves wither and die. The addition of Carbon Dioxide gas (CO2) may be advisable to promote Photosynthesis within the green leaves of your plants. Finally some form of clean fresh air circulation is needed to ensure that your crop can breathe. Like you, your plants need Oxygen for life. They breathe it in through their tissues and like you, can become sick if it is dirty or contaminated. So, taking these factors one at a time, how can we manipulate the environment to best effect?
Firstly water and a good supply of balanced nutrients. Which nutrient do you buy and how do you use it? Our list of nutrient manufacturers should give you a good place to start. Chose a supplier whose product range you can understand and with which you feel comfortable.
Lighting conditions can vary quite a lot depending on the type of plant being grown. A tropical species will usually need a greater intensity and lighting time than say an arctic plant. The type of lighting set up you chose should be one that you are able to understand and operate without too much difficulty. If in any doubt please ask your supplier for advice. Poor quality lighting systems can be very dangerous and accidents are more likely to occur if the person who sets up the equipment is not particular about safety. When looking at lighting you also need to take into account the area to be covered and whether the lights are to be static or moving.
Support for the plants can be delivered in a variety of ways. Frames can be erected and the plant stems tied to them at intervals using plastic ties. Another method is to use automatically retracting reels. These go under a variety of names, but all do roughly the same job. They consist of a spring loaded reel of cord with a hook arrangement that fixes to the ceiling, or a top runner, and a hook or loop to tie to the top area of the plant stem. As the plant grows so the slack in the cord is taken up by the reel. Depending on your growing system the roots will either be supported or not. If no root support is used, for example in a water culture system, then the plant should be supported at or near the base of the stem, to stop it lifting if reel supports are used to assist the growing plant from above.
This brings us to the temperature control in your artificial environment. The optimum temperature for your plants will again vary with both genus and species. Having determined what this should be you will need to set up a system to maintain it within specific limits. This is normally achieved by either a commercially produced environmental control system, or by a series of fans and/or heaters together with various other pieces of equipment such as timers, controllers, monitors etc. Environmental control systems come in a wide variety of options to suit the pockets of the rich down to the average man in the street. In general, the more you are prepared to spend, the more sophisticated the environment control systems that are available to you.
Fresh air requirements for your grow room are normally provided using a fan assisted ducting system. This introduces clean air from the outside, via a filter to remove impurities. An Ozone generator is often used to improve the supply of oxygen available in the environment and neutralize any noxious odours. Another similar ducting system then extracts the dirty air back to the outside, again via a filter to remove impurities and cut down on unwelcome odours. Environment humidifiers can be used, if needed, to increase the amount of airborne water vapour.