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The road to Chelsea

Tom Smith Plants (TSP), the producer of high quality soft fruit bushes, vegetables and seeds has started developing their plants which will be used at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show, using none other than Nutriculture Grow Systems very own range of propagators.

The event which is regarded by many as the most prestigious in the horticultural calendar, will take place between 23rd-27th May and attracts enthusiasts from around the globe. So, the pressure’s on TSP as they know that their plants have to look spectacular!

It’s early days so far, but the guys at TSP (@tomsmithplants_) understand that getting the plants to look their best for the show means giving them the best start to life. So we’re ecstatic that they’ve shown great faith in Nutriculture Grow Systems by using our very own X-Stream Aeroponic and Vitopod propagators.

In the Vitopod propagator TSP have been growing ‘Smokin Eds’ Carolina Reaper chillies in rockwool. Whilst they are using the X-Stream Aeroponic propagator to cultivate root vegetables.

We can’t wait to see how they develop. 

We’ll be providing regular updates as to how things are going during the countdown to the Chelsea Flower Show, so make sure to keep checking in on this blog.

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DWC growing tips

7 Deep Water Culture (DWC) tips to get your best ever results 

Looking to get the most from your DWC system? Then follow our top tips to growing success.

Check your roots

Before you start growing in a DWC system you’ll need to make sure that there’s sufficient root growth before transplanting. Make sure there’s plenty of fine roots on show. They should be anywhere between 6-8cm long.

Maintain a consistent temperature in your system

Anywhere from 19oC – 21oC is ideal for growing using the Deep Water Culture. One way of doing this in colder weather is to add a heater to the reservoir of your DWC system.

Keep your pH stable

The range you should be aiming for with DWC is 5.7-6.3, at this range your plants will get the most from the nutrient solution in the reservoir.

Managing pH is simple, but if you’re looking for help, check out our guide to how to manage pH.

Make sure to keep your nutrients fresh

Change them every 14-21 days. Over time the nutrients in your deep water culture systems will need refreshing.

Some systems like IWS R-DWC will refresh the nutrients at timed intervals, though most don’t.

Rinse your media

Make sure to clean the dust from the pebbles, particularly if you’re using a pipe based DWC system. You don’t want to encourage any build up that might inhibit the flow of nutrients. You’ll really only ever be using a handful of clay pebbles, so this won’t take a long time.

Adjust your water levels

During the vegetative growth stage when the roots aren’t as full and thick, make sure that the water level is 2cm above the base of your net pot. When the roots have developed towards the flowering stage, you’ll want to let them get even more access to oxygen, so lowering the water level to 2cm underneath the basket is where it needs to be.

Keep the systems running

Unless your system is timed to refresh the nutrients, make sure they’re in operation 24/7.

For systems like an Oxypot, there’s no need to put them onto a timer to stop the system. Just keep it going the plants will take what they need.

BONUS TIP

Check your leaf colour!

If you find that your leaves are Brown, then there’s likely to a lack of oxygen in the root zone. If that’s the case, just make sure there are bubbles coming from the air stones in the reservoir.

A yellow colour to your leaves will likely mean the pH is too high. Give it a check and if necessary use a reputable pH down solution to correct this.  

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DWC V’s R-WDC – What’s the difference

Deep Water Culture or DWC and (Recirculating) R-DWC grow systems permanently suspend roots in a root chamber, while an air stone in the chamber oxygenates the solution. Access to oxygen and nutrient solution is completely unrestricted.  Growth is exceptionally fast and the crops are huge. 

So what’s the difference between the two?

In DWC Grow Systems:
  • The solution always stays in the root chamber
  • The grower mixes the solution manually 
  • Or the grower can remix the solution with a timer, if their system allows this

A typical example of a self-contained DWC system is an Oxypot, which is the easiest way to trial Deep Water Culture (DWC).

If you grow multiple plants though, you might want to try an IWS DWC system. Think of it as a modular Oxypot, it makes managing many DWC pots much simpler.

In R-DWC Grow Systems
  • The solution moves constantly between root chambers 
  • The constant recirculation between root chambers keeps the pH balanced
  • The solution becomes even more oxygenated, which on large scale set-ups means it outperforms DWC

Our largest scale R-DWC system is the Rush, which has up to 34 nutrient circulations per hour, providing more oxygen to plants roots.

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Wilma automated watering in pots

If you’ve ever thought about how you can make growing easier (and we’re sure you have), then maybe it’s time you automated your watering schedule with a Wilma.

This blog intends to give you as much information on the growing process in a Wilma dripper system as possible, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

How does a Wilma dripper system work?

Very simply. You plant up the pots and fill the system’s reservoir with nutrient solution. Insert the drippers into the pots and set the timer. The timer controls  when the water pump is activated, which is when the nutrient solution is dripped into the tops of the pots. Any excess solution drains back into the reservoir and drips into the pots again at the next feed.

How big is a Wilma?
  • As small as 60 x 60cm or as big as 190 x 90cm
  • Available with 4 pots right up to 20 pots
  • Choose 6L, 11L, 18L or 25L pots
A little bit of history

According to Wikipedia, (let’s face it when is that site ever wrong) the Chinese were using drip irrigation as early as the first century BCE. We doubt though that their methods were anywhere near as effective as our very own Wilma dripper system. After all, how did they time their feeds?

Now drip irrigation may have been used for a while, but don’t confuse Wilma dripper systems with being old-fashioned. They’re far from it.

Wilma Improvements

Over the years Wilma has had a couple of face-lifts, not only making her better looking but much more effective.

Drainage is excellent which means there are no soggy roots. The pot spacing gives plants plenty of space between each other. The top trays allow growers to use different sized pots on the same system. Growers can start plants in 11L pots and can switch to 18L pots.

I bet the ancient Chinese didn’t think of that!

Soil / Coco / mixed media – take your pick

You may have a growing media that you’re particularly fond of using, the good news is that you can use whatever you like in a Wilma. In fact we’d encourage you to trial different media to see how each affects the quality of your crop.

So if you love soil or coco – you can stick to that. If you want to really optimize the growth you can move towards clay pebbles which provide a more oxygen-rich root zone, which drives faster and healthier growth. If you want to benefit from the oxygen benefits of pebbles and the buffering benefits of soil or coco opt for a mix such as 60/40.

Timing – How many feeds

The Wilma drips nutrient solution into the pots at the set times – so you need to set the timer. This table offers guidance as to the times you’ll need to stick to in order to get the most from your plants.

Coco / Soil60/40Clay Pebbles
Start1 x 15 mins per day2 x 15 mins per day2 x 15 mins per day
Veg2 or 3 x 15 mins per day3 x 15 mins per day3 or 4 x 15 mins per day
Flower3 to 5 x 15 mins per day4 or 5 x 15 mins per day4 to 6 x 15 mins per day

You’ll never want to feed your plants for more than 15 minutes each hour. And remember these times are just a guide. You’ll be able to tell if your plants need additional feeds, by the colour and health of the leaves. If they are slightly droopy or yellow, it may be time to increase the number of feeds in a day.

What time to feed?

Ideally provide a 15 minute feed within the first hour of the lights coming on, or the sun coming up. Also one 15 minute feed within an hour of the lights turning off, or the sun going down. 

Drippers?

If you’ve ever seen a Wilma at your local hydroponic shop, then you may have noticed that there are 2 different colour dripper stakes that can be used with the systems. If you’ve ever wondered what they are then let us enlighten you.

The blue dripper stakes are known as ‘Flood’ drippers and are suitable for use with clay pebbles as they have a faster release. It is the free draining nature of pebbles, which makes this necessary as they do not hold moisture in the same way as other media.

The black drippers are known as ‘Arrow’ drippers and provide a slower drip, and are used with Soil, Coco or 60/40 media. 

What’s the cost?

For prices of the Wilma system use our store locator to find your nearest stockist, but in terms of the running  cost, we can shed a little light on that.

The price of using the largest Wilma for 4 feeds per day is just 18p per day! In our opinion 18p doesn’t seem a lot to make sure that your plants get the nourishment they need, when they need it.

Crop size?

As with any hydroponic system you can expect a larger crop, but done correctly an increase in yield of 2-3 times is easily achievable, especially when comparing with hand watering.

The reason for this is that you can feed your plants when they need it, rather than when you are able too, making them more productive.

If you think this super simple system is something you’d like to try then visit your local hydroponic retailer who can provide you with a Wilma Dripper system to suit your growing needs.

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Get the most from your X-Stream Aero propagator

When used correctly, the X-Stream Aero, will dramatically increase the speed at which your cuttings will root and be ready to transplant.

An aeroponic cuttings propagator works by misting the base of cuttings, reducing the risk of damping-off, drying out and fungal infections.

Here’s how to get the most from your X-Stream Aero propagator.

Water

Tap water is perfect for aeroponic propagation. That’s because it contains all the minerals cuttings need to develop in their infancy.

Nutrients

Don’t add nutrients to your water until the roots are around 6-7cm long. A hydroponic base nutrient at half strength is advised so as not to cause blockages in the sprayers and allow the cuttings to feed.

Alternatively a specific root developing nutrient, like Plant Magic Root Stimulator is perfect.

pH

You will need to manage pH even with only water in the reservoir!

You’ll notice in the first 48 hours that pH of the water in the reservoir of the aeroponic propagator will rise.

Make sure to keep pH stable in the tank. A range of 5.8-6.3 is perfect.

Should I leave the pump on?

Yes, we recommend keeping the pump running 24/7.

You will hear some growers say that they like to turn off the pump as it can generate some heat and warm up the water in the reservoir.

Having trialled this ourselves, the difference in temperature levels is negligible, so keep the pump going and keep those cuttings fed we say!

If you are worried about rising temperatures in the aeroponic propagator, we recommend cooling the water down by simply putting an ice pack into the reservoir until the water gets cooler.

Should I change the water?

Changing the water isn’t necessary. It should last the duration of the propagation cycle (up to 4 weeks).

It is much more important to manage the pH correctly.

Do I need to use the humidity dome?

Some growers like to leave their cuttings exposed from above, though we advise the use of the humidity dome, which comes with the X-Stream Aero.

This is because temperature management is easier, and a level of moisture is available to the cuttings’ leaves.

The cuttings develop even without roots in the early stage because the plants stem is able to absorb moisture, before and during root development. The roots then develop as they go in search for food.

Lighting

When using an aeroponic propagator, we recommend using a light that runs cool, like the Sunblaster T5 range, which include nanotech reflectors.

These T5 lights emit a lot of the blue spectrum of light which helps promotes growth of green foliage. And as they operate coolly, they won’t make your cuttings too hot.

How do I know when to remove the cuttings?

Generally you can transplant your cuttings once they are large enough to handle. As a rule of thumb you can transplant when you have some short fat roots.

Our head grower recommends trying to transplant as early as you can and then get them established into their next system. This has the benefit of enabling you to increase your number of cutting cycles.