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When you're setting up an indoor garden, it's tempting to start thinking about planting your crop right away. However, before you head on out to your local hydroponics store to buy things like nutrients and plant grow lights, it's smart to consider some basic environmental issues.
Maybe the number one most overlooked and misunderstood topic for indoor gardeners is air circulation. Most people are accustomed to watering plants that are out in the open, either in a regular garden, or in small pots in their home. Fresh air and ventilation is so plentiful that it doesn't enter into planning . That's not the case for hydroponic gardening. You need to give careful thought to ventilation to maximize your results.
Hydroponic Gardening Is About Control
Hydroponic gardening lets the grower gain control over every aspect of planting and raising crops. Indoor growing in controlled conditions is superb at maximizing the speed at which you produce usable yields. Common, inexpensive supplies found at your local hydroponics store accelerate the process. With intelligent use of nutrients and a grow light, your plants will experience an endless summer with round the clock sunshine.
That sounds great, but it also presents certain problems. Like any living thing, plants take in nutrients and emit waste products. For plants, the waste products are moisture and oxygen. If your grow space doesn't bring in fresh air and exhaust stale air, the plants won't thrive. An excess of humidity and lack of fresh air circulation often leads to problems with mildew and insects as well.
Look Out for Hot Spots
Even if your intake and exhaust needs are taken care of, hydroponic gardens can get hot spots in places where air doesn't circulate well. Hydroponic gardening is designed to get the maximum amount of plants in the minimum amount of space, so crowding of leaves and stems is common. In room-sized grows, gardeners use oscillating fans to keep dead spots to a minimum. In small grows and tents, you can help even out ventilation by exhausting air out the top of your enclosure while you draw in air from near the floor.
Air Exchanges Are the Key
The key to effective ventilation is understanding air exchanges. If you multiply the length, width, and height of your growing enclosure, you'll get the cubic footage. Circulating fans use Cubic Feet per Minute to measure the amount of air they move.
In order for your ventilation to be effective, you need to know how often the air in your enclosure needs to be changed. For most grow environments, you'll want to change out the air every 3-5 minutes. That will combat high humidity and stale air without moving air so quickly that you'll dry the plants out.
When Fresh Air Isn't Enough
Don't forget to take heat into account when sizing your fans. A lot of the equipment used for hydroponic gardening, especially grow lights, produces a lot of heat. Your fans will serve as a heat exchanger as well as a way to control humidity. Many experienced growers will double the size of their ventilation fans to take heat into account. Investing in fan controllers and timers can take the guesswork out of keeping the right amount of air moving through the plants while controlling heat.
Carbon Filters Keep Your Hydroponics In the Zone
When you're moving a lot of air through a hydroponic setup, it can lead to a problem with odors. You can control the problem by exhausting the stale air through a carbon filter. Look for a filter that has the same CFM rating as the fan that will be pushing the air through it.