Foody Growing Guide
Hydroponics is simply growing plants without soil. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. So, if the mineral nutrients needed by plants are put into the water supply, the soil is no longer required.
While there is definitely a learning curve with growing hydroponically, once you have the proper instruments and experience, you will see much great production than growing with soil.
Advantages of Foody Hydroponics
- No dirt. No mess.
- You have complete control over the growing medium & and the nutrients applied.
- Plants grown hydroponically generally produce much faster than plants grown in soil.
- No weeds
- Virtually no soil-borne problems (diseases, ground insects, etc)
Tips for Success
Clay pebbles like Hydroton or Plant-!t. These small, round clay balls offer excellent drainage, and do a great job stabilizing plant temperatures. Be sure that you rinse the dust off of this growing medium before placing it into your growing pods.
How much growing medium do I use?
- Foody 8 Hydroponic Tower: We recommend first filling each growing pod with growing medium to about 4-5” below the top and then placing your plants into the planting pockets. Once the plants are in, then carefully add more growing medium until the growing pockets are full. (Note: Do not allow growing medium to be any higher in the center circle of the growing pod than the bottom of the center ring. The next higher growing pod needs to slip down into that ring fully in order to be stable.)
- Foody 12 Hydroponic Tower (with Net Pots): Only place growing medium around the plant plugs inside each 2" net pot. DO NOT place or allow any growing medium inside of the actual growing pods (where the water solution is) of Foody 12 Towers.
Hydroponic systems require that additional nutrients be added to the water for the plants. There are many types of nutrient solutions available for this type of use. We’ve recommend Pure Blend Pro Bloom and Pure Blend Pro Grow, which work extremely well with Foody towers . Pro Grow is for increasing plant growth and Pro Bloom provides nutrients needed during the blooming period.
Checking Salt Levels
Since fertilizers are salts we strongly recommend a salt meter to measure the total level of salts in your system. (We offer these on our website or they may be purchased at most greenhouse or garden centers.) For best growing results, keep the salt range between 500 and 1000 ppm with 750 to 850 ppm as optimum.
As plants use water the fertilizer salts will get diluted as more water is added. Additional nutrients will be needed as time goes on. When the salt level drops below 500 ppm or so add some more additional liquid nutrients. After doing so, re-check the salt level to insure that it’s not too high which would burn the plant roots. If the salt level gets above 1200 ppm it’s important to either add additional water or siphon half of the water out and then fill with new water and re-check the salt level.
In time, you’ll develop your own understanding of the needs of your plants and come up with a frequency of adding more nutrients that best fits your plants needs. Remember to stir the water in the base tank well after adding nutrients and before re-checking the salt level. We suggest checking salt levels every 10 days to 2 weeks.
pH is the measure of how basic or acidic your water or soil is. Most plants grow best when the pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. A pH above or below this range will reduce the availability of some nutrients and increase that of others which can harm the plants.
We suggest that you obtain a pH meter or pH measuring system to ensure proper levels for growing. The pH of water can easily be lowered by adding very small amounts of white vinegar, stirring well, and then rechecking the pH. A product by General Hydroponics called pH Control Kit contains both pH Down and a pH Up solutions for adjusting the pH. It’s available on our website or at local hydroponics or nurseries.
Seeds will not start out well in many hydroponic mediums. We suggest either purchasing small plants to place into the growing medium or grow from seed as described below.
Starting from seeds: Rapid Rooter cubes are good mediums for starting seeds. The planted Rapid Rooter cubes may be placed under a grow lamp or on a window sill for 7 days until the seeds sprout and grow. Make sure they don’t dry out but don’t over water. When the roots of the young plants can be seen growing through the bottom of the cubes that’s the sign that they are ready to place into your growing medium in the growing pods. Place the entire cube with the young plant in it down into the growing medium and cover with additional growing medium.
Do I rinse the soil off of the roots of already established plants? Yes. With a small hose gently rinse the soil off of the roots prior to placing them into the growing medium. You don’t need to get 100% of the soil off but try to get what you can without injuring the roots. Then gently place each plant down into the growing medium. The roots should be planted to a depth of 2-6” to ensure that they receive adequate water.
Frequency of irrigation is related to your climate, the type of growing medium being used, and the needs of your plants. Areas with consistently high humidity will need less frequent watering than those in dryer climates. In dry climates plants may do fine with constant (24/7) watering when outdoors. In locations with high rainfall and cooler temperatures the plants will not need constant irrigation. Start with a higher frequency of irrigation and then over a week or so reduce the frequency until you feel that you’ve found a setting that fits your climate, plants, and the growing medium you are using.
Exception: If you have a Foody 12 Tower, the pump must always be on. If you have a Foody 8 Tower, and are living in an area with high humidity you may want to set your timer to run the pump every 30 minutes out of each hour.
How often do I need to add water to the base tank? In hot, dry climates you may need to add a couple of gallons per day. In cooler climates additional water may not be needed for two or more days. You may check the water level simply by lifting out one of the plants in the lid of the base tank. The base tank of each Foody tower holds 6 gallons of water when filled to within 2” of the top. Don’t let the water level fall below about 4” from the bottom of the base tank or your pump could run out of water and be damaged.
How often do I need to completely change the water? In that you’ll be adding fresh water as the plants grow there’s little need to completely empty out all of the water in the base tank to change it. However, it is a good idea to empty and clean the reservoir tank at least 2-3 times per year; usually when your plants normal growing cycle has ended. That's also a good time to check and clean the filter on the pump.
Removing water: To easily remove most of the water from the base tank we suggest:
- Turn the pump off
- Remove the emitter and the top-most growing pod
- Take hold of the flexible hose (through which the water is pumped) and direct it into a large container.
- Turn the pump back on and it will pump water from the base reservoir into your container as needed.
- Empty your container and repeat until the base reservoir water line is down to about 2” from the bottom
If growing in a greenhouse or indoors, consider adding grow lights to improve the growth and health of your plants. One of the Foody system's distinguishing features is that the growing pods may be rotated easily either by hand or with an optional automatic system. This was done for two reasons:
- If used outdoors, this feature allows for even sunlight distribution.
- If growing with lights, less lights are required and “hot spots” are eliminated.
How long do you keep the lights on?: Most plant will not flower if the lights are kept on for 18-24 hours a day. We recommend 10-12 hours of artificial light per day for plants that are grown indoors.
Type of lights: We suggest simply using 4 foot long T5 fluorescent grow lights. These use only 54 watts each and yet produce 6400K each. We have developed a T5 lighting system that fits neatly around a Foody tower.
Your Foody system should be cleaned at least once a year. You can sterilize it by running water with a weak hydrogen peroxide solution in the entire system (without the plants). Run it for at least five hours. Take out the water/hydrogen peroxide solution and replace it with fresh water. Run the fresh water for two hours. Repeat the rinse cycle once more. This is a bit of an overkill, but your system will provide years of trouble-free food production if it is well maintained.