Fast forward a number of years, after being a hydro store worker and manager, and now a product specialist for a leading nutrient company, I’m here to detail for you the most common real-world problems you’ll face. And I can tell you: it’s rarely pH lockout.
In hydroponic gardening, a pH in the 5-6 range is optimal for most plants. In this range, the minerals plants need are in the best compromise of availability while also being in an acceptable environment for the plants to flourish.
Takeaway: Are you encountering some problems in the growroom that you don’t know how to correct? Ryan Martinage offers solutions to the most common problems he sees in indoor gardens.
In the scenarios mentioned above, regular maintenance and habitual pH monitoring can prevent unfavorable conditions from lasting long enough to cause pH lockout. With that out of the way, let’s move on to the things that can go wrong in the growroom that pH lockout commonly gets blamed for.
- You’re feeding nutrients to a plant you’ve just put into potting soil. Hold the nutes! Potting soils most often contain their own source of fertilizer in the form of compost and amendments. The food present in the medium is usually adequate to feed the plant for up to 4-6 weeks, depending on the size of the plant and its container. As the plant signals the start of deficiencies, start feeding at 25-50% of the recommended feeding strength listed by the nutrient manufacturer. You can always go up in strength.
- You are running high temperatures. If your growroom is on the warm side, your plants take in more fluids and can actually take in too much food, causing discoloration.
- You are using water with lots of minerals. Depending on where you live, your water may already be saturated with undesirable solids, which makes it harder for plants to take in nutrients. If you do not correct for these levels, plants may be stunted in growth or show signs of deficiencies. This is why many manufacturers sell hard-water formulas or offer charts to modify feeding schedules for these conditions.
- You are using additives on top of a full nutrient line. Nutrient manufacturers put a lot of work into making feeding schedules. They must be stable, work in a majority of situations and have a largely known outcome with popular growing methods. If you’re using a full line as well as additives, especially flower-bulking additives, you may need to cut out the redundant product. Contact the manufacturer to ensure your products are compatible.
Nutrient lockout occurs when a substantial, prolonged change in pH occurs. As the conditions slide too far towards the acidic or alkaline sides of the pH scale, plants are no longer able to uptake adequate amounts of the 13 minerals they need from fertilizers.
I remember walking into a hydro shop for the first time years ago and feeling overwhelmed at the amount of equipment and products involved in growing cannabis. Then, after I encountered my first real problems, I started asking questions. I was almost always told that pH lockout was the culprit.
OK, sometimes it is actually pH lockout. In the realm of indoor gardening, pH works as a sort of sliding scale of nutrient availability. The scale runs from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline).
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Nutrient lockout occurs when a substantial, prolonged change in pH occurs. You can avoid it with these simple tips.
Once your plants are experiencing nutrient lockout, youвЂ™ll need to act quickly to reverse it and free the nutrients. Otherwise, they will become nutrient deficient and begin to die. To protect your plants, youвЂ™ll need to know how to identify nutrient lockout as well as how to correct, or better yet, prevent the issue altogether.
Chemical fertilizers are salt-based, and these high salt concentrations tend to cause nutrient lockout. Look for nutrients with a low salt content or stick to organic nutrients exclusively.
- Your cannabis garden is oversaturated with nutrients, particularly chemical fertilizers with a high salt content
- There are unsuitable pH levels in the soil, water, or nutrient solution
Nutrient lockout is a problem that can be remedied as long as youвЂ™re paying close attention in your garden. Keep logs of your feeding schedule, observe your plants daily, and record what you notice before and after feedings. Cannabis plants respond rapidly to changes in their environment, which often makes them easy to care for under the eye of a vigilant, observant gardener.
Once you have identified nutrient lockout, the first step is to stop feeding the plants. Next, flush the plants and growing medium accordingly with water. Flooding your pots with fresh, pH-balanced water or running a fresh solution in your hydroponic setup will help to break down and free the salt buildup and clear up the pathway for nutrients to be absorbed by your plants again.
If nutrient lockout is an issue with your pH, consider using products to control your pH level. Purchase pH buffers to raise or lower the pH level and then flush with this pH-balanced water.
When identifying nutrient lockout, first check the pH of the soil, water source, and nutrient solution. Generally, you want the pH for hydroponics to be between 5.5 and 6.5 and 6.0 to 6.8 for soil. When the pH is too high or too low, nutrient availability plummets and your plants cannot absorb the nutrients.
Prevention is always easier than correction, and there are a number of ways to prevent a nutrient lockout in your garden.
When you are feeding heavily, take the time to flush your garden a few times during a grow. Your plants will appreciate the fresh water and a break from feeding, and they will respond magnificently when the nutrients are reintroduced.
Learn about nutrient lockout in cannabis, including the signs and symptoms, how to fix it, and what you can do to prevent it from happening.