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pH & EC Control

The pH of your water or soil is an important part of horticulture. One of the most complex concepts to fully understand involving indoor gardening is the subject of pH measurement. It is a complicated biochemical concept that is also very important to know if you are a gardener – especially if you garden hydroponically.

Different plant species require different pH ranges. Most plants grown in soil or soilless mixes will do well in the pH range of 5.8 – 6.2. For hydroponically grown plants, the optimal pH range is 5.5-5.8. In human biology, our blood must fall within 7.35 and 7.45, or death will occur, as our blood will turn to acid or base. It is similar for plants. If you go any higher – or lower – than the optimal pH range, the plant’s cells will turn basic or acidic, and the plant’s cells will die. If the plant is grown in the incorrect pH range for too long, the whole plant will die. In actuality, you can use the pH measurement as a tool to maximize your plants potential. Certain nutrients are absorbed by the plant better or worse over the spread of a certain pH range. Want your plant to push out more oils? Drop your pH because the nutrients responsible for that are better absorbed at the lower spectrum of the acceptable pH range. Want more nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, or potassium? Raise your pH so that the measurement is at the optimal absorption range for those nutrients (higher). Using this technique in your garden is kind of advanced, but with caution and patience, you can make your pH into more than a reading, but a tool as well.

pH is pretty fragile. The measurement will fluctuate often and can be affected by almost everything. It is important to take all these things into consideration when taking a reading. Light, temperature, water movement, condition of probe, age of meter, age of probe and time allotted for measurement are just a few examples of things to keep in mind when taking a reading. One thing to keep in mind when using a pH meter is to buy a good one. Look for a meter that has an “ATC” feature. ATC stands for automatic temperature compensation. That way, you will get an accurate reading no matter the temperature of the solution. “Waterproof” does not mean “submersible”. DO NOT STORE YOUR PROBE IN REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER, EVER. Do not store your probe in regular tap water, either. Also, keep the water still when taking a pH reading – water can flow too quickly past the probe to get an accurate reading. In addition, remember to let your pH meter’s reading to “crawl” into position before deciding the pH. Give the meter a few minutes to stay on one number before you take the meter out of the solution. Finally, one of the most important things to take into consideration when adjusting pH is to only adjust in small amounts, and do it slowly. Allow time for the water and pH adjuster to mix evenly before you take a reading. Adjusting multiple times slowly is much better than adjusting a lot quickly and then having to dump out your nutrients and start over. It costs both time and money (and both are valuable). Make sure after every time you make a small adjustment to the pH, that you mix the solution well, and then let the water settle before taking another reading.

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