pH Adjusting Questions
It is important to check your pH level every time you water your garden. If you are using a timer to automatically water, you should check it daily. When growing in soil you do not have to adjust pH level as often as when growing hydroponically. Typically when growing hydroponically you want your pH range to be between 5.5 – 6.5, depending on your crop and/or genetic type. When adding nutrient to your reservoir it is important to test pH AFTER all the nutrients have been added. This is because your nutrients will increase your pH level. If you pH test as the last step, you know and have control over what the pH is.
The TDS meter is another tool that will enable you to dial into your ability as a grower. It will safeguard you by letting you know if something is building up in your reservoir. It’s also a great tool to check your tap water to see if you should be using a heavier or lighter recommended feeding chart with your nutrients.
I reccommend a simple one. A lot of meters often confuse new growers with too many functions. The simple meters you can hold in your hand and dip in are all you need. I’ve used an Oakton and only had to replace it twice in the past 10 years.
The majority of growers, especially indoor gardeners, should be adjusting their pH. While you can grow without adjusting pH levels, you will be faced with poor results. In some areas, the tap water is so unbalanced you might have to adjust the pH just to have a decent harvest. Soil is a bit more forgiving than other media types for pH adjustment. The best way to tes pH levels is to obtain a pH reading kit (which will have a strip and a liquid) or a pH meter. Start by testing the water right out of your tap. If it is above 6.5, you should be adjusting your pH level regularly. Once you incorporate pH balancing into your routine you will see the difference! IMPORTANT: When you add nutrients/supplements to your reservoir, your pH levels will RISE. When you are adjusting your final reservoir mixture, pH balance LAST.
Question: “I make a fresh batch of nutrients & adjust my ph to the level I need. A day or two later I check my pH and it is out of acceptable range. What causes this and how do I fix it?” Your pH will fluctuate for a number of reasons. The largest factor is that the nutrient is mixing with outside elements every time you water (your plants, trays, pots). If pH fluctuation is happening too frequently, you should try a larger size reservoir. Remember as your reservoir water level drops your PPM increases. This is because your nutrient is becoming more concentrated by water loss (your plants do not eat all of the nutrients, during water loss the PPM goes up proportionately). If you have an automatic topping-off float valve, it’s your water causing the fluctuation (the new water topping off will not be pH adjusted). If you tend to have undesirable city or well water to begin with, this could also be the cause. Check the PPM level of the regular tap water at your housel with the TDS meter. This is a good test for water quality when wanting to know if there is a large amount of anything present. Good water will read 0-150 PPM. I’ve seen tap that is as high as 450 PPM, with a super basic level of 8.5! In any case it is good to buy a water filtration system if you experience any regular fluctuation of pH or if you notice there is a high PPM right out of the tap. Try to get a 3 stage RO (reverse osmosis) system for best results.
I would make cleaning a monthly event. Cleaning anything on the regular is always best (meters, equipment, containers, ect.). When cleaning the meter try to use distilled water so that you aren’t contaminating the measurement tool while cleaning. Most meter manufacturers sell cleaning tools and solutions for their equipment. You can do a 1/10 alcohol or bleach solution to clean. Do not over rub the contact on the meter- glass, silicone, and metal probes are delicate!