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BigTokes ~ Basic Water Chemistry!!

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    Management Strategies
    Time Based---Management Strategy
    The "replace it every week or two" idea is usually safe regarding plant health, however, it doesn't distinguish between those using small reservoirs with large crops and those using large reservoirs with small crops. What really determines solution life is the plants' ability to transpire, which is a function of its leaves. This means that if you have one more leaf today than you did yesterday, that today you would need a little more water than you did yesterday because of the new growth that was born since yesterday. As you can see, water uptake is a constantly moving target, and while it does have an element of time associated with it, it's really controlled by the mass of leaves in a garden at any given time.

    To adopt a static time frame for when solutions should be replaced, doesn't account for the scant water uptake from the few leaves found on small seedlings/clones at the start of a crop, compared to the demanding water uptake of what those seedlings/clones will become after 60 days once they possess the thousands of leaves typical of some matured crops. Nor does it account for those gardens using a reservoir size that is undersized for the amount of growth it supports, while other gardens might be using oversized reservoirs. Someone using the "replace it every week or two" method with an undersized reservoir might be safe when a crop is new but not be as safe as he thought after the crop has matured, while someone using an oversized reservoir may be needlessly performing six or more solution changes over a twelve week crop when he could get the same results doing only three changes.

    Clearly, time alone and your nutrient solutions useful life doesn't answer all the variables taking place between different grows or the growth stages those grows are in at any given time. In other words, this method is tied to the calendar, not to the plants. I suppose it should be mentioned that I have seen some fertilizer labels suggesting very strong mixes to be replaced at unusually frequent intervals for the strength of the mix. While it's unlikely that crop damage would result from following such instructions, one can only wonder if such labeling suggestions are an honest effort to simplify use of the product or to bolster sales for it, or both.
    Enhanced Water Uptake Based Management
    Formulating the starting solution mix in concert with the unique properties of your source water can allow you to run a nutrient solution without making any secondary pH/TDS correction adjustments during the entire life of that solution, thus limiting your maintenance to only the unavoidable plain water add backs. For example, an alkaline source water will tend to produce an alkaline solution as more and more of it is added back to the reservoir over time. You can avoid correcting unacceptably high pH levels later during a solutions' life by adjusting its starting pH a bit lower to compensate. Similarly, to keep the ending TDS of a solution from falling below the nominal threshold for a given crop, you can adjust the starting TDS a bit higher to compensate. The advantages of making all corrections at one sitting are obvious, and speaks strongly to the growers' economy of labor. It's not all that different from making the kids pee before they get in the car for that long drive!
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