If you want to take your hydroponic gardening game up a level, achieving a more consistent yield from the lighting, nutrients and equipment you’ve invested in, then there might be one crucial step you’re missing: water quality. 

Look at it this way. You’ve likely invested a small fortune in lighting, specialised nutrient and other high-tech hydro gear – why would you skimp on the most important ingredient?

And to be clear, water quality in your hydroponic system is important. It’s the cornerstone of any productive hydroponic garden.

Why, you ask?

Let’s say you go out and buy yourself two tomato plants. You pot one up in soil and the other in expanded clay. You put both plants next to each other in the sun and water them with the same amount of water at the same time. 

For the plant potted in expanded clay, you add a custom blend of nutrients that you KNOW contain optimal levels of essential macro and micronutrients. 

In theory, your hydroponic plant should grow much bigger, better and stronger than its soil-bound counterpart, BUT if you’re watering both plants with tap water, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. 

The trouble is that regular tap water is rarely a blank canvas. 

Calcium and magnesium are present in large volumes throughout Perth water supplies, posing a risk for gardeners; the quantities of specific nutrients are no longer optimal. Contrary to popular belief, your plants can have too much of a good thing.

For example, a double dose of calcium makes it more difficult for plants to take in potassium, phosphorus and iron. Eventually, this leads to deficiencies, which can hurt or even kill your plants. 

To make matters worse, this problem is more prevalent in hydroponics compared to traditional soil gardening because, in soil gardening, the media acts as a buffer. Because soil is full of living microbes and bacteria, excess nutrients can be consumed by these organisms and your plant itself, lessening the impact of plant toxicity. 

In hydroponics, where nutrients reach plant roots more directly, this problem is amplified.

So, how do you know if your plants are suffering, and what can you do if they are? 

If you’re serious about the quality of your water, you can have it tested at a local facility, which will set you back roughly $90-100. 

For most home growers, an EC pen and a pH pen will give you a close enough indication of your tap water to know if water quality is an issue. 

An EC reading between 0-0.5 would indicate healthy water hardness levels, while a pH reading between 6-7 indicates healthy alkalinity levels. 

If your tests fall outside these ranges, we’d advise looking into water filtration using a Reverse Osmosis (RO) technique.

Reverse Osmosis is a process where you effectively push a water source through a set of multi-stage filters to purify that water. Generally speaking, RO is carried out in three stages; 

The first stage is a sediment filter used to remove any sediment that would damage other, finer filters. Generally speaking, this removes material that can be seen with the naked eye. 

The second stage is a carbon filter to remove chlorine and other organic elements. 

Finally, the third stage uses a Semi-Permeable Membrane to eliminate any additional substances that made it through stages one and two. 

You’re left with a perfect, mineral-free water source that acts as a perfect blank canvas for your plants. This means they can uptake the ideal amount of all the essential macro and micronutrients they need to give you your most productive garden harvest to date. 

If RO is not an option for you, we also recommend the Chlorine and Sediment Remover from Dr Greenthumb which is effective, affordable and easy to attach directly to your hose. 

This neat piece of kit needs to be replaced every 12 months and will set you back $49.90 but will remove chlorine and sediment without harming beneficial bacteria.

That’s all the information we’ve got for you in today’s newsletter; we hope to have left you with some food for thought. If you are interested in upping the quality of your water supply (and yield size), you can find links to our recommended pH and EC pens as well as our favourite RO system.