How to maintain healthy plant roots
Plants use their leaves and roots to obtain water and nutrients from the environment; however, this is not easy in an indoor grow room, since the roots absorb water and nutrients through osmosis.
Whichever way you choose to grow your plants – whether using hydroponics, soil or pellets – it is essential to maintain your root zone if you want to optimise plant growth.
In this guide, hydroponics specialist Progrow identifies some of the most common problems that lead to damaged root systems – and what you can do to prevent those issues before they happen.
Overwatering a plant causes drooping and yellowing of the leaves because of lack of oxygen – which is important for the health of both the plant and the root zone.
When introducing plants to a DWC, NFT, Autopot, Ebb, and flood or dripper system, you need to be careful with watering.
Underwatering the plant causes the leaves to wilt and this affects the entire plant, resulting in it dying. To correct this, ensure that the plant is optimally watered.
2. Imbalance in pH
The nutrients that will be absorbed by a plant are determined by the pH of your medium/substrate.
The ideal pH for plants is between 5.5 and 6.5 but this depends on the medium/substrate; it can reach up to 7 for organic substrates such as coco.
To correct this, regularly check and test the pH of your nutrient solution. Invest in equipment such as a pH test kit or a Bluelab pH pen that is fail-safe. If you are using a pH meter, ensure that you regularly care for it, and calibrate it with buffers.
Plants become root bound when they are grown in soil in traditional pots, due to lack of space for the roots to grow.
To avoid this, grow your plants in big conventional pots, feed your plants with nutrients and other elements, and allow the roots to develop in the substrate pot in stages.
Progrow uses air-pots, and their design avoids this problem.
Pythium is a water mould, and root rot occurs in poorly drained substrate. These issues occur when roots sit in oxygen-deprived and stagnant water that has exceeded 20 degrees Celsius.
To correct this issue, use hydrogen peroxide to sterilise your syringes, pH and EC (electrical conductivity) meters and plastics. Maintain a stable water temperature of 16 to 18 degrees, and ensure water movement, which is key to helping maintain oxygen levels. Use air-stones and BubbleGen methods to oxygenate and move the water.
5. Fungus gnats
Fungus gnats are the larvae of flying black insects that are laid on the topsoil, and end up digesting the roots of your plants.
Use sticky traps around the plant pots to eradicate the adult flies. Meanwhile, to deal with the larvae, use a root drench such as Tanlin that will eradicate the larvae in the substrate.
The pointers above will help you maintain a healthy root zone. In short, to ensure your plants are healthy, keep your grow room clean, check for pests and diseases, and pay attention to pH and EC levels and watering cycles.