Growing Leeks Hydroponically – Nutrients, pH, and EC
Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Hello hydroponic lovers, we are here today with a new topic of growing leeks hydroponically or without soil. Leek, (Allium porrum) is a hardy biennial plant of the family amaryllis (Amaryllidaceae) and it is grown as a vegetable. The Leek is an ancient vegetable crop and it is related to the onion and has a mild, sweet, onion-like flavor. Leek stalks are widely used in soups and stews, particularly as a complement to potatoes, and can be cooked whole as a vegetable. Hydroponic systems for vegetable farming are essential to maximize production and increase crop yields. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in nutrient solutions with or without the use of an inert medium like gravel, vermiculite, rock wool, peat moss, sawdust, coir dust, and coconut fiber, etc. to provide mechanical support. Hydroponics is a great method to grow lots of vegetables all year round.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Guide to Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Leek is a non-bulb-forming member of the amaryllis family and it is grown for its blanched stem and leaves. It is also eaten raw alone or mixed in salads and cooked as a flavoring in soups and stews. It is a favorite vegetable in a kitchen garden. It is related to the onion and has a mild, sweet, onion-like flavor. Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants using water without using soil media. The water requirement in the hydroponic technique is less than the water requirement for cultivation with soil. The use of water for hydroponics is also efficient than the conventional method of planting using soil. The more efficient use of water makes the hydroponic system suitable for applications in areas with limited water supplies. In connection with this and the lack of land to grow crops, hydroponics is a suitable way of planting for those of you who live in urban areas. Leek vegetable is very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked and both leaves and stems are edible. Also, this cold-weather crop is so easy to grow; it is almost a must in any hydroponic garden. Different plant supporting systems are possible, emphasizing increasing plant production, improving product quality, and harvesting.
Advantages of Growing Leeks Hydroponically
The hydroponic system is becoming popular for growing plants because this is a clean and easy method and there is no chance of soil-borne disease, insect, or pest infection to the crops thereby reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides. The advantages of hydroponics are given below;
No Yard Necessary – If you have a small yard or none at all, you can still garden by using hydroponics. These systems are most often set up indoors. Hydroponics system requires far less space than plants grown in soil. Depending on the selected system, when hydroponics is combined with vertical farming methods, they can use up to 99% fewer lands than typical farming techniques.
Grow Year-Round –The majority of hydroponic system set-ups are indoors. Then, this allows for growing when you want to without worrying about frost dates or hot spells, or droughts.
Produces More – All the hydroponic systems are designed to utilize resources efficiently, and they produce crops faster compared to any soil-based garden. Since the vegetable plants grow fast, it means you can plant more often too.
Specialty Crops – Using hydroponics allows you to grow vegetables that may not normally succeed in your climate. It can be designed to suit a specific specialty crop. Then, it is easily changed many times without having to rebuild the entire thing. Then, this is impossible to do with a soil-based garden.
Produces Higher Yields – In hydroponics, applying ideal conditions ensures plants receive the perfect amount of nutrients, which come in direct contact with roots. Also, microclimates allow for the year-round growth of crops. Therefore, it gets higher crop yields than traditional farming methods.
Crops Grow Faster – Most vegetables take several months to reach maturity using soil-grown methods. In this process, plants take their nutrients from the soil, which can be a slow process. The growth rate for a hydroponic plant is 30 to 50% faster compared to a plant grown in soil. Nutrients are more easily available for the plant to absorb with a hydroponics system. Hydroponic growers can control light, heat, nutrients, temperature, pests, and all other aspects of the growing procedure. Then, this means the whole cycle can be streamlined for faster-growing plants with a higher yield. Hydroponic crops grow faster compared to soil-grown crops because they receive an ideal amount of nutrients and, if grown indoors, have less environmentally induced stress (like weather and pests).
Nutrient Control –Plants were grown in soil need the help of fertilizers to survive. But in hydroponics, the plants are already receiving all the help they need and the right amount of fertilizers.
Obtain Good Seed and Equipment for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Seed selection is the key to the success of the hydroponic system. Careful selection of seeds that are disease-resistant seeds and good yielders of high-quality, nutritious produce is recommended. Once planted you can practice taking a cutting from a grown plant and propagating further. The pH meter, EC meter, hydroponic nutrients, cans for stock solution are must-haves for your hydroponic garden. Organic neem oil, hydrogen peroxide, a generic biopesticide, and bio fungicides in small quantities can be kept to use if necessary for pest and disease management for plants.
The EC and pH Levels for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Appropriate EC management in hydroponics systems can therefore provide an effective tool to improve vegetable yield and quality. EC level is the measurement of electrical conductivity within the nutrient solution in hydroponics. So whilst checking pH levels gives a good indicator of the balance of available nutrients, EC gives you an idea of the number of available nutrients. If the pH level is not in the correct range then essential nutrients will not be available for uptake by your plant. Then, this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and eventually death.
The right pH level is important because it affects nutrient availability for growing plants in hydroponics. In the hydroponics system, iron deficiency causes pale or yellow leaves in young plants, whereas leaf cupping and tip burn are telltale signs of calcium deficiency. Moreover, calcium can form salts that leave white deposits on reservoir walls and equipment.
Hydroponically grown plants require different pH levels compared to plants grown in soil. In hydroponics, plants do not benefit from microorganisms, organic matter, and interactions between water and minerals that regulate pH levels. The hydroponic gardener constantly monitors and adjusts pH levels. And, do not apply pH level recommendations for soil-grown plants to hydroponically grown plants. The right pH level is crucial because it affects plant nutrient availability. For growing Leek hydroponically,
- EC (dSm-1) – 1.4 to 1.8
- pH – 6.5 to 7.0
Different Varieties of Leeks
The main fall varieties (August to October) are American Flag, Jolant, Kilima, King Richard, and Primor.
Late fall or winter varieties (October to December) are Derrick, Goliath, Kilima, Electra, Goldina, Tivi, and Wintereuzen.
Overwinter (spring harvest) are Carina, Conqueror (moderate bulbing), Eskimo, and Siberia. These varieties mature in 80-120 days.
Some other important Leek varieties are;
Almera Leek – It is autumn-type cropping from mid-July to September. Long slender stems/mid-green semi-upright leaves.
Axima Leek – Long strong shaft without bulbing. Dark green erect foliage.
Below Zero F1 Leek – It is a British breeding type that has combined the vigor of an F1 Hybrid with extreme cold tolerance to produce quality Leeks. It has dark leaves, pure white stems with no bulbing, long-standing ability, and rust tolerance.
Blue Solaise Leek – It is a traditional French Leek variety with deep blue-purple color leaves. Superb flavor and very hardy.
Carentan Leek – It has large thick stems with blue-green foliage. Crops late October to Early January.
Giant Winter Leek – It is an excellent late variety with heavy thick stems.
Hannibal Leek – It is a fast-growing variety for summer and autumn cropping.
Jolant Leek – It is used to grow on to harvest from August onwards. Grows vigorously and gives a high-density stem.
Mammoth Blanch Leek – It is a superior Leek variety with extra-long white blanch and broad flag. Do not overwater seedlings as this can cause damping off. Harden off and plant out from early May.
Musselburgh Leek – Most popular variety/strong growing habit. Very winter hardy, thick stems. Ready from December onwards.
Pot Leek – It is a true exhibition variety producing very large and heavy Leeks.
Lyon Leek – It has a uniform habit that produces long thick white stems. As the name implies it is ideal for the show bench. Matures from early autumn onwards.
Tadorna Leek – It is medium length and extremely winter hardy. Crops from December to March.
Growing Medium for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
The growing medium is used to support the roots and plants while retaining ample air volume (oxygen) in contact with the roots. In different types of hydroponic systems, a variety of growing mediums is used for their individual qualities. Some popular examples of growing mediums used in hydroponics are sand, brick shards, vermiculite, perlite, gravel, rock wool, sawdust, and polyethylene sheeting.
Leeks do best in perlite growing material. The Leeks roots are the most wanted part and you do not want to keep them too moist or you can cause root rot. In hydroponics, roots are grown in troughs of perlite which are supplied with a fertilizer or nutrient solution. Though, this allows the right amount of water and oxygen to get to the plant roots.
Perlite is composed of minerals that are subjected to high heat and it has a neutral pH level, excellent wicking action. Perlite can be used by itself or mixed with other types of growing media in hydroponics. It is mainly adaptable to a variety of hydroponic growing systems and can be scaled up easily to meet the needs of increased production. Perlite retains its excellent air or water balance over multiple crop cycles if handled carefully and under the right growing conditions.
Efficient supply of nutrients in hydroponics;
In hydroponics, the nutrients are supplied with precision, thereby allowing the plants to uptake just what they need for the best performance. Plants don’t have to spend time developing their root systems instead; they can focus on developing their vegetative development and growing much faster and more efficiently. Plants use nutrients efficiently and no waste takes place in the process and constant intake of nutrients can be observed from the health and vigor of plants. Also, due to a well-delivered supply of nutrient-rich water, and all cultivars grow equally well and have the same chance of success.
Conditions for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Conditions for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
- Leeks grow much faster in a hydroponic system compared to growing in the soil because the nutrition and watering they receive are so much superior to what they get in a soil-based system.
- Hydroponically grown Leek must be graded before planting on the panels. Fast-growing plant cultivars should be chosen year-round. Uniform planting material is required for a uniform, single date, harvest. Then, this age of the plant is of less importance for the quality of the harvested product.
- Hydroponically grown Leeks must be graded before planting on the panels. Adaptation of the system or discharge strategy was investigated hydroponically grown Leek slowly grows to a mature cultivation system by solving some problems; therefore it can be used by commercial growers now.
- One of the most preferred ways of feeding Leeks is the drip irrigation method. This process allows for adjustments to be made easily should it be necessary. You want to keep the plant roots slightly moist, but allowing them to remain wet for too long can cause rot. The adjustment valves on the drip irrigation system are easier to maintain compared to some other hydroponic methods.
Systems for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Ebb and flow hydroponic system for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
For growing Leeks hydroponically Ebb and flow hydroponic system will work perfectly as it will enable the gardener to control how moist the growing medium. Leek plants prefer a pH level of between 6.5 and 7.0 for optimal growth and will benefit tremendously from added nitrogen. The Ebb and flow hydroponic system is the first commercial hydroponic system that works on the principle of flood and drains. Though, nutrient solution and water from reservoir flooded through water pump to grow bed until it reaches a certain level. Also, it is possible to grow different kinds of crops but the problem of root rot, algae, and mould is very common therefore, some modified system with a filtration unit is required.
The hydroponic plants are arranged in a growing medium and the water drains back to the reservoir to be pumped back on a schedule. This requires pumps, timers, and a specific design. In this system, plants grow faster compared with the Drip or DWC hydroponic system, and the set-up can produce a lot more.
The Ebb and flow system is also called as Flood and Drain. It is intermediate level in relatively low-cost to set up, and extremely versatile. An Ebb and flow hydroponic system can easily accommodate a variety of growing media. Then, this is great for using anything from Rockwool to hydroton. It is easy to use and manage, as it doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge to keep it running.
Deep Floating Technique (DFT) for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
A Deep Floating system keeps the hydroponics plant roots in the nutrient solution. Plants are located on a floating tray in the liquid reservoir. Though, the roots are hanging directly in the nutrient solution, which is well oxygenated. Then, this is done using an air pump and aeration stones, which introduce very fine air bubbles into the water. For growing plants quickly the roots are constantly supplied with oxygen-rich nutrient solution.
For DFT hydroponic systems floaters are used. These floaters are mainly dependent on the supplier, made of different materials. Then, the floaters are provided with holes in which plugs with substrate and cutting are placed. The water in the basin is pumped around and then aerated actively or not. Though the plants do not hang directly in the water with the root ball, the plug hangs above the water and the roots hang in the water. This makes an oxygen layer in which the plant can produce its roots to absorb nutrients.
The main advantages of a DFT system are;
- Perfect control of the amount of fertilizer
- Easy to operate
- All the growing conditions can be controlled
- Stable temperature level and nutrient solution, because the water reservoir can store a big amount of water.
Dutch Bucket or Grow Bag System for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Grow bags can be economical alternatives to Dutch buckets they will not have long life and durability like buckets. Granular media such as clay pellets cannot be used with grow bags. Any porous media like coco peat and perlite can be used, hence only drain to waste or drip irrigation is used with grow bags. The plant along with the media is removed from the bucket, left for drying so that the media which is stuck to the roots of the plant dries up and can be removed. Then, the media is sterilized with warm water to remove any accumulated salts, pathogens, etc. Inside of the Buckets can be cleaned with bleach and then filled with clean media for the next crop.
Tips for Growing Leeks Hydroponically
- Under the hydroponics method usually, the application of pesticides is avoided. With reduced pest problems and continuous nutrient feeding to the plant roots, hydroponic productivity is high, despite restricted plant growth due to low or minimal atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
- Growing the right amount of fertilizer into the water supply is critical. Cleaning a hydroponic system regularly is an important part of maintaining a successful operation because it keeps a system free of pests and diseases.
- Like a plant that needs a lot of water, Leeks are suitable for a hydroponic system. Apart from water, Leeks only need about 12 to 14 hours of light per day. After that, wait 6 to 8 weeks for the first harvest and 3-4 weeks for the next harvest.
- A few helpful tips that any grower can use to run a successful hydroponic growing system for growing plants. Maintain a healthy growing environment in hydroponics, ensure good water quality, implement a fertigation system, and choose an effective growing medium, clean the system regularly and you’ll find your operation set up for success.
Pests and Diseases Management in Growing Leeks Hydroponically
Vegetable plants are affected by several pests and diseases, but the severity may vary according to locality. Choose good disease-resistant seed varieties for planting.
Leek plants have very few problems with insects. Having your hydroponic garden inside either your home or a greenhouse must eliminate this pest problem. It is very important to remember that commercial pest solutions are highly discouraged in the hydroponic garden. If necessary, visit a local hydroponic supply store and obtain a pest product specially formulated for hydroponics. These are developed to cause the least amount of damage possible to Leeks and other plants.
Control of pests and diseases naturally/Organically
- Use Yellow and blue sticky traps for early pest and disease detection in plants
- Remove dried and affected plant parts
- Neem-oil extract
- Pyrethrum spray
- Pongamia extract
- Alcohol spray at a minor concentration
- Herbal water spray
- Garlic/pepper spray
When and How to Harvest Leeks in the Hydroponics
- The quality of vegetables cannot be improved after the harvesting process. Therefore, it is important to harvest your hydroponic crops at the proper maturity.
- A Leek is ready for harvest when its white stem is about 3 inches long or greater.
- Harvest Leeks before they start to widen too much at the base, and don’t allow Leeks to form bulbs.
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