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Old School Hydroponics: Good Ol’ Boys & Bad Ol’ Days

Let’s recall the dinosaur days of hydroponics! Let’s recall the dinosaur days of hydroponics!

We’ve been talking in past articles about hydroponics systems, and a few people wrote me to say that learning about hydroponics systems is too complicated and…

Why can’t things just be simple like they were back when people grew using soil, water and fluorescent lights or sunshine, like growers used to do?

I realized that the “let’s do simple gardening” attitude was pounded into growers’ heads by a hydroponics industry cartel consisting of companies that got in early and had never done plant-specific research.

They ran the distribution systems, controlled the retailers, controlled hydroponics media, and called the shots on what got manufactured and sold.

Of course they wanted growers to have low expectations - because it was easy and profitable to manufacture simple gardening products never designed or tested for serious hydroponics growers.

The cartel didn’t want hydroponics growers to wonder: is there something better than this generic 3-part I’m buying?

In the early days of hydroponics, we had to use industrial lighting converted from streetlights, house lamps and similar non-horticultural uses. If you wanted a reflector for your light, you used tin foil.

We used primitive drip irrigation or DIY contraptions or watered by hand. Hydroponics nutrients had ingredients, percentages and ratios borrowed from generic agriculture and houseplants. Many growers used Peter’s or Miracle Gro.

If they bought what were called “hydroponics nutrients,” they paid a higher price…but they were getting the same basic materials as you’d get from a $3 bottle of African Violet fertilizer!

Basically, your only choices were 3-part base nutrients and a bloom booster heavy in phosphorus and potassium. You’d open a bottle of this stuff and the smell of ammonia would knock you back on your heels.

In the old days of hydroponics, if you weren’t handy with tools, electricity and building, you had better hire somebody who was. For lighting, you had to use boat anchors, otherwise known as magnetic core and coil ballasts. These noisy, hot, inefficient beasts were a heat score, along with a damned nuisance. And they burned out HID bulbs.

Another problem is you had to wire ballasts, light sockets and other gear yourself. Easy to make mistakes, and with electricity involved, the mistakes could be costly and dangerous. Several of my friends suffered fires or electrical problems because of magnetic core and coil ballasts. One almost fried himself.

Another problem in the early days involved getting fresh air into your grow room, getting bad air out, and adding C02. People used crude exhaust and intake fans and no filtration, so grow room security was shot in several ways…

Mites and pathogens entered rooms. Odor went out. Most people hadn’t really figured out that adding C02 was useful, but the few that did figure used clunky C02 tanks and regulators that they got from industrial supply shops - another security risk.

And even if you added C02, in a vented room you had the problem of containing the C02 at levels high enough, long enough to spur photosynthesis which is what C02 augmentation is all about.

That’s what it was like in the bad ol’ dinosaur days of the hydroponics industry when you’d see two or three companies making the few products available for indoor growers.

In my next article, you’ll see how the hydroponics industry has changed for the better. It is light years away from what we went through only a few decades ago. So stay tuned to Rosebudmag.com and find out how you benefit from the modernization of hydroponics.

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Old McDonald had a farm, but it wasn’t a hydroponics farm
Last modified on Monday, 16 July 2012 13:55

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