Hydroponic Basil

Growing Basil Hydroponically

pH - 6.5 to 6.8.      EC - 1.0 - 1.6     PPM - 700-1120


Seeds or Cuttings        Light        Temperature and Airflow


Humidity        Substrate - Grow Media        Pests - Disease

Discussion


pH range 6.5 to 6.8. for optimal results

Day Temperature Range 70 - 80 F.

Good air flow is essential for plant vigor.

Night temperatures should be no less than 65 F

10-12 hours of light daily


Getting Started

Basil is a bushy annual, most varieties grow 1 to 2 feet tall. Growing Basil Plants in a hydroponic setup is a snap - although not without it's snafus.

Basil can be started from seed or from cuttings.

Seed Starting

Basil seeds are minute, black and oval shaped. Start seeds in moistened propagation cubes such as rockwool, peat pellets or Oasis Cubes. You can also start them the same as conventional seeds - in soil that is, and transfer them to your hydroponic setup as they sprout and attain a respectable size. Germination from seed takes in the ballpark of a week.

Propagating basil from cuttings is another viable method.

To propagate basil cuttings, snip off a 3 to 4 inch stem of new growth just above two lateral leaf nodes. Give the cut plant a generous watering so it can heal itself.

Remove the lower leaves on the stem you just took from the parent plant, leaving only the two smallest leaves at top. Place the cutting in a container of fresh water in a sunny location such as a windowsill. See: New plants from Cuttings




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Maintain the water level in the container. If you fail to maintain the water -changing it out occasionally the chances of developing fungus and rots increases drastically.

After about a week the stem should be sprouting new roots, allow the root system to develop a few more days till it is large and strong enough to place in the general population of your hydroponic system.

Environment


Light

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In nature, to thrive Basil needs 10 -12 hours of sunlight daily. It can survive with diminished yield and quality on a tad less but not too much less.

Light Placement is a vital step towards producing a viable and bountiful basil harvest. Lighting should be configured in such a fashion that you are able to adjust the lamp as near or as far from the plants as need be, taking into account their continued growth. As the plants grow taller you should be able to move the light higher. Some systems take this into account, some require you use your own ingenuity. If you are mechanically inclined a hanging light system with pulleys and chains is within your grasp, there are also many contraptions on the market which are simplified light hangers designed for this purpose.

Reflective material - A reflective surface in a hydroponic grow room optimizes the use of available light and decreases the need for expensive lighting, making it highly cost effective. The correct reflective surface can increase the amount of light plants receive by up to 30%. See: Reflective Material

Types of Lighting

Standard fluorescent lamps will suffice, but you shant get the highest yield or the best quality. High output fluorescent grow lights or compact fluorescent are a tad better but still not the best.

LEDs are cost effective, they use much less electricity than any other light source. Their longevity is also unparalleled, rated at about 50,000 hours, although some manufacturers are claiming 100,000 for newer versions.

Metal halide and high-pressure sodium are two types of High intensity discharge lights [HID] and are a step up, metal halide are the best for growing leafy herbs such as Basil. They provide a blue spectrum not found in other artificial lighting. The blue spectrum lighting encourages lush green bushy growth.

High-pressure sodium lights produce a better red-and-white spectrum and are more suitable for encouraging blossoms and flowers. See - Grow Lights

Temperature and Airflow     ^ Page Top

Basil is fairly temperamental, it needs a warm sheltered environment. Assuming you're growing your hydro-Basil indoors, avoid excess drafts. You still want air circulation to facilitate transpiration and ward off fungi - just not excessive cool drafts. Keep an oscillating fan running gently a few hours daily to stimulate sturdier plant growth and facilitate transpiration.

The optimal temperature range is 70 - 80 F. See: Hydroponic Temperature.

Basil will readily consume large amounts of growth-encouraging CO2 when grown in a small grow room. Proper ventilation and air-exchange will prevent this.

Basil leaves will droop, fade and sometimes drop after a relatively short time in cool drafts such as windowsills. The same is true of dry air from forced heat.

Basil requires persistent indoor temperatures 70 - 80 F, naturally a tad cooler during the night cycle but never lower than 65F, below 50 kiss your Basil goodbye.


Maintaining temperatures in the first step in maintaining adequate humidity levels. The potential water holding capacity of warm air is much greater than cooler air. Air at 65F can hold 4 - 5 times more much moistuire as 25F air.

Humidity

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Low Humidity can result in leaf burn if the plants can't take up enough water to replace that which is lost via transpiration. If humidity becomes excessive, Calcium deficiency becomes a possibility.

Basil not only needs humidity, it demands it. Normal humidity levels of 45-75% are required by the majority of plants, Basil however requires 60 - 65%. Dry airflow will kill off basil plants very quickly.

In a hydroponic scenario the evaporating water will boost humidity but not always to sufficient levels. Another option is a humidity tray placed amongst the basil plants. A humidity tray is a pebble filled tray with water added. As the water gradually evaporates, it raises the humidity in its immediate vicinity enough to improve conditions for the Plants. Humidity trays are not always a viable option in some hydroponic scenarios, a second and somewhat simpler option is to mist the leaves on a regular basis.

You can measure and regulate humidity with psychrometers and hygrometersHygrometers to measure relevant humidity in a grow room.

Substrate - Grow Media          ^ Page Top

I grow most of my hydro crops in a mix of perlite and vermiculite and it works for me. Other soilless mediums will work as well so long as they are not overly restrictive of the root system. Basil has vigorous roots and they grow rapidly once the plant is established. Clay Pellets or Sphagnum moss will also suffice.

Oasis Cubes also work very well for seed starting, coco coir will suffice. The seed should be placed deep enough so as to prevent it from drying out, this will also help the seed coat to release as it germinates.


"The best growing medium for starting basil actually isnt soil at all, but a soilless mix. Mark Langan of Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Ohio, likes a peat and aged bark based potting soil since aged bark aids drainage and helps prevent root rot (51). Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay, authors and herbal experts,recommend a good sphagnum, perlite and wood chip mix and warn against cheap garden center brands. The mix should be pasteurized to ensure that it is free of pests and diseases - *Herb Society.Org

Presoak all media in a pH balanced water for at about 45 minutes before using it. Dry media will soak up moisture from the plants roots. See - Grow Media

Nutrient - pH - EC - PPM

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Use straight water [pH balanced is preferable] for the first few days following germination until the embryonic leaves have fully emerged. By the 3rd or 4th day, use only a half-strength nutrient solution for about a week before graduating to full strength solution.

Nutrient Ph - Basil will grow and produce in a pH as low as 5.5 but does best in a range of 6.5 to 6.8.

Nutrients - Most herbs have similar requirements. A basic nutrient solution will generally suffice. Basil is not one of these herbs - it has some unique requirements. Most importantly it is a Magnesium Hog - it needs 80 ppm Mg [Magnesium] and also requires a fair amount of calcium.

Some growers supplement the magnesium levels with Epsom salts but measurements must be precise or more issues could arise.

Some of the more seasoned growers concoct their own solutions, common ingredients include potassium phosphate, potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, magnesium sulfate and assorted trace minerals. If getting the ratios down correctly seems a tad perplexing - no shame , you're not alone.

If you choose to use a commercial blend use one relatively high in magnesium sulfate, or add magnesium separately. So far as calcium is concerned - there is generally more than enough in commercial blends, the issue sometimes arises in ensuring the calcium goes where it is needed.

As Calcium and Magnesium deficiencies commonly occur simultaneously it is advisable to supplement your solution with calcium and magnesium simultaneously. Cal-Mag

Changing out you solution periodically is necessary to prevent plant damage via Salt Build Up and other issues.

Stressing [Nutrient stress] your basil plants in order to force it to concentrate its essential oils is a trick used to enhance the quality of the Basil prior to harvest. I don't recommend you do this continuously - just occasionally and primarily if you are using your Basil for it medicinal value. For culinary value - the small improvement achieved in quality does not warrant jeopardizing the health and future productivity of the basil plant.


Pests, Disease, Trouble Shooting

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All basil is prone to attack by aphids and White flies, sometimes thrips. All hydroponic crops are susceptible to attack by Fungus Gnats.

Fusarium wilt and damping off are two of the more common diseases. You can enhance the disease resistance of your basil plants by maintaining an adequate nutrient regimen and a hydroponic environment conducive to its stamina.

The majority of issues encountered in hydroponic gardening arise from nutrient problems, either excessive, inadeqaute nutrient level or environmental issues which hamper the uptake of nutrients to the plant tissues. See: Hydroponic Nutrients


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