BetterGrow Hydro Blog

The BGH Outdoor Hydroponics Grow Guide

Ahhhh, summer. It’s when sun-loving people tend to spend more time outside taking in the fresh air.  It’s also the perfect time to give the plants in your hydroponic system a break from the sheltered life they’ve been living indoors.

With a little preparation, growers can successfully employ hydroponics outdoors using a homemade hydro system, leaving the unrelenting duty of providing proper lighting and ventilation to Mother Nature, who supposedly knows best.

Indoor growers can make the move outdoors and achieve explosive growth using an inexpensive DIY hydroponics system, especially with a circulating bucket system. A circulating bucket system is relatively easy to build and maintain, and it will let you grow large, hearty plants that better withstand the elements and produce massive harvests.

BetterGrow Hydro Founder David Goldman recently assembled a circulating bucket system in his back yard and just harvested his first tomato, less than two months after transplanting into the system. Here’s what you’ll need to do the same in an easily expandable four-bucket system:


It’s Webprice Week at all BGH retail locations!

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A BGH Guide to Grow Room AC Units

The BGH Guide to Selecting A/C Units for Indoor Gardens and Grow Rooms
Don’t let your plants get beat up by the summer heat-up

After a cold winter and a cool spring, most people are looking forward to the summer heat, when outdoor temperatures can rapidly shoot past 85 degrees F.  But in indoor gardens, where heat from lights and ballasts is already a potential problem, plants won’t be so happy about the heat -- and they’ll make it known, with symptoms ranging from wilted, curled leaves, stunted growth and even death if left unchecked.  High temperatures outside can easily push the temperature of indoor gardens past 85 degrees if you are drawing air from outdoors into your growing area. At that temperature, many plants halt life-sustaining photosynthesis and switch to survival mode, using more water for transpiration -- that’s right, plant sweat -- to keep cool, and that stunts their growth, reduces yields and can make them more vulnerable to insects and disease.  Luckily, growers have an array of options to protect their plants and yields from the unrelenting summer sun. From air conditioners to improved ventilation to boosting heat resistance with CO2 or silica supplements, there are a variety of ways for smart growers to beat the heat. And with the first day of summer falling on June 21 this year, there’s ample time to get your grow room ready. But where to start?


Size matters
One of the best ways to control heat in the grow room is to add air conditioning. And, like almost all things horticultural, that requires some basic calculations. Air conditioners are rated based on BTUs, or British Thermal Units, which is a measure of how much heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. For reference, a burning match emits about one BTU, while one gallon of gasoline contains 124,238 BTUs.

Most air conditioners designed for a conventional 115-volt circuit are generally rated to handle between 5,000 and 12,000 BTUs per hour, and a number of websites let you calculate what size air conditioner you will need based on the dimensions and location of the room you want to cool. But nearly all of them fail to account for the intense heat grow lights and ballasts give off.

HID grow lights add 3.41 BTUs per watt, per hour (1,000 watts = 3,400 BTUs). In a sealed, windowless 4-by-8-foot grow room in a sunny apartment, about 3,000 BTUs worth of heat energy will build up over the course of an hour. But with two 1,000-watt lights and two digital ballasts* running in that room, that figure jumps to about 16,000 BTUs per hour, or 14,000 BTUs (20 percent less) if those lights are air cooled.

If the ballasts are less-efficient magnetic models, the total BTUs per hour increase by 2,000. A CO2 generator sized for that room will add 600 BTUs, and if the room is being dehumidified by a 40-pint dehumidifier, that will add up to 1,200 BTUs.

With all that equipment running, the room will be generating a total of 19,800 BTUs in one hour (15,800 BTUs for air-cooled lights).

One ton of air conditioning is equal to 12,000 BTUs, so to determine what size air conditioner you will need to fully counter that heat, divide the total number of BTUs your equipment is generating by 12,000 (19,800/12,000 = 1.65 tons or 15,800/12,000 = 1.31 tons for air-cooled lights).

To conquer the BTUs generated in the non-air-cooled scenario, you’ll need the power of the Klimaire DC Inverter Mini Split - 2 ton air conditioning unit, which is rated to handle 24,000 BTUs, giving the grower full control over grow room heat.

Klimaire DC Inverter Air Conditioner

But if the lights are air-cooled, the Klimaire DC Inverter Mini Split - 1.5 ton will tamp down 18,000 BTUs, far beyond the cooling power of most standard air-conditioning units on the market.

In fact, DC inverter technology allows Klimaire units to cool more efficiently by running the compressor at varying speeds to better match the temperature needs of your grow room, unlike standard units in which the compressor runs at the same speed all the time and draws the same amount of power regardless of the amount of cooling needed.

Another measure of an air conditioner’s quality is its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, or SEER, which is based on how much cooling a unit provides and the power it consumes. The lowest rating on the scale is 8 SEER and the highest, or most efficient, is 23 SEER.

Weighing in at 20 SEER, the Klimaire DC Inverter Mini Split - 1 ton will have a big impact on your grow room temperatures, but its operating cost will have much less of an effect on your budget.

Klimaire units also keep maintenance to a minimum with an Auto Clean Function that purges the unit’s high-density air filter of 93 percent of dust and washes dust and grease from the gold-plated hydrophilic evaporator, keeping it clean and dry when the unit is not in use.

The three-speed, remote-controlled Klimaire units also have unique Follow Me technology that will match the unit’s cooling intensity to the temperature recorded by a sensor in the remote control, helping to minimize hot spots in larger grow rooms and letting the grower better dial-in temperatures.


Excel Air Compact Split A/C -- 3000 watt will cool the heat radiating from as much as 3,000 watts worth of lighting. These split-system designs feature an indoor air handler with a squirrel-cage blower that cools the growing area while the outdoor condensing unit removes heat from your garden to the fresh air outside.

If you have a much larger growing space with six to 15 lights and you’re looking for a way to discretely bring cool air to your grow room, you will need a unit capable of quietly combating much more heat, like the Excel Air Stealth Cooling System, which offers six models rated from 24,000 BTUs to a whopping 60,000 BTUs. These plug-and-play units come with a 40-foot pre-charged refrigeration line, so all the user needs to do is thread the fittings together to get started. And since the fittings are re-sealable, the unit can be dismantled, relocated and re-installed without losing refrigerant and without an expensive certified installer, saving you lots of money.

Excel Air Stealth Cooling System

The Stealth series’ triple-split design also features a sound-deadened box for its outdoor condensing unit so you can keep your grow room temperatures in check without waking up the neighbors.

Of all the variables a grower has to consider, underestimating the need or under-budgeting for air conditioning to combat the summer heat can be the most detrimental. While outdoor temperatures may be favorable most the year, many inexperienced growers overlook the six or so weeks the weather easily reaches 100 degrees -- and that’s when plants are subject to life-or-death decisions the grower makes about cooling.

In high temperatures, plants will die or struggle to produce even the most meager of yields. But with an inadequately sized air conditioner, the electricity bill may grow but the plants won’t, as the air conditioner constantly grapples with heat but does not have the power to properly contain it. That’s why price can be a major driver for a grower considering air conditioning, as well as a major pitfall if it forces a decision that only appears to be a cost-effective solution.

On paper, portable, window- and wall-mounted air conditioners might be rated to handle 12,000 BTUs. But, in practice, the small compressors and low-force blowers that come with most models make it so they can only successfully handle roughly half that amount of heat or less, so these units really need to be over-sized for the job they are intended to handle.

Many growers are sealing their grow rooms to gain complete control of environmental conditions. However, most portable air conditioners make it impossible to keep the grow room completely sealed since they require an exhaust duct to remove hot air, which will also transmit unwanted odors from the grow room to the outdoors. The blowers in most portable units are not powerful enough to move exhaust through more than a few feet of ducting. While larger commercial portable units perform closer to their specifications, and often rely on intake and exhaust ducts that will keep the room sealed, they cost far more than mini-split units.

If cost truly is a consideration, a grower operating a less efficient, undersized window-mounted or portable unit could easily end up spending more money on power in a year than they saved by buying a lower-cost air conditioner.

Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, are probably the least-desired solution for grown room heat, as they evaporate water to cool a room, increasing the humidity and multiplying the chances that mold will take control of your crop. A swamp cooler’s cooling function works best in a dry environment, so as humidity levels increase, its cooling ability is greatly impacted.

Other options include operating lights after dark when ambient temperatures fall. For the 4-by-8-foot grow room listed above, running the lights at night could shave up to 1,000 BTUs off the total amount of heat energy generated each hour. Removing the two ballasts from the growing space can cut heat buildup by another 5,000 BTUs per hour*.


In hot water
Air temperature is far from the grower’s only concern. During summer, high outdoor temps and hot grow lights can easily conspire to push hydroponics reservoir temperatures past the 80-degree mark, increasing the likelihood of disease and root rot, which will be evident when plants begin to wilt in even the slightest heat. This is especially important when using systems such as Deep Water Culture (DWC), as higher temps will have a direct and dramatic impact on oxygen levels in the nutrient solution as well as the growth of pathogens.

EcoPlus 1/4 HP Water Chiller

To keep your reservoir within the ideal temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees, try the EcoPlus 1/10 horsepower Water Chiller. This energy-efficient, easy-to-use chiller features a micro-computer with a digital display and is capable of lowering the temperature of 93 gallons of water by 10 degrees or 35 gallons by 30 degrees. Pair the 1/10 HP chiller with an EcoPlus Submersible Pump -- 264 gph for best results.

For larger applications, the EcoPlus ¼ horsepower Water Chiller will cool 170 gallons of water by 10 degrees or 100 gallons by 30 degrees. The 633 gph EcoPlus Submersible Water Pump or the 1056 gph EcoPlus Submersible Water Pump are excellent matches for this chiller.


Gassed up

Photosynthesis slows to a halt when grow room temperatures reach 85 degrees, but not in a CO2-enriched grow room. With a CO2 tank, a REG-1 CO2 Regulator / Valve and a PPM4 - CO2 PPM Monitor/Controller, growers can attain a concentration of CO2 that may allow plants to tolerate temperatures as high as 90 degrees before experiencing the adverse effects of heat stress. That requires CO2  levels in the growing area to reach 1,500 PPM, about three times what’s found in typical urban air.

One quick and easy way to boost the CO2 level is the Excellofizz CO2 Kit, which can raise the amount of CO2 in a 10-by-10 room by about 1,600 PPM. After purchasing one or two Excellofizz kits to test the impact that CO2 will have on their yield, many customers learn that, in the long run, it’s much less expensive to purchase a CO2 tank or CO2 generator and a controller rather than purchasing Excellofizz every month. Once your garden responds to CO2 and you are convinced of its impact, we strongly recommend making the investment on a more permanent and controllable solution that CO2 tanks, regulators and generators offer.

But heat can be an issue even when CO2 is being used. Remember that the optimal temperature for harnessing explosive growth via CO2 is below 85 degrees, and even lower during the last two weeks of flowering. To determine the proper CO2 level and flow rate for your grow room, use the BGH CO2 Calculator.


Inside job

High temperatures in the garden are made even worse considering that the temperature inside a plant’s leaves can be 5 degrees higher than the temperature of the surrounding air. That’s not to say you can’t help your plants fight the heat from the inside out. Silicon, one of the most commonly found elements in natural soil, can be a key element in the fight against heat stress and a powerful weapon in the quest for bigger yields.

Silica Blast strengthens your plant’s stems and stabilizes the pH in recirculating hydrogardens.

Botanicare’s Silica Blast strengthens your plant’s stems and stabilizes the pH in recirculating hydrogardens. It’s ideal for use when growing indoors in containers or in soil-less hydrogardens, since indoor plants don’t receive the benefit that natural breeze and wind provide. Outdoors, wind causes plants to move, creating tiny tears in stem tissue. Much like in body building, when these micro-tears are repaired the plant tissue becomes stronger and the stems and branches are able to handle a heavier fruit or flower load later on. The silicate in Silica Blast also encourages the formation of a silicate matrix that reduces transpiration and may allow plants to continue photosynthesis when temperatures surge. Since silica is found in the walls of every plant cell, Silica Blast -- now available in a 2.5-gallon size -- will also increase the weight of the finished product, an added benefit that most growers don’t realize. Even if heat isn’t an issue for your garden, the increased weight Silica Blast delivers is reason enough to add it to your normal feeding schedule.


Under cover
Not all gardens will face the same heat challenges this summer. For growers looking to reduce grow room temperatures by only a few degrees, Silver Jacket Insulated Ducting and Sun Shield Reflector Covers can cut down on the amount of heat escaping back into gardens through ducting and the tops of reflectors. Don’t have a tempered glass lens for your reflector? Add one to control the heat beaming down from above. It will also let you position your lights closer to the tops of your plants.


How hot is it?

EcoPlus Temp/Humidity Gauge

Given work and other duties outside the garden, it may be difficult to keep tabs on exactly how hot your growing space is getting if you are not there to check the thermometer during the peak of the day’s heat. Position the EcoPlus Large Display Temp/Humidity gauge near the tops of your plants and they will store the maximum and minimum temperature and humidity recorded during the day.

Indoor growers may have their hands full in combating the summer heat, but with the right combination of cooling technology and know-how, they can ensure their plants -- and their harvests -- aren’t feeling the heat. For more information on the array of cooling technology and products available to the indoor gardener, visit BetterGrow Hydro.

* BTU ratings for lighting and ballasts are based on test data compiled by Hydro Innovations.


BGH Does Denver

Learn and Grow with Maximum Yield, PGTA and BGH

The first annual Maximum Yield Colorado Indoor Gardening Expo took place earlier this month in Denver, and BGH was there to show our support for the industry, network with the community and learn about upcoming new products. The folks at Maximum Yield always put on a great show that draws people from all over the world. Maximum Yield was joined this year by the Progressive Gardening Trade Association (PGTA), an international organization of retailers and related businesses whose mission is to bring earth-friendly, water-wise and organic products and practices to the gardening community. What a great organization!

The PGTA held two days of educational seminars given by various industry leaders and experts. BGH was proud to see our resident electrical technician and friend, Dave Van Sickle, give two presentations regarding critical electrical issues facing the indoor gardener, basic dos and don'ts, electrical maintenance, and how to avoid burning down the barn!

Dave Van Sickle, BGH's resident expert on electricity, giving Expo guests a seminar basic panel safety.

Other seminars included topics such as aquaponics, new lighting technologies, legal issues facing the industry and more.

The BGH staff looks forward to the annual PGTA meeting every year, as it is the only venue of it's kind. Where else can you meet manufacturers and industry leaders face-to-face and hear them speak on the issues that affect growers and the industry as a whole? At BGH, we have have a thirst for knowledge; even though we've been gardening indoors for over 25 years, there's still a lot to learn, and we encourage you keep learning, too! If you are local to Los Angeles, our friendly staff at both our Pasadena and Bell locations are ready to help you. Web customers who cannot visit us face to face are welcome to contact us and receive the same product and technical support advice that our local customers enjoy. We can be reached online using our live chat feature, by email and telephone. We also have a great resource of FAQ's online to educate yourself on various hydroponic topics such as, "What kind of lighting do I need to grow my plants", "What are the benefits of adding CO2 to my grow room" and MANY more!

Our industry is growing and changing every day and so it is important to an eye on what's coming around the bend. After all, the more you know, the better you'll grow!

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New Product: BioBizz BioHeaven

BioHeaven is a specially formulated Plant Energy booster which contains carefully selected biological stimulants, such as amino-acids. Amino-acids are the basic building blocks for the proteins and enzymes, which are essential to the structure and the metabolism of plants.

As a result, BioHeaven enhances utilization and translocation of nutrients in fertilizer blends & foliars and boosts up the anti-oxidant system of the plant, rids the plant of toxins built up during periods of stress, repairs chlorophyll and re-stimulates the plant.

The L-amino acids used by BioBizz for BioHeaven are extracted from soybean cake and other organic protein sources via enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation. This process ensures the amino acids to be extracted in L-form, the only absorbed and used by plants. Besides the L-amino acids, BioHeaven contains natural aged humus, one of the most versatile components in soil environments. This component, in combination with other operative substances in BioHeaven, increases extremely the quantity of minerals in the soil. Normally, the percentage of minerals uptake lies around the 5-10%, the substances within BioHeaven can raise it up to 95%.

These processes stimulated by BioHeaven enhance the availability of nutritionally important trace elements, which are capable of entering plant cells.


  • Highly concentrated.
  • Rapid and complete uptake of the key nutrients.
  • Accelerated chelation of essential macro and micro nutrients.
  • Improves yield and quality of harvest.
  • Improves moisture retention in plants and reduce moisture stress.
  • Stimulates enzymatic systems in plants to increase plant respiration.
  • Provides a valuable source of carbon for soil micro-organisms.
  • Compatible with all fertilizer programs/ brands, both biological biomineral or synthetic.
  • For every system SOIL, HYDRO and AEROPONICS!

2 - 5 ml per liter. Start using in the second week of grow. Stop using two weeks before harvest.


[View more from Bio Bizz]


New Enhancer Series from FoxFarm – Bushdoctor

Bushdoctor Kangaroots is a liquid root drench formulation designed to enhance the proliferation or root mass development for both primary and secondary roots. Organic and Natural, Kangaroots contains nutrition specifically designed to be instantly available for roots to absorb at optimal levels. Kangaroots also contains concentrated amounts of microbes designed for hosting not only directly on the roots, but in the soil around them. Kangaroots also contains all essential macro and micronutrients that a plant needs to thrive. Can be used in both hydroponic and soil applications.

Microbe Brew
Bushdoctor Microbe Brew is a liquid suspension with complex blend of ingredients specially formulated to help plants achieve optimum microbial habitats at the rhizosphere or root zone environment. Microbe Brew contains concentrated amounts of fungi and bacteria spores that will inoculate large populations at a rapid pace. Microbe Brew also contains macro and micronutrients that feed not only the plant, but also ingredients specially formulated to feed the actual microbial population. Organic and Natural, Microbe Brew will satisfy your plant and soil's thirst with the nutritional cocktail they deserve. Can be used in both hydroponic and soil applications.

Bushdoctor Sledgehammer is a unique rinse formula designed to remove excess fertilizer buildup and encourage water movement through soil and soilless mediums. Sledgehammer helps release surface tension in the soil which will allow optimal absorption of moisture and nutrition through the plant's root system. Derived from Saponin, an extract from Yucca, Sledgehammer is Organic and Natural and can be used both hydroponic and soil applications.



The History of Hydroponics

This past October, Maximum Yield magazine brought its world renowned Indoor Gardening Expo to Long Beach for the first time. And as was customary with the annual San Francisco show, BGH was asked to provide an "Education Station" booth. Normally we would set up a booth of several complete growing systems as a way to educate attendees on hydroponic systems and methods. For the Long Beach show we decided to do something a little different. We left the HID lights and grow tents at home and instead, put together a booth that showcased the History of Hydroponics. The BGH team put in over a hundred and forty hours and consulted over 25 major organizations and companies all over the world. We reached out to numerous other sources when researching this topic, and many of our findings were surprising, even to us.

The history of hydroponics is deep and rich. Spanning thousands of years, hydroponic gardening has stood as proof of mankind's ingenuity and fortitude when faced with less than ideal growing conditions and hungry mouths to feed. What most of us today consider merely a hobby has been at the forefront of the advancements of civilization for several millennium. Come take a closer look with us at the vast and surprising History of Hydroponics!


Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management

You might think that when dealing with a pest in your garden, an insecticidal spray or bug bomb is the best solution. Unfortunately, the same products that kill the pest also leave behind a chemical residue. This is an issue if you are close to harvest and organic counterparts can be too mild or ineffective. In situations like these, you’ve pretty much lost a good part, if not all of your crop to these pests.

In an effort to eliminate the use of pesticides while still keeping pest populations at an acceptable level, Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, was developed and refined over the course of about 150 years. IPM is pest control program equipped with an arsenal of pest information and common sense methods aimed at keeping pests subdued.

Here is a summary of the key steps involved in a typical IPM program:

1. Action Threshold: First, determine the level at which a pest will become a threat. It could be one or two bugs or a certain number per plant. Atmospheric conditions will also have to be taken into consideration as they effect the life cycle and activity of pests. Setting a threshold will help insure that you use a method of control appropriately and efficiently.

2. Identify and Monitor: There are different types of pests; harmful, neutral, and beneficial. Correctly identifying the pest and familiarizing yourself with it’s life cycle and reproductive habits will help you to determine how you build your pest management program. Constantly monitoring the level and location of activity will notify you of whether or not the threshold has been crossed.

3. Preventative: An important step in controlling harmful pests - these measures could very well mean the difference between control and outbreak. For example, a diverse crop will make it harder for a single pest to thrive; in mono-cultures (growing a single variety of plant), once a pest has figured out how to break the defenses of one plant, they can ravage the entire crop. Other practices include maintaining healthy plants, as they are more resistant to pests and disease, removing dead or dying foliage and diseased plants to prevent the spread of infection, and planting pest free root-stock.

4. Control: When signs from monitoring indicate that a threshold has been crossed, a control method must be initiated. Methods include mechanical control, biological control and chemical control. Usually, you want to start with the least risky of the methods. Mechanical methods include bug traps, hand picking, vacuuming, and physical barriers. When mechanical methods are obviously not working, a biological control will have to be used. They includes beneficial insects that feed on the target pest, pheromones that disrupt mating habits, and biological insecticides derived from naturally occurring substances. Synthetic pesticides should be used as a last resort and only at specific points in a pests life cycle.


New Product: FloraDuo A and B

FloraDuo is a two-part mineral nutrient, FloraDuo A and FloraDuo B. Designed and created in collaboration between Dr. Cal Herrmann and William Texier, this is our new formula, inspired from the latest discoveries in plant nutrition.

FloraDuo is a "classic" mineral nutrient, with a difference (and an essential one), where each of the elements a plant needs is derived from a large variety of different sources. To create an excellent nutrient, you need of course a precise formula. But this is not all! It also is very important that each element comes from different sources, and different salts. This is how they are made available at all times, in a form plants can absorb them. And we don't stop at that. We add in our bottle elements we could call "bio-activators", that are not directly nutrients for plants, but which improve their general health, help them better absorb their food, and better resist to pathogen and insect aggressions.

FloraDuo is a complete nutrient, especially designed for fast growing plants, with a marked difference between growth and flowering needs. It comes in 2 parts: FloraDuo A and FloraDuo B.

FloraDuo is highly concentrated : 4 ml/L are enough for a balanced and vigorous growth. Its price also is very attractive. FloraDuo is economical and cost effective.

FloraDuo is also user-friendly : by mixing 3 parts FloraDuo A with 1 part FloraDuo B, you'll address all growth requirements. Then, by reversing these proportions (3 parts A with 1 part B), you'll attend to all flowering needs. FloraDuo guarantees a perfect balance between growing and flowering. You need nothing else for abundant and healthy yields.

Like for all our nutrients, FloraDuo is an exhaustive formula: no need for complements to improve your plants diet. It includes all we have learned in 30 years of studies and experience, from our years collaborating with research laboratories (particularly with the University of California at Davis), and also thanks to the information sent to us by thousands of clients using our products worldwide.

It can be used for all plants and all gardening methods including hydroponics, potted plants in prepared soil mixes, coco blends and garden soils.



New Product: APE 2.0 – Automated Pollen Extractor

The Agricultural Pollen Extractor 2.0. This is all that you need to get started harvesting pollen. Unrefined media is placed into the barrel and then into the machine. The results of the agitation process is refined product, which is deposited on to the tempered glass pull out catch tray for easy collection. The refining screen on the barrel can be quickly changed to outfit the machine for extraction of 220 micron sized particles and 180 micron sized particles (180 micron screen sold separately).

- APE polished aluminum housing
- Quick-fill barrel (160 gram capacity)
- Friction drive design
- Sealed ball bearings
- EZ access tempered glass catch tray
- Replaceable screen (220 micron)
- Overload protected motor. (120v 60Hz .57A)
- Weight: 21.2 lbs
- 2 year manufacturer's warranty


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