What Is EC?
Hydroponics is a modern and innovative method of growing plants without soil. It utilises a nutrient-rich water solution as a growing medium to provide the plants with the necessary nutrients. One of the key components in hydroponic systems is electrical conductivity (EC), which measures the concentration of nutrients in the water. In this article, we will explore what EC is in hydroponics, how it affects plant growth, and how you can maintain the optimal EC level in your Airgarden system.
What Does EC Mean in Hydroponics?
EC stands for 'Electrical Conductivity', and in hydroponics helps to measure the density of nutrients in water – so whilst checking pH levels tells you the balance of nutrients, EC tells you how much nutrients are in your water.
Pure water has no electrical conductivity as it contains no minerals. Once minerals (i.e. in the form of liquid nutrients) are added into water, the dissolved salts allow it to conduct electricity. The higher the concentration of salts, the higher the electrical conductivity, thus, measuring EC levels tells you how much nutrient there is in the water.
The EC level is measured in milliSiemens per centimetre (mS/cm).
Why is EC Important?
Maintaining the correct EC level is crucial for healthy plant growth, as both an under-supply or over-supply of nutrients can harm plants. An insufficient nutrient supply can cause stunted growth and poor yields, while an excess supply can lead to nutrient toxicity and damage to the plant roots. Therefore, it is important to regularly monitor and adjust the EC level in your Airgarden hydroponic system to ensure optimal plant growth and maximum yield.
What is the Best EC Level For Growing Plants
The best EC level for growing plants in hydroponics varies depending on the specific plant species, growth stage, and the type of hydroponic system used. However, in general, the optimal EC level for most plants falls between 1.2 to 2.4 mS/cm during the vegetative stage and 1.8 to 2.8 mS/cm during the flowering stage. These ranges provide sufficient nutrients for healthy plant growth without causing nutrient imbalances or toxicity.
It's important to note that different plant species have different nutrient requirements, so it's important to research the optimal EC levels for your specific plants. Additionally, environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and light intensity can also affect the ideal EC level. Therefore, regular monitoring and adjustment of the nutrient solution's EC level is crucial for successful hydroponic plant growth.
When growing plants with Airgarden's aeroponic system, the ideal EC level is between 2.3-2.5 – this allows all types of plants (e.g. herbs, leafy greens and fruiting vegetables) to successfully grow and thrive simultaneously.
How to Measure EC Levels
This EC level is created automatically when using Airgarden's liquid nutrient solution as per our growing instructions. However, when growing with hydroponics you can also use a digital EC pen, also known as a conductivity metre, to measure exactly what your EC levels are at any given time.
Follow these steps to measure the EC level of your nutrient solution:
- Turn on the EC meter and let it warm up according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Rinse the EC meter probe with clean water and dry it with a clean cloth.
- Submerge the EC meter probe into the hydroponic nutrient solution, making sure it is fully immersed.
- Wait for the reading on the EC meter to stabilise. This usually takes a few seconds.
- Record the EC value in mS/cm from the meter's display.
- If necessary, adjust the nutrient solution to maintain the optimal EC level for your specific plant type and growth stage.
Remember to regularly check and adjust the EC level of your hydroponic nutrient solution to ensure healthy plant growth and optimal yields.
How to Adjust EC Levels
As EC is a representation of how much nutrients you have in your water, to adjust your levels you simple need to add more nutrients or dilute your water.
So, to increase your EC level add more nutrients - every 10mls of Part 1 and Part nutrient solution added to your water will raise the EC level by 0.1.
If you overshoot the target EC level, you can dilute the nutrient solution with water until the desired EC level is reached.
How to Use an EC Meter With Your Airgarden
Learn More About Our Airgardens
If you're interested in growing with a hydroponic system the Airgarden is the simplest and most effective way to start. The Airgarden allows you to grow 30 different plants at once, out of a possible 150 different options, and all in just 1 metre² of space. If you’d like to learn more about growing your own with the Airgarden, you can also contact our team.