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Indoor Farming Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Farmers that have been indoor farming for a while have a lengthy list of mistakes they’ve made and how they fixed them. It’s no secret that new farmers have a lot to learn before beginning their indoor farming journey, but mistakes are bound to happen to growers with years of experience. The art of farming is learning something new every day, which makes the profession so rewarding.

Whether trying to diagnose a problem for your indoor farm or trying to stay prepared, knowing what mistakes to avoid is a crucial farming skill! Luckily, our head grower put together this list of eight common indoor farming mistakes to help you identify where you might be going wrong.

8 Indoor Farming Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Respecting Humidity

Humidity can be a real crop killer. It may be the most impactful factor that decides the efficiency of your system. Our head grower recommends familiarizing yourself with vapor pressure deficit, which affects crops’ abilities to sweat and evaporate water. Transpiration is an essential process plants undergo to rid themselves of excess water. However, this process can work against you.

Hydroponics regularly circulates nutrient solution through the system, meaning that there’s rarely a time when plants are not transpiring. That’s a lot of moisture, which can increase the level of humidity within your indoor farm. You might even start seeing condensation form on the walls and ceiling at high humidity levels. The problem can be controlled if dealt with swiftly with the help of a dehumidifier. If left unattended, a humidity problem can lead to increased bacterial growth, which can negatively impact your health and the health of your plants.

2. Choosing Incompatible Crops

One of the most common indoor farming mistakes is selecting crops with incompatible nutrient or environmental needs. Some crops are unsuitable for indoor systems, such as trees or tall bushes. These plants may grow too close to the lights or take up too much space. The crops you choose should grow well together in your environment so that you can manage them with less hassle.

We recommend starting with a crop that will grow reliably in a container farm, like lettuce or basil. Now, that’s not to say you can’t experiment with new crops. Right now, our head grower is testing out ways to produce miniature pumpkins in our container farm—which we’ve never tried before! Make sure that your knowledge base is established before attempting to make difficult or bothersome crops work in a container farm.

3. Using Bad Lighting

Lighting issues stem from a variety of factors. The problem could be insufficient lighting, too much lighting or ineffective bulbs. A surplus of light will cause your plants to be autumn-colored and have a crispy texture. If you’re not providing enough light for your crops, they will appear to have dry leaf tips and be more yellow than green. Oil-producing plants, flowers, and some fruits can be pickier with their lights, requiring specific lights. Research the crops you want to produce and ensure they have lights that work best for them.

4. Underestimating Pests

While pest infestations don’t occur as frequently in indoor farms as in outdoor farms, it’s still a concern that farmers should consider. Our head grower recommends learning about pests that may challenge your farm before the issue arises. He says that a common pest is the fungus gnat, which is small enough to get into your container farm without your knowledge.

He emphasizes that early identification is crucial to saving crops and protecting your harvest. Gnat larvae will float on the surface of the nutrient solution, flowing through the system like they’re taking a slow ride on a lazy river. When they find plant roots, they cling on and can prevent your crops from receiving the nutrients they need to grow. If unprepared, you will lose a drastic number of yields.

Be sure to research common pests in your area and signs of infestation. Keeping humidity under control and maintaining a regular cleaning schedule are good first steps to prevent your container farm from looking like an all-you-can-heat sauna for local pests to frequent.

Two green jalapeños growing in an indoor farm.
Most indoor farming mistakes come from a lack of knowledge. Farming is a process, and by striving to be a better farmer, you’ve already won half the battle.

5. Ignoring pH Levels

Always maintain the balance of the pH levels in your system. Before using water, nutrient solution, or growing mediums, test for pH and balance as required. The neutral pH level is seven, and most plants prefer slightly acidic conditions, ranging from 5.5 to 6.5.

Some plants like lower pH environments, like blueberries, prefer pH levels between 4.5 and 5.5, while others, like leeks and cabbage, grow better in pH environments around 6.5 and 7. Ignoring pH levels can cause nutrient deficiencies in your crops, leading to slow growth or crop failure. For prime conditions, test the nutrient water every day and adjust it to match the pH requirements of your crops.

6. Managing Nutrients Incorrectly

In addition to pH levels, a common indoor farming mistake is failing to manage your nutrient solution correctly. Generally speaking, all plants can grow in the same nutrient composition. However, every plant prefers certain ratios/concentrations of nutrients. In that way, it can be challenging to grow certain crops together. Plants will still grow in suboptimal conditions, but if you want to maximize efficient production or ensure that your produce tastes perfect every harvest, you should tailor your nutrient solution to suit your crops of choice.

Giving plants too much or too little nutrients will negatively impact their development. You’ll know that you’ve given a plant more nutrients than it can handle when you notice crispy, autumn-colored leaves. It will be immediately apparent that you’ve done something wrong, said our grower. This is called nutrient burn. Unfortunately, it will require a full cleaning and reset of your indoor farm. If you aren’t providing enough nutrients for your crops, they will be smaller, have yellow leaves and may fail to fruit.

7. Not Cleaning Enough

Your indoor farm should be as sterile as possible to prevent disease and avoid attracting pests. If you’re not thoroughly cleaning your growing space and one of your plants becomes sick, the disease will quickly spread. To prevent this from happening, clean and dry floors and tools before and after use. Wipe up standing water if you notice it. Keep an eye out for algae and salt build-up around the water line of your nutrient reservoir, cleaning the system between growing periods. Our grower recommends changing the water in your hydroponic system once weekly if you start to see algae growing.

8. Overwatering Crops

Overwatering is a common indoor farming mistake. This can create conditions for root rot, a destructive fungal infection that can destroy your entire harvest. The abundance of water can drown plants, especially if it hasn’t been oxygenated. Crops infected with root rot will have wilting yellow leaves, stunted growth and spongy black roots. Root rot can spread quickly through a hydroponic system as spores spread from plant to plant through the nutrient solution flow.

If you’ve been making any of these mistakes, don’t worry! Now you know and are ready to fix them. Learning from indoor farming mistakes is one of the fastest ways to develop as a farmer, and the knowledge acquired will serve you well for the rest of your farming career. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can start your indoor farming journey with a Pure Greens container farm, contact us today.