Second Sun Garden Supply


Keep Your Plastics Safe in Hot Weather

Keep Your Plastics Safe in Hot Weather

This is a reminder that your plastic products will melt and deform with extreme heat and intense sun exposure. 

Most of our plastic products are made in a process called thermoforming where a plastic sheet is heated to a certain temperature and then drawn into a mold by a vacuum.  The plastic is allowed to cool, the edges trimmed, and the product is born.  

The property that allows thermoplastics to be easily formed in this process also makes them susceptible to destruction by extreme heat.  Under intense sun and high ambient temperatures, thermoplastics will begin to soften up and "remember" their old form as a sheet.  This can lead to bending, warping, and shrinking of the product.  

A black plastic product left in the midday sun will easily reach 120F or more within minutes.  This is typically only an issue in greenhouses and high tunnels during all times of the year (hot delivery vehicles and packages left near heaters are also culprits).  But with the intense sun and ambient temperatures rising above 90F, conditions outside are reaching the perfect combination for deformed plastic.  

You can help protect your plastic items by moving them to a partially shaded area that does not receive direct sun exposure during the peak hours of the day.  Make sure high tunnels and greenhouses are well-shaded and ventilated.  This will reduce the ability of the sun to heat the plastic.  Most plants will also benefit from this as well.  If it's too hot in the full sun for you, it's probably too hot for your plants and plastic products too.  

Make sure you take a look at our "Use and Care Guide" included with your package that includes suggestions to help prolong the life of your products, including keeping plastics away from extreme heat.  

Strawberry Disease Resources

Strawberry Disease Resources

Here's a great resource from the University of Missouri Extension that has detailed pictures of various strawberry diseases to help with disease identification.  It's a PDF file. 


Once you've successfully identified the problem, you can then search the internet for products that may be able to treat the disease.  For example, if you have strawberry leaf spot, search for "strawberry leaf spot treatment" and see what you get.  You want to look for the product label (usually a PDF) and go to the crop you want to treat and see if your problem is listed.  If the disease you suspect is not listed on the label, you should look for other products because it is likely the product you've found is not effective against that particular pathogen. 

Information about Strawberry Verticillium Wilt:

Pot Selection Guide

Pot Selection Guide
Use this handy guide to select the right container size for your plants from seed to transplant.

Pest ID and Control Resources from OK State

Pest ID and Control Resources from OK State

Here's a link to a PDF with some insect identification photos, descriptions, and recommended control methods for some common garden pests.

Basic Pointers on Your New Hydroponic System

Basic Pointers on Your New Hydroponic System
I get a lot of questions about what type of systems to use for various crops, how to size the reservoir, and how much to feed.  I'll briefly cover a few of those topics below.  If you have further questions, please feel free to post in the comments. 
Q: Will a system of tubes work for growing a variety of crops if I space them 1 foot apart with growing sites at 18" on center (OC)?
A system like that should work fine for lettuce and herbs.  The spacing between grow sites might be a bit large, depending on the variety of plant being grown.  I think I have a 12" OC spacing for my lettuce, with holes drilled at 6" OC for basil.  I built my system with 2" schedule 40 PVC and drilled 1 7/8" holes for 2" net pots.  It works well for lettuce, basil, and Joi Choi.  Too small for some of the bigger rooted things like tomatoes, peppers, etc. 
Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, you would probably want to run a drain to waste coir system or look at using something like dutch buckets or 6" PVC because the roots are so big.  Coir is more forgiving with nutrient balance (it's more like soil) but with PVC you could recycle the water and nutrients.  If you're just starting with hydro, I'd go with drippers and coir until you get the feel for it.  You may decide to stay with coir (I have). 

Q: Would you grow cole crops in a hydroponic system?
Cabbage and other cole crops I wouldn't bother growing unless you have a good market for them or they're of special interest to you.  They take a up a lot of space and don't produce a lot of end product in some cases (like broccoli), or aren't worth much (like cabbage).   They also develop more robust root systems than something like basil or lettuce, which means you'd need a bigger tubing system which increases the cost of their production.
Q: How big should my reservoir be, and how do I decide on a PPM concentration for my nutrients?
Lettuce and basil won't drain a reservoir too fast, but the fruiting crops will drain it in no time.   Depending on the size of your system, you'll need to think about using a minimum of a 25 gallon tank, or maybe even a couple IBC (250 gallon) tanks.  Your system will use a lot more water than you may expect, especially as the weather warms and the plants increase in size.   A good rule might be 1/2 gallon of reservoir per leafy green, and 2-4 gallons of reservoir per fruiting plant. 

I always start out with a very low PPM concentration for all crops, and then it increases depending on what I'm growing.  Start at somewhere around 150PPM for a few days, and start to work it up as the plants get bigger.  They all feed at different rates, so this part is sort of an art of monitoring the plants and responding to their indicators to determine dosage as they grow.  Once they're about 80% of the way to final size, you should be at something like 800PPM for lettuce, maybe 1000PPM for basil, and tomatoes and fruiting crops will be up around 1,500-1,700PPM.  Deciding these numbers is really all about experience which will come from trial and error, and depends on your varieties, the weather, fruit load, etc.  It's not hard to figure out as you go, but there's no absolute set of numbers.  However, you're better on the low side rather than the high side because you can correct up quickly and easily.  Too high and you can harm or kill the plants, and that's hard to come back from. 

You'll also mix your nutrients based on what crop you've got in the system.  I start with a base nutrient mix of 5-11-26 and then add an equal part calcium nitrate and a 1/4 part magnesium sulfate (epsom salt).  You may also want to add potassium silicate to some crops (though I have yet to try this, but Paul Cilia from Hot N' Humid likes it) and for fruiting crops like tomatoes (especially tomatoes!) a potassium supplement from flower cluster formation through to final harvest.  Tomatoes have heavy potassium needs to prevent green shoulder and ghost wall. 
Q: What's the easiest crop to start with, and what crops are the hardest?

Any leafy green like basil or lettuce is the easiest crop to grow and has the fastest turn in your system with probably the lowest risk of failure.  As you get into fruiting crops, the time to harvest increases, as does the risk of serious problems (disease, nutrient imbalance, etc.)  Tomatoes are on the higher end of the risk spectrum, but the top spot would belong to colored bell peppers.  They take a very long time to develop color from the green fruit (3-5 weeks), and this opens a long period of time for potential problems.  This isn't a reason not to grow them, but it may be frustrating if you try them first.   I want you to be successful with your first attempt at hydro so you can enjoy continued success as you gain experience.

If you're new to hydro, I'd recommend starting with lettuce.  It grows fast, it's got a high density, and it's pretty easy.  Basil is the second choice, however, downy mildew of basil is a huge problem and I've seen it wipe out entire greenhouses, so keep that in mind.  Definitely consider something like this if you want to do basil:
  There are more varieties in the pipeline, so the selection should grow in the coming years. 

You can turn both of those crops pretty fast, and you can stagger them for a continuous harvest.  I've found basil can be done as fast as lettuce if you use cuttings from your established crop for the next round.  It cuts 2-3 weeks off the harvest time, and it roots very easily. 

Hopefully this answers some of your questions.

What Nutrients Do My Tomatoes Need and When?

What Nutrients Do My Tomatoes Need and When?

Here's some great info from Yara Crop Nutrition about what elements your tomato plants need, and when they need them. 

Tomato Nutritional Summary

As you can see from the graph, tomatoes need a lot of Phosphorus in their developmental days, but as time goes by, the need declines while the requirement for nutrients like Calcium, Potassium, Nitrogen, and Magnesium increases.  Calcium and Potassium are particularly important during the stage immediately before flowering.  In fact, Potassium supplementation should be increased as soon as flowers start to form on the plant.  

Lack of Potassium can lead to fruit that develop green splotches and white interior walls ("green shoulder" and "ghost wall" respectively) that make fruit undesirable, though not necessarily inedible. 

Lack of Calcium causes the common "Blossom End Rot" problem where the bottom end of the tomato will turn black and rotten. 

Both of the above problems must be corrected by adequate nutrition before the fruit is formed.  Once the fruit is set, these problems cannot be fixed.  However, new fruit that forms on the plant can be corrected if the nutrient imbalance is rectified. 

Ghost wall

^ Ghost Wall in tomato- Caused by a lack of Potassium


^ Green Shoulder in tomato- Caused by a lack of Potassium. 

Is it a Plant Disease or Edema?

Sometimes we have a plant stem that just doesn't look right.  There might be something white or fuzzy about the stem, but it doesn't look like a plant disease.  It may be corky scab or edema.  This occurs when the plant takes up too much fluid and it can't get rid of it through transpiration.  While not terribly harmful to your plant, it can make it look sick.

Edema won't actually be fuzzy.  If that happens, it's more likely a fungal infection. 

The best steps you can take to protect your plants from edema are to reduce watering, let the first few inches of soil dry out between waterings, and lower humidity within your growing space.  These can be especially important points for growers that are trying to over winter plants in a greenhouse or inside the home, places where humidity levels can get very high and evaporation rates very slow due to the lack of air exchange. 

We experience this problem with orchid cactus.  Excess moisture will cause the leaves to develop boils which eventually rot and destroy the leaf. 

Read more at Growing Produce.

5 Common Houseplant Problems

Common Problems with Indoor Plants, and How to Correct Them

This guide will help you diagnose common problems with indoor plants, including houseplants. While not specifically geared towards plants in hydroponic systems, you'll find some of the problems require similar solutions.

It was a normal day just like any other for Cheryl Bigsbee. Skies were blue and her birdsnest fern was green and happy on the windowsill perch. Things were good. But then, what she saw sent shivers down her spine: a yellow leaf.

She knew something had to be done fast, but where to turn? A quick browse through the phone book didn't yield any listings for “plant doctor”. Sweat formed on her brow. Now she was really starting to panic.

Suddenly the phone rang: “Hey, this is Mary-Lou. My prized birdsnest fern just turned a yellow leaf, and I'm really starting to worry. Does yours have the same problem?”

Her stomach turned, her heartbeat quickened. “Cheryl, I think this could be serious. Angela said her fern died yesterday!”

Cheryl dropped the phone and clutched her fern in desperation. “Hello! Cheryl? Are you there? Is everything ok!?”

But it was too late for Cheryl: her birdsnest fern had already passed on to the great beyond.

This scene plays out in homes across America every day, but you don't have to be the next victim of a dead plant. We're going to give you some tips to help diagnose problems early and get your little friend on the road to recovery before it's too late.


How to Use this Guide

Start at the first numbered problem you're experiencing, and then read down through the questions. Each question will provide a solution, and will lead to another question if your solution isn't found.


Yellowing of the Leaves

This common problem can be a sign of something insidious, or something innocuous, and there are a number of factors to consider in trying to arrive at a solution. Follow these steps to help arrive at a conclusions


Does your plant have enough light?

Even a sunny windowsill can lack the light needed for a plant to be healthy, especially in the winter months when the sun is less intense. If a plant looks yellow and leggy, it probably needs more light.

Solution: Consider purchasing a grow light fixture that will provide the proper spectrum of light for your plant, and allow you to keep your plant anywhere in the house. Grow lights are especially important for fruiting plants like peppers and tomatoes, which require a lot of light to produce fruit. Plants also need a lot of nutrients, which leads us to...


Are you providing your plant adequate nutrition?

Plants need a certain amount of minerals not just to survive, but also thrive. There are at least 17 of these minerals. Inadequate nutrition can result in yellow leaves and leaf veins, purple stems, rotten fruit, and any number of other problem.

Solution: The only way you can assure that your plant is getting the right amount of nutrients is to invest in high quality hydroponic nutrients. These nutrients will provide the complete spectrum of nutrients that your houseplant needs. We recommend starting with any of the following kits:
-list kits-

“Houseplant food” you buy at the store just isn't going to cut it, and, in fact, is probably killing your plant. That leads us to...


Are you feeding your plant the proper nutrients?

Just because you've got a houseplant doesn't mean you have to use “houseplant food” from the big box store. In fact, that's probably the worst thing you can do for the little green life form you call a friend. Boxed plant foods are filled with salts that will burn the roots of your plant, and can lead to long-term poisoning. So while yellow leaves can be a sign that your plant isn't properly fed, it can also be a symptom of salt burn. A key indicator of salt buildup is white, sometimes tan, crusty buildup around the sides of your pot and on the soil surface.

Solution: Switch to quality hydroponic nutrients. You can get salt build up even while using these, but you'll greatly reduce the amount of salt your plant receives during each feeding. Products like Clearex can help you flush these and existing salts out of your soil and solutions like Dr. Repair can help your plant recover. We recommend the kits listed above, as well as the following products:
-list products-

Other causes
It's really hard to pin down exactly what is causing your yellow leaves because it is symptomatic of so many things. Try the steps above and see if the problem gets better. If you find the problem isn't being corrected, then move through the rest of the possible solutions.



No healthy plant should have rot, which we'll define as brown or black plant material that has died but is still attached to the plant. Rot can be associated with yellowing of the leaves as well, and this brings us to our first solution...


Is your soil too wet?

90% of plants don't like “wet feet”, and this is a big problem for plants in the house because we tend to over water them. Unless you're growing something from a swamp, the goal is to keep soil damp. This means that when you touch the soil, it should just tack on to your fingers ever so slightly. It will even look a little dry on the surface. Symptoms of over watering can include yellow leaves, which is actually symptomatic of the roots rotting in this case. If the roots are too wet, they will drown and die, and the plant will starve. It may even fall over. Some rot can also occur at the base of the stem, or where leaves touch the soil.

Solution: The immediate solution is to stop over watering. Try to water your plant only a few times a week at the most.


But what if I can't find a balance between sopping wet and bone dry?

If you've got a plant in peat moss, you may find that the soil is either soaked, or dry as can be. This is extremely frustrating, and it's a big reason why we don't recommend peat moss products at all anymore. Most of them contain a polymer that helps the peat moss retain water, and when it dries up, so does the soil, along with your plant. Peat moss can also belong to the other extreme where it holds too much water and turns into a slimy mess. Needless to say, this will kill your plants.

Solution: Immediately move your plants over to a coir growing medium. Coir is made from the husk of coconuts, and it has taken the world by storm as the preferred growing medium of professional horticulturalists. The reason is that coir absorbs and holds on to water well, but yet it drains excess water at the same time which results in a soil that is not too wet, not too dry. In addition to avoiding the Goldilocks syndrome, coir also breathes extremely well, meaning that air and oxygen reach the plant roots and root rot becomes less common.

Other Rots
Some rots have less to do with too much water, and more to do with a fungal or bacteriological infection. If you find that taking the steps above doesn't solve your problem, consider taking your plant to a local Extension office where Master Gardeners may be able to help you determine the cause of the problem. You can also use online forums, like Reddit, to post pictures and ask for answers.



Your plants shouldn't wilt in the house. Outside, there are factors such as humidity, wind, and sun that can lead to wilting, but inside plants are protected from these conditions. So when your houseplant wilts, it's kind of a big deal.


Have you been watering your plant?

Wilt could come from either lack of water or too much water. Leaves wilt when devoid of water from under watering, but can also wilt if the roots are too wet and begin to rot.

Solution: If you're keeping the plant dry and you're seeing wilt, try watering more often. If this isn't solving the problem, or you've been watering too much, this symptom can be the result of rot, so see that section above.

Is it too hot for your plant?

If you've got your plant in a sunny south-facing window, or under a grow light, it's possible your plant is wilting in response to heat. It may not seem like it, but the temperature right under a grow light, or within the confines of a window sill can get pretty high. This can be compounded by a lack of ventilation, or a nearby source of heat like a radiator or an air vent. Dry air from a forced hot air heating system can also dry out plant leaves and make them wilt.

Solution: Try moving your plant to a cooler location, or ensure adequate air movement. If dry air is a problem, try to protect your plant from being directly in line with air from a heating vent. For plants under grow lights, you may need to move the light further from the surface of the plant, or provide a fan to help bring in cooler air.


Is it too cold for your plant?

Some windowsills and other locations get too cold for tender plants. This may make the leaves wilt and then die. Sometimes the leaves will curl.

Solution: Move your plant to a warmer location, or provide a fan to bring in warmer air.

Other wilts
There are other reasons your plants may wilt, including infestation by fungus or bacteria. See your local Extension agent to help diagnose those problems if you are unable to find a solution above that works.


Insects and Diseases

In the confines of your home or grow room, insects can be a very bad thing. Outside they can be controlled by natural predators, but without something to keep them in check, insects without end. Well, that is until your plants die and they lose their food source.

There is some great info out there already about houseplant pest problems, so if you have pests, check out this link:

You can read more about plant diseases at this link:

We have a selection of natural pest and disease treatment options in our store. You can view them here.

We also have beneficial insects that you can release on your plants that will attack the bad ones. The only problem is that once the bad bugs are gone, the beneficial insects will have nothing left to eat. View beneficial insects here.



The final problem we'll talk about is the worst: Sudden Death. This is when you have a plant that goes from perfectly fine to perfectly dead in the course of a 1-2 days. While there are no real solutions here, you may find some lessons to be learned. All you can do is try your best to either prevent the problem in the future. There's no guarantee your plant will bounce back from these issues, even with prompt treatment.


Since you can't see how warm or cold the air is, you may not know that conditions where your plant is living are a problem until it's too late. An open window or cracked door, a draft caused by a spectacular storm, a failure in your heating system, or even just cold creeping through a poorly insulated wall can all lead to death by freezing. Some plants are more tolerant than others to cold temperatures, but generally speaking, anything below 32F is going to kill your indoor plant.

Solution: If you find a plant that develops wet, watery leaves and/or stems suddenly, this is probably a symptom of freeze damage, and you need to move the plant somewhere warmer. Or use a fan to bring in warmer air. Get a thermometer to keep an eye on your temperatures.


We've all been there. You misread the directions and you give your plant too much nutrient. Next thing you know, it's dead.

Solution: If you catch the mistake early enough, quickly flush your soil out with lots of water 5-10 times in a row. Add an amount of water, let it all drain out, and repeat. This will help remove excess nutrients. If you're in a hydroponic system, either quickly add more water if you have room or drain off some solution and add more water.


Acute Wilt

You forget to water your plant, or your hydroponic system fails in some way and it dries out. You find it nearly lifeless.

Solution: Immediately provide water, not just to the roots, but also to the leaves. Keep the plant out of the sun to help prevent leaf burn. Try not to move the leaves too much though or you may cause further damage. We recommend you keep one of our Cyco Recovery Kits on hand for just such an emergency. This kit can help you nurse the plant back to life if you catch the problem fast enough.

Plant is entirely consumed by a Brachiosaurus
Jeff Goldblum warned you about the danger, but you didn't listen. And now look what happened.

Solution: Panic.

I didn't find what I was looking for!
This guide is not a definitive list of every problem you will encounter. Some things you may just have to take to your local Extension agent or Master Gardeners program for a personal diagnosis. Many of our suggestions above will definitely help you grow better plants, however. Here are a few more links that may help you find an answer for a problem we didn't cover.

Your Turn
Now that we've given you all the information you could possibly want about how to diagnose common indoor plant problems, we want your feedback. What are some problems you've encountered in the past? What steps did you take to remedy them? Do you have any problems which were really hard to solve? Let us know!

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