Nutrient Availability Chart

Use this Nutrient Availability Chart to monitor how your pH can interact with nutrients. This chart came from


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Commerce Adds steadyGROWpro to Line of Lawn and Garden Products

SteadyGROWpro soilless media products will soon be more readily available to independent garden centers as Commerce Corporation begins distribution of the product line.

Commerce Corporation, just like most of the independent garden centers it serves, is a family business spanning over 80 years and three generations. Commerce CEO Richard Lessans sees this move as an important bond his company shares with its family of customers.

“My grandfather Israel Lessans and his brothers, Abraham, Dave and Sam, actually started the company in 1923 as an electrical wholesale supply business called Atlantic Electric,” says Richard. “My father came into the business after World War II, along with his brothers. He redirected the company’s emphasis from electrical to general merchandise – housewares, hardware, lawn and garden supplies.”

Commerce Corporation became a true national distributor by opening a new distribution center in Ontario, Calif., to serve customers up and down the West Coast.

With 455 team members, 145 dedicated sales consultants and three state-of-the-art distribution centers, Commerce is dedicated to the independent garden center.

Tammy Sorg, Commerce Director of Marketing West, initially discovered steadyGROWpro’s seed growing kit. She performed an initial review analysis and brought the product to Ashley Willnecker, Marketing Manager for Commerce. Both agree the steadyGROWpro product line is a perfect fit for Commerce, since the products are a unique addition to their line of home and garden goods. Finding innovative and unique product lines for the lawn and garden trade has been a Commerce trademark.  The new partnership with steadyGROWpro promises to advance this cause.


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Introducing hidroPRO, Hydroponics Starter Kit

Today steadyGROWpro is announcing hidroPRO, Hydroponics Starter Kit, complete with 50 soilless media cells and 50 low profile growing baskets for floating raft, N.F.T. or growing-bed hydroponic systems. As seen at the 2012 FFA National Convention.  Order today! Item # 6509-01-00.

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SteadyGROWpro at the 2012 National FFA Convention and Expo

SteadyGROWpro attended the 85th annual National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis. The 50,000+ members in attendance kept us pretty busy, and we had a blast! Here are some shots from the show:

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2012 Master Gardener State Conference

Here are a few shots of our booth at the 2012 Master Gardner State Conference in Noblesville, Indiana:


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Stem Secrets: Introducing a Smarter Way to Select, Store and Process Stem Cuttings

Here’s some more insight from our Lab Scientist Bill DeBoer, published in Maximum Yield Magazine, “Stem Secrets: Introducing a Smarter Way to Select, Store and Process Stem Cuttings”:

Unlike cloning herbaceous plants, woody cuttings require slightly different consideration. Here’s how to properly select, store and process stem cuttings (as opposed to leaf or root cutting), using rooting hormones and creating the ideal rooting environment…

Selecting the right cuttings
Making the proper selection of stem cuttings is an integral first step for reaching success. Seasonality creates differences in physiology within the plant; thus, there are three classifications of cuttings: softwood (spring), semi-hardwood (summer) and hardwood (fall and winter). Each type of cutting will require slightly different procedures.

Softwoods derive their name because they are the soft, new and non-woody growth that emerges in spring and sometimes summer. Their rooting potential is high, but they will easily wilt and rot under sub-optimal conditions. Semi-hardwood cuttings occur during a transitional period when softwood starts to form a woody protective layer. In non-tropical areas, this is a protective measure against cold temperatures during the winter. Semi-hardwood cuttings are not as delicate as softwood cuttings, but they will wilt if exposed to low humidity. Lastly, hardwood cuttings are often taken from dormant plants (those without leaves) during the fall and winter. These cuttings are the least finicky in terms of care and can be bundled together, placed in a refrigerator and stuck later in the spring.

Another important consideration is the age of the plant. In general, the age of the plant greatly influences the rooting potential of the cutting. Juvenile plants produce cuttings that root far better than older plants. While the exact reason is unknown, some scientists attribute this decrease in rooting potential to an increase in root-inhibiting compounds. Personal experience has shown that rooting from mature plants is still obtainable, albeit at significantly reduced percentages; nonetheless, it’s best to stick to younger plants when possible.

The position from which the cuttings are taken can also impact rooting potential. Distal (closer to the end of a branch) and proximal (closer to where the branch attaches to the trunk) can influence rooting percentages depending on the plant of interest. That is to say, for some plants, rooting potential will be higher when taken from the very end of the branch, whereas the opposite is true with others.

Lastly, before the cuts are made, make sure the plant is not under water stress and that growth is neither very vigorous (high in nitrogen and low in carbon) or very stunted (often an indicator that the plant is older or not growing in favorable conditions). All of these factors will reduce rooting potential.

Now we are ready to make the cut. The ideal cutting size depends upon the type (softwood, semi-hardwood or hardwood). Sizes range from 3 in. for softwood to 12 in. or more for hardwood cuttings. In general, 3 to 8 in. cuttings are ideal for all types. If the cuttings are softwood, pay close attention to the terminal growth. If it is quite soft and easily bends, remove it as rotting will usually occur. While length is an important measurement, pay close attention to the nodes (place were leaves attach to the stem) per cuttings. Each cutting should have at least two nodes (three is preferable). The cut should be made directly above a node on the “parent” plant.

Storage conditions and processing
Now that you have made the cut(s), proper processing and sticking should occur. However, if this is not possible and you are working with softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings then preventing water loss is integral. This can be accomplished by immediately placing the cuttings in a plastic bag, which is then sealed. It is also preferable to mist the cuttings prior to sealing, but if you do not have access to water simply use a sealable bag. If outside temperatures are hot, a cooler is a great place to put your sealed bags. Keep in mind that water stress in softwood or semi-hardwood cuttings can occur quickly (seconds to minutes).

The next step in processing is removal of leaves. While some authors instruct removal of all but the top set of leaves in softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings, some disagree. Leaves are the carbohydrate manufacturing center for the plant; therefore, these leaves provide the necessary energy needed for root development. While removing leaves reduces the surface area for water loss, pruning the bottom leaves that touch the rooting substrate is sufficient.

Also, depending on the plant, wounding the cuttings might be needed to induce root formation. This is often necessary with hard to root plants like rhododendron, magnolia and pinus. To wound, use a clean sharp knife or pruners to scrap away the outer layer (1 to 2 in.) to expose the inner green layer. Make sure you do not go too deep and cut into the pith, which is often white.

Rooting hormones
Generally, cloning woody ornamentals is enhanced through the use of rooting hormones.   Natural rooting hormones are derived from plant chemicals known as auxins, and manufactures utilize the synthetic-derived auxins indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) or alpha-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA). Auxin promotes root initiation by programming cells to develop into new root cells. The type of cutting dictates the appropriate amount of this chemical to use.

In general, I have had good success using 500 to 1,000 ppm on softwood cuttings, 1,000 to 3,000 ppm on semi-hardwood cuttings and 4,000 to 10,000 ppm for dormant hardwood cuttings. Beginners to vegetative propagation should try a rooting hormone that is mixed in talc powder. This will be relatively inexpensive, easy to use and, in general, will not burn the cuttings. The main drawbacks to this are that the concentration of IBA is fixed (usually 0.1% or 1,000 ppm) and the IBA in talc is relatively insoluble, so absorption might be sub-optimal. Also, the talc powder easily comes off (especially when sticking into the substrate) and is therefore ineffective. Another type of auxin delivery is gel based.

This gel adheres to the cutting better than talc, but is usually more expensive and has the added danger of burning certain sensitive softwood cuttings. Also, like talc, the concentration of auxin is fixed in gel-based solutions. Lastly, another popular auxin carrier is a liquid-based solution (often a solvent like isopropyl or ethyl alcohol). The stock solution is quite high (10,000 ppm) and can easily be diluted with water to acquire the desired concentration. This method is a quick dip where the auxin is highly soluble and readily absorbed; however, the price is usually much higher and the solvent readily burns cuttings if the optimal concentration is exceeded. I have experienced the greatest success using rooting hormones that are solvent based, but would not recommend it for those trying root hormones for the first time.

Ideal conditions of optimal rooting

Since the cuttings have been severed from the parent plant and do not possess a root system, their ability to absorb water and nutrients is drastically reduced. Cuttings will lose water from both the leaves and the cut end until it heals over; thus, maintaining high humidity is critical. Without humidity, the cuttings will quickly lose turgor pressure and wilt. On a commercial scale, misting systems allow high humidity coupled with good air circulation, which significantly reduces fungal rotting. However, most hobby growers do not have the aforementioned misting systems. In this case, hand misting with a sprayer often times is less successful than using some sort of dome. Depending on your growing environment, water droplets from misting can quickly evaporate away, creating an environment that favors pulling water out from the leaves.

For better results, take your cuttings, mist the leaves (top and bottom) and place them in a plastic dome top or baggy. Just make sure that the environment is sealed and that no leaves are touching the bag or dome, as this will lead to rotting. Check on the cuttings every day or so to make sure the substrate is moist and not waterlogged, that the leaves are healthy—remove yellow or brown leaves—and to the check for root formation. For traditional soilless mixes, such as peat moss, coco coir, perlite and vermiculite, the grower is confined to check on root formation by gently tugging on the cutting and feeling for resistance. With cellular-matrix substrates, you can remove the whole plug to see if root formation is penetrating out without risking damaging the roots.

Patented plants and illegal propagation

While some of you are coming around to the idea that cuttings could be quite lucrative, be forewarned that the plants you buy from a nursery have been developed by growers and are either patented or patent-pending. That means you cannotreproduce these plants for profit without notification and subsequent payment of royalties for each cutting. However, you can reproduce plants for your own use (or for a neighbor, if you are that kind!) so long as you do not intend to sell them for profit.


  1. Dirr, M. A., & C. W. Heuser Jr. (2006). The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation:  From Seed to Tissue Culture (2nd ed.). Varsity Press, Inc.
  1. Hartmann, H. T., Kester, D. E., Davies Jr., F. T., & Geneve, R. L. (2002). Plant Propagation:  Principles and Practices(7th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.
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Roots, Shoots and the Party of Six

Bill DeBoer, Lab Scientist at steadyGROWpro, has another article published in Maximum Yield Magazine, “Roots, Shoots and the Party of Six”:

For some people, hydroponics is counterintuitive. Don’t plants’ roots rot in water? How do you know you are providing the right nutrients to the plants? Isn’t it costly and less efficient than planting in soil? In this article, William DeBoer dispels some of these misgivings—as well as breaks down a few complex ideas into simple ones—by looking at water quality in hydroponic systems…

Hydroponics is the soilless growth of plants by immersing the roots in a nutrient solution. This nutrient solution can be administered in an open system (a one-time flushing of the roots) or a closed system (where the solution is re-circulated repeatedly). For hydroponic growers, the relationship between roots and shoots is paramount.

Roots need carbohydrates produced by the leaves for growth. Likewise, leaves depend on the roots for water (maintaining turgor pressure) and nutrients for assisting photosynthesis and various other biological processes. Since these plants are growing mostly in an aqueous environment, monitoring the water quality is integral for obtaining positive results. Just as water quality is important to aquarium enthusiasts, so too should hydroponic growers have knowledge of certain parameters. Those parameters include temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), electrical conductivity (EC) and hardness and alkalinity. While most of these parameters do not need to be monitored on a weekly basis, all are important in regard to initial set-up. First, let’s discuss the role of temperature on plant growth.

Temperature impacts plant growth directly through kinetics. Lower temperatures will reduce absorption of water/ions by the roots while increased temperatures will have the opposite effect. In addition, temperature has a direct impact on cellular respiration and DO in water. For example, if the temperature increased from 68oF to 86oF, the saturation of DO decreases by 17 per cent while the rate of oxygen (O2) consumption via cellular respiration doubles. Therefore as temperature increases, the level of DO decreases and the demand for oxygen increases. As a general guideline, optimal temperature between 68oF and 86oF will facilitate ideal plant growth in hydroponic systems. Now let’s review the connection of temperature and DO in water.

Arguably, one of the most important albeit sometimes overlooked water quality parameters in hydroponic systems is dissolved oxygen. Without adequate levels of oxygen, cellular respiration of root cells is reduced or ceases entirely. This reduction in oxygen leads to decreased water/ion absorption, which causes nutrient deficiencies and decreased growth. In anaerobic conditions, root necrosis (death) can occur, leading to total loss of the plant. Dissolved oxygen is less problematic in open systems than closed systems because of the constant inundation of water to the roots. As temperature increases, there is a decrease in the saturation of dissolved oxygen in water coupled with an increase in metabolic oxygen demand. The dissolved oxygen saturation point for temperatures of 68oF to 86oF is 8.84 and 7.53 ppm, respectively. When looking at water sources, inherent dissolved oxygen can range from 20 to 40 per cent saturation; however, levels below 60 per cent saturation can lead to decreased vigor. Thus mechanical mixing of water or adding O2 via air pumps might be a necessary step to maximize plant growth.

As for the impact of pH on nutrient availability, the pH of water directly affects the availability of essential elements. Water and nutrient solutions are best kept slightly acidic, with a value of 6 to 6.5—though it is acceptable to maintain pH between 5 to 7. Extremes of pH should be avoided. If the solution is too acidic (below 5) then toxicity might occur due to excessive absorption. If the solution is too basic (above 8) then nutrient deficiencies may occur due to precipitation of certain micronutrients.

Another method of monitoring nutrient content is with TDS. Total dissolved solids is the measure of both organic (proteins, carbohydrates, etc) and inorganic (most of the nutrients) content of water. Like many of the parameters discussed, extreme values of TDS should be avoided. TDS should not exceed 1,400 ppm with an acceptable range between 200 and 500 ppm. Levels below 100 ppm could indicate reduced nutrient availability and additional “fertilizer” is required.

Electrical conductivity (EC) is the main way of estimating nutrient content. Electrical conductivity provides information pertaining to the concentration of ions and/or salt content in solution. For general purposes your water source should have an EC value below 1 dS/m. Water that is hard (contains Mg2+ and Ca2+) will have a larger EC value than soft water. Once you add nutrients (fertilizer) to the water, the EC value should be maintained above 1 dS/m and below 3 dS/m depending on the salts used. Ideal EC values of the nutrient solution should be between 1.5 and 2 dS/m. Carefully monitor water levels as quick evaporation can lead to salt toxicity due to a concentrating effect.

Finally, let’s look at the role of hardness and alkalinity on water sources used in hydroponics. Hardness and alkalinity are important factors when evaluating ideal water sources. Hardness measures the amount of calcium and magnesium ions dissolved in water. Water that has a high amount of Ca2+ and Mg2+ (>61 ppm) is said to be hard while water that contains low or no amounts (< 60 ppm) is soft. It is the author’s opinion that there is not an ideal hardness, but you have to take into account the levels of magnesium and calcium in your source water when determining your nutrient solution. Indeed, the water source may contain the necessary amount of both ions so that supplementation is not necessary.

Alkalinity measures the acid neutralizing ability of the water. A high alkalinity (above 100 ppm, if calculations are based on mg/L of CaCO3) will be very resistant to changes in the pH while a low alkalinity or low buffering capacity of water can lead to dramatic swings in pH. The ideal level of alkalinity also depends on the grower. For some, the ability to adjust the pH quickly and easily is more ideal than the alternative. This is especially the case when reverse osmosis filtration is used to create soft water in hard water areas. Avoid using ion exchange resins (water softeners) as these units replace Ca2+ and Mg2+ with sodium (Na+) often at concentrations that are detrimental to plants.

Hydroponics is a dynamic method for growing plants and hopefully this article has provided helpful guidelines and useful information, whether you are novice or an expert in hydroponics. Many of these recommendations are based on general principles and, as such, are not applicable to every plant. Always research the plant of interest, as well as your water source, prior to starting up a hydroponic system.

References Cited:

1.  J.B. Jones Jr.  Hydroponics:  A Practical Guide for the Soilless Grower.  St. Lucie Press, 1997.

2.  Savvas, D., and H. Passam.  Hydroponic Production of Vegetables and Ornamentals.  Embryo Publications, 2002.

3.  USGS Website on Water Hardness and Alkalinity.


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SteadyGROWpro Introduces rootPRO

SteadyGROWpro is rolling out rootPRO, an all-in-one vegetative propagation kit which allows gardeners to clone their favorite plants.

RootPRO is an easy-to-use kit that comes with steadyGROWpro soilless media plugs and a mini domed greenhouse. Made in the USA, rootPRO has space to stick 15 cuttings in each kit.

“Customers have been asking for an easy-to-use, all-in-one kit to clone plants without the mess, bacteria and insects which often comes with soil and soil mixes,” explains Kelvin Frye, National Sales Manager. “With rootPRO, just take a cutting from your plant, stick it in our plug media and watch it grow.”


SteadyGROWpro is an inert, sterile product that optimizes plant growth. Used by home and greenhouse gardeners, professional gardeners, educators and hydroponic growers, steadyGROWpro is eco-friendly and can be reduced from its original form to a mass of less than 11 percent or incinerated for bio-mass purposes. SteadyGROWpro is manufactured by Syndicate Sales Inc., a 60-year staple in the international floral industry that manufactures, imports and distributes more than 1,500 floral-related items in the U.S. and overseas. For more information, visit .

SteadyGROWpro is manufactured by Syndicate Sales Inc.

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SteadyGROWpro Presents Workshop to Florida Agriculture Teachers

Todd Trobaugh, education specialist for steadyGROWpro, was invited by the Miami-Dade School System and Florida Agriculture in the Classroom to make presentations to Florida teachers wishing to improve agriculture education in pre-K through eighth-grade curriculums.


Trobaugh demonstrated life science lesson plans for teachers to use in their classrooms. Using steadyGROWpro soilless media, teachers were instructed on what plants need to survive and the factors that allow for seed germination, all of which can be utilized as variables in a scientific inquiry.

Available online, the free lesson plans, developed by steadyGROWpro, allow teachers to meet curricular standards in the instruction of life science lessons and allow students to receive hands-on experience with growing plants right in the classroom with no mess, no bacteria and no insects.

For more information about steadyGROWpro, visit

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Grow Knowledge Online with Free steadyGROWpro Lesson Plans

Science educators looking for unique lesson plans that fit into a life science curriculum are getting a boost in their efforts to teach plant-related sciences from steadyGROWpro, which now offers free lesson plans on their website.

The lesson plans utilize the company’s unique soilless growing media and allow students to get hands-on experience with growing plants right in the classroom with no mess, no bacteria and no insects.

Visit to download the free lesson plans, available as a PDF.

SteadyGROWpro currently has three lessons available, with plans to roll out more in the coming months. One on cold stratification shows the many variables involved in seed germination, especially as it relates to temperature and moisture. Another lesson plan compares germination performance in soilless media versus manufactured potting mixes. A third lesson plan highlights aquaponics, which combines the fields of hydroponics and aquaculture with a heavy dose of science.

SteadyGROWpro is manufactured by Syndicate Sales Inc.


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