Plants grown in soil can get some essential nutrients from the earth, but in a hydroponic system, it’s up to you to make sure everything they need is in the hydroponic mixture of nutrients. There are 2 basic methods to providing nutrients to plants in hydroponic growing.
You can either purchase premixed nutrients, or you can mix your own. Premixed nutrients provide everything your plant will need. Mixing your own nutrients is both more economical and allows for a wider range of flexibility.
What you need to know before mixing nutrients for hydroponics
There are many factors to consider when it comes to mixing nutrients for hydroponics systems. One of the most important factors is the type of plants you intend to grow, as different plants have different nutrient requirements.
Additionally, the age and size of your plants are also important considerations, as these can influence how much fertilizer you need and whether or not you should add extra minerals or micronutrients. Another important factor is the pH level of your growing medium, as this will impact how well certain nutrients are absorbed by your plants.
Finally, you also need to take into account the growth stage of your plants, as this can affect their relative needs for various elements during different phases of development.
Overall, there are a lot of things to keep in mind when it comes to mixing hydroponic nutrients, but if you take the time to consider all of these factors, you can create an effective and healthy growing environment.
Know your water – WHY IS pH IMPORTANT?
For hydroponics, the pH of water is important because it decides how easily the nutrients in the water will be available to the plants. If the pH is too high or too low, then the nutrients might not dissolve well and the plants will not get to use them. Usually, for most plants, the ideal pH range for hydroponics water is between 5.5 and 6.5. Although if it’s a bit off from that, between 5.0 and 7.5, the plant can still survive.
Checking and adjusting the pH of plants grown hydroponically is easy. You can use several methods to test the pH of the nutrient solution in your hydroponic system:
Using a digital meter
The best way to check pH levels is by using a digital meter. The most popular type of pH meter for hobby gardeners is the digital pen. This type of pH meter is easy to use. You simply dip the electrode into the nutrient solution for a few moments and the pH value is displayed on an LCD screen. However, they need to be taken care of properly, or they will stop working.
Liquid pH test
Liquid pH test kits are a popular way to check pH for hobby gardeners. These kits work by adding a few drops of dye to a small amount of the nutrient solution and then comparing the color of the resulting liquid with a color chart. They are more expensive than paper test strips, but they are more accurate.
Paper test strips
Paper test strips are one of the most inexpensive ways to test pH. The dye on these strips changes color when it is dipped into the nutrient solution.
Due to the fact that pH meters have a reputation of breaking down without warning it is a good idea to keep an emergency backup for checking pH (paper test strips or a liquid pH test kit), just in case.
There are several chemicals used by the hobby gardener to adjust pH:
- Phosphoric acid (to lower pH) and potassium hydroxide (to raise pH). Both of these chemicals are relatively safe, although they can cause burns and should never come in contact with the eyes.
- Nitric acid and sulfuric acid can be used to lower pH but are much more dangerous than phosphoric acid.
Always add the nutrients to the water before checking and adjusting the pH of your solution. The fertilizer will usually lower the pH of the water due to its chemical makeup. After adding nutrient and mixing the solution, check the pH using whatever method you chose.
For hydroponic systems, there are a variety of options available, each with different benefits and drawbacks depending on your particular needs. Your crops will be claiming oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon from the water and air around them. For the most part, you don’t need to worry about those three.The rest of the primary nutrients are: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, or N-P-K for short. Those will be provided in the NPK fertilizer you use.
- Nitrogen helps to promote leafy green growth and aids in the production of sugars and starches.
- Phosphorus is responsible for healthy root development and helps to encourage early blooms. Potassium is responsible for overall plant health and disease resistance.
- Other key nutrients to consider include micronutrients such as calcium, sulfur, iron, manganese, cobalt, magnesium, sodium, boron.
- The secondary nutrients are:
Every plant needs a specific formula for their specific age and if it is vegetative state or flora. For examples, leaves need nitrogen, flowers need potassium, etc. You must learn the principles of each stage’s needs.
The right equipment for a nutrient mixing
- A measuring cup
- A container to mix the solution in (a 2-liter soda bottle works well)
- Nutrient powder or liquid concentrate
- A funnel (optional)
Check your water temperature
The optimal temperature for water for mixing nutrients for hydroponics is around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range provides the best plant growth, root development, and nutrient uptake.
- Water that is too cold can stunt plant growth and cause nutrient deficiencies.
- Water that is too hot can damage roots and lead to leaf scorch.
In general, it is best to err on the side of cooler water, as plants can tolerate cooler temperatures more easily than they can tolerate warmer temperatures. If using chlorinated tap water, fill the reservoir or mixing bin and let the water sit for a day to dissipate the chlorine.
Mixing nutrients instructions
- Fill the container you are using with water to the desired amount. For example, if you are planning on filling a 2-liter soda bottle, measure out 2 liters of water and pour it into the container.
- Measure out the same amount of nutrient powder that you used for the water. If you are using a liquid concentrate instead of powder, follow the directions on the bottle for the amount to use.
- Pour the nutrient powder or liquid concentrate into the container of water.
- Screw the lid on tightly and shake well until the powder is completely dissolved.
- If you are using a funnel, pour the solution into your hydroponic system. If you are not using a funnel, carefully pour the solution around the roots of your plants.
- Repeat this process every time you need to mix a new batch of nutrient solution.
How long can I store the nutrient solution?
That depends on the type of nutrients you have used, but as a general guide, you should only mix enough nutrient solution that you will need for the next 2 weeks. Growing hydroponically means the plants are receiving all their nutrition through this solution being delivered to them at regular intervals, so you can’t feed your plants with a jar full of nutrient solution for a long time, unless for seedlings. An established plant could use liters of nutrient solution every day, depending on its size and how much light it is being grown under.
With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to create custom solutions for any plant and achieve amazing results in your hydroponic garden.