You have a hydroponic system at home but don’t have complete knowledge about hydroponic nutrients. Your plants grow weak and do not produce seeds and buds
This is the situation I had faced years ago when I was new to hydroponics. But don’t worry I am here to help you. In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about hydroponic nutrients.
After reading this post you will be able to prepare your own hydroponic nutrient solution. You can handle various issues regarding nutrient deficiencies and many more.
It is easy to fertilize a plant grown in soil than in the hydroponic system.
This is your comprehensive guide to hydroponic nutrients and I am going to start it from basics and then move to the advanced stuff.
What are hydroponics nutrients?
In Hydroponics you grow plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. This means that the nutrients that are naturally present in the soil are not available for the hydroponic plants.
The only way hydroponic plants can get these nutrients is through the nutrient-rich water solution. So, it is highly important to understand the function of each nutrient so that you can give your plants a balanced mixture of nutrients
Hydroponic nutrients are different from other fertilizers. You cannot use fertilizer solutions made for plants growing in soil in your hydroponic system. Because plants need macro and micronutrients along with trace elements. Fertile soil naturally has these micronutrients with trace elements. So, the fertilizers made for plants growing in soil do not contain these essential nutrients.
When growing plants in hydroponics, you need to give your plants everything they need to grow. Otherwise, your plants will not survive and you end up with the total loss of plants.
Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and potassium are the three main components that every plant needs to grow. These are called macronutrients because they required in high quantity. Whereas micronutrients like copper, boron, magnesium are required in low quantity.
On every bottle of fertilizer, you will see a ratio like 3-5-8 this indicates that 3 % nitrogen, 5% phosphorous and 8% potassium is present in the bottle. This NPK ratio is mentioned in the same order on each fertilizer bottle.
What you need to feed your plants to get more yield?
You need to give your plants a combination of perfect nutrients that helps them to develop roots and structure.
The health and yield of a plant are depending upon its root system. If your plant has a strong functional rooting system your plant grows strong and produces a high yield.
They need water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, light, and many other nutrients to grow (described below).
They need a different mixture of nutrients at different stages of growth. Because in initial stage plants produce roots, stems, and leaves for this they need different composition of nutrients (high nitrogen). Once they stop growing, they start to producing yield and for higher yield, they need a nutrient mixture that helps them to produce a good amount of yield (Low N and high PK).
ESSENTIAL MACRONUTRIENTS OR MAIN NUTRIENTS FOR HYDROPONICS
Nitrogen is the most essential ingredient that plants need the most in initial growth stages. Always supply your plant high dosage of nitrogen until it develops healthy stems, leaves and stops growing (vertically and horizontally).
Nitrogen is the most active substance in the younger plants that are developing roots and leaves.
Nitrogen-deficient plants look unhealthy. Their old leaves became yellow in color and new leaves look dull and weak. In this condition immediately add nitrogen in the nutrient solution and make a balanced diet for your plant. do not forget to maintain the right pH level of the solution after adding a high amount of nitrogen
If you want your plants to produce a good amount of seeds and flowers, give them phosphorous in sufficient quantity. Phosphorous acts as a transport medium, it delivers the energy (carbohydrates) to buds and flowers of the plant. Once they get a sufficient amount of energy, they grow strong, healthy and you get a high yield.
When your plants develop limited and weak flowers this indicates that they are deficient in phosphorous. Also, you will see the discoloration of leaves. Some plant naturally haves small size dark green leaves this is normal no need to worry in this case. But if the leaves have red or brown discoloration this means low phosphorous.
Potassium is a good source of energy for the plants. It also regulates the production of chlorophyll present in leaves. High production of chlorophyll is required to make a high amount of energy which is required when plants produce seeds and buds.
Plants need potassium at every stage of their growth especially in the season of developing fruits.
Your plant is potassium deficient if it is not producing fruits and the leaves are curled from the tips with brownish discoloration.
Below are the Essential Micronutrients for plants
Calcium is required to make strong cell walls. If your plant has calcium deficiency it cannot produce beautiful leaves. So, make sure your fertilizer formula has sufficient calcium in it. High humidity, extreme cold weather affects the calcium uptake of plant this also makes plants calcium deficient. You observe weak leaves and fruit rot, especially in calcium-deficient tomatoes.
Magnesium is required for perfect photosynthesis. If it is absent in the nutrient solution plants became unable to produce the required amount of energy from photosynthesis. Chlorophyll cannot absorb light energy if Mg is not present in an adequate amount. Mg is also required for many metabolism activities like Carbohydrate production and stabilization of cell walls.
If you want beautiful green color leaves than you should give your plants a good amount of Iron. Plants that are deficient in IRON does not produce greener and vibrant leaves. Do not use separate Iron fertilizer for your plants. Just make sure your existing bottle of fertilizer has Iron in it. If Iron is not present change it and move to some other good brands.
This trace element is required in very low quantities. But it is responsible for the division of cells. Boron deficiency leads to improper division cell membranes and in some cases death of buds.
Sulfur, Copper, zinc, etc are called trace elements these are required in a limited amount and almost every bottle of fertilizer has these nutrients in enough amount. So, you do not need to worry about them. If you are using the branded fertilizers your plants will not get nutrient deficient at any stage of growth.
Types of hydroponic nutrients in the market
You can choose hydroponics nutrients in 3 types
1. The pre-mixed nutrient solution also called ready to use fertilizer
2. 2- or 3-part solution, you mix them and make nutrient solution according to your plant type
3. Make your hydroponic nutrient mixture (recommended for professional growers)
For beginners, I would recommend using pre-mixed nutrient solutions. Once you get enough experience you can make your nutrient mixture at home. Of course, making nutrient solution at home is cheap and give you full control over the plant nutrient as well as plant growth.
For home growers, I would recommend using 2- or 3-part hydroponic nutrients. This is the best way to grow healthy plants and preparing nutrients by mixing different nutrients is an easy process.
You should prepare nutrients according to your Plant type, Plant growth, weather conditions, the temperature of grow room and intensity of light.
On the other hand, if you choose pre-mixed nutrients, always choose those that are specially made for hydroponics. Because the ready to use nutrients made for soil-grown plants do not contain trace elements as well as micronutrients. Because the soil has all these nutrients in it and plants can get enough of them from the soil directly.
But in hydroponics, you need to give your plants every single trace element that is essential for plant growth.
Secondly, you need to use liquid nutrients in hydroponics. The reason is liquid fertilizers are easy to dissolve in water and roots can easily absorb them through pores in them.