Outdoor plant growers usually face problems related to season, climates, and challenges of the growing environment. With a hydroponic garden, you don't have to worry about the weather or soil parameters present.
Growing plants is not seasonal but an all-year activity that can be performed anytime as long as the plants are supplied with the necessary nutrients!
Plants are grown in a hydroponic nutrient solution with the required nutrients supplied in the solution.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about hydroponic nutrient solutions for indoor growing.
What plants need to grow?
Plants require more or less amount of these nutrients at different parts of their life cycle. Each nutrient plays a different role in plant health. It is helpful to think of nutrients as a team that helps your plants to grow.
Plant life also needs carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. This is obtained from water absorbed by the root and carbon dioxide absorbed by the leaves. The rest of the hydroponic nutrients plants require can be obtained from the roots.
In hydroponics, the nutrient composition should provide the exact amount of balanced nutrients.
What is in a hydroponic nutrient solution?
The hydroponic solution is defined as the fluid that provides mineral elements necessary for plant growth. It is commonly made from mixing the nutrient powder with water.
There are three types of nutrients:
Macro-nutrients are the elements needed in large amounts, while micro-and trace-nutrients are required in small quantities.
Important Macro and Micronutrients for hydroponic solution
Plants survive under three factors; moisture availability, respiration, and photosynthesis which are available in nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon present in air and water.
The same applies to hydroponics. The Hydroponics solution needs to contain micronutrients and macronutrients to your plants' survival.
Plants need Macronutrient supply in very large quantities. They include:
Nitrogen is one of the most essential nutrients for plants to thrive. They support:
- Plant's vegetative growth of the stem, leaves, and colors
- Formation of amino acids, protein, chlorophyll, and coenzymes
- More nitrogen is needed for the growing stage until the plants start to bear fruits and flowers.
Because of the urgent nitrogen needs of plants, they are usually included as one of the primary nutrients in soil fertilizers and nutrients solutions.
Plants with nitrogen deficiency are noticeable in the yellowish color of their leaves. Those with excess content are usually unnoticeable. They rarely show noticeable symptoms.
While they maintain the green and radiant color, the sign may become apparent in their reduced ability to bear flowers and fruits. That's because the majority of the plant's energy is used for producing foliage.
Just like nitrogen is critical for initial growth, phosphorus is also important when it comes to its genetic makeup.
They coordinate the aspect of cell division and tissue formation in the plant. They play a crucial role in the formation of flowers, fruits, roots, and seeds.
While the entire plant cycle will require phosphorus, the first stage of seeding, germination and flowering stage requires the most nutrients. Plants that lack phosphorus may experience stunted growth, weak roots, leaves, and flowers.
In addition, excess phosphorus are preventing the absorption of essential elements like iron, copper, calcium, and magnesium, making their excess supply symptoms visible.
Potassium is another critical nutrient that is required in large quantities for great development and reproduction.
Unlike most nutrients, it won't form any compound in the plant but instead stimulate its processes like starch formation, enzyme activation, starch formation, and even photosynthesis.
Plants with urgent needs for potassium often have noticeable yellow leaves. Excess phosphorus prevents them from interacting with important nutrients like iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Calcium is critical to the formation and development of cells. Calcium nutrient deficiencies can cause the tips and edges of the leaf to turn brown and die, while its excess can cause stunted growth in young plants.
Sulfur is a part of the 21 amino acids that is controlling protein synthesis. They help in the activation and formation of specific vitamins and enzymes.
Magnesium is an essential component of chlorophyll. It is responsible for oxygen creation through photosynthesis and often supports the rapid growth of plants.
Among all the nutrients discussed above, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus are the three most essential nutrients for growth.
While micronutrients play a crucial role in growth and development, they are only needed in minimal quantities.
Zinc plays a decent role in forming enzymes like chlorophyll and is also vital for nitrogen metabolism.
Boron combines with calcium to synthesize the cell membrane's structure and function. In addition, they also help during pollination and seed formation.
Enzymes linked with energy production usually contain iron. They also help in photosynthesis and chlorophyll formation.
Stimulate the growth process while helping with oxygen formation during photosynthesis.
How to Choose Hydroponic nutrient solution?
When it comes to choosing the right pre made nutrient solution, it's not surprising to know that you're overwhelmed with boatloads of information.
As a hydroponic grower, it's critical to have in-depth knowledge of what's going in the plant root. Any unconfirmed information may harm your plant.
So it's important to know what kind of hydroponic nutrient solution to supply it. We get it: the process can be a little daunting, but we're here to simplify it.
Check out key factors to consider:
Types of hydroponic nutrient solution
Before you figure out the types of mineral nutrient solutions to purchase, you need to understand the kind of work you're ready to put into blending your solution.
While there are several premixed fertilizers, each comes with its level of mixing and blending effort.
Liquid Nutrient Solution
While liquid fertilizers are the easiest type of fertilizers for quality hydroponics nutrients, the price could be a restraint.
The shipping cost can be a little above the average rate. But if it is within your means, then it's great.
1-part Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
The 1-part hydroponic fertilizer only has one part that can be mixed. Although this looks easy, it doesn't consider all the growth stages plants undergo before they mature.
They can also precipitate if preserved as a stock fertilizer for a long time.
Multi-Part Hydroponic Nutrients
Hydroponic fertilizer with the possible potential of a weekly mixing schedule is healthy for plants and friendly for beginner use. The Multi-Part Hydroponic Fertilizer only works by choosing needed plant nutrients, when required, and their reaction with each other.
This hydroponic fertilizer may be a little complicated for beginners. So I'll strictly have them recommended for experts.
Homemade solutions or pre made mix
Preparing nutrient solutions at home is possible without the premade fertilizer. I specifically recommend this option for plants with unique nutritional needs.
As you're going to take full control of your plant nutrient when you mix your fertilizer yourself, you should consider that you need a certain expertise level and research work.
The pre made nutrient solution options predictably allow you to focus more on the micronutrient requirements of your plant. While in the process, maintaining the already available macronutrients.
Understand your plant's requirements
Plants, especially fruits, herbs, and vegetables, are grown under unique conditions and nutritional needs. You need to keep that in mind when setting up your hydroponic system.
Once your fertilizer is ready in place, you'll need to customize your nutrients by the type of plant.
Be sure to do thorough research when you kickstart your hydroponic growing process because plants tend to thrive in different conditions.
Since you're not growing them under the soil condition, you need to emulate the environmental condition that favors the plant growth by feeding them enough nutrient solution.
This may cause you to mix different fertilizers in one solution. To prevent the hassle of combining fertilizers, try to raise plants with similar growing requirements.
Switch fertilizers for different growing stage
The bloom and the vegetative growth are the two growth stages. The vegetative stage is when the plant sprouts and is ready to mature.
As mentioned earlier, plants usually require a considerably high nitrogen and phosphorus amount at their early stage (although they are essential for all growth stages)
A mature plant enters the bloom stage. At this point, it's up to you to add the ideal nutrient for a quality harvest. I'll recommend adding the bloom stage fertilizer.
Can I make my own hydroponic nutrient solution?
While you can create a DIY nutrient mix on your own, you can also buy a nutrient solution from an online store.
If you're a beginner, it's better to buy as it will save you from the hassles of experimenting and creating different nutrients recipes that you have little to no experience of.
Most nutrient formulas usually have three ingredients listed in the percentage of their availability in the solution (usually Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and potassium).
For example, they may be listed in the ratio 10:10:10, which means that it is composed of 10% of each nutrient with the remaining 70% being water, micronutrients, and more.
Obviously, the ratio won't be the same, and this depends on a variety of criteria, including:
- The type of plant
- Growth stage
- The area with the most expected yield (it could be the root, leaf, or fruits)
- Weather, temperature, light intensity, and time of the season
If you want to choose a solution for your hydroponic grower, you may want to choose the one with hydroponic-designed nutrients.
We don't recommend those advertised as an all-purpose package for soil and hydroponics. They don't contain all the necessary nutrients requirements for hydroponics.
In addition, it's best to use 2 or 3 part liquid solutions. It is easier to work with a liquid solution than its powdered form because liquid solutions come with PH buffers and are easy to digest in water.
And you will also need the 3 parts for future use; when you want to blend different combos for plant growth.
How to mix the 3-part solution
If you want to mix the 3-part solutions, here's what to do:
- Check your plant growth stage so you can mix the 3 parts in the proper ratio.
- Read the manufacturing mixing instructions of the product you buy
- Then begin with adding water to your large mixing container.
- Add the micro part to water with a dedicated measuring cup. The micro part usually contains elements like boron, iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, and a few nitrogens.
- Then stir together
Then we move to the growth aspect, which should contain phosphate, ammonia nitrogen, magnesium, nitrate-nitrogen.
Add the hydroponic solution, which should contain potassium, sulfur, soluble magnesium, and phosphate. Then stir properly
Be sure to check the PH level of the mixture once you've had all the nutrients added to the tank.
Many times, plants may not take up all essential nutrients when the PH level falls out of the recommended ideal, which is between 5.5-6.5
In addition, be sure to check the solution's temperature. Between 64-66*F is ideal.
How do you add nutrients to hydroponics?
Adding hydroponic nutrients is almost like adding chemistry ingredients to a chemical experiment.
Different methods can affect your nutrient mix ratio and pH, including some based on mathematical calculations using several hydroponic systems formulas.
However, all our hydroponic nutrient solution tips suggest trying the simplest method first, which has proven to work effectively for most gardeners who practice hydroponics. That is dissolving the nutrients in water before adding them into your hydroponic nutrient tank reservoir.
To properly dissolve mineral or chemical nutrients into your nutrient solution, use purified water instead of tap water. Tap water impurities can change the pH levels of hydroponic hydronic nutrient solutions.
However, adding hydroponics nutrients to your tank reservoir should not be a quick process. Mineral/chemical elements can react with each other and cause a chemical reaction that decreases the effectiveness of hydroponics nutrients.
As a result, hydroponics nutrients must be added to the water slowly over several hours as hydroxylated levels reach the maximum capacity.
frequently asked questions
We try to answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
What does the NPK ratio mean?
When looking for a hydroponic solution, you'll often notice three numbers in the package label. Ideally, they are always in the format 2:4:6 (for example).
These numbers are the NPK ratio; N stands for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorus, and K for Potassium.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are the critical nutrients.
Those numbers represent their percentage of availability in the nutrient solution. In the case of our example, the nutrient contains 2% Nitrogen, 4% Phosphorus, and 6% Potassium.
Can I use hydroponics in soils?
Yes! Although they are designed for hydroponic planting, you can also use them for growth and nutrient nourishment.
Keep in mind that these solutions are created to replace the other nutrients the plant directly receives from the soil. Be careful with their use because adding hydroponic solution may double the nutrient amount, eventually destroying the plant.
What nutrients are enough to start hydroponics?
To run your first hydroponic system successfully, you will need about 200 ml of normal water fertilizers with an N-P-K level at 5-7-5 or 5-10-5. For smaller hydroponic hydronic systems, you can just use a single hydroponics nutrient solution that contains all three major hydroponic nutrients.
Hydroponic farming is fun and effective. What you need is the Hydroponic Nutrient Solution that contains the proper nutrient in ideal proportion.
The information presented in this hydroponic nutrient solution guideline should help you understand what you need to grow the most nutritious and healthiest hydroponic gardener.