What Every Grower Must Know About Hydroponic Nutrient Solution

Outdoor plant growers usually face problems related to season, climates, and challenges of the growing environment. With a hydroponic garden, you don’t need 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! 

This article will discuss all you need to know about nutrient solutions for indoor growing. 

What plants need to grow?

Plants need nutrients to grow. These nutrients are typically supplied by the soil in which they are grown. In hydroponics, since plants are not grown in soil, they need to be supplied with nutrients directly through the water solution. 

Plant life also needs carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. This is obtained from water absorbed by the root and carbon dioxide absorbed by the leaves.

What is in a hydroponic nutrient solution?

The hydroponic solution is defined as the fluid that provides mineral nutrient mix for plant growth. It is commonly made by mixing the nutrient powder with water.

There are three types of nutrients:

  • Macro-nutrients
  • Micro-nutrients
  • Trace-nutrients

Macro-nutrients are the elements needed in large amounts, while micro-and trace nutrients are required in small quantities.

Nutrient solutions can be made from scratch using chemical nutrients or organic matter such as manure or compost. However, using a commercial nutrient solution is easier to provide the nutrient composition with the exact amount of balanced nutrients.

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 in air and water.

The same applies to hydroponics. The Hydroponics solution needs to contain micronutrients and macronutrients for your plants’ survival. 

Macro Nutrients

Plants need Macronutrient supply in substantial quantities. They include:

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is one of the most essential nutrients for plants to thrive. It supports:

  • 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, it is usually included as one of the primary nutrients in soil fertilizers and nutrient solutions. 

Plants with nitrogen deficiency are noticeable in the yellowish color of their leaves.

Plants 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 most of the plant’s energy is used to produce foliage. 

Phosphorus (P)

Just as nitrogen is critical for initial growth, phosphorus is also vital in its genetic makeup. Phosphorus is an essential element in photosynthesis, respiration, cell division, and energy storage and transfer. It is mostly required during the blooming and fruiting stage.

Phosphorus-deficient plants have purplish or reddish leaves because of the reduced ability to produce chlorophyll. The new leaves are usually small, and the plant’s growth is stunted.

Excess phosphorus prevents the absorption of essential elements like iron, copper, calcium, and magnesium, making their excess supply symptoms visible.

Potassium (K)

Potassium or commonly known as “potash” is essential for plants to perform various metabolic activities, including photosynthesis and water regulation. Potassium is also involved in the transportation of nutrients within the plant. 

Deficient potassium plants have yellow spots on their leaves, and their edges start to curl upwards. The plant growth is also stunted. Excess potassium blocks the uptake of essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is one of the primary nutrients in chlorophyll production. It is also involved in photosynthesis, enzyme activation, and cell wall strength.

The magnesium deficiency shows yellowing between the leaf’s veins while the veins remain green. The leaves eventually die and fall off if the magnesium content is not replenished. Excess magnesium does not usually show any symptoms on the plant.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is involved in various plant processes, including cell division, metabolism, and the movement of nutrients within the plant. It is also vital for developing new roots, flowers, and fruits.

The calcium deficiency first appears as spots or blotches on the leaves. The tissue between the veins turns yellow and eventually brown and dies. The new leaves are usually deform, and the plant’s growth is stunted. Excess calcium prevents the uptake of other essential nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium.

Sulfur (S)

Sulfur is an essential element in the production of chlorophyll and enzymes. It is also involved in the formation of proteins and vitamins.

Deficient sulfur plants have yellowish leaves, and their growth is stunted. The plant’s new leaves are usually small, and the veins remain green. Excess sulfur does not usually show any symptoms on the plant.

Micro Nutrients 

While micronutrients play a crucial role in growth and development, they are only needed in minimal quantities.

Zinc

Zinc plays a decent role in forming enzymes like chlorophyll and is vital for nitrogen metabolism. 

Boron

Boron combines with calcium to synthesize the cell membrane’s structure and function. In addition, they also help during pollination and seed formation. 

Iron

Enzymes linked with energy production usually contain iron. They also help in photosynthesis and chlorophyll formation. 

Manganese (Mn)

Stimulate the growth process while helping with oxygen formation during photosynthesis. 

How to Choose Hydroponic nutrient solution?

When it comes to hydroponic gardening, the solution is one of the most critical factors for success. But with all the different products on the market, it can be tough to choose the right one for your plants.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a hydroponic nutrient solution:

  • the plant’s stage of growth
  • the type of hydroponic system you are using
  • the plants you are growing
  • the pH of your water

The plant’s stage of growth is an essential factor to consider when choosing a nutrient solution because different solutions are formulated for different stages. For example, a nutrient solution for seedlings will be different than one for mature plants.

The type of hydroponic system you are using is also an important factor. Different hydroponic systems require different solutions, so it’s important to choose one that is compatible with your system.

The plants you are growing will also dictate what type of nutrient solution you need. Different plants have different nutrient requirements, so it’s important to choose a solution that is formulated for the plants you are growing.

The pH of your water is also an important factor to consider when choosing a hydroponic nutrient solution. The ideal pH for hydroponic solutions is between 5.5 and 6.5. If your water is outside of this range, it can cause nutrient absorption and plant growth problems.

Types of hydroponic nutrient solution

There are two main types of hydroponic nutrient solutions: synthetic and organic.

Synthetic solutions are made with chemical fertilizers. They are typically more concentrated than organic solutions and can be tailored to specific plant requirements. Synthetic solutions are also generally less expensive than organic solutions.

Organic solutions are made with natural ingredients like fish emulsion, kelp meal, and compost tea. They are typically less concentrated than synthetic solutions and can be more challenging to find. Organic solutions are also generally more expensive than synthetic solutions.

The type of hydroponic solution you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and the specific needs of your plants.

Another set of solutions refers to whether they are liquid or powered.

A liquid solution is the most popular type of hydroponic solution and can be easily found in stores. The advantage of using a liquid solution is that it is easy to use and can be quickly absorbed by plants. However, it can be more expensive than other types of hydroponic solutions.

A Powdered solution is a dry form of a hydroponic solution that must be mixed with water before use. The advantage of using a powdered solution is that it is typically less expensive than other types of hydroponic solutions. However, it can be more challenging to use and may not be as quickly absorbed by plants.

Electrical Conductivity Of Hydroponic Nutrients

Hydroponic solutions’ electrical conductivity (EC) measures the amount of dissolved solids in the solution. The EC is important because it indicates how much nutrient solution your plants are getting.

You can measure the EC of your hydroponic solution with an electrical conductivity meter. The ideal EC for hydroponic solutions is between 1.5 and 2.5 mMhos.

If the EC of your hydroponic solution is too high, it can lead to nutrient burn, which is when plants are damaged by too much nutrients.

If the EC is too low, your plants will not get enough nutrients and may experience nutrient deficiencies.

Therefore, you should test your nutrient solution’s EC regularly and adjust it as needed.

How to make a hydroponic nutrient solution?

Preparing nutrient solutions at home is possible, but it requires some plant nutrition and chemistry knowledge.

To make a hydroponic nutrient solution, you must mix water, nutrients, and a pH adjuster. The specific ingredients and proportions you use will depend on the type of plants you are growing and their specific needs.

It is essential to be precise when measuring the ingredients for your hydroponic solution. If you do not use the correct proportions, your plants may experience nutrient deficiencies or other problems.

You will need a few materials to prepare the mix:

  • Large mixing container
  • A dedicated measuring cup
  • A pH test kit
  • A water filter (if your tap water is not suitable for plants)
  • The hydroponic nutrients of your choice
  • A pH adjuster

Once you have gathered all the necessary materials, you can begin preparing the hydroponic solution.

  1. Begin by filtering the water you will be using. This is important because tap water often contains chemicals that can harm plants.
  2. Next, measure out the hydroponic nutrients you will be using. It is important to follow the instructions on the nutrient label carefully.
  3. Add the hydroponic nutrients to the water and stir until they are fully dissolved.
  4. Use a pH test kit to test the pH of the hydroponic solution. The ideal pH for hydroponic solutions is between 5.5 and 6.5.
  5. If the pH of the hydroponic solution is not within this range, add a pH adjuster until it is.
  6. Test the EC of the solution and adjust as needed until they are within the ideal range.

It is important to note that hydroponic solutions should be prepared fresh and used within a few days. After that, they will start to break down and become less effective.

If you’re a beginner, it’s better to buy as it will save you from the hassles of experimenting and creating different nutrient recipes that you have little to no experience of. 

How do you add nutrients to hydroponics?

Adding hydroponic nutrients is almost like adding chemistry ingredients to a chemical experiment. You must be very careful while measuring the hydroponic nutrients, as a little imbalance can create big problems.

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 gardner 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.

Adding hydroponics nutrients to your tank reservoir should not be a quick process. Depending on the hydroponic system you are using, slowly pour the nutrient-rich water into the reservoir over a period of several hours.

This allows your plants to get used to the new hydroponic solution and prevents them from being shocked by the sudden change.

Some frequently asked questions answered:

We try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. 

What does the NPK ratio mean? 

The NPK ratio is the percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) in a hydroponic fertilizer solution. For example, an NPK ratio of 2:4:6 would be 2% Nitrogen, 4% Phosphorus, and 6% Potassium.

The hydroponic fertilizer you use should have an NPK ratio that is suitable for the plants you are growing. For example, hydroponic tomato plants need a lot of potassium to produce fruit, so a hydroponic fertilizer with a high potassium content would be ideal.

What is the difference between hydroponic nutrients and regular plant food? 

Hydroponic nutrients are specially formulated for plants that are grown without soil. They contain all the essential elements that plants need to grow, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Regular plant food is not as concentrated as hydroponic nutrients and is not designed for plants that are grown without soil.

Can I use hydroponics solution in soils?

No, hydroponic solutions are too strong for soil and will burn your plants. The reason is that hydroponic solutions have a much higher concentration of nutrients than soil does.

Do I need to add hydroponics micronutrients?

Yes, hydroponic plants need micronutrients just like soil plants do. Micronutrients are essential for plant health, but they are only needed in small quantities.

You can find hydroponic micronutrient products at your local hydroponic store or online.

What nutrients are enough to start hydroponics?

To run your first hydroponic system successfully, you will need a solution that contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Magnesium.

Wrapping up

Hydroponic farming is fun and effective, but only if you have the right hydroponic nutrient solution. By following our nutrient solution guide, you will be on your way to a bountiful harvest.

Just remember to always test the pH and EC of your hydroponic solutions and to add nutrients slowly to avoid shocking your plants.

We hope you enjoyed our hydroponic nutrient solution guide. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Happy gardening!

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