Plants grown hydroponically, rely on a hydroponic nutrient solution to flourish. Providing the required nutrients for plants grown in the hydro environment is far more complicated than for plants cultivated in soil. However, the nice thing about hydroponic nutrient solution is that you can easily tailor them to provide exactly what your plants need during every stage of growth. You can opt to either use a pre-mixed solution or you can mix your own.
Understanding Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
Soil contains a bevy of natural ingredients in varying ratios that plants utilize. Some soil is rich with organic matter and brimming with fertilizer, but others lack any significant vitamins or minerals. Hydroponically grown plants do not have the benefit of soil so you must provide them with their needed nutrients.
You cannot use off-the-shelf fertilizer solutions that are formulated for plants grown in soil. Instead, you must pick or mix a hydroponic nutrient solution. Soil naturally contains trace nutrients, but you’ll need a solution that provides these crucial necessities when hydroponically farming. With hydroponic gardening, you must provide everything that your crop needs to grow which it would naturally find in the soil or the plants will fail to flourish.
Hydroponic nutrient solution are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients. Every plant requires the following:
Depending on the plants you grow, the ratios needed for each will vary. If you purchase a fertilizer product then you will see that it lists the varying percentages of NPK on the label. This will help you pick exactly what your plants need to thrive. If you see a fertilizer that says NPK 7:3:6 then it means that it contains seven percent nitrogen, three percent phosphorus, and six percent potassium. In addition, fertilizers contain micronutrients, chelating agents, and water that all work together.
Nutrients for Plants
The various types of nutrients play different roles in the lifecycle of plants. Some plants need greater percentages and others less depending on the stage of growth. When using a hydroponic nutrient solution, you’ll need to adjust it throughout the plant’s lifespan.
Hydroponically grown plants not only need nutrients that they obtain via their roots, but they also require oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. They obtain these from water and carbon dioxide via the leaves of the plant.
The plants also use a process known as photosynthesis to obtain solar energy from the sun which they then use to create carbohydrate molecules. The water and carbon dioxide also work to produce carbohydrates. Oxygen becomes the plant’s waste product and is then released into the environment.
All other nutrients that plants need to flourish and thrive are then obtained through the plant’s roots which is why it is crucial to use the correct hydroponic nutrient solution that the plant needs to thrive.
Hydroponic Nutrient Solution Formulas
Hydroponic nutrient solution contain varying percentages of the following:
Without a doubt, nitrogen is one of the most crucial nutrients needed to maintain healthy growth of plants. It is essential for the formation of strong stems and leaves. Young plants require the most nitrogen to produce buds and shoots. If a plant sufferers nitrogen deficiency, then it will start to display yellow leaves and the new growth will appear weak. If there is too much nitrogen, then the plant will exhibit impaired growth and be unable to produce flowers or fruit promptly.
Phosphorus is a compound used to form robust roots and guarantee flower and seed production. The plant uses it for energy transportation. Plants that lack sufficient phosphorus often have dark green leaves that are smaller or malformed. Depending on the plant variety, the leaves can also have a brown or red discoloration because of an anthocyanin deposition. You might also notice weak growth.
Plants use potassium to produce ATP, which is needed for energy and to activate the stomata located within the leaves. The stomata help the plant pull carbon dioxide. The potassium further regulates the chlorophyll found in the leaves. During fruit development, potassium is crucial.
Potassium deficiency causes chlorosis of the leaves which will take on a brown discoloration and begin to curl. Fruit will drop early from the plant. If the plant has too much potassium, then it can impact how it transports the various other nutrients like nitrogen and magnesium throughout its system.
Magnesium is considered a micronutrient that the plant uses to produce chlorophyll. If a plant lacks magnesium, then it will fail to have sufficient energy for optimum growth. A plant’s enzymes also need magnesium to function properly.
A deficiency in magnesium causes the plants leaves to appear yellow but still retains its green vein coloration.
Calcium assists the plant in building a strong structure and manufacture robust cell walls. The vascular system moves calcium slowly, so the highest concentrations are found in the roots or old growth. If there is a deficiency, then the young shoots and leaves will start to reveal the signs. You’ll see a brownish hue on the edges and tips of the foliage. If extreme, the leaves will turn completely brown and die.
Sulfur aids in the formation of root nodules along with chlorophyll. If you are growing vegetables, then the amount of sulfur will impact the taste and smell. A plant with a deficiency shows slow growth and yellow foliage. The leaves also become brittle to the touch.
Adequate iron helps keep the foliage green and vibrant. Any depletion will cause interveinal chlorosis.
Manganese is needed for photosynthesis, nitrogen processing, and respiration. It helps improve disease resistance and promotes pollen germination. A plant with an inadequate supply displays interveinal chlorosis with stunted growth. With a Hydroponic Nutrient Solution, you must factor in pH to promote successful manganese utilization. The pH cannot be over 6.5. In acidic conditions, manganese toxicity becomes a problem.
Plants need only small amounts of zinc, but it is an important micronutrient needed for protein synthesis and to promote stem elongation. A deficiency will cause leave curling, yellowing, and poor bud development.
Copper acts as a catalyst for chemical process, metabolism, and respiration. Without sufficient copper, growth becomes severely stunted. Too much will cause problems in iron and zinc uptake.
Boron is used for the formation of new cell walls and to promote cellular division. It also aids in flowering and fruit production.
Only small quantities of molybdenum are needed to help the plant produce and convert nitrogen to important amino acids. Without sufficient molybdenum, leaves become misshapen.
Creating Your Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
You can create your own hydroponic nutrient solution. However, most newbie growers are better off buying premixed solutions that are clearly labeled for each stage of the plant’s life.
pH in Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
Plants grown in a hydroponic grow system require a pH of between 5.5 to 6.3. The nutrients absorbed by the plants are always dependent on the pH level. If the level dips below 5.5 then the plant will suffer a deficiency and its absorption ability will change. When hydroponically growing plants, you’ll want to check the pH levels regularly as you provide the needed nutrient solutions.
Hydroponic nutrient solution are crucial during every stage of a hydroponically grown plant’s life. You’ll want to stay on top of exactly what your crop requires so you can enjoy a bountiful harvest. When grown hydroponically, plants tend to grow faster and are more robust.