With an indoor hydroponic garden, it can be a lot of work keeping your plants in great shape all the time. One piece of caring for plants under a hydroponic system is providing them with quality hydroponic nutrition. By doing this, you give them the best kind of care for all their needs, and they give you an excellent yield.
Nutrient solutions are like the hydroponic version of fertilizers used for soil-based growing. Thus, hydroponic nutrition solutions provide all the nutrition plants need for optimal growth. The process involves the roots having constant contact with the nutrient mixture, using various, well-designed hydroponic systems.
What Hydroponic Nutrition Do Plants Need to Grow?
There are a variety of nutrients needed for plants to grow and thrive. These nutrients are often categorized as follows:
Macronutrients: Oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), and carbon (C)
Secondary macronutrients: Magnesium (Mg), nitrogen (N), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), and potassium (K)
Micronutrients: Zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), boron (B), manganese (Mn)
Macronutrients are the most well-known nutrients plants need. And they are all gathered from air and water. However, the secondary macronutrients are the ones that plants need to absorb in large quantities. Let’s take a closer look at each of them. Then we’ll examine the micronutrients.
Magnesium is considered one of the most vital nutrients for plants. It helps with the plant’s photosynthesis process due to its contribution to help produce chlorophyll. Yellowing of the leaves is one warning sign a plant has a magnesium deficiency.
Nitrogen is another essential nutrient for any plant’s healthy growth. Without nitrogen, the plant cannot grow to its full potential. Although this nutrient is necessary, it’s best to provide it in moderation. A plant’s excessive nitrogen intake can affect or stop its growth. Moreover, it can affect the plant’s ability to bear fruits or vegetables.
Calcium is there to establish the plant’s overall structure. If there’s any calcium deficiency present, you’ll notice how the leaves won’t fully grow, and then they’ll wilt. Calcium gets distributed within the plant, with the highest amount towards the roots.
Phosphorus is all about the roots. In short, it helps with the early stages of a plant’s life by ensuring the seeds form normally and the roots are healthy. Phosphorus deficiency can lead to leaves turning red or brown, along with poor growth.
Sulfur is another crucial component for the production of chlorophyll, a green pigment required for photosynthesis. It is also the nutrient responsible for how your fruits and vegetables taste. Sulfur deficiency can result in yellowing of the leaves and slow growth.
Potassium is a plant nutrient that plays many roles. It is crucial, starting from the first stages of growth up to the harvest. Additionally, it helps produce adenosine triphosphate, which is the primary contributor to the plant’s energy. Lastly, calcium helps make sure the fruits and vegetables are growing the way they should be. You might have seen leaves that are curved and shrinking. That’s often the work of a potassium deficiency.
Zinc (Zn): Contributes to producing chlorophyll and nitrogen metabolism
Iron (Fe): Component for photosynthesis and responsible for providing energy-releasing enzymes
Copper (Cu): Helps with activating enzymes for both photosynthesis and oxygen distribution
Boron (B): Along with calcium, it helps form a plant’s cell wall
Manganese (Mn): Forms oxygen to assist with growth and photosynthesis
Hydroponic Nutrition: The Most Common Types
Hydroponic nutrient solutions come in two forms: liquid and powdered. The liquid variety is the more popular of the two for various reasons. First, it’s much easier to use than the powder type, which does not immediately dissolve in water. Secondly, the liquid form comes with instructions about the proper ratio of the nutrient and water.
Another reason why powdered hydroponic nutrients are less popular has to do with pH levels. Unlike the liquid form, powdered types don’t automatically adjust the pH levels for you, which is a crucial part of any hydroponic system.
If you’re not a fan of either option, there is a third choice: you can make your own. However, this is not ideal for beginners. So, we recommend starting with buying ready-made nutrients first. Once you’re comfortable with hydroponic gardening, though, give the DIY route a try.
Making Your Own Hydroponic Nutrition Formulas
In making your own nutrient solution, you have two- or three-part options. The mixture that you create will depend on the following factors:
- The type of plants
- The current life stage of the plants
- Do they bear fruit or vegetables?
- What is the current outdoor condition (weather, season, etc.)?
Fortunately, if you decided to make a two- or three-part solution, you can easily purchase the proper hydroponic nutrition ingredients. For the three-part nutrient mix, following are the three essential components you need:
- NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) Mix
- Agricultural-grade Epsom Salt (Avoid the scented ones)
- Calcium Nitrate Intended for Plants
Other items you’ll need:
- pH Testing Kit
- Clean Water
- Mixing Spatula / Wooden Spoon
As for the oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, your plants will get those from the hydroponic system itself. Moreover, if you’re worried about the quantity, there are instructions on the packages to help you avoid making mistakes.
Finally, give some careful thought to your hydroponic plants’ nutrients. If you’re planning on mixing your own solution, it’s best to do your homework to avoid damaging your plants. And, as mentioned previously, it’s best for those who are just starting to try premade solutions first before making their own.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hydroponic Nutrition
NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) Mix, Epsom Salt (unscented), and Calcium Nitrate.
Yes, you can. We’ve provided some guidance on this above.
Macronutrients, secondary macronutrients, and micronutrients.
How many nutrients does a plant need to survive, and do they get them from a nutrient solution mix?
The number is from 13 to 16 nutrients, depending on a variety of factors. And yes, nutrient solutions and hydroponic systems make sure to provide every single thing for maximum growth.