Whatever kind of farming we do, you note that plant nutrients are necessary and vital for plant growth.
The normal minerals that plants use is oxygen, carbon dioxide and water that provides hydrogen, then light that is essential for photosynthesis to take place.
Apart from these minerals there are other nutrients that are needed for the plants. For hydroponics you would want these nutrients to be mixed regularly in the water.
The following are the main nutrients needed for hydroponics gardening. You will need different nutrients for different needs in the hydroponics farm.
If you do commercial farming in hydroponics, then there is a high chance that the dry fertilizer will be best for.
If you are doing small scale hydroponics gardening, then the liquid nutrients will be best for you. Hydroponics fertilizers also vary depending on what you are growing.
If you are growing vegetables or let us just say leafy vegetables, then you will use a different fertilizer from when you are growing tomatoes or strawberries.
Best nutrients for your hydroponic garden
In hydroponics garden kit you will want to use the following three combinations of nutrients for your crops:
- N-P-K mix
N-P-K is an acronym that refers to the three essential plants nutrients in hydroponics. These three components are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
These three components represent the major macro nutrients that plants need. These three components are mixed in ratios depending on whichever stage the plants are in.
- Epsom salt
This salt is supplemented by magnesium and sulfur. Hence the name magnesium sulfate.
When buying the Epsom salt check the ingredients list and avoid the one that has dye and perfume added to it, these may not be very necessary to your plants. This salt is used to treat magnesium deficiencies in plants in hydroponics.
Potassium is among the macro nutrients that plants need very vitally in their growth. It is an element that helps in root development and root health.
Hydroponics plant nutrients need to be used with care according to each stage that the plant is in.
However, most hydroponic farmers mix the contents together according to the ratios so as to fit each plant and its growth phase.
You should also keep in mind that hydroponics does not use soil so, these nutrients need to be mixed together with the water that is used for the plants to get the nutrients directly.
Can I use soil fertilizer for hydroponics?
Theoretically yes, but in reality, it is not advisable to use regular soil fertilizers for hydroponics. This is because hydroponics is farming without soil.
There are compounds that these soil fertilizers have that may cause harm to the plants in the hydroponics systems.
We have highlighted the reasons as to why you should not use soil fertilizers on plants in a hydroponic system.
Reasons to avoid soil fertilizers in hydroponics
- The regular soil fertilizers are a mixture of nutrients and the trace elements used supplements of what is already in the soil. In hydroponics we use water and no elements are in water to be supplemented.
- The soil fertilizers are not balanced for hydroponics purposes. They could retard the growth of the plants. These soil fertilizers if used in hydroponics may cause a burning effect on the root system of these plants in the hydroponic system hence the plants may slowly die.
- Plants suffer vital mineral deficiency. The soil fertilizers are not fit for hydroponics because these plants have a different environment for growth which is water. The soil fertilizers may not cater for the minerals needed at different stages of growth for the hydroponic plants. The plants may end up having slow fruit and flower development and slow plant growth.
- Salt builds up as a result of the different level nutrients in the soil fertilizers which interferes with the specific nutrient levels used in hydroponic plants. When the feeding cycle ends the moisture evaporates and these minerals including the salt particles are left behind. They increase the electrical conductivity in the root system. When this happens an increase in osmotic pressure increases which prevents osmosis from taking place. The plant’s ability to take in water is also prevented hence the plant may become retarded.
Having all this information above on regular fertilizers in hydroponics systems then you should note that these regular soil fertilizers are only good for plants grown on soils.
If you are a hydroponic farmer, then you should use the hydroponics fertilizers and in the required specific ratios.
Soil fertilizers are not beneficial to hydroponic plants. They are cheap to buy but you should note that they can be harmful to the plants in the hydroponic system.
How do I make my own hydroponic nutrients?
- You should be aware of what is in your water. It can either be hard or soft water. The hard water has mineral contents in it. In case the water is hard, then filter out the heavy minerals that may cause harm to the crops by reverse osmosis.
- Make sure you are familiar with the right macro nutrients and the right micro nutrients. You should be aware of what each macro nutrient gives the plant. Sulfur and nitrogen help the plant in supplying amino acids and proteins. Phosphorous is used to help in overall plant growth and in photosynthesis. Magnesium and potassium help in creating starches and sugars for the plants. Nitrogen and magnesium also play a huge role in chlorophyll production. Calcium plays part in plant cell growth. These minerals explained are the main macro nutrients. For the micro nutrients, they include; copper, chlorine, copper, manganese, zinc, boron, nickel, cobalt, silicon and molybdenum. Micro nutrients should be at least ten trace compounds to mix in your nutrients mix for the hydroponics nutrients.
- The temperature of the water you use should be tepid. The water should neither be warm nor cold. If the water is cold, then the plants may not germinate since the cold water may make the plant enzymes inactive. If your water is too hot as well it may cause death of the plant enzymes. Make sure your water is in the right degrees.
- Ensure that the water solution is kept in the right pH balance. Your solutions pH balance impacts the ability of plants to take in nutrients. The right pH balance that is right for your plants in a hydroponic system is from 5.5 to 7.0.
You should ensure you follow the instructions of the concentration of each nutrient you need for the hydroponic nutrient solution.
With the benefits that come with hydroponics you should start out too.