Know your options before you decide how (and what) to feed your plants
Hydroponics plants require access to varying levels of over 15 mineral nutrients in order to be healthy and grow. Gardeners can purchase each of these minerals and mix them together to make a custom hydroponics fertilizer, but it is very difficult to do.
The main reason for this is that most minerals aren’t sold in a pure state. Instead of purchasing pure potassium, one must purchase a chemical compound like potassium nitrate or potassium sulfate. As you can probably see, the chemistry involved in making your own hydroponics nutrient solution can be quite complex.
A much easier way to feed your plants is to purchase a pre-mixed nutrient formula. There are a number of different companies on the market who manufacture fertilizers specifically for use in hydroponics gardens. Nutrient formulas are sold in a concentrated form, and usually only need to be mixed in measurements of two to four teaspoons for every gallon of water.
Some nutrient formulas are sold as liquid concentrates, others in powder form. The liquids tend to be a bit more expensive, but they dissolve better in water. And, unlike most powders, some liquids also come with an added pH buffer, which can be beneficial.
It is common for hydroponics nutrient products to be sold in two or more special formulas – one for the early stages of plant life (usually labeled ‘grow’) and one for the flowering stage (usually labeled ‘bloom’).
Nutrient formulas can be purchased at hydroponics supply stores or ordered online. Here is a list of the leading brands:
- Advanced Nutrients
- Dutch Nutrient Formula
- General Hydroponics
Whether you are mixing your own custom nutrient solution or adding a pre-mixed nutrient product to water, remember to follow these steps:
- Check the packaging for recommended measurements and carefully abide by them. You should not deviate by more than five percent.
- Measure each ingredient individually and then set it aside.
- Verify that each measurement was correct. Only when you are positive that you have measured correctly should you mix the ingredients.
- Use warm water if you can (not too hot though, or you will hurt your plants). Warm water is best for dissolving nutrients.