Perhaps the most important part of any hydroponic system is the nutrient solution.
In soil, roots need to spread out to survive, but not in hydroponics. Hydroponic systems deliver nutrients straight to the roots, letting the plant focus on growing strong and healthy, rather than surviving.
Without nutrients, cultivating crops is impossible.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about nutrient solution.
About Nutrient Solution
Nutrient solution is a fertilizer, that is combined with water for use in hydroponic systems. It’s full of all the essential elements plants need to survive.
But finding and balancing the right nutrients can be tricky for beginner hydroponic farmers.
Farmers can purchase premade solution, or make their own, but premade solutions are more common for low-scale farming.
Solutions from the store typically come in liquid form for easy blending with water.
It’s important to consider the proportions of nutrients to water when mixing. Over or under saturating can be detrimental to plant health.
You can find the right proportions for your solution on the bottle or by contacting the manufacturer.
Younger plants require less nutrients than mature plants, so it’s important to adjust your solution as your plants grow.
It’s also important to track the pH level and temperature of the nutrient water.
The pH levels of your water will influence the solubility of the nutrients. If the pH is too high, or too low, your plants won’t be able to absorb all of the nutrients that they need.
Be sure to research the optimal pH for your specific crops. In general, the range that works best for most crops is 5.8 to 6.3.
The temperature of the water should remain consistent as well! Too hot or too cold water and your crops won’t be happy.
As such, be sure to keep water in the 70-degree range—no lower than 60 degrees and no higher than 80 degrees.
Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of the water you’re using.
Raw water may have minerals that are harmful to plants like chlorine. Therefore, before mixing water and nutrient solution, be sure to test it and pretreat, if needed.
Next, we’ll look at some of the essential nutrients that plants need.
Macro & micro-nutrients
While the amount of nutrients a plant needs, varies by species, there are some nutrients all plants need to survive.
These nutrients are broken into two categories: Macronutrients and micronutrients.
Both categories are essential for plant survival, but micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities.
Macronutrients include nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Potassium regulates enzymes and is important for root and reproductive growth and development.
Enzymes break minerals down so they’re small enough to be absorbed by the plant’s cells.
Phosphorus makes up cell membranes, is involved in energy transferring, and helps flower, fruit, seed, and root development.
Calcium also helps on the cellular level, aiding cell formation and bonding cell walls.
On the other hand, micronutrients include boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc.
Boron’s functions are unknown, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Boron deficiencies result in brittle roots.
Copper helps with electron transfers and prevents toxic effects of some minerals.
Iron is used in the creation of chlorophyll, which is the green pigment that is responsible for absorbing light during photosynthesis.
Manganese, like magnesium, evolves oxygen during photosynthesis.
Finally, zinc is active in enzymes and promotes growth.
Necessary nutrients may vary by species, but these macro- and micronutrients are among the most widely needed.
Premade vs homemade
Nutrient solution can be purchased premade, or made at home.
Premade solutions are easier, especially for novice farmers, but homemade solution offers the ability to tailor nutrients to your specific crops.
Premade nutrient solution, usually comes with two or three parts, depending on the solubility of the solutions.
Solutions that come with two parts, are typically separated with macronutrients in one container and micronutrients in the other.
This is because some nutrients are incompatible in their concentrated forms, as such they must be kept apart from each other.
Generally, nutrient solutions call for mixing 3.5 milliliters of each concentrate per liter of water, but you should always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations before mixing.
There are plenty of “do it yourself” (DIY) options for nutrient solutions, ranging from soaked compost, to mixing separate nutrients together.
Homemade nutrient solutions are riskier, especially for newer hydroponic farmers, because it’s subject to more human error.
If you’re interested in making nutrient solution at home, do extensive research to be sure that you add the proper amount of nutrients.
Whether you use homemade or premade solution, be sure to check the pH levels and balance as needed after mixing with water.
Once you’ve figured out your nutrient solution, you can start growing crops!
Check out our Pure Greens Container Farms for a turnkey hydroponic growing system that’ll meet all of your growing needs.
Visit our website or call us at 602-753-3469 for more information.