Introduction to Hydroponics Nutrients:
Before you start growing hydroponically, you will need to take some time and learn a little bit about the nutrients that will be feeding your plants. This is considerably more complex than just putting a little miracle gro in some water and calling it a day. Hydroponic nutrients are specially designed to provide your plants with everything they need to grow up healthy, strong, and productive, and they come in many different types for different stages of your plants' life cycle.
What you need to understand about the hydroponics nutrients you will be using in your hydroponic systems is that they include a number of different substances that your plants will need, and the solution is the only means by which the plants will get them. So needless to say they are incredibly complex because they include the primary and secondary nutrients, as well as micro-nutrients, vitamins, and hormones. Everything a growing plant needs to survive from day to day.
Hydroponics Nutrients for each Growth Cycle:
One common misconception among beginning hydroponic growers is that you can just use a generic nutrient solution in your system and the plants will do well. The fact is there are countless solutions out there on the market to choose from and they are designed to work at different stages in the plant's life cycle. Nutrients for hydroponics are broken down into 3 basic categories, growth, micro, and blooming. The growth and micro nutrient solutions are used in the beginning stages of the plant's growth, to help it produce stems and leaves. The blooming nutrients are obviously used later in the cycle to help the plant produce flowers and vegetables if applicable.
The other thing you need to keep in mind about the hydroponics nutrients is that they are only effective if the entire nutrient solution is kept within a narrow range of pH. You are looking for an ideal pH range of 6.0 to 6.2, however most will tolerate a pH between 5.8 and 6.8. This is extremely important to hydroponic growing because if the pH is not kept at the proper levels, the plants will not absorb the nutrients efficiently and they you will see them start to suffer.
Choosing a Reservoir for your Hydroponics Nutrients:
Since the growing conditions of hydroponic systems are so carefully balanced, you will need to put a little bit of thought into how big of a system you would like to maintain. The number of plants you are growing, along with how big you want to start them determines how big of a growing tray you will need. Then, how big of a tray you are going to use will determine how many grow lights, or what size lights you will need. The number of plants will determine how big of a reservoir you need for the nutrient solution.
As you can see all of these factors are interrelated. If you do not have the right size equipment for the plants you are trying to grow, then your results will most likely be very poor and you will be left wondering where you went wrong. As far as the reservoir, a good rule of thumb is to have one half to 1 gallon of hydroponics nutrients solution for each plant you are growing. By having a large reservoir, it prevents the plants from affecting the pH level in the solution faster than you can adequately maintain it.
Maintaining Hydroponics Nutrients:
You will need to maintain your nutrient solution according to a few guidelines for optimum results. First off, you should strive to keep fresh water for your hydroponic system at room temperature and as free of chlorine as possible. These are two potentially big issues you will encounter when using your system. One way of achieving this is to maintain a second reservoir filled with water in advance of your next change of the hydroponics nutrients solution. While the first reservoir filled with your solution is feeding your crops, the second one is nearby normalizing.
As for the solution itself the process is fairly easy to maintain. You will want to check the EC or TDS of the solution. Too high, you simply add more water. If it is too low, then add more nutrients, mix the solution well, and then recheck your levels. You will also want to always maintain an acceptable pH. You can use the liquid pH Up or pH Down solutions to balance out your final nutrient solution. You will always want to make sure checking the pH is the last step in the process because any additions to the solution with either water or nutrients will change the last test you took.
Additives for Hydroponics Nutrients:
While you can have a perfectly successful hydroponics setup using just the basic 3 part core nutrients, there are several additives that you can add to your solution for various reasons, and you should familiarize yourself with them. There is broad acceptance among hydroponic growers that 3 additives you should always use are vitamin B1, silica, and liquid seaweed. Vitamin B1 is used to encourage cell division and root growth. You should notice a substantial growth difference with the use of B1, versus a nutrient solution without it.
Liquid seaweed is another great hydroponics nutrients additive that comes with over forty two micro-nutrients in a ready to use form. Liquid seaweed will keep your plants healthier and greener for much longer. It also comes with hormones that will help the plant grow and manage its use of some nutrients it absorbs.
The third additive silica is used to help your plants form a strong core of a crystalline matrix, not unlike the bone marrow we have. This matrix not only helps the plant have a stronger immune system, but it also makes its stems and branches stronger. Your hydroponic plants will prove to be more resistant to pests and certain diseases as a result. The added branch strength may also allow the plant to produce much bigger fruits and vegetables.
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