Hydroponic nutrients guide
Hydroponic growing is all about growing plants in nutrient solutions added to water instead of the conventional method of growing the plants in the soil. With Hydroponic growing, you can expect up to 20% increase in growth and yields compared to growing in soil.
There will be almost no cases of pests and diseases since your plants are not growing from the soil. Also, growing your plants in water mixed nutrient solutions will help you monitor the actual mineral and water requirements of your plants. The data you can acquire from this is going to be useful for research and statistics.
The 17 Hydroponic plant nutrients
There are 17 plant nutrients. Hydroponic nutrients, which consist of known plant nutrients, are divided into 9 Macronutrients and 8 Micronutrients. The primary macronutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) are the most important ones. These are responsible for photosynthesis, plant signalling, root growth and development, and a host of other vital plant life functions.
Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen are regarded as secondary macronutrients. These are usually responsible for cell wall bonding, formation of peptide bonds and biomolecules, nutrients transportation and a host of other functions.
Iron, Boron, Chlorine, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum and Nickel are referred to as Micronutrients, as they are required in smaller quantities. These micronutrients act as cofactors of enzymes in plants, aid fruiting, flowering, and many other functions.
How to check your nutrient levels
How do you check and adjust these nutrients in your Hydroponic solutions? First, you need to know the pH and EC values of your nutrient solution. The pH of your Hydroponic nutrient solution tells how acidic or basic your nutrient solution is, while the Electrical conductivity (EC) measures the amount of soluble salts present in the water you’re using to grow your plant.
To measure the electrical conductivity of your sample (nutrients solution in water), you will need an EC meter. You can calibrate the EC meter with a solution whose conductivity is known and of standard value. Most meters have a calibration kit included.
After that, you should rinse a probe with deionized water and put the probe inside your sample. Pass a current through the probe. The strength of the current will tell you how many soluble salts are in that sample.
Now, if your sample is a formulated one, in addition to your EC measurements, you can tell if you need to add more nutrients in your sample or if you have too many nutrients in it. Ideal EC is between 1.2 and 2.0.
Your judgement for an adjustment of the EC of your sample should be based on the EC requirement of the plant you need to grow in that sample. You can lower the EC of your sample by adding fresh water to it. To increase the EC, you should add more fertilizers to your sample.
Hydroponic Water pH levels
You will also need to measure the pH of your sample. The ideal pH for a Hydroponic solution is between 5.5 and 6.5. To reduce the pH of your sample, you should add an acidic solution like pH Down. If you need to increase the pH of your sample, you should add a basic/alkaline solution.
Your judgement of the need for an adjustment in the pH should be based on the pH requirement of the plant you want to grow in that sample. Check this post for more information about water PH levels and how to adjust them.
I hope this Hydroponic nutrients guide helps you in understanding how to check and adjust the nutrients of your Hydroponic solution.