There are 2 simple ways you can use to make your concoction of nutrient solution for growing your hydroponic plants. The first way is to buy nutrient mixes that are prepared beforehand and the second way is to make your own concoction. Although nutrient solutions prepared beforehand in shops offer the full combination of nutrients your plants need, if you are preparing your own mix of nutrient solution, the water you use in your household might need different ratios of nutrients to obtain the best yield. Preparing your own mix of nutrients can be a cheap and customizable way to take care of your plants.
Part 1: Selection of the types of nutrients
1. Understand the components in the water you are using to prepare your nutrient mix.
You can consider getting your water analyzed in labs. With quality, “soft” water, you can include any type of ingredients that your plants would need for their growth. If you are using “hard” water, you need to adopt the reverse osmosis processes to remove any undesirable heavy metals that are harmful to your plants.
- Monitor the water frequently with a dissolved solids meter.
- Although magnesium and calcium carbonates are essential for plant growth and are naturally occurring in the normal tap water we have at home, it has to be fed to your plants in moderation. By measuring the percentage of such substances in your water, you will then be able to gauge how much more to add in your solution, if necessary.
2. Take some time to fully understand the micronutrients vital to plant growth.
There are a few vital micronutrients, such as calcium nitrate, potassium sulfate, potassium nitrate, monopotassium phosphate, and magnesium sulfate. Each substance present in the above-mentioned nutrients plays a different but important part in the growth of your plants.
- Water is formed when hydrogen is mixed with oxygen.
- Amino acids and proteins required by your plants can be provided by the nitrogen and sulfur elements.
- Phosphorus is needed during photosynthesis and the overall health of the plant.
- Stimulants required in the producing starches and sugars are potassium and magnesium.
- The creation of chlorophyll requires magnesium and nitrogen.
- Calcium makes up part of the cell walls and aids in the growth of plant cells.
3. Pick out the appropriate micronutrients for your plants.
Micronutrients, which are also known as trace elements, are vital to the growth of your plants. However, they must be added in proper amounts as they can affect the plant’s health and propagation.
- Micronutrients used in solutions involve boron, chlorine, iron, copper, manganese, sodium, molybdenum, zinc, nickel, silicon, and cobalt.
- You should have 10 or more than 10 of these elements included in your nutrient solution.
4. Monitor the water temperature.
The optimal temperature for your plants to thrive is from 65 to 80 degrees – it should neither be too hot nor cold. Low temperatures prevent the germination of your plants and may cause them to die. High temperatures might cause death or a lack of oxygen in your plants.
- Plants that thrive in chillier temperatures would prefer colder water, while those that thrive in hotter temperatures would prefer hotter water.
- Ensure that the addition of water should be approximately the temperature of the existing water surroundings.
5. Ensure the correct pH levels.
The best pH levels are from 5.5 to 7.0, and you can check the pH levels with a pH meter. pH levels affect how much the plants will be able to absorb nutrients.
- Fluctuations of pH levels are common as nutrients are being taken in by the plants. Try not to add too many substances when you want to neutralize the pH levels.
- If you are using a low-grade nutrient solution, pH levels might fluctuate more often.
- Most cities’ water systems add calcium carbonate to increase pH levels. The mean pH of water in cities is usually around 8.0.
- pH measurements may differ according to the water temperature. Combine the chemicals with the water after measuring the temperature.
Part 2: Combining the nutrients
1. Top up the vessels with water.
The majority of hydroponic systems utilize two or three containers. Ensure that the vessels are of food-grade, and use either distilled water or water that has undergone the reverse osmosis process as much as possible. This is because tap water has ions and substances detrimental to plants’ growth.
- For a tiny nutrient reservoir, a one-liter milk container suffices. Take a five-liter container for bigger systems.
- Allow the water to be outdoors for one full day for removal of chlorine if you are not able to obtain chlorine.
- Check the elements present in the tap water, if you must use it.
2. Check the amount of each nutrient used.
If you are using two containers, you would want to keep one for plant-specific nutrients which includes potassium nitrate or micronutrient chelates, while the other is for prepared fertilizer or a general nutrient mix.
- When handling dry chemicals, it is best to protect yourself with a plastic chemical shovel and clean filter paper. Use a graduated beaker to get the exact amount of liquid nutrients.
- For illustration, for a five-liter container, only include five teaspoons (25ml) of calcium nitrate, ⅓ teaspoon (1.7ml) of potassium sulfate, 1 ⅔ teaspoon (8.3ml) of potassium nitrate, 1 ¼ teaspoon (6.25ml) of potassium hydrogen phosphate, 3 ½ teaspoons (17.5ml) of magnesium sulfate and ⅖ teaspoon (2 ml) of trace element.
3. Place a funnel at the mouth of the container.
The blending of the nutrient solution can be done without using a funnel, but it is more convenient, neater with one. Using a funnel also prevents overflowing, which could result in unbalanced nutrient ratios.
- Some compounds could cause allergic reactions as it aggravates the skin.
- Measure the pH level of the water after mixing all the nutrients. It is normal for nutrients to decrease the pH levels of waters of pH 7.0. Hence, you might have to use a pH additive to neutralize the pH levels.
4. Combine the nutrients with water
Add the nutrients in individually and gradually to prevent spillage. Although the slight variation of the nutrients’ ratio should not hurt your plants too much, it is best for your plants to adapt to your nutrient solution to ensure efficiency of absorption.
- The unit of the nutrient mix is proportional to the reservoir used. The exact amount to use can only be achieved from various attempts.
- However, a general guide would be to ensure there is sufficient solution for the system such that no air is absorbed once the circulation begins.
5. Mix the contents in the container properly.
Ensure that the container is capped tightly before mixing the contents by shaking the container for about a minute.
- If your container is bulky or too heavy for you to shake with your hands, you can use a pole to mix the contents.
- However, it is good to note that shaking is able to mix the contents most comprehensively, but stirring should be as efficient if you do so for a longer time.
Preparing your own hydroponics nutrient formula is one of the most cost-efficient ways to go about hydroponics, and it’s great for those who like to experiment. We hope that our guide has been of use to you, and wish you all the best in your experiments.