Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions, Getting the Right Concentration.

Hydroponic Nutrients and Concentrations

When starting out with hydroponics, the fertilizer of choice is the liquid kind. Most hydroponic nutrient/fertilizer companies will include application directions on their product labels. Plants require different concentrations of nutrients for various stages of development. Here are three of the many different kinds of liquid nutrients and fertilizers available for a given solution.

Once you have determined which nutrients to use, frequent EC measurements will help you determine whether the nutrient solution in your reservoir is too strong or too weak for the plants you are growing. An EC (electrical conductivity) meter is a tool that measures the potential of a given solution to conduct electricity. If the water level in the reservoir drops relatively quickly and the EC measurements rise, then the solution will likely contain more nutrients than the crop requires. You can make adjustments by adding purified water until the EC levels out.

Example of an EC meter.

If the water level in the reservoir drops relatively slowly and the EC measurements fall at a fast rate, then the nutrient solution is likely too weak to meet plant needs. To remedy this, add nutrients at half-strength until the EC stops dropping to even out the water-to-nutrient consumption rates.

The Sweet Spot

The sweet spot in a nutrient solution may take some trial and error. You will know when it is reached because the EC measurement will stay steady as the solution level drops in the reservoir. The sweet spot may also fluctuate as plants grow requiring greater amounts of water and nutrients. Topping off the nutrient reservoir so it maintains a certain level is acceptable. Some growers will use a nutrient solution mix that is 1/3rd to 1/2 of the suggested concentration to top off reservoirs. However, to avoid accumulations of macro-nutrients like nitrogen it is wise to change the reservoir weekly. Start with a fresh, new batch of nutrients and concentrations recommended for the particular stage of plant growth.

The Lettuce-ladder hydroponic system uses  three easy to mix liquid fertilizers at noted above to  grow vegetables and herbs. Email us for photos of what can be grown in this vertical system.

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