A hydroponic system is a setup whereby your plants are not based in soil. Rather, they receive all that they need – water, air, and nutrients – through a nutrient solution that is brought to the roots via a wick or a pump. The hydroponic system is undoubtedly much more efficient than the traditional way of growing crops, but it also requires some knowledge and experience of nutrient solutions. Here, then, is a list of the most important nutrients your plants will need.
The three essentials
Check any package of plant fertiliser, and the three main components will be listed in an ‘NPK’ format. These three elements – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium – are essential to the growth and health of your plants. The format comes in a ratio, for example 20-50-10, meaning that there are 20 parts of nitrogen, 50 parts of phosphorous, and 10 parts of potassium per any given quantity of solution. The ratios may differ, but these main elements have an important purpose:
- Nitrogen (N) – Nitrogen is especially important during the vegetative or growth stage of your plants; the plants with an adequate amount of nitrogen will grow strong and tend to have more foliage as well.
- Phosphorous (P) – Phosphorous becomes more and more important as the plant grows and starts to bloom; it helps roots develop and helps in the formation of beautiful and strong flowers, preparing the plant for reproduction.
- Potassium (K) – Potassium is important for the plant’s overall health.
Natural fertilisers contain all these elements and ensure good growth – chemical fertilisers are composed by chemists who measure ratios and mix them into a nutrient solution.
Other elements are needed, most notably calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and a wide range of other trace elements. Commercial fertilisers and nutrient solutions also contain these elements, though the packaging doesn’t necessarily specify at which ratio they are in.
Deciding on the ratios
Depending on which stage your plants are in (vegetative or blooming) your plants will require a nutrient solution with different ratios. Nutrient solutions to promote growth have a high ratio of nitrogen, whilst blooming plants need more phosphorous and potassium. Beginners should not experiment with the ratios and would do well to follow the instructions on the labels and packaging at all times.
Let the labels on the package be your guide – along with the NPK ratio, the packaging will also inform you whether the nutrient solution is suitable for growing or blooming flowers. Don’t forget that the nutrient solution you buy needs to be soluble in water; grainy fertiliser is good for growing in soil but not suitable for hydroponic growing.
When choosing the proper nutrient solution, make sure you understand what stage your plant is in (growth or bloom) and be sure to choose a nutrient solution specifically designed for growing systems that use HYDROPONICS. By doing so, you can be sure that your hydroponic system will have all that it needs to produce a great yield.
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