Hydroponics describes the process of cultivating plants in a liquid nutrient solution. Due to the costs of maintaining an indoor hydroponic system, plants of higher value, such as vegetables, herbs, and flowers, are often grown. Choosing the best hydroponic fertilizer allows operators to adjust concentrations either by hand or through the use of automated pumping systems. Nutrient levels, acidity, and substrate medium all work in balance to create optimal plant growth in systems that attempt to supplant natural conditions with technology. An understanding of nutrients and solution mixes permits better judgment of numerous available products, and may even encourage do-it-yourself solution mixing.
The process of indoor cultivation with liquid nutrients often leads to plants limited in size and robustness compared to those cultivated in the ground. Thus, use of good-quality hydroponic fertilizer can be very important. Commercial fertilizer products may not possess all the nutrients needed for hydroponic cultivation because they may have been designed to work in soil. Available product types for hydroponics can include solutions and sprays, and pH treatments.
The proper hydroponic fertilizer should contain a mix of primary and secondary hydroponic nutrients. Primary sources include nitrogen (N), Potassium (K), and Phosphorous (P). The packaging may list the concentrations of each nutrient with three numbers that indicate percentages of each of these fertilizers.
To provide plants with a fuller spectrum of nutritional requirements, secondary nutrients can be included. These may comprise minerals such as calcium magnesium, iron, and others. Calcium promotes nutrient absorption in the vegetation stage, and magnesium aids in chlorophyll production.
Iron and sulfur are given in trace amounts in order to prevent new leaves from yellowing. Additional secondary nutrients may include boron and molybdenum. These can aid in carbohydrate transport and nitrate conversion.
One of the more common problems that can be solved by a hydroponic fertilizer solution is nitrogen deficiency. This substance is vital for strong leaf and stem growth; any deficiency may result in soft, weak plants. Phosphorous aids in root and flower development, and deficiencies can lead to stunted or slow growth, particularly during flowering stages. Potassium provides the nutrient uptake support necessary to promote regular growth and resistance to pests and disease.
Hydroponic fertilizer products, solution mixes, and timing all can affect plant growth. Weaker nutrient solutions serve new growth cuttings, transplants, and plants in many adverse growing conditions, such as poor lighting. With stable conditions and healthy plants, regular-strength nutrient mixtures are warranted. These conditions also include appropriate levels of CO2, light, and ventilation.
Many additives are also available to supplement nutrient solutions. Amounts can be adjusted to find optimal balances. Keeping records of additives and schedules will provide vital data for developing future cultivation methods and better yields.