Canadian Hydroponics Supply Blog

The Beginners Guide To Nutrients in Hydroponics

beginners guide nutrients

You finally decided to try hydroponics. In this Beginners Guide to nutrients in hydroponics, we’re going to show you how important nutrients are to the success of your efforts. You’ve spent countless hours watching videos and reading articles on how to set it up.

Now you need to focus on how to grow your plants. You bought the fertilizers and is quite excited to get things started. Suddenly, you’re stuck. Your mind is quickly flooded with questions: where do I put the fertilizer? How much should I put? Is there an ideal time to fertilize? You’re thinking maybe you’re biting off more than you can chew.

Whether you’re looking at hydroponics as a new hobby or make serious money from it, you must understand that the break-in process is the most challenging part. Well, that’s what we’re here for. So, make yourself comfortable, and we’ll let you in our secret on this beginners guide nutrients. Get ready to learn  how to mix and use hydroponic nutrient solutions for the first time (spoiler: it isn’t tricky at all).

Fertilizer Type

Plants, in general, require aid in growing, and this is where fertilizers come in. Choosing a fertilizer means factoring in the type of crop since different plants have different nutritional requirements. For commercial growers, dry fertilizers offer the most cost-efficient solution. Home gardening (soil and hydroponics) relies more on wet fertilizers.

All plants require nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK), but the needs vary from one variety to another. Hence, peppers and tomatoes need a different ratio of NPK to that of greens like lettuce and spinach.

The Beginners Guide to Nutrients for Hydroponics

Plants grown hydroponically require an NPK mixture, too. Due to the soil’s absence, you need to incorporate other minerals, including calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate.

But because the crop gets the oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen from the water, you don’t have to concern yourself with those three. Instead, focus on providing secondary nutrients, i.e., calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfur, and you can get it along with calcium nitrate at any garden supply store.

Pro Tip: Steer clear of calcium nitrate and Epsom salt with colouring and scent in them. Those add-ons don’t have any use for plants. Also, research on how to detect nutrient deficiencies in plants – the symptoms usually manifest in the leaves and branches.

How to Mix Hydroponic Nutrients?

Every hydroponic system is unique, which is why there’s no universal approach to mixing nutrients. Generally, people don’t prepare nutrients for hydroponics since they consider it a tremendously difficult task. They’d skip on it by buying pre-made nutrient solutions instead.

After all, the thought of mixing different fertilizers is already too complicated. But what you don’t realize is that companies that manufacture these hydroponic nutrient solutions rip you off with outrageous prices. You buy concentrated formulations in gallons that cost upwards of a hundred dollars. If you mix your own, you will spend only a few dollars.

The key is to familiarize your setup right before you learn how to mix nutrients. Many experienced hydroponics practitioners prefer a mixing tank or sump because it offers natural turbulence in mixing. For starters, space and turbulence play a critical role in mixing nutrients thoroughly. It’s why you must put in the work to figure out which place in your system allows you to complete this task.

Mix each nutrient solution separately and then combine the three – it’s how most beginners do it. Another option is to add them to the tank but do it separately. Never combine calcium nitrate with other chemicals since it isn’t compatible.

Each nutrient solution you buy at the garden store has a label that contains specific instructions. Read the label to get the required measurements. The label also tells you of the amount of Epsom salt to add on your formulation.

Essential Equipment

Contrary to what you might have heard, starting hydroponics isn’t a pricey endeavour. Equipment-wise, you only need the following for mixing the nutrients:

  • Small scale that can weigh to the gram or ounce
  • Container that fits on the scale
  • Gloves
  • Stirring rod
  • Buckets

These things will cost you less than $100. The only “pricey” investment is for the pre-made hydroponics system, but you won’t have to replace it for the foreseeable future.

Monitoring Your Crops

Like how you take care of your crops in a soil gardening setup, you must check your hydroponically grown plants’ nutrient levels daily. Embrace a routine so that you don’t end up forgetting about it. You may have to top off the system every few days. The nutrient solution must be replenished as a way to offset the consumption and dilution processes. The plants use up the nutrients while dilution occurs as you top off.

See that your leftover chemicals are stored in separate airtight containers and must be placed in a cool and dark area. For example, calcium nitrate absorbs moisture and will no longer be as effective for hydroponics when exposed to the air for an extended period.

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