I know we promised to keep things simple, but a little bit of science is in order here. Understanding what hydroponic fertilizer solutions are made of will help you become a better urban farmer!
[If you missed the page on water quality, read that first. We'll wait right here for you.]
First, some basic information on hydroponic nutrients.
Later, we give you some really neat tips and tricks to make reservoir maintenance a snap! So stay with us for the good stuff.
Here's your mini chemistry lesson for the day:
In hydroponics, you take soil away from the plant, so you must supply perfectly balanced and complete nutrition for it. just remember, plants do not need soil… they need nutrients.
Plants need large amounts of 6 macro-nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus
(P), and Potassium (K). The NPK numbers you see on a manure or fertilizer bag
(like 30-10-30) are simply telling you at what ratio these three macro-nutrients
are mixed in that bag of fertilizer. The other 3 macros are calcium, sulfur and
magnesium. All 6 are provided in the proper ratio in all hydroponics solutions.
Plants also need micro-nutrients (minute traces of other elements) in order to thrive, just like you do. The nutrient solutions you buy for your 'ponics garden are different from ordinary plant fertilizers. They include all the trace elements, too.
So hydroponic fertilizer is kinda like your One-A-Day Vitamins; it contains the major necessary elements as well as traces of iron, boron, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, copper, cobalt, chlorine, selenium and silicon. Yum!
Part 2 of your chemistry lesson (and this is important to make hydroponics work):
Remember pH from chemistry or biology class? All pH is is a number that tells how acid or alkaline your solution is. This is important, because if the pH is not in the proper range, hydroponic fertilizer nutrients get "locked out" and the plant can't get to them.
Luckily, pH is a very easy thing to control. All you need is a pH test kit (like
for swimming pools), or pH "dip" strips. Both testing methods are inexpensive
and very easy to learn. You do NOT need to buy an expensive electronic pH meter.
The proper range of pH for your nutrient solution: 5.5-6.5 (6.0 is ideal).
When to test pH:
How to adjust the pH:
Do yourself a favor: Get this kit put out by GH (General Hydroponics). It includes the test kit plus a bottle each of pH up & pH down. It costs about $15 and will get you through many gardens. Piece of cake. Get one here: pH Control Kit
Hey, want to see our video on pH testing? Most of the information is already said above, so the tape is a little redundant. But Simon made this vid for You Tube, so we thought we'd post it here too.
Well, you see, Simon got this fancy new camera for his birthday…
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