If you’re like us, you have probably thought of creating your own hydroponics solution to feed your crops. Yes, you are not alone, and there are actually plenty of growers out there who supplement their systems with DIY nutrients.
There is usually no harm, as long as you are aware of the science behind fertilizers, and how the different micronutrients work. And there is an added benefit, too. If you are able to source your nutrients right, you can save a little money, and over time, your savings can translate to upgrades of your current hydroponics system. Neat, isn’t it?
In the soil or in a hydroponics setup, the method of nutrient absorption remains the same: dissolved nutrients come into contact with the roots of the plants, and the roots interact with the nutrients and uptake the nutrients in forms that can be used by the plants.
There are two kinds of nutrients that plants need: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are consumed in larger quantities, while the micronutrients are required for cell regulation, growth, and other important functions, but are required in smaller quantities. Plant nutrients are collectively referred to as “salts.”
So when you read “salt concentration” that just refers to the concentration or amount of nutrients in a given environment.
Chemistry teaches us that solutions have varying degrees of concentration, and concentration is determined by the volume of the solute itself. So the concentrate of a teaspoon of nutrients would be different in a glass of water and in a five gallon jug of water.
Using a tool such as HydroBuddy may be of great assistance helping you with this.
The purity of the water is important because contaminated water might have chemicals and additional minerals that might interrupt or even cause harm to plants.
This is not vanity: tap water, for instance, contains fluorine, calcium, rust, and other compounds that will change the chemistry of the water. We’re after balance, so water that has been filtered through a reverse osmosis filtration system will definitely be better than plain tap water.
When you are measuring nutrients separately, it is best to have a calibrated digital scale that can measure to the smallest possible unit (the milligram).
Small fluctuations in the amount of each nutrient will have an effect on the overall balance of the system, and you wouldn’t want to inadvertently cause a nutrient lock because you added too many grams of a particular salt.
Salts are quite easy to dissolve in water and you will see that they will disappear in the liquid the moment you pour them in. Add the salts slowly, and one at a time. Add the next salt only when the previous one has been dissolved completely.
Feel free to swirl the water a little to help the salts dissolve. That was fun, wasn’t it? Now it’s time to check how healthy your nutrient solution is. Get a pH meter and check the pH level of the nutrient solution.
The ideal pH level should be no more than 7, but no lower than 5.5. Some plants don’t do well with 6.5, so you really need to monitor your plants to see if they are doing well with the pre-made mix that you introduced to your system.
If old methods of pH adjustments don’t work, you can always perform a flush, but only do so when you have exhausted all possible ways to break the nutrient lock.
The step by step process is as follows:
1. First decide how much nutrient formula you want to mix. Do you need one liter, two liters, a gallon? Decide how much and find an appropriately sized container for the amount that you wish to produce.
Make sure that the container is clean, has no possible contaminants and has a cover that you can tighten if you need to shake loose some salt clumps from the bottom of the container.
You can use both food grade plastic and glass containers, although it may be more difficult to lift and shake glass containers as they are heavier. But still, to each his own. We prefer plastic containers because they are easier to lug around and they won’t break if you accidentally drop them. This
2. Fill the container with water. Again, we do not recommend using tap water at all because tap water by nature is filled with contaminants and impurities that are going to mess up your readings and the overall chemical balance of the fertilizer.
Fertilizers are precise products, and you really need purified water. If you don’t have a system filter in place, then just buy some commercial purified water for now – it’s best not to risk it.
3. Get your calibrated digital weighing scale and start measuring out your nutrients. If you have any doubts on the ratio of the nutrients, you can just search the Internet for a nutrient concentration calculator.
Basically you will be adding the percentages or proportions and the calculator will do the rest. Make sure that you list down the amounts that are displayed by the calculator to the smallest possible unit (do not round off to the nearest whole number) as you need to be precise with your measurements.
4. Just before adding the salts, do a quick check of the pH level of the clean water. Just take note if the pH level is normal. Do not make any adjustments just yet because the salts will cause a fluctuation in the pH of the water. Adjust the water’s pH level after you are done mixing everything in the water.
5. Slowly pour the pre-measured salts one at a time. Observe if the salts are dissolving well in the water. Break up any clamps gently and make sure that when you pour the salts, that you don’t splash the powder around so you don’t end up wasting any of it. Hydroponics can be a really efficient way of growing plants, don’t you think?
6. Keep in mind that we are not going to be creating a highly concentrated formula precisely because too much concentration of anything in a hydroponics system will cause nutrient lock and other maladies in the plants. What we are actually doing is diluting the salts enough so they become safe for use in a hydroponics system.
After adding all of the salts in the batch, take a pH level reading and note it. Perform an adjustment if necessary (see the pH range prescribed above) and wait for two hours. Let the solution rest for two hours before taking another pH reading.
The following formulas are for one gallon of nutrient solution. Follow the solutions to the letter as any fluctuation may cause imbalance in your system, and that’s really not something that you’d like when you have maturing plants.
1. 6 grams of CA(NO3)2
2. 2.09 grams of KNO3
3. 0.46 gram of K2SO4
4. 1.39 grams of KH2PO4
5. 2.42 grams of MgSO4 x 7H2O
6. 0.40 gram of Fe chelated trace elements
This formula is for the vegetative state or vertical growth state of the plants.
1. 8 grams of CA(NO3)2
2. 2.8 grams of KNO3
3. 1.7 grams of K2SO4
4. 1.39 grams of KH2PO4
5. 2.4 grams of MgSO4 x 7H2PO
6. 0.4 gram of Fe chelated trace elements
This formula is for the flowering or fruiting stage of the plants. Use half and half of both formulas during the transition phase of the plants to ease the plants from the vegetative state to the fruiting state.
This formula is for the FE chelated trace elements mix
1. 7% Fe
2. 2% Mn
3. 0.4% Zn
4. .1% Cu
5. 1.3% B
6. 0.06% Mo