If you’re thinking about growing plants hydroponically, you might be wondering are hydroponic nutrients required. The answer is that it depends on the system you’re using.
If you’re using a soil-based system, then you probably don’t need to use hydroponic nutrients, since the soil will provide the nutrients your plants need.
What Are Hydroponic Nutrients And What Do They Do For Plants?
Hydroponic nutrients are basically nutrients that are specifically tailored for plants that are grown in a hydroponic system.
These nutrients are typically in liquid form but there are some in powder form that will easily dissolve in water and they are used to provide plants with the nutrition they need to grow.
Some of the benefits of using hydroponic nutrients include:
• Increased growth rates
• Better yields
If you’re using a hydroponic system, then it’s important to use the right nutrients for your plants.
Otherwise, they might not get the nutrition they need and could end up being unhealthy.
There are a variety of different hydroponic nutrients available on the market, so it’s important to do some research to figure out which ones are right for your plants.
In general, though, most hydroponic nutrients will contain a mix of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK), as well as other trace elements that plants need.
Because you are growing in an inert medium that provides little to no nutrition it is important that the irrigation water contains all the nutrients plants need.
These nutrients are designed for hydroponic systems and the requirements for hydroponics are not the same as those for soil.
Can you use soil nutrients in a hydroponic system? Sure. But your plants may not be as healthy.
They might not even be available to your plants and they might clog or fill your system with unwanted or even harmful residues. Don’t do it!
So, if you’re using a hydroponic system, it’s important to use hydroponic nutrients to ensure that your plants are getting the nutrition they need.
Do some research to figure out which hydroponic nutrients are right for your plants and your hydroponic system.
If you are running a recirculating hydroponic system make sure your nutrients are designed to work in a recirculating system.
Be sure to use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I always try a new nutrient line at half strength because they can vary in strength and obviously manufacturers want you to use more so they can sell you more.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to grow healthy and bountiful plants using a hydroponic system.
Are Hydroponic Nutrients Required?
Hydroponic nutrients are essential for plant growth. They provide the plants with the necessary minerals and nutrients that they would otherwise get from the soil.
When growing plants in a hydroponic garden, it is important to use a nutrient solution that is specifically designed for hydroponics.
This type of solution contains all of the essential nutrients that your plants need to grow and thrive.
Some nutrients are made specifically for recirculating systems and if you are recirculating your nutrients it is best to use those.
Coco Coir Nutrients
Coco coir is a hydroponic grow media that works very well in hydro systems. Even though it resembles soil it is not soil and by itself, it provides few nutrients.
Because of its unique properties, it is best to use nutrients made specifically for use in coco coir.
However, if you’re using a hydroponic system that doesn’t use soil, then you will need to use hydroponic nutrients to ensure that your plants get all the nutrients they need.
Hydroponic nutrients are designed to work hand in hand with hydroponic growth mediums. These mediums are inert and can not directly feed your plants.
They simply hold the nutrient solution so the plants can absorb it. So it is important that they contain everything your plant needs to grow in an available form.
There are many different types of hydroponic nutrients available, so it’s important to do some research to find the right ones for your plants.
We will discuss some that we have found to work well.
Hydroponic Nutrients Are Required
We will talk about hydroponic nutrients and how to use them correctly.
You will want to be careful not to overfeed your plants and often the manufacturer’s directions can be too high.
Less is more when feeding your plants because inert grow media does not offer the same buffering abilities as soil.
Testing Nutrients In Hydroponics
So you will need a way to measure the strength of your nutrient solution.
Maintaining a proper pH is also important to make sure all nutrients are readily available.
You can purchase a tds/ppm meter and pH pen to test your nutrient solution. There are cheap options and more expensive combination meters.
Cheaper pens may not be very accurate but if you are starting out or on a budget they are much better than not testing nutrients at all.
The 3 numbers you see on nutrient bottles represent the ratio of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium in the nutrients.
Generally speaking, young plants will need higher nitrogen levels while flowering and fruiting plants will need higher amounts of phosphorus and potassium and lower amounts of nitrogen.
Some manufacturers have separate formulas for veg and bloom cycles while others may produce a general purpose formula.
Changing Your Reservoir
Changing your nutrient reservoir and replacing it with a fresh nutrient solution is important.
You want to empty your reservoir and replace it with fresh nutrients every 2 weeks even if it is still full.
You can top up your reservoir with half-strength nutrients if it gets low but after 2 weeks it should be replaced.
Every time you feed your plants they remove nutrients. But they don’t use all nutrients equally.
So if you don’t provide fresh nutrients your reservoir will get out of balance and your plants may start to show nutrient deficiencies.
There are a lot of nutrient additives on the market. They are mostly pixie dust and unicorns in a bottle.
There is no silver bullet that replaces good care. They are often expensive and while some do work their price is usually not justified.
There is only one additive you should use.
Cal-Mag For Plants
Most complete nutrient formulas do contain some calcium and magnesium but generally, it is not enough.
Many gardeners now use LED grow lights and they work great.
I don’t know why but whatever the reason is plants under LED lights need more Cal-Mag than plants under other types of lighting.
So you will probably find you need to use this additive at some point. Deficiencies can be hard to diagnose even for experienced growers.
If the leaf margins between the veins become pale or you see brown spots on your leaves you may have a deficiency.
There are many brands of Cal-Mag on the market and they are not all created equal. Some actually have more nitrogen and less calcium and magnesium.
I use CALiMAGic from General Hydroponics. It contains more of the calcium and magnesium I need and less nitrogen which I don’t need.
Are there any negative effects of using too many or too few nutrients in a hydroponic garden?
Yes, both too many and too few nutrients can have negative effects on your plants.
If you use too much nutrient solution, your plants may experience leaf burn, which is characterized by wilting, brown or yellow leaves, or burnt leaf tips.
If you use too little nutrient solution, your plants will not get the nutrition they need to grow properly and may become stunted. It is important to find the right balance of nutrients for your garden.
That is why you should test your nutrient strength. If you are not testing only use half the recommended amount at first and see how your plants react.
It is easier to add more to underfed plants but much harder to deal with overfed plants. Less is more.
Are Hydroponic Nutrients Required? Final Thoughts
So, are hydroponic nutrients required? The answer is yes, but it is important to use the right amount for your particular garden.
With some trial and error and testing, you will be able to find the perfect balance of nutrients for your plants.
Remember that less can be more with hydroponic nutrients and overfeeding is usually worse than underfeeding.
You can always add more but if you add too much that problem can be harder to correct and could burn or kill your plants.
That’s why I recommend using any nutrient brand at half-strength until you get a good feel for how it works. Using less can also save you money. Happy gardening!