Choosing the best fertilizer for your hydroponic garden can, at first, overwhelm you with information. Any aspiring hydroponic grower needs to know exactly what is going into their plants’ roots and why; if there is any obscurity or hidden information with fertilizer, it can harm your plants. There are plenty of different kinds of fertilizer that you can give your plants, and it is important to know how to choose hydroponic fertilizer before you begin growing. The process may seem complicated, but we are here to help.
The Different Kinds of Hydroponic Fertilizer
To figure out which kind of hydroponic fertilizer you need to buy, you need to first consider how much work you want to put into mixing and blending it. There are different variations of pre-mixed fertilizer, and each one requires a different degree of effort.
Liquid Hydroponic Fertilizer
Liquid fertilizer is the easiest kind of premade fertilizer you can buy for your plants; however, it does not come cheap. Shipping costs on liquids add up and can quickly break your budget. Each jug will provide you with fewer uses of fertilizer than one container of solid fertilizer, which can lead to excess plastic waste. Companies may also add extra water to liquid hydroponic fertilizer bottles to raise their profits.
One-Part Solid Hydroponic Fertilizer
Some hydroponic fertilizers come in only one part that you must mix. While this is an easy option, it also does not take into consideration all the stages of growth that plants experience. These mixes are also liable to precipitating if kept as a stock fertilizer for later; the nutrients react in a way that forms some of the compounds back into unusable solids.
Multi-Part Solid Hydroponic Fertilizer
Fertilizer mix that comes in a few different parts with a weekly mixing schedule is both beginner-friendly and healthy for your plants. This type of powder fertilizer for hydroponics considers which nutrients are needed and when, along with considering the nutrients that react poorly with each other. FloraFlex hydroponic fertilizer comes with a popular feeding schedule, though you may find over time that different schedules work better in your garden. Every garden is different, and all harvests are unique!
Some part-based fertilizers come in many parts and may be complicated for beginners. These are generally best used by experts for large hydroponic gardens.
Mixing Fertilizer Yourself vs. Buying Premade Fertilizer
It is always possible to mix your own nutrient solution without using a pre-mixed fertilizer. This option is more ideal for unique plants with very specific nutrient needs. While you will have better control over your plants’ nutrients by mixing your own fertilizer, it will require diligent research and serious work.
Premade hydroponic fertilizer allows you to focus less on the macronutrients and more on the micronutrients that your plant may require. As you learn more about hydroponic gardening and grow your garden to larger sizes, you may attempt more advanced hydroponic nutrient solutions. As a hobbyist, however, it is better to focus on the small picture first before attempting anything too advanced.
Know What Your Plants Need
Each type of plant you grow—especially fruits, vegetables, and herbs—may require different growing environments. This can include the nutrients that you put into your hydroponic system. Once you have your basic fertilizer, you may need to add or reduce nutrients according to the kinds of plants you are growing.
When you begin the hydroponic growing process for your precious seeds, cuttings, or transfers, make sure to conduct careful research. Many plants thrive in different environments due to the naturally occurring nutrients that fertilize the soil. Because you are not using soil in hydroponic gardening, you will need to emulate the plant’s favored environment through the nutrients you feed it. This may result in different fertilizer mixtures for multiple areas of your hydroponic garden. To save yourself the trouble, try raising plants that use similar blends of nutrients, pH levels, and temperatures at the same time.
Change the Fertilizer for Different Stages of Growth
In a hydroponic garden, there are two stages of growth—vegetative and bloom. Vegetative growth occurs as your plant sprouts and begins to reach maturity. Plants often require a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous during the beginning of their vegetative state, though both of these nutrients are important for all stages of a plant’s life.
Once a plant has matured enough, it enters its bloom state. In the bloom state, it is up to you as the gardener to provide the right nutrients for a blossoming harvest. You will likely need to add your bloom stage fertilizer for more weeks than the vegetative state. A good fertilizer will provide different mixtures for both vegetative and bloom states, along with explanations for each nutrient place in the fertilizers.
Watch for Deficiencies
Deficiencies occur when a plant is not getting enough of a certain nutrient. You will find that each plant will show certain signs of deficiencies in its leaves, stems, and yields. Your plants will rely on you to alter the fertilizer mixture accordingly before they suffer from disease or die. You can research many of these deficiencies, and you will likely find that many other gardeners have experienced similar issues and concerns. When you see a problem, take action immediately and add or subtract the problematic nutrients.
Monitor pH and Electrical Conductivity (EC) Levels
Whenever you add anything to the water of a hydroponic system, you will alter two things: the solution’s pH and its electrical conductivity. The pH level determines how acidic or basic the nutrient solution is. A high-quality fertilizer will affect the water’s pH as little as possible, though it is still important to check the pH of your system periodically as you add water or nutrients.
Electrical conductivity is important for knowing how many nutrients are in the feeding solution for your garden. Because nutrients are mixed in as salts, it will affect the conductivity of the solution and change the measurement accordingly. From there, you can figure out if your solution has lost nutrients or water or if you have added too many nutrients for how much water there is. Your pH levels affect the EC levels, so make sure your pH is at the same level each time you test it. When EC is lower than 70 percent of its original value, you may need to replace the solution.
Learning how to choose hydroponic fertilizer can be a tricky skill to perfect. With a little help from FloraFlex and our signature blends of powdered hydroponic fertilizers, you can become a chemistry professional even in the garden.