Hydroponics nutrients solutions require a precise mixture of six macro level grow nutrients along with a number of micro grow nutrients, or trace elements, in order to thrive. As hydroponics has grown in popularity so have the number of hydroponics nutrients recipes and options consumers have. With all the choices picking the right one can be somewhat of an overwhelming experience. To simplify this process, just use the hydroponics nutrients that NASA uses for their hydroponics program – General Hydroponics Flora Series. The Flora Series comes as a three solution kit with each solution focusing the exact grow nutrient concentration required for optimal growth. If its good enough for our space program its good enough for us!
You’ll generally see 3 numbers on most bags of fertilizer and bottles of grow nutrients. This NPK number represents the ratio of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) which are the 3 main macro nutrients plants require for growth and are typically adjusted based on your plants’ growth stages. The other 3 macro nutrients (Calcium, Sulfur, and Magnesium) along with all of the required micro nutrients are also included in their proper ratios resulting in the plant version of a “muti-vitamin.”
Mixing your Hydroponics Nutrients Solution
- Water – The most important part of any hydroponics nutrients solution mix is starting with good water. By “good water” we mean water with a low mineral content under 50 ppm. Your plants won’t have soil to act as a filter for any contaminants in your water so they’ll absorb any additional minerals along with the hydroponics nutrients you intend to give them. Even worse, nutrient lockout may occur preventing them from getting the essential hydroponics nutrients they need! Water treated with a Reverse Osmosis (RO) filtration system is ideal to provide you with a great base for your hydroponics nutrient solution. If you don’t already have one installed in your home they generally run about $150 and it may be worthwhile installing one, not only for your plants, but also to provide your family with high quality drinking water. There are other alternatives of course such as bottled drinking water, distilled water, or even rain water but, generally speaking, water straight from the tap isn’t going to be the most ideal. If you do want to try giving your tap water a try make sure to let it rest for at least 24 hours to minimize any minerals that may be present.
- *TIP* if you have hard water (high concentration of mineral content and calcium carbonate) General Hydroponics makes a Hard Water FloraMicro solution specifically formulated for use with hard water.
- pH – In scientific terms, pH is a measure of the activity of the hydrogen ion. In hydroponic terms, it’s a measure of how acidic or alkaline your hydroponics nutrients solution is and plays a huge role in determining the success of your garden. A pH of 7 is considered neutral and any pure water will have a pH right around there. An important note here is that distilled water actually has a pH of around 5.5 so make sure to test the pH of any water you use before you start and as often as possible. The bad news is that the ideal range for your hydroponics nutrients solution is between 5.5 – 6.5 with 6.0 being ideal; the good news is that pH is relatively easy to adjust using a couple of drops of pH Down or pH Up solution. Since you’ll want to test your hydroponics nutrients solution pH regularly we recommend picking up a good pH meter as well.
- *TIP*When adjusting and testing the pH of your solution, let things settle for an hour or so to prevent fluctuations. Go slow with your pH Down and pH Up solutions – they are strong chemicals and a little goes a long way. Retest your solution on a weekly basis to catch any fluctuations before you feed to your plants
- Hydroponics Nutrients – The only hydroponics nutrients you’ll ever need are General Hydroponics Flora Series. Make sure you add your individual nutrients directly to your pH balanced water one at a time and mix after each nutrient; never mixing the grow nutrients together as the solutions may react adversely when combined resulting in “nutrient lockout” – basically rendering your solution worthless. Also remember to start with the Flora Micro, then Flora Grow, and finish with the Flora Bloom (stirring after each) as another measure against nutrient lockout.
- *TIP* The Flora Series comes with a fairly complex set of mixing instructions. Ignore these instructions and check out our Flora Series Grow Nutrients Mixing Chart and make your life a ton simpler.
Hydroponics Nutrients Reservoir
Once your seedlings are ready for transplant to your hydroponics system, your reservoir is what allows full automation so its important you keep it in good shape.
- Using good water at the proper pH, fill your reservoir to a point just above where your netpot reaches and mix your hydroponics nutrient solution using the proper ratios (see our Flora Series Grow Nutrients Mixing Chart). Don’t forget to recheck your pH about an hour after mixing in your grow nutrients.
- Add a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide to inhibit algae and bacteria.
- If using a DWC system such as the ZeroSoil GrowTub make sure you properly aerate your nutrients solution using an air stone in conjunction with an air pump. This will ensure your hydroponics nutrients solution and your plants’ roots are properly oxygenated as well as to help fight against algae.
- Keep the temperature of your solution between 65-75 degrees F. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot as this will cook your plants’ roots as well as promote bacteria and algae growth.
- Evaporation will occur so top off your reservoir as needed with water at the proper pH making sure to record approximately how much water you’re topping off. There is no need to add more hydroponics nutrients as your solution will become to strong and potentially kill your plants.
- There are many recommendations for how often you should mix a new batch of reservoir solution. Some say weekly, every 2 weeks, every 4 weeks, or after you’ve topped off and replaced 50% of your original solution. Just go with what feels comfortable to you.