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How to Choose Hydroponic Nutrients

You've got the hydroponic pots and drip trays. You've decided which crops you want to grow. And you've purchased the grow lights you know you'll need to nurture the plants to their greatest potential at different growth stages. Now all that's left is choosing the plant nutrients - possibly THE most important of all hydroponic supplies. This stage of hydroponic gardening often stumps first-time growers.


The good news is there is lot of educational material out there about the nutrients you should use in your hydroponic system, on the Internet, from gardening clubs and through your friendly local gardening store. Take a little time to research the alternatives, and soon you'll know which hydroponic nutrients to try to get the results you want.


Notice, we said "try". Although experienced hydroponic growers have forged the way and can tell you what has worked and which nutrients are designed for which plants and growing conditions in which types of hydroponic systems, the world of hobby hydroponics supports a healthy culture of experimentation. If one thing doesn't work, get some more information and try something new.


The nutrients you choose for your hydroponics system will depend on the following things:


1. Organic or conventional growing. Decide whether you want to grow organic or conventional crops in your hydroponics system. Conventional crops grow faster and produce higher yields. Organic crops are said to taste better. Because organic crops grow more slowly, the absorption of nutrients is different, and that in itself requires different nutrients, as well as different methods of delivery. Organic nutrients have to be broken down by micro-organisms before the nutrients are available to the plants.


2. Growing media used. Different types of hydroponics plant growing media do different things. Some are designed to hold the nutrient solution longer, for example. Others are designed to repel the hydroponic nutrient solution so it will seep through to the drip trays faster. Commercially prepared hydroponic nutrient solutions often are designed especially for certain types of hydroponic mediums.


3. Crop stage. The growth of plants after germination is separated functionally into two stages: vegetative and flowering. Some hydroponic nutrients are designed to work in both stages, but others are designed to target the needs of the plant in one or the other stage.


4. A and B formulas. If the nutrients you want to try include phosphorus, calcium or sulfur, you'll find them separated into two formulas that you mix when you are ready to use them - or in three separate formulas. If these nutrients are combined and sit in a mixture for any length of time, the chemical reactions create a heavy sludge that falls to the bottom of the container too fast, and the plant can't absorb it. To keep that from happening, nutrient manufacturers prepare them in two or three parts that can be mixed right before using. Maintaining the pH levels correctly will keep the three nutrients from reacting to each other, so they can be absorbed by the plant.


In addition to these things, pay attention to other growing conditions that might require tweaking of your nutrient formula. For example, if you are using high intensity hydroponic lights, your growing box will be hotter. Some nutrients perform better when it's hotter, and some do not perform as well under those conditions.


If all else fails, choose a general hydroponics nutrient blend that is designed to widen the margin for error. In fact, that might be a good way to begin. Then, the more you learn, the more you can experiment to come up with your own "magical" concoction for hydroponic success.

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