If you want to make your own hydroponic nutrient solution things are not so complicated. There are cheaper alternatives to Aerogarden parts A+ B, MaxiGro or Flora Series.
First, when doing hydroponics plants growing depends 100% on your “nutrient skills”. If you use soil you just need to water the pot and maybe add some fertilizers from time to time. If you go soilless, you become the plant GOD and you need to provide everything.
There are 20 essential elements that that the plant needs to grow. These elements are split into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
- the macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), magnesium (Mg), carbon (C), oxygen (O), hydrogen (H)
- the micronutrients (or trace minerals): iron (Fe), boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni)
Making your own nutrient solution has some advantages: you have a better control on what you feed your plants as every plant has it’s own nutrient needs; might be cheaper than ready made alternatives; its DIY, as hydroponic is.
What nutrients are needed for each plant?
While all plants need some generic nutrients like the NPK mark you see on a fertilizer bottle ( nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K)), each plant has specific nutrient needs. If you grow lettuce, things are different from tomato.
To provide the needed nutrients you should start by knowing what your plant needs. Start by searching online. For example, tomatodirt has information on what tomato needs.
Measuring EC in your hydroponic solution
Then, you can measure nutrients with EC (electrical conductivity). While EC can’t tell you exactly what nutrient is missing, EC measures the conductivity of a solution, that translates in measuring the nutrients in that solution.
ZipGrow has a beginner video on measuring EC – what’s needed, what EC is, how to choose the right EC depending on your plants and how your water influences the EC.
Hydroponics nutrient deficiencies explained
Another way of knowing what nutrients your plant needs is understanding the nutrient deficiency signs your plants show. While nutrient deficiencies also appear in soil cultures, they are more evident in hydroponics where the plant depends entirely on the nutrients you ass to the solution.
Nitrogen deficiency appears as chlorosis and yellowing of older leaves proceeding towards younger leaves.
Phosphorus deficiency appears as purple or bronze coloration on the underside of older leaves and stunted growth.
Potassium deficiency shows as chlorosis on the leaf edge on new matured leaves and interveinal scorching and necrosis.
Magnesium deficiency is signaled by older leaves having chlorotic patches in between veins
In Calcium deficiency, younger leaves curl downwards with browning of leaf edges and leaf tips
Iron deficiency – light green to yellow interveinal chlorosis on newly emerging leaves and young shoots
In Manganese deficiency New leaves have a diffused interveinal chlorosis with poorly defined green areas around the veins.
Chlorosis, bronzing or mottling of younger leaves is a sign of Zinc deficiency.
Proliferation of side shoots known as ‘witches broom’ are a sign of Boron deficiency.
Epic Gardening also has a nice video called Plant Nutrition 101: All Plant Nutrients and Deficiencies Explained with pictures:
How to Prepare Water For Hydroponics
When using ready made nutrients, preparing the nutrient solution for hydroponics is quite easy: add water to a container, adjust the PH of the water depending on your water, adding the nutrient mix as required by your plant.
How to make your own hydroponic nutrient solution starting from MasterBlend
It seems that most growers that want to make their own nutrient solution start from Masterblend Tomato 4-18-38 and make a 5 gallon solution like this:
- Masterblend Tomato 4-18-38: 10 g
- Calcium Nitrate 15.5-0-0: 10 g
- Epsom Salt: 5 g
ChilLED Grow Lights has a video covering the MasterBlend solution:
How to make your own hydroponic nutrient solution starting from MiracleGro
You can also start from MiracleGrow, add calcium nitrate and epson salt:
Hydroponic Nutrients compared – Master Blend Vs Flora Series Vs MaxiGro Vs AeroGarden
Khang Starr made an interesting experiment putting plants with different solution under the same grow light and making a grow timelapse. While the results might not be very conclusive as he had an algae problem, it still makes sense to test between various solutions.