How to Make the Perfect Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
Sure, you could just buy a premixed nutrient solution, but where’s the fun in that? If you have some time for preparation, mixing your own nutes is an easy and rewarding process.
If you are managing a hydroponic garden, you have two options when it comes to your nutrients: You can purchase a premixed nutrient solution or you can mix your own at home. Buying a premixed nutrient solution is a quick fix that works well.
However, mixing your own fertilizer allows you to fine-tune the level of each nutrient to your plants’ exact requirements, and you can save a ton of money in the long run. Also, making your own hydroponic nutrient solution is easy. It just requires some preparation and a keen eye.
Before you mix a drop, you need to take the time to read about nutrients. Find out what they do and how they work. Also, learn about the types of nutrients that your individual plants need. Each nutrient corresponds to a different function within the plant.
All plants depend on the same primary macronutrients and micronutrients, but their ratios in solution will vary based on what you are growing. Know your plants, and know what and how much they need before you begin.
Next, you’re going to need supplies. The most important things on your shopping list are the various nutrient salts that will serve as the base of your fertilizer. Phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and all the other essential elements you need are available in this solid crystalline form.
When the nutrient salts are mixed with water to make your solution, they break down and provide nutrition as they are absorbed by your plant’s root system.
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Your water should be clean. You always end up with a better feed mix if you can use water run through a filtration system to remove unwanted contaminants. Next, you need a few buckets; one for each part of the solution.
For example, if you are using an “A, B, Bloom” system, you need three buckets. Also, buy a digital scale that can measure down to the hundredth of a gram, as your measurements will need to be precise.
Next, you need your typical measuring spoons and cups. Don’t forget to use rubber gloves. Safety is paramount, so always wear gloves when handling nutrient salts or any other chemicals.
Now that you have your supplies, fill your buckets with the appropriate amount of water. Next, use your measuring cups, spoons, and scale to weigh out the proper amount of salts. Prepare each nutrient on its own, and do it carefully.
Pouring Your Salts
Salts dissolve almost immediately after being introduced to water. Pour them in slowly and disperse them around the bucket, trying to avoid unnecessary splashing. After one salt has dissolved, you can proceed with the next.
Once you have measured out and introduced all of your salts, put a lid on the bucket and give it a good shake to break up any clumps that may have been missed.
Read also: 10 Things to Know About Your Nutrient Reservoir
Now that you have your preliminary mix done, you need to check and adjust your pH. This is of utmost importance. Plants require a pH in a range of about 5.5 to seven, with most falling under 6.5. With water being a neutral medium (that is, having a pH of seven), you are going to need some pH down solution.
Solutions designed to reduce pH are highly acidic, meaning a little bit goes a long way. Make a separate diluted pH down mixture by using just a few drops of pH down concentrate with a gallon of water.
This gives you a solution with a pH of around two, give or take. Then, slowly add the diluted pH down mixture to your nutrient mix, stopping to check your result frequently.
Once you get your pH in line, it’s time to fine-tune your electrical conductivity (EC). That is, you need to check if the ratio of total nutrients to the amount of water is correct. An EC measurement is similar to a part per million (ppm) reading, but it has become the new, more accurate standard in measuring nutrient ratios.
There are several ways to get your EC reading, but the easiest is to use an electronic EC meter. You want your EC anywhere from 0.8 to three, those being the extremes. Most gardening applications require an EC of somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5.
Above that, you risk a nutrient burn. If your EC is too high, add enough water to bring your EC down to the desired range.
And there you have it! Follow these steps and you too can make your very own hydroponic feed mix from scratch.
Read next: Perfecting the pH of Your Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
Written by Cory Hughes | Commercial Grower
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned full-time commercial grower in Denver, Colorado.