Hydroponic planting is a method of growing flowers and vegetables without the use of soil. Instead of soil, a plant is grown in a water and nutrient mixture that promotes growth in a humid environment. Hydroponic growing is a fascinating but complex endeavor. To grow healthy plants, you must know the basic components of hydroponic nutrient formulas.
You will need to make a nutrient mixture that includes all 16 essential elements that a plant needs to grow. These elements come from the air, water, and natural fertilizers. In your nutrient mixture, you need to include carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), boron (B), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), molybdenum (Mo) and chlorine (Cl). Different plants and different localities will require different mixtures of these 16 elements. Too much of any one nutrient can damage crops, and can actually do damage to the environment, especially if too much fertilizer is used in a mixture. Too little of these nutrients and the plant will wither and die. Nutrient demand from the plants will change as the seasons change.
As your plants grow, change the amount of nutrients you are providing. Hydroponic nutrient solutions are sold by "growth formula," for the initial stages of a plant's growth, and a "bloom" or "flower" formula for the flower phase of your plants. Each plant variety will require you to change the nutrients at different periods, as most plants reach a flowering stage at different times. You can also include additives with your nutrient mix to max out the plant's growth. As you experiment with your formulas, keep a log of what works and what does not work so that you can improve with each new crop.
Attaining Proper Strength
Test the concentration of your nutrient mixture. You can make a weak nutrient solution for plants that are growing in poor conditions, such as low light or overcrowding. If you have recently transplanted, or are in the early stages of cloning a plant, a weak solution is recommended. You can use a regular strength formula for plants in normal conditions. You will need to measure your solution by the electrical conductivity of the nutrients in the water. You measure the mixture by nutrient parts per million. This will give you the general conductivity of your formula. Hydroponic solutions are usually sold in three separate parts so that you can easily measure how much of each nutrient is going into the mixture. This way you can add the required nutrients, then dilute the solution according to the required conductivity of your formula for the plants you are growing.