If you are an avid hydroponic gardener you know how altering one element of your plants' environment can have a dramatic effect on their growth. The nutrient chemicals you add to the water are among the most important elements of any hydroponic system. Plants have different nutritional needs, so it makes sense to feed tomatoes a different nutrient formula than you would feed to strawberries.
Optimize for Growth or Flowering
The simplest way to customize your hydroponic chemicals is to use a two-stage nutrient solution. Start with a basic hydroponic nutrient solution. When plants are young, supplement with a formula designed to promote growth. These formulas are high in nitrogen, which encourages leaf and stem growth. After the plants are well established, switch to a "flower" or "bloom" supplement. This will supply extra phosphorus that encourages flowering and fruit or vegetable production.
Extra Nutrient Additives
If you want more control over the nutrients you feed your plants, consider supplementing their core nutrient solution with additives designed to make plants healthier and more resistant to disease. The three primary additives are vitamin B1, liquid seaweed and silica. Vitamin B1 encourages growth and root health, resulting in stronger, larger plants. Liquid seaweed contains more than 40 micronutrients that are essential for healthy plants. It also contains plant hormones that control the growth, flowering and fruiting stages of the plant life cycle. Silica helps plants grow strong stems and branches, allowing them to grow larger fruits.
Test Your Solution
Any hydroponic gardener should test her nutrient solution regularly for proper pH and electrical conductivity, or EC levels. Plants can only absorb nutrients in a very specific pH range--between 6.0 and 6.5. EC levels measure the amount of mineral salts present in the water. This gives a good indication of the nutrient to water ratio.
Temperature is the third crucial factor to monitor. Your nutrient solution should be kept between 68 and 72 degrees F. If the water is colder than 68 degrees the plants will not absorb enough water to stay hydrated. If it is warmer than 72 degrees, it will not hold enough dissolved oxygen.