Hydroponics is the term used to describe the art and science of growing plants in a liquid, soilless system. Rather than deriving their nutrients from the surrounding environment, plants are given a pre-mixed solution, delivering all of the elements which are essential to the plant's growth and development. When successful, hydroponics allows growers to generate a comparatively high yield in a small amount of space. Nutrient solutions are most commonly purchased pre-mixed; however, for those on a budget or those who simply like the idea of making their own, it can be created at home.
Locate common sources for the three main ingredients required for healthy plant growth and development: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. They are the chief components of most commercial fertilizers or general purpose "plant food" and can be used as a base for your own solution.
Research any specific nutrient requirements for the plants you wish to grow. Aside from the main three ingredients, most plants also need iron, calcium and magnesium. These elements provide the building blocks for the development of roots, flowers and fruits.
Make a simple solution by mixing one cup of all-purpose plant food with ¼ cup plaster of Paris, ¼ cup of Epsom salts and ½ teaspoon of iron sulfate. Stir the ingredients, combining them until they are thoroughly blended.
Store the mixture in an airtight container. To use, add one teaspoon to one gallon of water and shake vigorously until the nutrients dissolve.
Boost the growth potential of your nutrient solution, add the following to the mixture: 1 teaspoon of boric acid, 1 teaspoon of manganese sulfate, ½ teaspoon of copper sulfate and ½ teaspoon of zinc sulfate. These trace minerals act as catalysts for the other ingredients, helping each chemical reaction occur as efficiently as possible, saving the plant's energy resources.