Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil in a nutrient and water based solution. The nutrients are filled with elements that the plants need to survive. Studies conducted in the 1930s showed that plants grown hydroponically receive all the nutrients that they need to grow at the proper times, and thrive in ways that plants grown in soil do not.
All nutrient solutions are composed of five major elements. These elements, called macronutrients include sulfur, calcium and magnesium as well as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The solutions may also contain a blend of elements in smaller concentrations called micronutrients. The solutions in micronutrients include chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, boron, copper, molybdenum, aluminum, silica, selenium, cobalt and vanadium.
Fruit and Vegetable Solutions
All nutrient solutions are consistent in the amount of micronutrients that they provide. Depending on the nature of the plant and the stage of life that it is in, each plant requires different amounts of macronutrients. In general, plants that produce fruits and vegetables do so after a flowering stage. Plants that fruit and flower use a high concentration of phosphorous. Because of this, nutrient solutions for these plants should be higher in phosphorous content than nitrogen content.
Pre Mixed and Homemade Solutions
The easiest way to feed a plant hydroponically is to use a pre-mixed dry solution. Pre-mixed solutions are added to water to create a nutrient solution before the hydroponic root chamber is filled with the solution. These types of solutions are an attractive option for smaller greenhouse operations and beginning gardeners. As hydroponic growers increase their skill, some choose to mix their own solutions before adding them to the rooting chamber. Homemade hydroponic solutions give growers an advantage in that they allow the grower to precisely control the amount of nutrient given to a plant. However, it is much easier to create a solution with toxic levels of elements in it if the gardener is not careful in how he mixes the solution.