Hydroponics and aeroponics use water as the nutrient carrying medium. The success of plant growing is dependent upon the factors such as the quality of the water used, pH of the solution, amount, and type of nutrients used at each stage, temperature and the oxygenation of the roots. A nutrient solution works well only if all these conditions are favorable. Here we will see the various factors that have direct impact on the proper utilization of the nutrient solution by the plants and some tips in using and maintaining healthy nutrient solution in this soil-less grow mediums.
Nutrient solution and its maintenance
Nutrient solution is the water in the reservoir that has nutrients added in it. For proper absorption of these nutrients, the water quality, temperature and the pH are considered essential. The first thing to note that plants should not be grown in chlorinated water as it can cause salt formation inside the plants as well as the precipitation of the nutrients in the solution. RO water or distilled water are preferred for hydroponics and aeroponics. In case, the chlorinated water is the only option, then collect the required amount and keep it open in an open container for at least 48 hrs so that all the chlorine dissipates.
The water pH in the range 5.6-6 ensures that the plants can absorb the nutrients without fail. The pH anywhere below or above this range will make the nutrients unavailable for the plants.
Always keep the temperature of the nutrient solution at 65-75 degrees. The hotter water will have algae, fungus and bacteria growing in it and cold water will kill plants. So adjust the water temperature by adding warm water or ice water into the solution according to the climate. Mix in the nutrients only after adjusting the water temperature.
The roots of the growing plants need proper aeration or oxygen. The oxygenation maintains the nutrients and prevents anaerobic bacterial growth around the roots.
Conductivity of the nutrient solution
The conductivity of the nutrient solution indicates low concentration of the nutrients in the solution. The conductivity should be according to the growth stage and it is minimal at the germination stage and highest at the vegetative stage. The conductivity also varies with each stage.
Over the period of time, the plants will take only the required amount of nutrients from the solution and the unused nutrients remains in the solution. This can affect the water pH and its conductivity. High conductivity in the nutrient solution can harm the plants by burning them. This is basically over feeding the plants when it does not want to be fed.
Feed the plants with those nutrients that they need for that particular growth stage. The balance is mainly between nitrogen-phosphorous and potassium. All these nutrients are required by the plants in all stages but their concentrations differs. Germination stage need low concentration of nutrients of all type, and the vegetative growth period need all these nutrients in higher concentrations. The flowering stage is mainly focused on getting full strength nutrients but is choosy. The harvesting stage does not need nutrients and in fact need flushing out the excess from within the plants.
Using nutrient solution
- Always add fresh nutrients into the freshly changes reservoir water. Do not mix in new set of nutrients into the used nutrient solution.
- Use only as much is needed. Adding excess nutrients will kill the plants and does not favor faster growth.
- If you are unsure about the amount of nutrients to be added, try the recommended amount in a small batch of plants, rather than trying it on the entire population. This way you will be able to adjust the amount. Also, note down the changes you are making each day and the observations that they bring about.
Proper usage of nutrient solution in hydroponics and aeroponics are not rocket science, it is about using the nutrients of the right choice, in the right amount at the right stage of the plant growth.