If you’re a soil-gardener, you know that the best way to grow strong produce is to make sure that your soil has the elements it needs. The three essentials are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. There are also a host of other micro nutrients needed, and a vast market of fertilizers. It is no different for hydroponics, except for the name.
Instead of being called a fertilizer, in hydroponics, we have nutrient solutions. These can be purchased from a manufacturer or you can use “Do It Yourself” concoctions, such as compost tea. The nutrient should be for hydroponic systems, and be safe for consumption. The type of nutrient is up to you and your desire to experiment. There are two types of nutrient solutions; synthetic and organic. Synthetic nutrients are fast acting and can be drawn into the plant immediately. This leads to a common mistake of overfeeding the plant. Organic nutrients typically have a lower amount of fertilizer than synthetics but feed plants for a much longer period of time. Because of this, the impact of organic fertilization is usually more subtle, meaning that it can take longer to get results.
In our first hydroponic experiment, described in a previous post, we used a synthetic fertilizer starter kit from Technaflora in our Grower’s Gizmo. However, in a very beginner kind of mistake, we were not using pure water. We used water from our pond in the back yard, which was full of organic nutrients. We still had success in vegetative growth, and even managed to get flowers, using the “wrong” solution, and natural light only. That’s one of the great things about hydroponics. We made mistakes, we didn’t follow the rules, but we still were successful in our endeavors.