Retail Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions
Hydroponic nutrient solutions are sold in concentrated form and are added to your indoor garden's water supply at a certain ratio. The number of vendors and varieties can be very intimidating to the novice and expert alike. Keep in mind what plants you are growing (greens / flowers / flowering vegetables), the money you wish to spend (including shipping as necessary), and the lifecycle of your plants (growth / flowering etc.),
How Much Nutrient Solution For My Plants?
Plants require different proportions of nutrients during vegetation and flowering cycles. Modern nutrient products are far more advanced than their earlier counterparts and now allow precise adjustments based on growth stage. Most hydroponic nutrient solutions are sold in a "growth" or "grow" formula for the vegetative growth phase and a "bloom" or "flower" formula for the flowering or phase of the growth cycle. If you are growing plants that will produce flowers or "flower and then produce fruit, you should at least plan to incorporate a "bloom" formula because your yield will increase exponentially if you can max out your plant's capacity during the flowering stage.
For my lettuce varieties, cilantro, and basil plants, I only need the "grow" nutrients as these plants do not require flowering or fruiting phases for production. The "grow" nutrient application rates are increased as the plants mature.
A weak hydroponic nutrient solution should be used for newly rooted cuttings and plants in the process of being transplanted or in transition between growing cycles. I use 1/2 strength nutrients for lettuce until the 3rd or 4th week as using at full strength is generally overkill at the initial stages of growth. It is also ideal for plants in poor growing conditions, such as low light, overheated gardens, and root-bound or crowded plants.
Regular strength liquid hydroponic nutrients are fine for normal, healthy plants in ideal growing conditions. In rare conditions, you may be able to increase the fertilizer strength to capitalize on the efficiency of your garden. This only works if you have high quality lighting, ventilation, and CO2 production that will allow your plants to grow fast enough to handle the extra feedings. Always make sure to increase the fertilizer strength gradually to avoid burning the plant.
In addition to the basic types of hydroponic nutrient solution, there are also various additives you can purchase to boost your plant's growth. Keep good records in your growlog of what additives are used, when they were applied, and the results (good or bad). This will give you a good reference guide on what worked and what didn't work for your future grows. I personally do not use additional additives with one exception; Hydrogen Peroxide. This was a tip from another grower and is used as a preventative to maintain sanitary conditions. If I were growing blooming/fruiting plants, I would likely use additives for flushing between cycles and to capitalize on flower/fruit development.
Most nutrient solution labels are pretty straight forward and allow a measure of error for the novice grower. Flush your hydroponic system immediately if you see any signs of an adverse reaction and don't be afraid to experiment. I will re-emphasize the use of a journal or grow log to evaluate the effects of solution rates and number of days between changing or adding solution.
It is a very simple process once the basics are understood.