Homemade Hydroponic Nutrients

by Naveen
(Dubai)

I am a fresher to this concept, would like to grow beans, tomatoes, and some herbs. What is the best way to go about making homemade hydroponic nutrients, and what is the dosage required?

Answer: Naveen- this is a question I get quite a bit, actually. To start, let's go over a few problems you will have to confront. First, a hydroponic fertilizer needs to provide everything your plants need....Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Iron, Boron, Molybdenum, Chloride, Manganese, Copper, and Zinc.



Second, the ratio of these nutrients will be different for different crops. For example, your beans and tomatoes will do best with extra Phosphorus, while your herbs will do best with extra Nitrogen. Your nutrient strength is likely to be different for different crops also. For example, tomatoes and beans should be fed a "full strength" solution (about 1200 PPM), whereas your herbs would do very well on a 50% strength solution (about 700 PPM).

Third, you will need to have some way of testing the nutrient solution strength and the nutrient solution pH every day so you can maintain your nutrient solution properly. For testing the pH, you can either use an inexpensive pH test kit (a small, clear vial with dropper solution), or you can purchase a pH meter.

Testing your nutrient solution strength will be a little more difficult. Usually, you would use either a TDS meter (total dissolved salts) or an EC meter (electrical conductivity). These meters can be expensive. Also, these meters are more accurate measuring professional, chemical based hydroponic fertilizers than they are measuring organic based fertilizers. I guess many organic substances used by the plants as food do not show up as "fertilizer salts".

If you need to mix up your own homemade hydroponic nutrient solution, a good place to start would be compost tea. No matter where you are, you can usually make up some kind of compost. Compost usually has a decent mix of N-P-K, usually has at least SOME Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur, and often has most of the micro-nutrients as well. If you can add some kind of seaweed to your compost tea, that would be most helpful. Products like liquid seaweed (MaxiCrop) and kelp meal contain many micro-nutrients and some plant hormones.

To brew compost tea, start with a pound or two of compost in a 5 gallon bucket. The compost can be placed in a sock or piece of t-shirt to keep most of the debris out of the water. It is beneficial to include an air bubbler in the bucket....beneficial micro-organisms will only increase in an aerobic environment.

To this, add any liquid seaweed or kelp meal you have....about 1/4 cup would be good for a 5 gallon batch. Finally, add about 1/4 cup of un-Sulfured molasses to give the micro-organisms something to feed on. Raw sugar can be used in place of molasses if needed. Brew the mix for two days (or at the very least one). Shake the bag of compost every once in a while to make a nice, strong tea.

When you go to use the compost tea, you will want to dilute it some with plain water....simply test the nutrient solution strength with your meter to determine how much you need to dilute the solution (keeping in mind what crop you are feeding it to). This is a very basic recipe. For crops that prefer more Nitrogen, you will want to add a source of Nitrogen to the tea (such as composted horse manure or cow manure). Clean wood ash can be added for additional Phosphorus, but only in small amounts (wood ash can change the pH of your nutrient solution a lot).

Be sure to always check and adjust the pH of your nutrient solution whenever you check and adjust the nutrient solution strength. If you would like to read a little more about making up your own fertilizer, check out this post, where I describe a nutrient made mostly of worm castings, bird guano, and bat guano. I hope this help!

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May 13, 2013
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Aug 19, 2011
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water soluable hydroponic nutrients
by: big rich

Can you use regular Miracle Grow for hydroponic nutrients, or a similar product?

Answer: The short answer is no. Hydroponic nutrients are designed to supply primary, secondary, and all trace nutrients required by plants for healthy plant growth. Miracle Grow, and other similar type plant foods, are generally designed to be used in soil, where it is assumed that certain trace nutrients will be present (and so are not included in appropriate quantities for healthy plant growth in a hydroponic system).

Jun 08, 2011
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Fertilizing amount and rate
by: Wayne

I put the fruit scraps in a 5 gallon pail to make my tea. My pH is all over and my nutrient value is high. How often do I fertilize as I am using a bubbling system and my plants grow to 6 inches and then die off. I bought a pH, nutrient and a temperature probe meter. Can I just keep adding fertilizer to my water in my system or do I have to keep dumping the water and adding new water and fertilizer all the time? I am totally lost with the fertilizing frequency and amount.

Answer: Nutrient solutions get "mined" by growing plants very quickly. You cannot keep using the same hydroponic nutrient solution indefinitely, simply adding nutrients whenever the numbers get low. Here is why....

Plants often use more of one nutrient than another. Over the course of two weeks, the feeding of plants on one nutrient (such as Nitrogen) as opposed to another nutrient (such as Phosphorus) causes a nutrient imbalance. When an over-abundance of certain nutrients occurs, it can interfere with the way other nutrients are taken up by your plants.

This either causes your plants to poison themselves on Phosphorus, for example, in an effort to take up enough Nitrogen out of the hydroponic nutrient solution....or it causes your plants to take up an over-abundant nutrient such as Potassium in place of taking up a desperately needed nutrient such as Calcium (which in turn will affect the plant's use of Phosphorus as well).

My best advice on maintaining your hydroponic nutrient solution can be found on my How to Grow Hydro page. Good luck, and Happy Growing!

Apr 16, 2010
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Homemade Hydroponic Nutrients
by: Anonymous

I bought miracle gro Plant food Spikes and they seem to have 6 micro-nutrients, 9 with the main 3. I put one or two in a used prescription pill container and made holes in it, but not too big so the whole thing comes out. Put it in the water and it slowly nourishes the water.

Added Response- Make sure to keep an eye on your plants....there are about 24 different mico-nutrients needed in small quantities by plants, and I would not be surprised if your plants begin showing a trace nutrient deficiency a couple of weeks on. I would be interested in knowing if this technique works out well for you (seriously).

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Check out all of Jason's recommended items.
Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 22 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.



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Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.


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Hydroponics

One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!


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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.


Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!


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Soil Gardening

This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It's a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It's natural. it's spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.

My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and....only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!


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Years and years of experience and results can't be argued with....the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work....specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years' worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World's Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!

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