Nutrient Solution Management Introduction
The nutrient solution is what your plants’ root systems are being irrigated with to feed them. Having a quality solution that you keep maintained is a huge factor in the success of your hydroponic grow. You have to control the Fertilizer Level (ppM level of minerals in the solution), pH (Acidic or Netural), Temperature, Cleanliness, and Aeration of the Solution.
Fertilizer Levels are measured normally in ppM (Parts Per Million). So depending on your crop, ppM measurements can range. Also some hydroponic systems require less ppM levels such as High Pressure Aeropoinics.
Mixing is normally roughly done per bottle instructions of concentrate to distilled water ratios. It is normally done with measurement of ounces of concreate to gallons of water. If levels are not within a good growing range, plants could show signs of nutrient deficiency or fertilizer burn depending on levels.
Distilled Water or RO system is important to getting a good ppM level. Well or Public Water can have heavy amounts of minerals that could throw the ppM level off.
ppM can be measured with mechanical meters made for spot checking levels. But they can get advanced as “live” measurements and/or where it monitors to add additional nutrient concretrate into the solution as needed and automatically..
pH of the Nutrient Solution
pH of the nutrient solution is extremely important. Plants all have preferred pH level ranges. Why this is important is due to plants take up nutrients at certain pH ranges most efficiently, pH nutrient availability. If pH is too far out of the range, plants could actually stare even with nutrients there. This is due to pH nutrient availability range. Also why certain nutrient deficiencies are more common due to being on the edge of the pH range for a plant.
pH is controlled with pH Up to increase pH level (Make more neutral) and pH Down to lower pH levels (Make more acidic). There are cheap test strips, mechanical spot meters, and extremely advanced systems. The extremely advanced systems can provide “live” pH monitoring, automatic pH dosing, and more. Small residential grow generally monitor the levels with a meter and add pH solution to the nutrient solution manually.
Temperature of the Solution
Temperature of the nutrient solution should be maintained within certain ranges. Room temperature is fine for hydroponic growing. Temperature issues are normally caused by growing being outside, greenhouse, or warmer climates. Temperature of the solution should be regularly monitored especially in a warmer growing conditions. Many small growers just check temperature and take action when they see an issue. Some more advanced systems will monitor temperature “live” and activate temperature controls. Temperature controls can be chillers or heaters depending on temperature range issue.
Growing solution maintained to be clean for multiple reasons. Solution with cleanliness issue can be susceptible algae growth and root borne diseases. Algae is normally caused by too much light expose to the solution. Disease are normally caused by not changing out the nutrient solution on a regular basis.
Algae issues depend a lot on the light level exposure. This can be controlled by having black or dark colored reservoir. Some people make the mistake of getting a white or clear reservoir which causes horrible algae issues. Algae can clog up hydroponic systems especially in Aeroponics with filters, mist nozzles, and etc.
Root borne disease can be spread in hydroponic systems and take out whole crops. Many times they are caused by low cleanliness of hydropinic system (Should clean after every drop rotation) or not changing solution on a regular basis. You can maintain a reservoir of nutrient solution for up to few weeks in smaller systems. For many reasons, Low Pressure Aeroponic is normally best with “Drain to Waste” and not circulating like the other types.
Aeration Level of the Solution
Aeration of the Nutrient Solution is important to hydroponics. It is accomplished in different ways depending on the type of hydroponic system you are using. Systems with lower/no water circulation such as DWC, require air pumps that add O2 to the nutrient solution. Other types of hydroponics with more water movement such as Aeroponics do not always require air pumps in their reservoirs. But if a larger reservoir is being used, air pumps are not a bad additional item even when not “needed.”
In conclusion, this is basic hydroponic nutrient solution management. It is vital to success with your grow. Remember fertilizer and pH levels are very crop dependent so always do your research on what you are growing. Other factors are general in nature to good hydroponic growing.