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Plant Nutrients and Fertilizers

As a general rule, plants will have a higher nutrient requirement during cooler months, and lower requirements in the hottest periods. Therefore, a stronger nutrient solution should be maintained during winter, with a weaker solution during the summer months when plants take up and transpire more water than nutrients.

 

Know Your Crop Plant EC or cF may vary according to the stage of growth. For example, cucumber prefer cF 20 when establishing, and cF 25 after the first harvest. Between 3-7 weeks after first harvest, the optimum cF is 17.

See Plant FAQ's for charts of plants that grow well together.

Nutrient solution should be changed regularly. Between changes water levels will decrease. When this occurs 1/2 strength nutrients should be added to raise the level. When water evaporates or is used it raises the conductivity level of the water and should be monitored carefully not to burn the plants.

Should there be a requirement to flush the growing bed, the system should be flushed with nutrients (run-to-waste) rather than water to avoid starving or stressing the plants.

 

There are 20 Mineral Elements needed for optimal plant growth.

The Macronutrients, called such because they are required in large amounts.

Carbon
C
Component of all organic compounds
Oxygen
O
supplied by air & water
Hydrogen
H
That's why its element #1
Nitrogen
N
Part of chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins
Phosphorus
P
Used in photosynthesis and almost all aspects of growth
Potassium
K
Activates enzymes, used in formation of sugar and starch
Calcium
Ca
Used in cell growth and division, part of cell wall
Magnesium
Mg
Part of chlorophyll, activates enzymes
Sulfur
S
Part of amino acids and proteins

 

The Micronutrients called such because they are required in trace amounts.
Also refereed to as trace elements.

Boron B Affects reproduction
Chlorine Cl Aids in root growth
Copper Cu Used in chlorophyl, activates enzymes
Iron Fe Used in Photosynthesis
Manganese Mn Part of chlorophyll, activates enzymes
Sodium Na Used for water movement
Zinc Zn Part of enzymes, used in auxins
Molybdenum Mo Used in nitrogen fixation
Nickel Ni Liberates Nitrogen
Cobalt Co Fixates Nitrogen
Silicon Si Makes tougher cell walls: enhances heat and drought tolerance

 

Common chemicals used in mixing your own nutrient formulas.

CaNO3 Calcium Nitrate
K2SO4 Potassium Sulfate
KNO3 Potassium Nitrate
KH2PO4 Mono Potassium Phosphate
MgSO4 Magnesium Sulfate
TE Trace elements
NH4NO3 Ammonium Nitrate

 

Common materials used as fertilizers and soil amendments.

Material
N
P
K
Notes
Blood (dried or meal)
12-15
1.2
1
soluble
Bone meal (unsteamed)
2-4
15
25
calcium,TE
Bone meal (steamed)
2-3
18-25
.2%
Ca, TE
Canola meal
0
1.2
1.3
iron, TE
Cottonseed meal
7
2
2
acidic
Ploultry manure (dry)
3-4
2-4
1.2
soluble, TE
Compost
1-2
1
1
TE
Cow (Steer) manure
.6-2
.3
.5-1
excess salts
Coffee grounds
2
.3
.7
acidic
Feathers (dry or meal)
12-15
0
0
some TE
Fish meal
8
7
2
soluble
Goat manure
.5
.4
.4
TE
Granite dust
0
0
4-5
some TE
Potash rock
0
6-8
0
some TE
Greensand (glauconite)
-
1
5-7
iron,Mg,TE
Guano (Bat)
2-5
8-10
1-2
soluble, TE
Guano (sea bird)
10-15
5
2
soluble, TE
Hoof & horn meal
6-15
2
0
TE
Paper ash
0
.1
2-3
High pH
Soft phosphate
0
18-24
0
calcium,TE
Seaweed (liquid)
.5
.5
.3
soluble, TE
Seaweed (meal)
1
1
1
soluble, TE
Sheep manure
.8
.4
.5
TE
Swine manure
.6
.4
.5
TE
Wood ash (hardwood)
0

1.5

7-10
soluble
Wood ash (softwood)
0
.8
5
soluble
Worm castings
3.5
1
1
TE

TE = Trace Elements also called micronutrients.

 

Measured levels for hydroponic nutrients.

RANGE DESIRABLE PERMISSIBLE

EC as mS

0.75 to 2.0

TDS as PPM

500 to 1300

(with potential for concern)
2.0 to 3.0
1300 to 2000
PROBABLE SALT DAMAGE
3.0 and up
2000 and up

1 mS = 10 cF = 700 PPM

EC = Electrical Conductivity

mS = Milli Siemens

cF = Conductivity Factor

TDS = Total Dissolved Salts

PPM = Parts Per Million