If you’re a hydroponic gardening enthusiast, you might already know about DIY hydroponic nutrients. Hydroponic is a soilless cultivation method where plants’ roots typically absorb nutrients from a water-based solution. You might be wondering how to make your own hydroponic nutrients for houseplants.
There are a lot of premixed nutrients available in the hydroponic supplies store. Then why do gardeners feel the urge to make hydroponic solutions at home? Firstly, the ready-made hydroponic nutrients that are available in the market are costly. Also, if you’re growing plants that have specific nutrient needs, then manually prepared hydroponics nutrients can stimulate faster growth and higher crops.
However, theoretically, it may seem quite easy, but practically you’re more likely to face challenges. For this reason, we’ve compiled a comprehensive blog post so that you can learn about DIY hydroponic nutrients and prepare organic hydroponic nutrients for your indoor garden.
Understanding Hydroponic Nutrients
Nutrients are super important for indoor plants that are being grown hydroponically. Your plants' growth largely depends on nutrients as they replace the soil’s role in delivering essential elements.
There are 3 primary macronutrients Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus, and Potassium (K), often denoted as N-P-K ratio on nutrient labels. Furthermore, home growers will need secondary micronutrients like Calcium, Magnesium, and sulfur in smaller quantities for growing healthy plants and higher yields.
Here is a table that will help you to remember 13 essential elements:
Homemade organic nutrient solutions have many benefits. Firstly, they reduce chemical exposure. Secondly, they promote sustainability. Besides, home growers can have more control over what their plants consume.
For instance, if you’re growing tomatoes using one of the hydroponic systems, then you’ll have to fulfill the nutritional requirements of hydroponic tomatoes. Normally, they require nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Organic and manually prepared DIY hydroponic nutrient solutions can accelerate faster growth and maximum yields.
Ingredients for DIY Hydroponic Nutrients
To start making hydroponic nutrient solutions, you’ll need some important ingredients. Preparing nutrient solutions at home can be a cost-effective way to support your hydroponic system.
Here we’ve compiled a list of ingredients to prepare the best hydroponic nutrients solution at home:
- Water: Begin with clean water that has a balanced pH. It’s essential to maintain the right pH level for optimal nutrient uptake by your plants.
- Fertilizers Salts (N-P-K): Growers will require a set of fertilizers salts. These fertilizers will provide the primary macronutrients to your plants. Macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the core nutrients for plant growth.
- Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate): Magnesium Sulfate, also called Epsom salt, supplies magnesium and sulfur. These two secondary macronutrients are also helpful for chlorophyll production, and enzyme activation.
- Calcium Nitrate: It’s a vital source of calcium and nitrogen. Calcium helps your plant to develop a cell wall. Nitrogen is required for foliage growth and green leaves.
- Measuring Tools: If you want to make the right nutrient solutions, accurate measurement is the key. You can use measuring tools like scales and measuring cups for precise mixing.
Of note, to create a perfect DIY hydroponic solution, you’ll have to blend these ingredients in the correct proportions to meet the necessities of your hydroponic plants.
DIY Hydroponic Nutrient Recipe
So, how you’re going to make a DIY hydroponic nutrient recipe? In this section, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to making nutrient solutions so that your indoor plants achieve optimal growth and higher yields.
1. Base Nutrient Solution
Initially, growers will need two ingredients: Water and hydroponic fertilizers. You can find both at your local gardening store or online hydro store.
Firstly, you should start with a fresh container, such as a large plastic bucket or mixing reservoir. Measure the required amount of water based on the size of your hydroponic system. Then, add the recommended amount of hydroponic fertilizers to the water. Finally, mix thoroughly until the fertilizers dissolve completely.
2. Customizing Nutrient Levels
Firstly, determine the nutrient requirements. Because different plants have different needs. So, adjust the fertilizer quantities in your base solution to match your plant’s requirements.
3. Organic Additives
If you want to add organic supplements, you can add kelp extract, fish emulsion, and compost tea. However, you should research organic additives and figure out what benefits your plants. Next, follow the suggested dose instructions for your chosen organic supplements. Add these organic additives to your base nutrient solution. Finally, mix thoroughly to ensure even distribution.
4. pH Adjustments
Growers need to understand pH for running a hydroponics system. If you’ve no understanding regarding pH, then this section is for you. pH scale measures the relative acidity or alkalinity of solutions. The pH scales range from 0 to 14.
pH 0 indicates extremely acidic and the 14 indicates extremely alkaline. Generally, plants prefer slightly acidic conditions. The optimal pH for most plants is between 5.8 to 6.5.
If your nutrient solution doesn’t have a balanced pH, it will affect the plant’s ability to absorb the essential nutrients and minerals. So, always make sure to check the pH of the water you’re using for the hydroponic nutrient recipe.
Regarding homemade hydroponic nutrients, the University of Florida Extension Service strongly recommends finding high-quality, complete plant fertilizers that contain all the necessary micro and macro nutrients. Also, the fertilizers must be water-soluble so that it remains in suspension.
To mix it up, for 1 gallon of water, use 2 teaspoons of fertilizers, and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and stir until the solid dissolves in the water. Finally, store the nutrient solutions in a cool, dark place.
Recipe Sample for DIY Hydroponic Nutrients
Here we’ve provided a quick table to demonstrate a sample formula for vegetative, flowering, and fruiting stages. Bear in mind that the amount of nutrients given below is scaled for 1 US gallon of solutions.
Vegetative Stage Formula
|0.40||7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements|
Flowering stage Formula
|0.40||7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements|
Fruiting Stage Formula
|0.40||7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements|
DIY Hydroponic Plant Food for Houseplants
Hydroponic plant food DIY is a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to commercial fertilizers. In this section, we’ll provide guidance on adapting your homemade nutrient solution for certain houseplants. Besides, we’ll explore the dosage and application methods.
Here are key things you should consider in chronological order to achieve the best result.
- Identifying Your Plants Nutrient Needs
- Mixing the Nutrient Solution Properly
- Adjusting the Growth Phase
- Electrical Conductivity of the Nutrient Solutions
- Dosage and Application Methods
Identifying Your Plants Nutrient Needs
Identifying your plant nutrient needs depends on the plant type you’re growing. For instance, leafy herbs’ nutritional needs aren’t the same as the fruiting plants. So, before making hydroponic nutrients at home, understand the needs of your houseplants.
Different plants have different requirements for micronutrients and macronutrients. Besides, if you’re not aware of what your plant needs, you should consult gardening resources regarding the nutrient ratios.
Mixing the Nutrient Solutions Properly
Firstly, purchase high-quality hydroponic fertilizers to prepare the nutrient solutions. Then, you need to follow the recommended nutrient ratios based on your plant’s requirements. NPK, a common hydroponic nutrient formulation, can guide you. Prepare a well-balanced solution by mixing the nutrients thoroughly.
Adjusting the Growth Phases
We have already provided a general DIY nutrient formula and mentioned the amount of nutrients (See table) based on the different growth stages of plants.
Plant’s vegetative, flowering, and fruiting stages needs are different. You should increase concentration during the growth phase and reduce it during dormancy or flowering.
Furthermore, growers should also monitor the plants and observe if they are experiencing any nutrient deficiencies. For example, yellowing leaves or stunted growth are some signs of nutrient deficiencies. If you find one, you should adjust the solution accordingly.
Electrical Conductivity of the Nutrient Solutions
Gardeners can check the electrical conductivity or EC of the nutrient solution by using an EC meter. You can buy EC meters both online and in physical hydroponic stores. But why do you need to adjust the electrical conductivity of homemade hydroponic nutrient solutions?
Because the higher EC increases the osmotic pressure of nutrient solutions by hindering nutrient uptake. Besides, it wastes nutrients and increases the discharge of nutrient solutions into the environment which ultimately causes environmental pollution.
On the other hand, lower EC may affect the health and yield of your hydroponic system. In this section of this blog, we’ll provide a table that shows the optimum EC for some hydroponic crops.
|Crops||EC (m $/cm)|
|Lettuce||1.4 to 1.8|
|African Violate||1.2 to 1.5|
|Basil||1 to 1.6|
|Bean||2.0 to 4.0|
|Broccoli||2.8 to 3.5|
|Banana||1.8 to 2.2|
|Cabbage||2.5 to 3.0|
|Celery||1.8 to 2.4|
|Cucumber||1.7 to 2.0|
|Eggplant||2.5 to 3.5|
|Okra||2.0 to 2.4|
|Peppers||0.8 to 1.8|
|Parsley||1.8 to 2.2|
|Spinach||1.8 to 2.3|
|Tomato||2.0 to 4.0|
|Rose||1.5 to 2.5|
|Asparagus||1.4 to 1.8|
Dosage and Application Methods
Hopefully, you’ve already made your own hydroponic nutrients at home. Now, it’s time to learn the dosage and application method. So how are you going to start giving the dosage to your plants?
Firstly, you should start with a diluted solution to avoid over-fertilization. A general ratio is ¼ to ½ strength of the recommended dosage. But you can slowly increase the strength if your plants show no negative effects.
In the case of application methods, you can apply hydroponic nutrient solutions utilizing various methods. For instance, foliar feeding, root drenching, or reservoir system.
1. Root Drenching: It is a type of soil injection or drench method. Here you’ll place the chemicals or nutrient solutions into a liquid form near the roots in the soil.
2. Foliar Feeding: It’s a process of spraying nutrient solutions on the leaves of the plants. It can be beneficial for faster nutrient absorption.
3. Reservoir System: This is one of the most popular feeding methods of hydroponic systems. Hydroponics gardeners should maintain a large tank or reservoir filled with nutrient-rich water solution from where plants will absorb necessary minerals and nutrients.
Benefits of DIY Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions
The most noteworthy benefit of making hydroponic nutrient recipes at home is customization. Premade hydroponic solutions that are available can be low-quality. Besides those solutions might be prepared using a general formula. So, using this formula may not meet the demands of specific plants that you’re growing in your hydroponic system.
Here is a list of benefits that you’ll have for making homemade hydroponic nutrient solutions.
Cost-Effectiveness: Homemade nutrients are budget-friendly compared to commercial fertilizers.
Customization: When you’re making nutrient solutions for certain plants you’re growing, you’ll have full control over nutrient ratio.
Sustainability: Homemade nutrients for houseplants are eco-friendly. In the homemade process, growers don’t use any packaging which contributes to more sustainable environmentally friendly gardening practices.
Enhanced Plant Health: Houseplants that are fed with specific and well-balanced nutrient solutions tend to show faster growth, vibrant foliage, and extra resistance to pests and diseases.
Reduced Chemical Exposure: By knowing your plant's exact needs, you can minimize chemical exposure that is potentially harmful to your plants.
Downsides of Homemade Hydroponic Nutrient Solutions
There are also some drawbacks of DIY hydroponic solutions. Firstly, it can be challenging for many home growers to make hydroponic nutrient solution recipes at home rather than store-bought nutrients.
Secondly, growers need to take the risk and responsibility regarding the quality of the nutrient solutions. In some cases, it might not be as good as commercial fertilizers that are available in hydro stores. Besides, the homemade nutrients may not be error-free compared to store-bought nutrients.
However, the decision to use homemade or store-bought nutrients varies from person to person. If you’re comfortable with the making process, and the risk involved with it, then you can go ahead with the homemade option. But if you’re not willing to take that risk, then commercial or store-bought nutrients is a better option for you.
Hopefully, you have learned how to make your own hydroponic nutrients for houseplants. To summarize, the first thing you need to understand is the macro and micronutrients that are required for your houseplants.
Then, you should gather all the ingredients such as water, fertilizer salt, Epsom salt, Calcium Nitrate, and measuring tools (EC meter, pH adjustment kits). Next, prepare your own hydroponic recipe by mixing all the necessary elements.
When prepared, keep the nutrient solution away from the direct sunlight. Of note, make sure to regularly monitor the electrical conductivity (EC), and pH of your solutions. Adjust pH and EC according to the needs of the hydroponic plants you’re growing indoors.