LifeProTip: Don’t buy water at the Hydroponic store.
There are many choices when you go to the hydroponics store near you. The shelves are a rainbow 🌈 of choices that leave you wondering what else could you have bought. Do you have everything you need? How else are you going to cultivate dense cannabis nuggets without the magic potion?
There is a dirty little secret amongst hydroponic growers regardless of whether they are DWC, ebb and flow, NFT, or just about any other concoction of growing a plant that is not in dirt. Hydroponic nutrients are a scam. There I said it. But don’t take my word for it. Research the requirements for plants to grow.
The nutrient requirements are not the best bet to spend big money on. We would point you towards lights if you are looking to blow some cash.
Now that you are back from your research you already know that plants require 3 major nutrients (actually four) but we will get to that in a minute. Those nutrients are NPK. Then some macronutrients which I won’t list out here so you’ll have to take the internet’s word for it.
In the absolute Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are your big three.
To tl;dr the entire thing, you can get the correct ratio of nutrients in mineral form and skip buying expensive bottles of nutrients and additives.
Two that I would recommend, one on experience and another on research are General Hydroponics Maxibloom which mimics the Lucas formula, and my new favorite friend Jacks 321 which I found on Etsy in a kit, but have seen littered in amazing grows across the world wide web and so we are now excited to try in our own hydroponics system.
Now back to that fourth Nutrient. Oxygen.
In hydroponics, since we are growing with water (that is the hydro) we go to great lengths to ensure that the root system of the plant gets enough oxygen. The fundamental availability of nutrients and oxygen is the fundamental advantage hydroponics has over growing plants in dirt.
In deep water culture systems, the plant’s root system is submerged, but not entirely. One-third of a plant’s top root system is designed to take in air in search of oxygen. The lower two-thirds are focused on the uptake of nutrients.
If you think about how a plant would receive water after a heavy rain, the ground would flood and over time the water would drain into the earth. Air returns as the rains drain off providing the suction of air into the soil as the water retreats to the earth.
This is one of the reasons air stones and air pumps are widely used in deep water culture and one of the reasons why DWC is the lead in explosivesgrowth. The downside is that the pump usually has to run 24/7 and if it fails you run the risk of drowning the plant without oxygen. It takes about 36 to 48 hours to drown a plant-based on experience (that is with the plant completely submerged with no external air).
Deep Water Culture systems are nice for small personal grows however the cost of running air to all plants, plus the enormous amount of nutrient solution does not make the typical 5-gallon DWC setup all that appealing for much more than a 1-2 plant grow. Beyond that, you are mixing up too many resources between waterings and they require the plant to be moved (barring creative- engineering of course).
Ebb and flow systems are what you frequently see commercial cannabis operations going with as far as hydroponics and for very good reason. A not entirely sustainable block of Rockwool is constantly watered, monitored to allow the plant system to dry out. Rockwool is widely used for the one reason that it does a great job of allowing air to retain within its fibers. It is almost impossible to kill a plant in Rockwool by drowning.
Of course, there are a variety of other inert (no nutrient value) substrates that are used in hydroponics but the nutrient requirements remain mostly the same.
Long story short. If you want super simple go with Maxibloom at seven grams a gallon from start to finish. If you are like me and have already been using it and are looking for something a little more precise checkout Jack’s 321. It appears to be the benchmark and also the reason we are keen to give it a go.