Feeding Schedule for Hydroponic Gardens
Hydroponic gardening has numerous benefits, but they’re all useless without the right amount of water and food on the appropriate schedule. Once you’ve built a hydro garden, it’s up to you to determine what works for your plants.
In this guide, we’ll look at what growers should use to feed and water their plants, and we’ll also provide a general schedule. Though the precise schedule may vary depending on the plants, our guidelines are a great place to start.
Read on to learn what hydroponic gardening is and how it can help growers achieve healthier, more bountiful yields.
Hydroponics: What Is It?
If you’re just getting started and are in the research phase, it’s important to understand what hydroponic gardening is. In hydroponics, plants are cultivated in a water- and nutrient-based system.
No soil is used in a hydro garden. Instead, planters are filled with a medium such as Perlite, which serves as the root bed. Plants’ roots come into direct contact with nutrients in the water reservoir, which stimulates healthy growth.
The Benefits and Risks of Hydroponic Gardening
There are a few advantages and disadvantages associated with growing plants hydroponically. Before we discuss feeding schedules, let’s look at them so you know what to expect.
- Hydroponic plants may grow up to 25% faster than those grown in soil.
- Plants may grow larger because they don’t have to struggle to access important nutrients.
- Because it’s an enclosed setup, a hydroponic garden conserves water.
- Hydroponics creates an eco-friendly, sustainable system in which plants are grown. Less pollution and waste are created because there’s no soil runoff.
- System setup and maintenance are costlier and more time-consuming than that of a conventional garden.
- There’s a greater risk of failure because hydro gardens rely on mechanical components that may break down.
To understand the concept of hydroponics, it’s important to know the basics. Now that we’ve got those covered, we’ll look at some of the tools needed to get ready for feeding time.
The Tools of the Trade
It’s not enough to know when to feed your plants; you’ll also need a few special tools. Here, we’ll list a few things hydro gardeners should have when they’re getting ready for a feeding.
- A pH tester will help ensure that the water’s pH is balanced for healthy growth. Imbalanced pH will cause long-lasting and bothersome problems, and a tester is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to avoid them.
- Measuring spoons will make it easier to use the right amount of Epsom salts and nutrients to make a feeding solution.
- Nutrients are available in various formulations. Be sure to select a formula designed for use in a hydroponic garden.
- Epsom salts are a crucial part of the nutrient mixture. Add one-quarter teaspoon with each feeding to help boost the plants’ magnesium levels and encourage healthy growth.
- Water is another vital part of a hydro garden. Here, it’s used to dissolve Epsom salts and nutrients so they’re easier for the plants to absorb.
Now that we’ve discussed what to use when feeding plants, we’ll look at why and what you should feed them.
What to Water and Feed Your Plants With
With the right tools on hand, it’s time to start choosing what to use when feeding hydroponic plants. Water is one of the most important secondary factors. Other aspects, such as room temperature and lighting, also play a role in the overall growth cycle. All these combined create the growing environment, and here, we will look at the two most crucial components in feeding.
- Using top-quality water when watering and in reservoirs will keep plants healthy. With tap water and that from other non-distilled sources, the plants may become overfed because they’re getting nutrients from an external source. We recommend using a multilevel filter that removes foreign matter before releasing water into the misting system and reservoir. This eliminates the risk of extra nutrients, chemicals, and salt making their way into the water the plants receive.
- There are several nutrient formulas available for plant growth, but the most important factor to consider is that the formula you choose is designed for hydroponic gardens. The formulations designed for soil growth may be lacking certain ingredients, as they assume the soil will lend a hand. When growing plants hydroponically, it’s crucial to choose a nutrient blend that gives the plants everything they need. There are a couple of styles from which to choose: dry and liquid. Though liquids are easier to use, they are costly. Dry formulas are less expensive, but it takes a bit more work to get them ready for use.
Once you’ve chosen the right nutrients and water for the plants, it’s time to put the Epsom salts to use. Now, you’re ready to develop a feeding schedule and start the process of plant growth.
Scheduling Feedings for Hydroponic Plants
To grow a healthy, green, and plentiful crop, growers must understand the importance of water and nutrients in hydroponic gardens. Ensuring the smooth flow of clean water and minimizing the risk of over-watering is crucial.
Getting the plants to grow as planned means feeding them on a good schedule with the right blend of nutrients. The first step is to follow the feeding schedule provided by the nutrient manufacturer. Don’t skip any feedings and give only the dosage indicated on the product’s container.
The only reason to deviate from the recommended schedule is if adverse effects are seen. Once this happens, a grower may notice that their schedule is a bit different from the one suggested by the manufacturer.
Many hydroponic growers use feed charts to increase the health and yield of their crops. The time in which nutrients are introduced will elicit certain responses from a plant, and a feed chart helps the grower understand what to use and when to use it. Such knowledge is crucial in hydroponic gardens where the cultivator retains control over nutrient dosing.
Plants may receive nutrients in varying concentrations depending on the variety, environment, and growth stage. Adding too few or too many nutrients may cause harm to the plants. However, a feed chart provides definitive instructions on the timing and application of nutrients.
Growers should remember that plants have different nutritional requirements during every part of the growth cycle. A feed chart is a great place to start, but as you sharpen your skills, it may be necessary to adjust that chart based on the plants’ needs. With time, you’ll be able to customize charts in consideration of water quality, local climate, and plant attributes. Gardening is an art form, and as with other arts, practice makes perfect.
Reading a Feed Chart
Though feed charts seem simple, they can become complicated for first timers. Generally, feed charts are broken down into grids including nutrients and timeline information. For instance, a hydroponic chart may list instructions by the week, with a new nutrient coming in every seven days.
Most charts offer a nutrient ratio per gallon of solution. If the first week calls for 5ml of a nutrient, simply add that amount for every gallon of water. If the system takes 50 gallons, you’ll need 250ml of nutrients.
Once the nutrients have been mixed into the solution, use a parts per million (ppm) reader to check its strength. Furthermore, a feed chart may advise adding nutrients in a specific order.
Adjusting the Feed Chart
Though feed charts and manufacturers provide basic instructions on feeding plants, they can be modified to suit the garden’s needs. To adjust, you’ll need to follow the recommended chart and assess the plants’ responses. Understanding how plants react to nutrients will help you guess how they’ll be affected when feeding times and quantities are changed.
When adjusting feeding schedules, gardeners should know the difference between nutrient deficiency and nutrient lockout. A lockout happens when the growth medium becomes too rich in nutrients, which prohibits the plants from absorbing them. It’s the opposite of a deficiency, but both have similar symptoms. By following a feeding schedule and making only the necessary adjustments, it should be easy to tell if the plants are getting the nourishment they need.
Tips for Better Plant Growth
Once you’ve perfected the feeding schedule, a few other factors play roles in a hydroponic garden’s success. Here are a few easy tips for healthy growth.
- Be sure the plants get a minimum of six hours of grow light or sunlight each day.
- To simplify the process, start with plants that have passed the seedling stage.
- Check the water’s pH regularly and adjust it as needed.
- Set the pump timer for the right cycle.
With these tips and the right feeding schedule, you’ll get a healthier and more plentiful crop.
Final Thoughts on Hydroponic Feeding Schedules
Though it’s important to set a feeding schedule, creating the right one depends on factors such as plant selection, the local climate, and the nature of the hydroponic setup. These factors, and many others, determine the health and quantity of the crop.