In hydroponic gardening there are few ongoing expenses, but one of them is the nutrient bath that feeds your plants. Some hydroponic enthusiasts start out using a commercial fertiliser with the correct proportions of the macro and secondary nutrients that plants need during their growing cycle. Excellent and hassle-free results come from nutrients developed for hydroponic systems. Buying in bulk is one way to save money on these nutrients.
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A Better Brew
You can brew your own nutrient tea, but success in doing so usually comes after some time spent learning the tricks of hydroponic gardening. The macro ingredients any mix needs include nitrogen for green plants with lots of leaves, potassium to increase chlorophyll and encourage root growth and phosphorus to ensure fruits and flowers. Secondary nutrients include magnesium and calcium, and there are a host of lesser nutrients that round out the picture and help grow healthy plants. Once you have experience with adjusting the water-nutrient mix and testing for balance, as well as learning the signs that something is off and threatening your crop, you can branch out. Learn about what works, enjoy the success of raising edible fruits and vegetables and then experiment with your own nutrient mix to save money. Jumping right in before you know what you are doing could cost you an entire crop.
Buy Bigger---Save Bigger
Check local nursery and garden supply stores and online as well. Look for the best deal on the largest containers of the hydroponic nutrient formula for your system. You may find online savings that offset the shipping costs when you buy less frequently. If you are not planning year-round gardening, calculate how much nutrient you will need per season and buy that amount. Some common hydroponics brands that come in small to large containers include Fox Farm's Big Bloom liquid concentrate in the 2.5-gallon size and Cha Ching soluble in a 1-pound sack; both offer savings in these "family-size" containers. Botanicare Liquid Karma comes in a 5-gallon jug for active hydroponics farmers who want the biggest savings in a mix of metabolically active organic compounds. Mother Earth Super Tea is an organic premix sold in 10-liter containers. There are dozens more brands to choose from. See which one is recommended for the particular crops you intend to grow.
One solution to the high cost of nutrients is to calculate the proportion of nutrients in your ideal hydroponic fertiliser and then look for a golf course landscape supply house and buy the ingredients in bulk. Be sure to get calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate---ammonia nitrate, which is often used in soil, can easily burn your water-grown plants. Hydroponic gardeners who have compared commercial fertilisers, both premixed or home-mixed, with organic hydroponic nutrients claim the latter produce more fragrant, tasty and abundant fruit and veggies. However, there are also hobbyists who also swear by what they pick up on sale at the local big box garden centre. In the end, the investment of your time may count for as much as the investment in the nutrients.
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