Plant Nutrition

To really understand how to grow your own vegetables hydroponically, we must first review the organic composition of plants.

In few words we must understand what elements are fundamental for plants nutrition, and how they are used by vegetables for their own life processes.

Only this will let you understand how to choose the best hydroponics nutrients solution in order to grow your own vegetables hydroponically.


Composition of Plants

All organic matter on Earth is composed by (at least) four basic elements: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen.  Over 90% of a plant’s dry weight is comprised of these four organic elements.

Every plant must have access to all the necessary elements to develop and grow strong.

Because these four elements occur naturally, most people rarely consider them when discussing about plant nutrition. It should be underlined that the exclusion of any one of these elements would cause the death of the organism.

(C) Carbon:

Occurs in the vegetable’s cell walls, in sugars manufactured by chlorophyll, as well as chlorophyll itself. Carbon constitutes approximately 50% of a plant’s dry weight.

(H) Hydrogen:

Important in the chemical reaction which causes roots to uptake nutrients. Hydrogen is also essential for the formation of sugars and starches and is easily obtained from water. Water also keeps the plants structure rigid through what is known as turgor pressure, notice when a plant is lacking water it will begin to lose vitality and wilt.

(O) Oxygen:

Required to form sugars, starches and cellulose. Oxygen is essential for the process of respiration which provides the energy plants utilize to grow.

(N) Nitrogen:

Necessary for the formation of amino acids, co-enzymes and chlorophyll.

Since C, H, and O are readily available in both the air and water, plants possess the ability to extract these elements from either and use them to create food using light as the catalyst.


Molecule and Compound

Plants live in the earth’s atmosphere, which is comprised of approximately 78% Nitrogen, 20% Oxygen and 2% Carbon dioxide, in addition to a small percentage of inert gases.

Carbon dioxide is known as a compound since it is a combination of one Carbon molecule and two Oxygen molecules.

Most elements exist as compounds in nature because they are chemically unstable when pure in form as elements.

Most pure, unstable elements will react with other elements in nature until they are combined and stabilized into compounds.


This is an important issue when choosing nutrients to use with your hydroponic system. When you read about a single part hydroponic nutrient that contains “everything” your plants need, keep this point in mind!

By single part, we mean that the hydroponic nutrients solution is all in one container. If this were the case, the nutrient inside would become useless in a very short amount of time because the elemental salts within would rapidly combine into compounds that plants simply cannot absorb.


The best nutrients for hydroponics

For the reason mentioned above, we developed a two parts hydroponic nutrients solution. We divided the unstable elements which could combine with other pure elements in two separate containers.

In this way our hydroponics solution practically doesn’t have an expiration date, unless you combine the 2 containers together in water. See here how to prepare our hydroponics nutrients solution AB.

Just as you are what you eat, so are your plants! So, feed them a well-balanced diet!


Macro Nutrients – NPK

Macro nutrients are those absorbed in large quantities by our vegetables from the growing media or in our case, from the nutrient solution. They are the best known and recognized constituents of plant food and as such, are used as a handy guide in identifying the potency of a plant food. You may be familiar with these N-P-K ratings as printed on all commercially available plant food containers.

(N) Nitrogen:

Necessary for the formation of amino acids, co enzymes, and chlorophyll.

Nitrogen deficiency: a lack of Nitrogen will result in spindly plants with small yellowish leaves. Some parts of the plant may turn purple.

Excess of Nitrogen will result in overly vigorous growth, dark green leaves and delayed fruit ripening. Plants may also become more susceptible to pests.

(P) Phosphorus:

necessary for sugar production, phosphate and ATP (energy), flower and fruit production – root growth.

Phosphorous deficiency causes plants to stunt and turn dark green. Lower leaves become yellow, curl backwards and drop. Fruit production and the root system will have serious issues.

Excessive Phosphorous will reduce the availability of copper and zinc.

(K) Potassium:

Protein synthesis requires high potassium levels. Hardiness, root growth, and the manufacture of sugar and starch also require potassium.

Potassium deficiency: Growth slows while the older leaves develop mottling and plants becomes prone to fungus.

High potassium levels may cause a secondary Magnesium deficiency.


Micro Nutrients

Micro nutrients are those absorbed in small quantities by vegetables.

We developed our hydroponics nutrients solution keeping in mind all plant needs, including also micro nutrients in our recipe. Have a look here at our hydroponics nutrients solution AB.

Here’s the list of micro nutrients and the effects they have on vegetables

(Ca) Calcium:

important for cell wall develop. Calcium deficiency causes stunting and crinkling leaves. Young shoots die, and blooms fall from the plant. Excessive Calcium is difficult to notice and quite rare.

(S) Sulfur:

is responsible for protein synthesis, water uptake, fruiting and seeding. It is also a natural fungicide. Sulfur deficiency is uncommon but can cause young leaves to turn yellow with purple bases. Excessive sulfur slows growth.

(Fe) Iron:

the main actor for chlorophyll formation, helps in respiration of sugars to provide growth energy. Iron deficiency is common and causes blossoms to drop from the plant. Initially the blossoms are yellow between the veins and leaves until they die. Excessive Iron is difficult to notice and quite rare.

(Mg) Magnesium:

important for chlorophyll production and enzyme manufacture. Magnesium deficiency causes older leaves to curl. Yellow areas will appear between leaf veins. Excessive Magnesium symptoms are rare.

(B) Boron:

Necessary for the formation of cell walls in combination with calcium. Boron deficiency results in brittle stems and poor growth. Stems may twist and split. Excessive Boron will cause leaf tips to become yellow and die off.

(Mn) Manganese:

A catalyst in the growth process, formation of oxygen in photosynthesis. Manganese deficiency causes yellowing of leaves between the veins and failed blooms. Excessive Manganese can reduce the availability of Iron.

(Zn) Zinc:

Utilized in chlorophyll production, respiration and nitrogen metabolism. Zinc deficiency results in small leaves with crinkled margins. Excessive Zinc may also reduce the availability of Iron.

(Mo) Molybdenum:

Nitrogen metabolism and fixation. Signs of deficiency are rare, yellow leaves. Excessive Molybdenum can cause tomato leaves to turn bright yellow in rare instances.

(Cu) Copper:

Activates enzymes, necessary for photosynthesis and respiration. Copper deficiency causes pale, yellow-spotted leaves. Excessive Copper may reduce the availability of Iron.

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