Plants require 13 essential elements for their growth – you will be using these elements as part of your DIY nutrient formula. In addition to these elements, they need carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O), which come from water and air.
These elements are categorized into two groups:
- Macronutrients – or macro elements that are required in larger amounts.
- Micronutrients – or trace elements that are required in smaller amounts.
The following table illustrates the 13 essential elements and groups them.
|Nitrogen (N)||Iron (Fe)|
|Phosphorus (P)||Manganese (Mn)|
|Potassium (K)||Copper (Cu)|
|Calcium (Ca)||Boron (B)|
|Magnesium (Mg)||Zinc (Zn)|
|Sulfur (S)||Molybdenum (Mo)|
But how and where do you source these elements?
Fertilizer salts are the answer. You can buy these online, from food stores, or from your local nurseries/garden centers.
The most essential fertilizer salts for DIY hydroponic nutrient solutions are:
- Magnesium Sulfate/Epsom Salts – These contain magnesium and sulfur. Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll and is involved in the process of distributing phosphorus throughout the plant. Sulfur is responsible for the production of plant energy and facilitates the use of other elements.
- Potassium Sulfate – This provides potassium and sulfur. Potassium is used by the plant to produce energy from photosynthesis.
- Potassium Nitrate – This supplies nitrogen and potassium. Nitrogen is necessary for the creation of stems, leaves, and plant cells.
- Superphosphate – Phosphorus, and calcium come from this. Increasing levels of phosphorus during bud development can improve yields as plants use higher levels of phosphorus during this stage of development. Calcium facilitates root growth and helps the plant absorb potassium.
- Trace Elements – Additional elements required for plant development. They include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.
Hydroponic Nutrient Formulas
The nutrients below make up general-purpose DIY nutrient mixes. These mixes are used for the vegetative, flowering, and fruiting stages.