A Guide To Feeding Your Plants
All You've Ever Wanted To Know About Feeding Your Plants
Beginning With the Basics
Plants absorb water and nutrients with their roots through a process called diffusion. Diffusion is the electrical exchange of ions at a molecular level. In plain English, this means that plants only absorb pure elemental salts, like those comprised of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Understanding this fact is the key to knowing how to keep your plants healthy. The letters N-P-K are used to communicate the relative concentration of these elemental salts in plant fertilizers and supplements.
In nature, organic matter that falls to the forest floor decomposes through a series of processes. Digestion by insects and animals, oxidation by forest fires and assimilation by fungi and micro-organisms leave behind a rich organic compost. Within this compost exist soil-bound microbes which further the process by digesting and excreting the raw essential elements plants feed on. When the rains come, these elements go into solution and are made available to plants.
Why go soilfree?
With this in mind, one may venture to make liquid plant food with compost and a coffee maker! A novel idea, but tons of compost would be needed as the concentration of essential elements in soil is extremely low. Essential elements can be found in naturally occurring deposits throughout the world. The difference between Organic and Hydroponic nutrients is that Organic nutrients breakdown into the essential elements through biological activity in the solution. Hydroponic nutrients are already broken down, making for a purer solution than one with organic wastes still in solution.
What this does demonstrate is that there are gardening methods that actually go beyond organic methods for the purity and health of your plants. Unfortunately, some organic sources for nutrients can actually be highly contaminated. So soilfree gardening is the purest state possible for plants to thrive. And this is why they grow so rapidly. Instead of using their precious energy seeking the nutrient elements they need from complex soil compounds, and rejecting what is useless to them, they are able to directly absorb what they need in its purest state. As we advise gardeners, the way to have healthy plants is to think like a plant!
Advanced nutrients provide gardeners with far more accuracy and flexibility than was possible even just a few years ago. By increasing your awareness of a plant's growth cycles and the kinds of nutrients it is seeking in those cycles, it is possible to achieve much faster cropping and larger blooms and fruit. When the plant is operating at its optimum level of efficiency, it is able to devote far more of its energy to blooming and fruiting. For more detailed information on specific nutrients that are currently available, please see our FG Nutrient Catalog page.
More factors in plant nutrition
Another important factor in plant nutrition is the pH or Ionic concentration of the medium from which they feed. It is important to understand that proper diffusion can only take place inside a narrow band of pH levels! Some nutrients even become ENTIRELY unavailable to the plant if the pH drifts too far from optimal. So what you may diagnose as a nutrient deficiency could actually be a problem with the pH. Choosing the right soilfree nutrients for your gardening needs is easy with our wide selection of products. But before you mix up your first batch, you'll want to adjust the pH of your water BEFORE you add the nutrients so they will be optimally available to your crop. For more information, please see our pH and PPM page.
For plants to be able to grow best, the nutrient pH be slightly acidic - the range of 5.5 to 6.8 is considered ideal for most crops. Generally pH will be fine and won't require adjustment when our nutrient products are used, since our formulas are "pH buffered". However there are some important exceptions. When poor quality water is used to mix nutrient solution, or when a pH unstable media is used, such as many Rockwool and gravel products, or when plant growth rates are so high that the nutrient mix is thrown off due to rapid nutrient absorption by the crop, then you must adjust your pH. So that's why it is important to check your pH from time to time.
Products to get you started
pH Test Kits are perfect for monitoring pH. Simply fill the test vial with water, add a few drops of indicator and compare the resulting color with chart. For larger gardens, we sell waterproof digital pH meters. You'll also need pH Down and pH Up products to raise and lower your garden's pH. Our pH products are formulated using pure plant nutrients so they are safe, reliable, effective and eco-friendly. For more detailed information on specific nutrients that are currently available, click here.
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