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Measuring and Adjusting Your Hydroponic Nutrients

May 18, 2008
If the advantages of hydroponic growing could be summed up in a single word it would be "control." As a hydroponic grower, you have ultimate control over your plant's environment, including the amount of light your plants receive, your hydroponic nutrients, and your pH levels.

But without knowing how to properly measure all of these factors, this control that you enjoy is completely useless.

For this reason, it is vital that you purchase the appropriate measuring equipment and know how to use it properly.

First, it is important to remember that for most minerals, the plant's roots will absorb the hydroponic nutrients as they are needed. For this reason it is essential to maintain a proper balance of nutrients in your nutrient solution. Too little, or too much of any given nutrient will result in smaller yields, smaller buds, and vegetables that will not have the flavor you are probably hoping for.

For this reason, a digital parts per million meter should be an major part of your hydroponic system. A parts per million meter, just as the name implies, measures the parts per million of total dissolved solids in your nutrient solution. It works by measuring how conductive the water is. Normal, completely pristine water, has no conductivity at all.

But as it is diluted with salts, minerals, or hydroponic nutrients, it becomes more conductive. The more ingredients that are dissolved into it, the more electricity that the solution is able to conduct. The ideal parts per million of hydroponic nutrients in your nutrient solution will vary depending upon what plants you are growing and your grow medium, but it generally lies between 1000 and 2000. Every few months you should remember to calibrate your PPM meter to ensure accuracy of readings.

This is accomplished by placing the meter in a solution that has a known parts per million and making the necessary adjustments on the measuring device.

If you want to optimize your nutrient uptake, you should also purchase a pH level reader and regularly check the pH level of both your grow media and your nutrient solution. PH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14, with 7 considered neutral and 1 being the most acid and 14 being the most alkaline. The optimal pH of your nutrient solution should be as close to 5.6 pH as possible.

To ensure an accurate reading, measure the balance a couple of hours after you add or adjust your nutrient solution. When adjusting the pH level, you should make very small adjustments and be very cautious. Overcompensating for a pH imbalance can make your nutrient solution too acid or alkaline, which in turn can harm your plants. Acid and alkaline concentrates can be notoriously potent, and a common beginners mistake is to underestimate how these substances will affect your pH balance.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can experiment with the concentrates by using them in a tank of water before you use them on your nutrient solution. That way you can better understand just how dramatically they can affect your pH balance, and ultimately affect how your plants will receive your hydroponic nutrients.
About the Author
Michael Straumietis is co-founder of Advanced Nutrients, an international marketer and manufacturer of agricultural, home & garden, hydroponics and soil less fertilizers and plant nutrients. If you would like to know more about hydroponic nutrients, discover the Advanced Epedia at http://www.advancednutrients.com.
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