Hydroponic Feeding Charts
Selecting the Right Feed Chart for Growing Success
Hydroponic feeding charts are guides or recipes that give detailed dilution rates when using hydroponic nutrients, bud boosters and additives for feeding crops. Application rates of base fertilizers and appropriate additives are typically listed on a week by week basis. Hydroponic feeding charts can provide detailed information for optimizing various nutrient levels for distinct crop development stages like propagation, pre-veg, vegetative growth, transitional growth, early flowering, peak bloom and ripening.
Why Use Hydroponic Feeding Charts
By using proven hydroponic feeding charts provided by reputable nutrient companies, growers greatly increase their potential for healthier plants, better yields and higher harvest qualities for their cropping efforts. A well developed and implemented hydroponic feed chart takes the guesswork out of which nutrient products, when to use them and exactly how much to add.
Following a reputable hydroponic feed schedule also helps ensure compatibility between all the different nutrient components and avoids wasting your resources, ie overlapping products from different brands
How Hydroponic Feed Programs are Created
Professional nutrient manufacturers who specialize in providing nutrients for high value horticultural crops carefully research optimal nutrient levels and ratios for different developmental phases of specific crops. Plants have different demands at different growth phases for the concentration and ratios of plant elements provided in order to maximize results for each of these phases.
Nutrient fertilizers are then formulated and blended for the correct ratios and amounts of these elements. Raw materials are ultimately manufactured into powders, or preferably liquid concentrates. These hydroponic fertilizers have a guaranteed analysis for the elements they contain. Hydroponic feeding charts give a breakdown of which components to use, at what time and in what amount (ie ml per US Gallon) so that the optimal amounts of nutrients are delivered at the right time for the crop’s needs (based on crop research).
Which Hydroponic Feeding Charts to Use?
Here in our discussion we can look at two different variations of a proven crop feeding program:
- Recirculating Hydroponics
This includes hydroponics growing systems like RDWC, DWC, Aeroponics, NFT and similar. These types of systems typically use little to no growing medium–bare roots are supported by collars or baskets, with the majority of the roots growing directly into aerated nutrient solutions. These types of systems can also be described as “medialess hydroponics”. Because there is more oxygen available for roots and no growing medium to interfere with absorption of nutrients, oxygen and water the overall feed concentrations are more effective at lower concentrations.
2. Drain To Waste Systems
These types of growing or fertigation systems include rockwool, coco, peat mix and similar. Most often the nutrients and water are supplied by drip irrigation systems or watering wands. Crops are grown with an abundance of growing medium surrounding roots, proportionate to the desired size of the plants at harvest. In a sense, we are feeding the growing medium, before we are feeding the plant in this type of system. As such, a higher concentration of nutrients must be delivered with each fertigation cycle to compensate for what will get held or tied-up in the growth medium itself before nutrients are available to the plants. Excess water and nutrients drain away and are typically not reused.
What about Customizing Hydroponic Feeding Charts?
After following proven hydroponic feeding charts and gaining a baseline for success, growers may want to customize their feeding programs based on their particular cropping style, environmental conditions or tweak for a particular cultivar. In doing so, there is always a risk of not doing as well as you did before–however, there is always the possibility of improvements too. If customizing a proven and successful hydroponic feeding charts, it is recommended that you only change one variable at a time, for example using more or less of one of the components at a particular time or changing when the component is used in the cropping cycle.
If changing several components at once or adding more than one new component to your proven program at a time, it may be difficult to discern what has or hasn’t had a positive effect. It’s best to start with a solid foundation and to only make one change at a time. Over time, you can really dial it in for your situation—a good feedchart doesn’t get dialed in with only one or two crops. In fact, well proven professional crop feeding programs are the results of many years of cropping, research and development.