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Newbie nutrient question

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Old 05-22-2011, 05:46 PM
fintuckyfarms fintuckyfarms is offline
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Location: Southeast Washington State - Right on the line of growing zones 6b & 7a
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Default Newbie nutrient question

Hi all, I am a complete newbie still doing research for my first system. I am slightly confused by all the information out there on nutrients. My question is this; if in aquaponics there is no additives only the fish waste is used, why is hydroponic nutrients so complex? Is there not one product that will meet all of my plants needs no matter what is in my system? I completly get that adding additives may produce better results, but if I had a regular soil garden would I not just use one nutrient solution like miracle grow? Can somebody please help me understand why I need 2 or more products to produce a garden.

Just a bit about my plans.... I was extreamly blessed and received several double pained windows and an sliding glass door free. My brother is a contractor and is going to design a greenhouse made out of (mostly) recycled materials. I have spent hours researching every aspect of hydroponics and I am planning on year around gardening a wide variety of plants from herbs to root veggies. I think I will try 3 different systems; ebb and flow for the root veggies,corn and tomatoes, Continuous flow for my salad veggies and maybe some verticle bags for herbs and strawberries. I live in southeast washington state and have all 4 seasons including very cold winters and very hot summers. I live on a small farm and have well water that is filtered but plan to install some rain barrels to catch the water for my greenhouse. Anyway, any suggestions, comments or ideas you can send my way would be appreciated

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Old 05-23-2011, 03:45 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello fintuckyfarms,
Aquaponics is not as simple as you think. First, in some cases there is a need to supplement lacking elements. But the most important aspect to remember is that it isn't just fish poop in water. Yes that is the beginning of process of turning that fish poop into usable food for the plants. But the process of turning fish waste into the raw chemical elements the plants can absorb is complex. It involves many beneficial micro organisms, fungi, and even acids. These beneficial micro organisms need a place to live because they don't live long in just water. So they need some type of bio-filter to live and breed in.

The water in a aquaponics system is actually a complex living environment, it's this living environment that converts the fish poop into the raw chemical elements the plants can use (that's the same raw chemical elements in hydroponic nutrients). They need a bio filter to live breed and multiply, without them, you just have smelly water that does no good for your plants. You also cant really control when, and/or in what quantities these micro organisms turn the fish waste into the raw elements. Making nutrient balance in aquaponics difficult.

Regular synthetic hydroponic nutrients have already done all that breaking down of organic mater into the chemical elements for you. The amount of each mineral/chemical element can be measured exactly, and thus you get a more consistent fertilizer (which is one of the biggest benefits of growing hydroponically). Hydroponic nutrients come in one, two, and three part fertilizers. This is for a couple of reasons, first with liquid nutrients combining all the minerals in concentrated form into one bottle can cause some to bond with others. Once that happens the plants cant absorb them, therefore they become useless to the plants, and you wont have a balanced nutrient solution. Another reason they separate elements is to give the grower more control on which elements they want to provide more of during different stages of growth. Not all plants use the same elements, and in the same quantities as other plants. Each plant has their own specific needs, and for different stages of growth, as well as even according the the actual environment (temp humidity etc.).

Elements needed for Hydroponic plants
Nutrients for Hydroponic Systems

Miracle Grow is a good example of a one part dry general purpose fertilizer. But even miracle grow has different products for different type of plants. The only real difference between miracle grow and hydroponic nutrients is trace elements. Trace elements are essential for healthy plants. But plants use them in small quantity, and there is enough naturally in soil that their not added to the miracle grow. This is because miracle grow is intended for use in soil grown plants, and not hydroponic plants (where their not grown in soil). To the best of my knowledge miracle grow does not make a product intended for use on plants grown without using soil.

But if your looking for a general use, one part nutrient like miracle grow, except with the trace elements that are designed for hydroponic plants, many company's make them. General hydroponics for example has these:

FLORAMATO DRY This is a one part dry nutrient that was designed specifically for continuously fruiting plants. That is plants that produce fruit (flower) thought the plants life, rather than only produce fruit after they have grown full size. This is a good general purpose nutrient even if you are growing both plants that fruit and don't fruit, and don't want to buy more than one nutrient.

Both the MaxiGro, and MaxiBloom are one part nutrients, but more specific than just general use nutrients. Unlike continuously fruiting plants MaxiGro is one part nutrient that's more for plants that either don't flower (like lettuce), or plants that flower at the end of their life, and you want to provide the elements plants need most while growing plenty of foliage (before they bloom). The MaxiBloom is also a one part nutrient as well, and you would switch over to using that once your plants have grown plenty of foliage, and their ready to bloom. That provides the elements they need most during that stage of growth while fruiting.
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:21 PM
fintuckyfarms fintuckyfarms is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Southeast Washington State - Right on the line of growing zones 6b & 7a
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Thanks so much for helping me to understand! Since your reply I have done lots more research including your lesson plans (awesome!!!). I still have lots to learn but I'm very excited to get started. I think I will try the Floramato dry and see how the lettuce does as that is the only non-fruiting veggie I intend to grow at first. If I have issues, I will just run two or three different (independant) systems. I am hoping to purchase the parts for my first system this next week and start it outside until my greenhouse is finished (small set back as the HVAC system in the house went kaput ) Thanks everybody for posting such great information and pictures!

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