Make Your Own Hydroponic Nutrients

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March 25, 2016

There pros and cons to everything, and it’s no different when you decide to make your own hydroponic nutrient solution. For some, this seems a smart way to keep the cost of the indoor garden to the bare minimum. After all, the price of pre-mixed nutes at garden shops includes costs that have nothing to do with the quality of what’s in the bottle. For others, it might be the key to making certain crop traits more outstanding than others, a concept that hopefully follows some growing experience. And then there’s being able to become totally self-sustainable if you decide to go off-grid and live off the land somewhere in BFE.

New gardeners may not realize that a single bottle nutrient formula is very different from a two-part or three-part nutrient. Why all the fuss? It’s not just some tricky way to get you to part with more money, or make hydroponic gardening more complex.  Multiple part nutrients give the grower far more control over plant and fruit growth, and ultimately harvest quality.  The easy-to-use one bottle nutrients are general purpose, and will give you decent results from many different crops. While a one-part vegetative nutrient followed by a one-part flowering-to-fruiting nutrient will grow you a tomato plant that provides a harvest, you won’t get that good old garden tomato flavor from the crop – because that requires fine tuning the inputs you’ve used.

But we all have to start somewhere 😉 At least those one-bottle wonder tomatoes you grew will be vine-ripened while still connected to the whole plant.



Nutrient Quality

You’ll only get out of your homemade hydroponic nutrient mix what you put into it. This means you want top quality elemental salts. Purity in is a must if you’re going to have a great grow. The other super important thing is accuracy of measurement. It’s not a teaspoon of this and a cup of that. The salts are measured by weight, and an inexpensive food scale designed for kitchen use is not accurate. Find one designed for lab use. Never use improperly stored salts either. Any moisture they’ve absorbed will change their weights, which will affect your nutrient solution quality. They must be kept cool, and dry at all times.

Hydroponic Nutrient Formulas

These are basic, general purpose nutes – so if your goal is to tweak them, you’re on your own. They give you a good starting point no matter why you want to know how to do this, and have proven successful with many different hydroponic crops. The amounts in these formulas are for 1-gallon of stock nutrient solution. If you want a bigger batch, you’ll need to multiply and/or divide the measurements per gallon appropriately.

VEGETATIVE NUTRIENT

(Analysis: 9.5-5.67-11.3)

  • 6.00 gr  Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
  • 2.09 gr  Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
  • 0.46 gr  Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
  • 1.39 gr  Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
  • 2.42 gr  Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
  • 0.40 gr  7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below

FLOWERING NUTRIENT

(Analysis: 5.5-7.97-18.4)

  • 4.10 gr  Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
  • 2.80 gr  Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
  • 0.46 gr  Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
  • 1.39 gr  Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
  • 2.40 gr  Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
  • 0.40 gr  7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below

FRUITING NUTRIENT

(Analysis: 8.2-5.9-13.6)

  • 8.00 gr  Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
  • 2.80 gr  Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
  • 1.70 gr  Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
  • 1.39 gr Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
  • 2.40 gr  Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
  • 0.40 gr  7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below

CHELATED TRACE ELEMENT MIX

  • 7.00%  Iron – Fe
  • 2.00%  Manganese – Mn
  • 0.40%  Zinc – Zn
  • 0.10% Copper – Cu
  • 1.30% Boron – B
  • 0.06%  Molybdenum – Mo

Mixing Your Nutrient Solution

Start with an clean, empty container large enough to hold your full batch. Fill it with warm water. Test the TDS/PPM and pH before proceeding. The pH will change after you’ve mixed in the elemental salts… so don’t adjust it just yet. Make a note of both meter readings. You have to take the dissolved solids content of your water into consideration, because you need to subtract it from the final reading to find the true concentration of nutrients in your solution.

Now add your precisely weighed out elemental salts ONE AT A TIME, and allow it to dissolve completely before moving on. This is not a concentrated formula. At this point you are diluting it to the strength needed to go into your nutrient reservoir. Do not add it to your system until it has totally cooled. Let it sit for an hour or two before taking the next meter readings.

You may need to adjust the nutrient concentration and/or the pH before it’s right for your plants. Hopefully, you already know the EC or TDS/PPM, and the pH level your crop requires. If not, stop and research that, because if the pH is off, the plants will have a hard time accessing what they need to thrive. Even a simple, inexpensive liquid pH test and control kit will allow you to easily measure and maintain the pH level of your nutrient solution.

A big thanks to Keith Roberto for allowing us to share his hydroponic nutrient formulas with our readers.

Callie

Callie

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.
Callie

54 Comments

  • No offense I don’t want to sound rude but with all of the unusual ingredients in here it’s not like you just have them lying around the house. It would cost less money just to by the ingredients

    • Hi Lindsey,

      Not positive by the way you worded your comment, but it appears you want to say that it would cost less to just buy pre-made nutrients from the grow shop. You are right about most people not having the elements that go into good hydroponic nutrients on hand at home, but there are a lot of indoor gardeners out there who want to know how to make their own, and so, we’ve given them the information to do so correctly.

      • a lot of the nutrients are readily available and already in some houses. for examples: boron (twenty mule team borax) chlorine (bleach), aluminum sulfate (alum), potassium nitrate (stump-out), ammonia (parsons, but this is expensive there are cheaper ways), calcium (damp rid, or ice melt CaCl2), also go down the fertilizer aisle at your local hardware store. sulfur (espoma sulfur), triple phoshate, iron, magnesium (epsom salts), trace minerals if you don’t want to chase them yourself, calcium nitrate (double salt) and others are readily available. so go to your laundry, kitchen, and bath. use what you have and then to the hardware store. ok?

  • Thanks for the info! I live in Nepal, and don’t have access to pre made nutrient mixes, but there are laboratory supply stores here that sell the ingredients so I can make this! I have 2 questions though. I am planning to build an aeroponics system and I assume the nutrients listed here will work for it, but I wanted to check. 2nd, regarding the chelated trace element mix, could you give a bit more instruction how to make it? The percentages only add up to 10.86% What is the other 91.14%? Water?

    • I guess I have a third question too! How do I use this in an aeroponic system? I mean How much to add, etc.? Thanks!

      • Hi Brian,

        Apologies on the delay in responding. Waiting on a response about that Trace Elements Mix question you have from the book author – the only information we have is what is published in this blog article. But I didn’t want you to think you were being ignored!

        Yes, you can use the nutrients in aeroponics. They will work in any hydroponic system, and can be used for container and soil gardening too. As far as how much you need to use depends on what the pH and EC requirements of your crop is, but for some idea of where to start figuring that out – refer to the dosing stated for popular brands of hydro nutrient mixes.

        But you need an EC meter to find out what the electric conductivity of your nutrient solution is when mixed with your water. You need a pH meter or testing kit to get the pH to the desired level too. If your pH is off it will mess up how your crops take up nutrients, and EC tells you if you’re about to overdose, or under-dose your plants with vital nutes. You can buy these tools online from many hydroponic suppliers, on Amazon… all you need to do is find someone who will ship to Nepal, and accepts your available forms of payment.

        Stay tuned to the answer on the trace elements. We’ll post it as a response to your other comment as soon as we have the info.

    • Knowing what I have learned about hydroponic and other fertilizers is that those percentages represent a percent mass of each element within the dry mixture. One formulation I was able to calculate is:
      28.012g 10% Iron DTPA
      2.457g Manganese sulfate
      0.48g Zinc sulfate
      0.164g Copper sulfate
      0.057g Sodium molybdate
      4.573g Sodium borate (borax)
      You can multiply these quantities as desired, but using 0.4g per gallon of solution should give you the concentrations when these ingredients are mixed with this ratio.

      • Thanks for jumping in to assist, Spencer.

      • is it advisable store as stock this to multiply it to 10 or 100 times for accurate weighing purpose? if yes, suggest preservation technique.

        • Hi Drpiyush,

          I suppose you could, but you would still have to measure it back out in gallon quantities of dry ingredients. A 10 gallon batch might make sense for your reservoir size, but 100 gallons sounds like a space hog! Unless you work out a concentrated dilution until ready to add to your system.

    • Johnny Karate August 28, 2016

      I was wondering about trace element mix too… looks to me like the percentages next to the trace elements are referring to concentration of the mixture, and the solvent in this case would have to be water (as that is the point of chelation). So yes, it looks like the trace element mix should be 10.86% soluted chelated minerals, and 89.14% water. That being said figuring out the exact proportions to get the 7% iron and the like in the chelated mix may be approximated by figuring the proportion of water to minerals and using their elemental molar mass to solve for the amount to add to the chelated mix.

  • W/r/t the cost, did anyone do an estimate? All the items can be found on ebay. I chose no more than the 1lb lots and each with free shipping. To make 1 gallon as the author suggested the cost of salts is
    Vegetative: 0.24 $/gallon
    Flowering: 0.21
    Fruiting: 0.31

    Prices as of Jan 2017.

  • Michel Fortin February 18, 2017

    Hello
    I find these ”recipes” too simplistic. and dangerous for the novice gardener.There are way more stages to plants life than veg and bloom and fruit.. You just cannot take somebody else ”recipes” print it as you did , without knowing all the implications of this so called nutrient soup.
    I guess your next one will be on led technology …RGB is in style now…
    Sorry for being so blunt but to all of you fellow gardeners ..stick to the tested and true …unless youre growing acres ….or want a tomato, aka cardboard sandwich…
    Cos with this recipe thats what your going to get

    Michel Fortin

  • Hi Tammy,

    Maybe a very basic question, as water is the base whether the pre-mixes are used or a recipe. Referring to salinity and ph levels of the water this I assume will effect the efficiency of your specific plant growth.

    • Garden Culture Team March 16, 2017

      Yes, John – pH does affect your nutrient solution. If it’s too high or too low for your crop, the plants will not fare well. The same goes for salinity. Always adjust your pH appropriately to get it to the desired level for the crop.

  • Salim Sinno August 13, 2017

    Iam starting a project in Lebanon in which we market a home use small hydroponic system locally assembled , as in attached photo, at a very reasonable price. Iam mixing the ingredients and refilling in small bottles for immediate use by growers. for daily measuring PH and EC, I use HANA measuring instruments of simple pocket handled ones. it needs frequent calibration. but it works I think.
    the total system will be marketed for $300 only. it is LXHXW 3mX2Mx1.5m . main crops are vegetables : Lettuce , tomato, cucumbe. squash and eggplant. also strawberry and parsley . what do you say?

  • Hi,

    Forgive my ignorance. I’m a noob, seems like everybody here is an expert, but i want to ask Whats the ratio of 1 galon of this mix solvent To reservoir water? Sorry english is bad too, hope u got what i meant.

    • Hi Pradeep,

      If you re-read the last section of the article, you’ll find the answer to your question:

      This is not a concentrated formula. At this point you are diluting it to the strength needed to go into your nutrient reservoir.

      • But the amount of nutrients you are dissolving in one gallon of water sounds way too much

  • Mohammad Hasan August 29, 2017

    Are these chemical available to buy on eBay or Amazon as named in your post?

    VEGETATIVE NUTRIENT
    (Analysis: 9.5-5.67-11.3)

    6.00 gr Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
    2.09 gr Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
    0.46 gr Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
    1.39 gr Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
    2.42 gr Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
    0.40 gr 7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below
    FLOWERING NUTRIENT
    (Analysis: 5.5-7.97-18.4)

    4.10 gr Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
    2.80 gr Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
    0.46 gr Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
    1.39 gr Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
    2.40 gr Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
    0.40 gr 7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below
    FRUITING NUTRIENT
    (Analysis: 8.2-5.9-13.6)

    8.00 gr Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
    2.80 gr Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
    1.70 gr Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
    1.39 gr Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
    2.40 gr Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
    0.40 gr 7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below

    • Hi Mohammad,

      I think you might want to stick with “Greenhouse Grade” or “Fertilizer Grade” labeled nutrient salts. Notice that the ones listed on Amazon say they are “ACS Grade” or “AR Grade”? Those are chemistry lab grade, and it also notes in each listing that they aren’t 100% pure – with a lesser percentage stated in the title of each product. The problem with them not being fertilizer grade is that there is no way of knowing WHAT the remaining percentage of lab quality salts is. It has the potential of being pretty toxic to your plants and perhaps you… whether you’re growing food or cannabis. 99% purity may sound pretty safe until you consider the effects of eating or smoking heavy metals and whatnot.

      Try looking at what’s available HERE.

  • I come from Indonesian. I dont know how many gallon is. From google i find out there are 2 gallons version – non US and US version. For US version 1 gallon is 3,78541 litres and for non-US is 4,54609.
    So which gallon suitable for the formula described here?

    • Hi,

      You want the US gallons conversion of 3.78541 liters… the Imperial gallon would make your solution pretty weak.

  • After making the 1 gallon of nutrient solution , do you need to take an amount of it to dilute or add with another 1 gallon of water for the reservoir of the hydroponic system or the 1 gallon nutrient solution will be the reservoir of the system? . If you will get from the nutrient solution , what’s the amount . thank you .

    • Hi Lili,

      If you re-read the last section of the article, you’ll find the answer to your question:

      “This is not a concentrated formula. At this point you are diluting it to the strength needed to go into your nutrient reservoir.“

      • what do you mean with that ? sorry got confused

        • Tammy Clayton October 2, 2017

          It means that when you’re done mixing it up according to the directions, it’s ready to go into the nutrient reservoir. You do not need to add more water – it is not a concentrated formula, but a ready to use one.

  • Hi, I have read the last section of the article, and I understand it is not a concentred formula, but is it possible to make one with this ingredients ? I mean 3 bottles, and only add a little bit in water tank when needed ?
    Also, I can find al the ingredients except sulfat of potash (Thailand), do you know if I can replace it with something else ?
    Great article, very interesting !! Thank you for your help

    • Eric Coulombe December 13, 2017

      Hey Took,
      Making concentrated fertilizers is a similar process but tricky. I do not advise to modify this to create something concentrated. But there are many good resources out there that can help you do that. You can make a larger amount of water and simply multiply nutrients amounts for (X) increase.

      Sulphate of potash is Potassium Sulfate. You should be able to find it. It is in the range of 0-0-44 some are as high as 0-0-53 so add accordingly.

      Hope that helps.

      • Thank you Eric, since I have read more about concentred formula , and found Sulphate of Potash (0-0-50). Many thnaks for your answer

  • Hi everybody! I want to ask about the recipe, because i think every country has its own product with different percentage of fertilizer content. For example MKP/mono potassium phosphate in my country has 52% of Phosphate and 34% of potassium, and i think other fertilizer product has its own percentage in other country. Can you give us the percentage of the fertilizer content in your product?

  • As micro nutrient I use librel BMX that has complete ingredient. It is 10 grams/1000 litres, if i calculate 10/1000=0.01. If 1 gal=4 litres then 0.01×4=0.04. I think your micro nutrients is not 0.4 but 0.04. Thank you.

  • Ashok Chandra Gupta December 1, 2017

    Someone, a real home buff, said that in absence of access to all those exotic chemicals and chemistry, she was suggested to boil household cinnamon in water for use … she did it and lo-behold she got a beautiful crop of fenugreek leaves in just 2-1/2 weeks.

  • Sethu Kumar December 3, 2017

    Im somewhat confused on chelated trace element mix. Can someone explain it clearly? I’m new to this stuff but I’m a fast learner. I tried to understand the comments where spencer explained, but not getting it.
    I do love to make this on my own , which is fun n saving too.

    Thank you for ur reply.

  • Hey Tammy,

    Great article and find for me.. appreciate the recipes. Could you point me to or tell me how I can come up with the gram weights if I want to make some 4-18-38? I cant seem to find anything on internet that explains how this works or maybe I am searching the wrong key words

    • Tammy Clayton January 26, 2018

      Hi mvadrev,

      Sorry, but this is all the information on nutrient mixing Roberto’s book offers. If I were to try what you’re proposing given no available info anywhere, I think I’d calculate it using the listed amounts to discover how much more of each element needs to go into the mix to get that NPK analysis you’re after. Like increasing a cake recipe or mixing custom paint colors 😀 Is that wise? Perhaps not. But if you’re not getting anywhere finding the needed info, it can’t hurt to trial it as a theory… unless you’ve only got one plant. You need a test plant to see if that approach is good or bad.

      But before you go mad scientist, I’ll see if Eric has some more educated approach to what you’re proposing. He’ll respond to you to if he has something to add.

  • Hi,
    These recipes are very interesting. Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately, the analysis NPK seems to be a joke and looks completely wrong. Even a child can understand that if all recipes have the same amount of phosphate, only coming from Monopotassium Phophate (1,39g). It is not possible VEGETATIVE NUTRIENT (P : 5.67), FLOWERING NUTRIENT (P : 7.97) and FRUITING NUTRIENT (P : 5.9) are different.

  • Tammy,

    Do you know where I can go to find out how to figure out my own formulas for what an individual plant might need for micro and macro nutrients? Like the difference from what tomatoes need vs beans vs etc.? So once I have the right PH , what would a particular plant need for best yield and overall health of the plant?

    • Tammy Clayton March 6, 2018

      Hi Daniel,

      That’s a very good question! But this is all the information I have. The book only covers the basic nutes. Have you tried scouring some university sites? They have tomes of info hiding on them.

  • Parth Makadiya April 4, 2018

    Hi Tammy,
    I am new in hydroponic. I have make own nutrients solution as per above. But I don’t know about how to mix stock solution. So please tell me amount of nutrient feed for tomato plant.

    Thank you

  • Analysis: 9.5-5.67-11.3)

    6.00 gr Calcium Nitrate – Ca(NO3)2
    2.09 gr Potassium Nitrate – KNO3
    0.46 gr Sulfate of Potash – K2SO4
    1.39 gr Monopotassium Phophate – KH2PO4
    2.42 gr Magnesium Sulfate – MgSO4 * 7H2O
    0.40 gr 7% Fe Chelated Trace Elements – recipe below

    Can u please explain how you derived the ratio 9.5-5.67-11.3 based on above salts

    • 6 gr Calcium Nitrate is 15.5-0-0 in NKP. It mean 15.5% N (in the NKP) so 6.00g of Calcium Nitrate give you 0.155 X 6= 0.93g Nitrates
      2.09gr Potassium NItrate is 13-0-46 in NKP so 13% Nitrates. 13% X 2.09g = 0.2717g Nitrates.

      Total is 1.2017gr nitrates
      and total of elements are 6_2.09+0.46+1.39+2.42+0.4 = 12.76gr. So, 1.2017gr on 12.76 grams total = 9.5% nitrates.

      Same with potassium and Phosphates
      For potassium you need to add those 3:
      Potassium nitrate (46% potassium), Potassium sulfate (50% potassium), monopotassium phosphate (34% potassium)
      and for phosphate this one:
      monopotassium phosphate (51% phosphate)
      51% of 1.39 = 0.71gr on 12.76 = 5.6% phosphates

      • In your flowering nutrient content, it will end up with (8.65-6.26-16.9).

        if you want to get (5.5-7.94-18.4), should update these:
        calcium nitrate 1.74g
        monopotassium phosphate 1.78g
        sulfate of potash 0.586g

        is it right?

        please correct me if i m wrong. i just a beginner.

  • Hi Tammy,

    Really appreciate your effort for sharing this article. Just one question. I have been trying to do my own R&D and what I have come to know is that Hydroponics is a better version of organic farming. Now coming down to the nutrient solution – By using the above salts mentioned in the article, would the solution be completely organic?

  • Great article! How can I convert the chemical salts for “organic ingredients” and the approximate proportions? Thank you.

  • It’s very useful information
    Thanks

  • Hi guys, can anyone point me in the direction of any articles or books that show me how to make concentrated hydroponic nutrients? Thanks 🙂

  • And concentrated organic hydroponic nutrients 🙂

  • Hi tammy can you help me out with Chelated trace element mix? From which book it was and name of the author?

  • How i van make my own hydroponics solution. I saw the list but could not understand it.

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