How Nutrients are Used in the Plant
One way to get an idea of how you should fertilize your plants throughout the growth stages is to learn a bit more about how different nutrients are actually used. Below is an overview of the different tasks each nutrient has within a plant. Understanding these jobs can bring some understanding to why each nutrient is necessary throughout the growth stages.
Both sulfur and nitrogen (group 1 nutrients) are used heavily for structural purposes in plants. These nutrients are part of the carbon compounds within a plant and help to give it strength
Structure and Energy Storage
Phosphorus, as well as boron and silicon are called group two nutrients, and they’re responsible for energy storage as well as adding more structural strength to plants.
Potassium, along with calcium, magnesium, chlorine and sodium are key to helping plants send signals around to react to changing conditions. For instance, a change in water or how many nutrients are available. Having good levels of these group three nutrients will ensure your plant is adaptable.
Finally, you have the group four nutrients which include nickel, zinc, iron, molybdenum and copper. These are responsible for reduction reactions and oxidizing reactions within a plant. In other words, they make it possible for photosynthesis to work properly and the plant to get the energy it needs.
One of the first challenges that new growers face when purchasing liquid nutrients is trying to decide which product is best for their grow. The truth that experienced growers know is multiple nutrients are best over the grow cycle from start to the final bud harvest. Every liquid fertilizer offers a dose of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but the products offer them at different levels.
In the early vegetative parts of the growth cycle nitrogen is the most important, while phosphorus is much less important. A liquid fertilizer with a high nitrogen, low phosphorus and mild potassium level usually performs best. A fertilizer with a formula like 9-4-5 would be good for early growth cycles.
Later on when flowering first begins nitrogen isn’t as important any longer and the focus turns to phosphorus and potassium more. That’s why it’s also helpful to have a fertilizer with a formula close to 3-8-7 available.
With these two fertilizer solutions available you can effectively provide the necessary fertilizer to your plants to help them grow successfully. Once you have the right fertilizers, you still have to give them in the proper dosage, and that’s the most difficult part of the feeding process.
Feeding the Right Amount of Nutrients to Your Plants
Even when you have the perfect nutrient supply and you decide on the right ratio of nutrients to use in your plants, you still have to feed them to the plants in the right intervals. That means understanding basic feeding durations, and knowing how to read the signs of either too many nutrients or too few. Below are common symptoms of either issue.
Too Many Nutrients (Toxicity)
- Crust of nutrients on soil base
- Discolored or even rotting roots
- Lower leaves yellowing
- Browning leaf tips
Too Few Nutrients (Deficiency)
- Delayed plant maturity
- Less than typical root growth
- Leaves falling off plants early
- Long weak stems
- Discolored yellow leaves
Feeding Hydroponic Plants
One of the most common methods of growing good bud is through a hydroponic approach, because the method offers much more control over growth variables, especially nutrient availability. In a hydroponic system nutrients must be administered with precision every day. Growers must watch how the plant responds to a nutrient level and adjust the dose accordingly until it’s perfect.
Feeding Soil Based Plants
When feeding nutrients to a soil based plant they must be administered much less frequently. The general rule-of-thumb is to give nutrients once every other watering, but some growers wait for every third or fourth watering as well. The right concentration and frequency should be determined using a feed chart and careful adjustments over time. Precise tracking and nutrient dose adjustments are both signs of a skilled grower. That’s what leads to the best crop production in the end.
Start Low with Your Nutrient Dosing
Feeding nutrients to a plant is a delicate art and while there are recommendations for the dose you should give your plant it’s always best to start low and to work up slowly. Start off with a nutrient dose about as low as 75% to 85% of the recommended amount and slowly increase that amount over time until your plants respond optimally. You might find that a lower dose works better for your plants, which is quite common. Either way, you will eventually find the perfect dose for your plants and you will avoid issues like Nutrient Lockout by taking things slow and starting low.
Use a Feed Chart
Knowing exactly how much of a particular nutrient your plant needs in every cycle of growth is difficult for even an expert on the matter. That’s why a feed chart is such a useful tool. Feed charts are customized for different strains and they give novice growers a good foundation of information to work from when going through the stages of growth. As the growers become more experienced, they can customize their chart for their specific climate conditions, for strain variations, water quality and other extremely localized conditions. Through careful testing and minor adjustments you can take an already effective feed chart and convert it into the perfect feeding formula for your crops over time. You’ll be amazed at how you can improve bud yield and quality with a well-optimized feed chart.
Flush Your Plants
Finally, you must be prepared to remove most of the nutrients from your plant’s system during the last stage of production. This is known as “flushing” and results in the best quality product in the end. Throughout the last two weeks before harvest use plain water during every watering to help clean out the plants and produce a cleaner finished bud.
It’s nearly impossible to master the perfect nutrient concentration for your plants as a first-time grower, but if you buy the right fertilizer mixes, use quality liquid fertilizer, follow a feed chart and watch how your plants respond to your actions so you can make careful adjustments, you can improve your results over time and become a more adept grower.