Foliar Feeding and Fertilization in Hydroponics

Ed Wike
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The Many Benefits of Foliar Feeding

The sort of plants that people choose for indoor hydroponic growing vary substantially. Plants that require certain nutrients to thrive can still be grown indoors, but sometimes the supply of the necessary nutrients is not sufficient. The solution is either to increase the nutrient level or to supplement them. Addressing the need is known as “fertilizing”.

There are three primary means of fertilization in hydroponics:

  • Nutrient solution. Just about every type of hydroponic system already depends on a supply of nutrient-rich water. That makes it unnecessary to supplement the water solution with additional fertilizer.
  • Top soil. Many systems employ a type of underlying layer known as the root zone. This is ideal for bringing nutrients to the plant in the same fashion as a natural top layer. If the plant is getting sufficient nutrients from the root zone, the plant does not require additional fertilizer.
  • Foliar feeding. With both top soil and nutrient solution feeding, the nutrients need to pass through the plant’s roots to reach the leaves. If the leaves are the target, then they must be delivered directly. That is done through the use of sprays, aerosol mists, or chemical foliar feeding. Foliar feeding is the best way to get nutrients directly to the plant leaves.

How Foliar Fertilization Works

When the plant receives the nutrients through the leaves, the plant mixes the nutrients with the cellulose in the leaf and creates an organic solution. As this solution moves through the plant, the nutrients are taken in by the roots and transported to the rest of the plant. The nutrients are now ready for the plant to process. This is why you want to fully open the leaves and place the nutrient mixture in the middle of them.

The NH3 (nitrogen) and CO2 (carbon dioxide) are converted to amino acids and nucleic acids. The nitrogen is the main ingredient you want. Just as fertilization from the soil works, the majority of the fertilizer should be composed of nitrogen.

The goal is to leave the pH level at 5.7. This ensures that the fertilizer is stable. Anything more can burn the plant.

After all the info has been absorbed, leave a few minutes for the solution to be sucked into the plant. This is important because you are using a low concentration of the nutrient to make sure that it is not harmful to the plant. If you get a droplet of the solution on your fingertips, it should feel very watery. If it feels sticky, it is not correct.

Foliar feeding also has various applications in hydroponics. In this method, the plant is sprayed with the nutrient mixture and then it absorbs the combination through the leaves. This method is best used when you have a new plant.

How to Apply Foliar Fertilizers To Your Plants

Foliar feeding is a way of applying nutrients directly to plant leaves. You can think of foliar fertilizer as a high dosed vitamin shot for your plants, but since the nutrients are dissolved in water they won’t burn your plant. That’s a good thing because, since the nutrients are introduced directly to the leaves, the whole plant is exposed to the foliar fertilizer but your plant will recover much quicker than if the nutrients had been introduced in the nutrients solution.

Foliar feeding is commonly used on hydroponic plants to supply nutrients in a hurry due to the fast-growing nature of hydroponic plants and they can be used on any type of plants that you might be growing.

The old theory on foliar feeding was that when you need a fast delivery system the plant will intake large amounts of Foliar Fertilizers, so it would use the water reserves of the leaves for the water source, and the nutrients would go straight into the plants veins.

The following lists the steps to foliar feeding:

{1}. Mix the proper amount of the foliar fertilizer with water in a spray bottle.
{2}. Spray the leaves evenly until the leaves are damp.
{3}. Let the leaves and the fertilizer sit for 20 minutes.
{4}. Agitate with a gentle spray to dissolve chemicals.

Make Foliar Fertilizing Part Of Your Gardening Routine

When caring for a hydroponics system that is not in soil, foliar fertilizing is a fantastic way to deliver nutrition to your plants.

As the plants in the hydroponics system grow, they may require extra nutrition to remain healthy. Plants in the hydroponic system may also be less vigorous than their counterparts in the soil. Foliar feeding is the practice of feeding the crops very small amounts of fertilizer through the leaves. This process can be done weekly or biweekly on any crops that are being grown in the hydroponics system.

There are many chemicals that can be used for foliar fertilizing including phosphates, nitrates, potassium compounds, and a whole host of others. It is a good idea to research the various possibilities before you begin. Each chemical has its own advantages and disadvantages and each can treat a different element depending on what the crop’s needs are.

You should do this foliar fertilizing as close to the plant leaves as possible without getting the leaves wet.

Some fertilizers come pre-mixed with a solution that will dissolve in water to make the application as simple as a spray.

Others must be dissolved in hot water.

Because some of the chemicals may burn the leaves, it is also important to get the process right.

Test a small spot near the base of the plant stem and in the shade of any leaves.