Monday, February 2, 2009

Nutrient test

The above photo shows the lettuce seedlings from my previous post after spending about a week in the ebb and flow system. Once they have developed a decent root system vegetative grow will really become rapid.

Since I began growing hydroponically I have been using General Hydroponic's Flora series nutrients. The last time I purchased them the price had increased about 25%. The dealer told me the increase was due to the cost of oil being so high. How many times have we heard that? Seems that this is the second time I have heard that story in three years.

A recent article I read said that these increases become "sticky". Once the price increase is in effect, the cause can go away, but the increase will remain. It happened with photographic materials when the price of silver went crazy, but the prices did not return after the price of silver dropped.

Having spent my career in purchasing, price increases have always been an issue with me. I was determined to find a lower cost alternative to offset the nutrient price increase.

The reason for this post is that I am testing dry nutrients that are supposed to be super economical. They are really a no name brand I bought online, and are purported to contain all the essential nutrients and trace elements for any crop.
Here is where I stick in my tag line: "time will tell".

Two pounds of dry mix is supposed to yield 450 gallons of nutrients, so if they work, they will be economical indeed, as the price was under ten dollars.

Today I mixed them according to the directions, which state to use really hot water. Using slightly less than the recommended amount I only have a TDS reading of 380. Considering my water straight from the tap has a TDS of 80, I may be in trouble with this purchase. With these lettuce seedlings a TDS of 380 will be fine, as lettuce prefers a range of 560-840 for the vegetative state, and these are just going into the root development stage.

Hope springs eternal, as I am hoping that the TDS will increase as the temperature in the reservoir goes down, and the nutrient mix has a chance to dissolve completely. I am running two airstones full time to agitate the system to facilitate mixing. I will monitor the TDS, and if the lettuce seems stressed I will toss in a few tablespoons of Miracid to bring the levels more in line.

In case of total failure it is nice to have plan B in place, and I have. Doing a web search for commercial hydroponic nutrients I found a dealer that supplies commercial growers. This dealer will also make small quantity sales to hobby greenhouses. For about eighty dollars I can buy enough commercial quality nutrients to make 5,000 gallons! That should last me quite sometime and is very cost effective.

Somehow shipping and storing premixed nutrients, which contain mostly water, never did seem practical from my point of view. In any event, the above photo should serve as a reference, along with the previous photo, to compare the health of the seedlings using these nutrients.

In any case, it is unlikely I will be spending 25% more on General Hydoponic's Flora series anytime soon.

If these nutrients are a success, I will provide information on this blog as to where they can be obtained.

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