Boost Yields With Nutrients
Hydroponic fertilizers contain all the essential nutrients that indoor plants need to grow and flower. But if you want the healthiest plants, those that grow quickly and bloom abundantly, give them specially formulated supplements at critical times in their lives.
Stage 1: Seedling
Know: When seeds germinate, they use proteins stored within them to begin building their thin little stems and the first pairs of leaves. Proteins are chains of various types of amino acids that plants break down and then reassemble into new chains to form the many different kinds of cells needed for plants to develop and grow.
Some proteins serve as the basic structure of plant cells while others act as enzymes that trigger the many complex processes that lead to growth.
Try: Whether you start your indoor crop from seeds or clones (cuttings from a mature plant), high-protein nutrients during the early stages of plants’ growth ensures that they have a complete supply of the building blocks needed to grow cells for roots, stems, and leaves.
Feed your seedlings with a liquid organic fertilizer that’s rich in nitrogen, a major component of proteins. Twice a week treat them to a dilute solution of a liquid amino acid supplement to support the rapid production of new cells.
Stage 2: Transplant
Know: Plants generate their own amino acids, but when they are under stress, the process slows and even stops. To keep growing, a plant may break down proteins in existing cells and siphon the amino acids away to make new cells. This weakens the plant overall and redirects its energy away from root and leaf development.
If there is a deficiency of a single type of amino acid, then the chain can’t form and neither will the complex proteins. Adding amino acid supplements to your fertilizing routine ensures that your plants have the complete set amino acids at all times.
Try: The move from starter pots to a more permanent place in your growing system can stress plants enough to slow their growth for a few days.
Feed them an amino acid supplement right after transplanting and for up to a week after to keep new growth coming while the plants adapt to their new home.
Stage 3: Vegetative
Know: Plants’ leaves perform the vital function of gathering the light needed for photosynthesis, the process through which plants produce the carbohydrates they need. Nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound plants use to convert light energy into carbs.
As quickly as plants can produce chlorophyll, they can use it to grow new leaves and dramatically increase their energy production and size.
Try: Fertilizers designed for plants’ vegetative stage are high in nitrogen to foster the growth of new leaves and increase their chlorophyll production. Plants need to wait for proteins to break down into amino acids they can use. Feeding plants an amino acid supplement speeds up their growth because it bypasses the step of breaking down protein into its components.
Stomata are tiny pore-like openings on leaves through which plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air. The stomata can also absorb tiny amounts of amino acids, so misting the leaves with an amino acid supplement can give a plant rapid access to the nutrients. Just be aware that stomata are open only when the leaves are absorbing light, so spray them while the lights are on in your indoor garden. And keep the room between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that the stomata stay open and take in as much of the amino acids as possible.
Stage 4: Flowering
Know: When your plants have a full leaf canopy and reach their mature height, they are ready to begin flowering. As plants prepare to flower, their need for nitrogen drops, and phosphorus becomes the most important nutrient.
A hydroponic fertilizer formulated for the flowering stage has an N-P-K ratio of 2-8-4 (that is, the amount of nitrogen, N, in relation to phosphorus and potassium, P and K, respectively), indicating that it has more phosphorus than nitrogen or potassium.
Bone meal, a plant supplement, is high in phosphorus. It’s also a rich source of calcium, which helps plants build healthy cells and activates key growth-regulating hormones.
Try: Stimulating plants to flower indoors typically depends on manipulating the photoperiod to decrease the amount of time they get light.
A week before you change the light-and-dark cycle to trigger the flowering stage, switch to an organic hydroponic fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus and begin weekly doses of bone-meal supplements.
Be aware that these supplements tend to be alkaline and that plants are less able to absorb phosphorus at a pH above 7 (neutral). Check your nutrient solution’s pH and use acids to bring it down when necessary.
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