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Home > Types of Gardening > Soiless Gardening > Nutrient Solutions
Nutrient Solutions
Nutrient SolutionsThis brings us logically to the important subject of nutrient solutions upon which much has been and probably will be written. Here it should be emphasized that, as yet, no one solution has been discovered that is superior to all others and able to give the best results under all conditions and with all kinds of plants. The formula that one investigator may find very successful with one crop, may prove inferior to some other in experiments with the same crop performed by someone else. Fortunately, plants can adapt themselves to widely different circumstances, as is well proved by their ability to thrive in all kinds of soils and locations in different gardens. Furthermore, no solution long remains the same when plants are growing in it.

They may take more of one substance than another; chemical changes may take place as its constitution changes; salts obtained from different sources may vary in purity, etc. This is the reason why care must be taken to maintain the right solution according to constant observation of the plants and frequent tests of its acidity.

The first purpose of any solution is to provide an adequate supply of those three vital elements in plant development-nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. But, as we know, these are only a part of what a plant must receive to make normal growth. So chemical salts are chosen that will supply the other elements as well, even those whose importance has only been recognized in recent years and of which only very small amounts are needed. These "trace elements" are usually combined in a secondary solution, a little of which is added to the basic solution after it has been prepared. While the water used may slightly effect the solution, the average tap, well, or spring water, if suitable for drinking, will generally do for all practical purposes in home gardening. From among the many formulas that have been given out by different scientists and experiment stations, we are going to suggest only two, both easy to prepare and of general all around adaptability. Anyone going deeply into the subject, will want to consult some of the various text-books obtainable in which other special solutions for special conditions are described.

In the case of sach of the following, there is to be added a small amount of the trace element or supplei lentary solution which we are ca`ling Solution No. 3. These recommendations are from Dr. Charles H. Connors, of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, author of "Chemical Gardening for the Amateur."

Solution No. 1
Dissolve in one gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon or 2.3 grams of Primary potassium phosphate
2 teaspoons or 8.0 grams of Calcium nitrate
11/2 teaspoons or 4.2 grams of Magnesiumsulphate
3 teaspoons or 14.5 grams of Solution No. 3
Solution No. 2
(Suggested as especially adapted for summer use when plants are growing more freely and can use more moisture; in winter, the amounts of salts given should be doubled.)
Dissolve in one gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon or .32 grams of Primary potassium phosphate
2 teaspoons or 8.0 grams of Calcium nitrate
11/2 teaspoons or 4.2 grams of Magnesium sulphate
1/4 teaspoon or 1.0 grams of Ammonium sulphate
3 teaspoons or 14.5 grams of Solution No. 3.
Solution No. 3
(To be added to the nutrient solutions as noted above.)
1.0 gram of Manganese sulphate
1.5 grams of Boric acid
.5 gram of Copper sulphate
.5 gram of Zinc sulphate
1.0 quart of Water
Although for any serious attempts at soilless gardening it is desirable to use a special, freshly prepared solution of the type just mentioned, the beginner, satisfied to grow a few plants in the water culture containers or flower pots that we have spoken of, may prefer to start with one of the prepared mixtures now on the market. Some are sold in powder form, with directions for dissolving separately the contents of two or three packets, then mixing and diluting the resulting concentrates; others can be had in liquid form ready to be added to so many parts of water. None of these preparations are wholly efficient from the scientific point of view, nor are they as economical as solutions made from chemical salts bought in bulk. A few, that have been put on the market to the accompaniment of flamboyant claims as to what they would do, have failed to live up to the promises made for them and have quietly slipped out of sight. But others more honestly made and marketed, are handled by reliable stores and usually give satisfactory results with ordinary house plants.
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