When first starting to grow indoors we all follow some sort of directions whether it’s guidance from a friend we happen to know with experience or we get a complete nutrient line and follow the directions on the feeding chart provided by the manufacturer. But at some point, we all will want to try something new out on our girls, hopefully to evoke different and better results in both production and quality. Learning how to read the nutrient labels and what the differences in ingredients are can help you in deciding which ones you want to try, whether it be switching to a whole new line of plant food or just mixing and matching a few different additives.
People ask often “do I really need to give them all the stuff on the chart?” The true answer is, probably not. But until you know what each product is doing for your plants how would you know which one to use or not use? So, my answer is in short, “Yes I would,” at least on the first run, use the products as the manufacturer recommends. While some of the bottles may not be necessary to successfully grow your plants, they can make dramatic differences in your harvest, both in quality and quantity.
When starting a new product line for the first time always pick up the manufacturers nutrient feeding chart and follow it. These are guidelines that have been tested and developed by organic chemists and gardeners, so unless you are fluent in organic chemistry or very familiar with that specific line, they probably know more than you do. My only advice is to cut down the recommended dosage of the base nutrients by a small fraction and I only do this because of the risk of over-feeding. It is much simpler to add more nutrients to your plants than it is to rectify an overfeeding situation, so we do this as a precaution. A good rule of thumb is to start with 3/4 or 1/2 of the recommended amounts, and then add more as needed or to achieve your desired PPM/EC/ TDS. Make sure you keep the cut down ratios the same for each bottle when using a 3-part or a 2-part base food.
The base nutrients of a line are the bottles labeled grow and bloom (this is considered a 2-part base; one bottle for veg and one bottle for bloom). Some companies make a grow/micro/bloom (this is a 3-part base; where you use all 3 bottles the whole time from veg all the way through bloom but in different increments). Others have an A and a B (this is also considered a 2-part base; different from the above 2 part base, you use both the A and B bottles at the same time through both the vegetative and blooming cycles, but in different amounts). There are a few 1-part, all purpose products out there that they say will work for both veg and bloom cycles, however I am not convinced these products are great for growing cannabis plants indoors, because our girls have very different needs in the two different cycles. If you are growing outdoors you may be able to benefit from a one part fertilizer, preferably a time-released one, making feeding required once a month, instead of weekly.
These base foods are usually listed at the top of the feeding chart and sometimes listed separated from the additives. These bottles are not to be substituted or mixed and matched from different companies (meaning, don’t get an A from one company and a B from another). When it comes to the nutrient additives on the feeding chart such as; silicates, bloom boosters, carbohydrates (sugars), calcium/magnesium supplements etc. These can usually be substituted or mixed and matched from different companies, but when you do substitute, be sure to follow the directions either on the bottle or from the manufacturer for the product you choose. Experimentation with new products is one of the fun parts to being an indoor grower and the smartest way to go about it is to try new nutes out on one or two plants during a normal cycle (just to see how it goes) before adding it to your whole crop.
Nutrient Labels- The front of a nutrient bottle will usually have the product name, a picture and the 3 digit N-P-K. This is an insight of the percentages contained in the bottle, at least for the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) anyway. All of the other nutrients will be listed on the backside of the bottle’s label.
If you’re looking at the back of the bottle it will list the ingredients with their respective percentages included in that specific bottle. You must then look below that to find any non-plant food ingredients and the derivatives to find out where they got the nutrients from. If the derivatives are elements on the periodic table then it’s most likely considered to be a mineral nutrient. If the derivative is a plant, animal or living organism then it’s considered an organic nutrient. If it lists a nutrient derivative that has letters such as ‘EDTA’ written after it in all