What’s the difference between nutrients?

If you’ve decided to grow for the first time, trying to figure out the best nutrients for your setup can be very confusing. There are many nutrient companies, and each company creates multiple lines of nutrients and supplements for different purposes.

As a grower, your goal is to give your plants the right amount of nutrients at the right time. There are two main life stages for annual plants (vegetative stage and flowering stage). Each stage has different nutrient requirements. Luckily, many nutrient companies make great products even though they’re all using different formulas and techniques. Here’s how they differ:

  • Nutrient Ratios – Each brand has different nutrient ratios they believe are optimal for each stage of growth.
  • Ingredients – There are many different combinations of chemical and organic compounds that can add up to the same nutrient ratios. Each compound reacts differently with each other. This means you can see two nutrient bottles with the exact same NPK ratios on the bottle, but they will provide somewhat different levels of nutrients to your plants. The ingredients determine whether nutrients are considered organic or synthetic.
  • Designed for Soil or Hydro – It’s really important to match your growing medium with your nutrients. “Soil” nutrients are different from “Hydroponic” nutrients so make sure you’re getting the right kind! Coco coir is generally considered a type of hydroponics when it comes to nutrients, though there are also nutrients specifically designed for coco coir. Typically, hydroponic nutrients contain everything a plant needs to grow and can be used in any grow medium.

 

This picture shows an example of a full nutrients lineup for growing cannabis. This shows nutrients and supplements by General Hydroponics. Although supplements are nice, you can get all the way to the end of your grow without using any! Your base nutrients is all you need!

Important Tips on Supplements

  • Don’t confuse supplements for nutrients. If the NPK ratios printed on the front of the bottle are really low (like 0.2-0.2-0.1) it means that this product is some type of supplement. Base nutrients provide all the necessary NPK and micronutrients for healthy growth, so supplements are not necessary for plants to thrive. Some supplements are helpful, but going overboard may cause unwanted reactions or burn your plant.
  • Use nutrients and supplements from the same company to minimize unexpected interactions. Combining nutrients and supplements from different companies greatly increases the chance of unhappy plants! It’s also a good idea to only add one new supplement at a time and watch how plants react before adding anything else new or different. If this is your first grow, try to pick just one or two supplements that appeal to you. It’s easy to go overboard. Nutrient companies will happily sell you supplements you don’t actually need.