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Nutrient Lockout: What It Is and How To Prevent It!

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most common problems that growers can encounter in their indoor garden…

Nutrient lockout.

You’ll also discover why it’s so important to actually recognize what the problem is. Because if you misdiagnose this problem, then you can actually make it worse!

This is what many beginner growers do.

After reading this short guide, you’ll not only know what “Nutrient Lockout” is but also how to fix it and (even better!) how to almost completely avoid it in the first place.

What Is Nutrient Lockout?

Nutrient lockout is one of the most common problems that growers can face.

It can be frustrating, especially if you’re a beginning grower and you can’t figure out what is wrong.

Essentially, when your plants are experiencing nutrient lockout – they’re unable to intake the nutrients that you are feeding them. It truly is like the nutrients are “locked” out from getting inside your plants!

Nutrient lockout occurs when plants are unable to absorb the basic nutrients needed to remain healthy. This typically happens as a result of a chemical reaction that takes place between the nutrient solution, the growing media and your plants themselves.

How Too Many Nutrients Can Cause Nutrient Lockout

As you’re aware, your plants grow by absorbing compounds from nutrients, water, and the atmosphere.

During this process, your growing medium—over time—can accumulate excess nutrient salts and other substances.

When it builds up too much of various salts and other nutrients, it can react with your plants and the nutrient solutions you’re feeding them. If this happens, excess nutrients may either bond together, or become incompatible in certain ways, ultimately making them unavailable to the plant.

In short, it is the presence of too much nutrient buildup that is causing the pH of your growing environment to change and causing the nutrient lockout.

How Improper pH Can Cause Nutrient Lockout

The importance of proper pH in growing can’t be overstated …

The optimal range (called the ‘sweet spot’) of pH for growing high-value indoor plants is 5.5–6.3.

How pH Levels affect the absorption of different nutrients.
Source: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences White Paper.

The risk of nutrient lockout increases if the pH drifts outside this optimal range.

That’s because every nutrient has a “favorite” or optimal range. For most plants the optimal range is pH 5.5-6.3, where all nutrients are sufficiently absorbed (Figure 1) and nutrient deficiencies will not be an issue.

If the pH falls too far above or below this “sweet spot,” certain nutrients may be preferred by plants over others.

For instance, at pH 5, iron and manganese are readily absorbed while calcium and magnesium are not. Absorption of calcium and magnesium are significantly reduced at pH 5 and below; the plant roots cannot absorb them easily and the plant is highly likely to suffer calcium and magnesium deficiencies.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms of Nutrient Lockout?

If your plants are experiencing nutrient lockout, you may notice stunted growth, and the foliage will turn yellow and become limp and lifeless.

Your plants may also experience a bit of leaf burn.

Essentially, all the signs of nutrient lockout are the same as the signs of your plant not getting enough nutrients…

It’s important to realize this happens even if you’re still feeding them like you’re supposed to using the proper feeding schedule.

That’s because you are giving them ample amounts of nutrients, but they are unable to absorb those nutrients, so they appear to be starving.

WARNING: Misdiagnosis Can Make Your Plants Worse!

At this point, you can see how this gets tricky.

Many growers not familiar with nutrient lockout may misdiagnose their plants.

Because their plants appear to be starving they think that they need to feed them more nutrients.

Of course, this only adds more salts/nutrients to the environment… which negatively effects the pH more… which causes even more nutrient lockout.

So be sure not to overfeed your plants because you could make the problem worse at this point.

How To Fix Nutrient Lockout

If you are experiencing nutrient lockout, then the best thing to do is flush your crops.

This will help clear your growing medium of any built up salts that are helping to cause the nutrient lockout that you’re experiencing.

Depending on the hydroponic system you’re using, the methods may vary, but essentially you’re stopping your normal feeding schedule and cleansing the growing medium to get rid of any salt and other mineral buildup which is causing the nutrient lockout.

Many growers use plain water to flush their plants, but there is a better solution.

The Secret To Better Flushes

The most common way that growers flush their crops is by giving their plants water that has no nutrients in it. This can work but it’s not ideal …

For one, it can starve your plants at a time when they are already deficient in nutrients so they lose vigorous floral growth and resin percentages—not what you want especially if you’re anywhere near harvest time.

Other growers use flushing formulas that generally consist of a few chemicals that sometimes have the ability to pull a limited amount of residues out of your plants.

The problem is these primitive flush formulas can also remove plant nutrition, resulting in smaller harvests and decreased harvest potency. Not only that, but they don’t provide the full-spectrum, value-enhancing cleanse you’re looking for.

That’s why Advanced Nutrients invented Flawless Finish. It’s the only flushing formula specifically designed and tested to provide complete, value-enhancing cleansing of the specific type of plants you grow.

You simply combine Flawless Finish with pure water and use it to flush your plants. As proven by thousands of tissue samples taken from the exact type of plants you grow, this procedure results in crops that are almost totally purged of excess salts and other burdens.

After this flushing process, you should no longer be experiencing nutrient lockout and you can refill your reservoir with your nutrients and supplements according to your feeding schedule.

How To (Almost) Completely Avoid Nutrient Lockout By Monitoring pH

Keeping your plants in the ideal pH range is super important to avoid nutrient lockout.

And like all growing problems, an ounce of prevention is totally worth a pound of cure.

Here’s how to make sure you keep your pH levels in the ideal range to avoid nutrient lockout.

#1: Use Reverse Osmosis Water.
You may have noticed that to flush your growing medium requires pure water (plus, we also recommend Flawless Finish). That means you need to use RO water to guarantee your purity. Using RO water will make it easier to adjust and maintain your pH because you will have control over the pH of your water.

For a complete explanation of how Reverse Osmosis water can benefit growers like you, click here.

#2: Use pH Perfect Base Nutrients.
When you use Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect Base Nutrients, your pH will get into the “sweet spot” for hydroponic growing and stay there automatically. Again, you won’t have to measure the pH and fool with acids or anything like that. The technology does it for you.

Click here to see more about how pH Perfect Technology works.

In Conclusion: You Can Successfully Avoid Most Nutrient Lockout Problems!

The bottom line is, if you are taking the proper measures beforehand, you can avoid most cases of nutrient lockout.

That’s because when you pay attention to your pH levels in your growing environment — using the right nutrients and right water along with the correct growing mediums—you can keep pH levels in their “sweet spot.”

But, things can and do go wrong.

In those cases, you’ll want to flush your garden to get rid of the nutrient buildup and fix the nutrient lockout (We highly recommend using Flawless Finish when you flush because it is a better way to flush your plants).

Either way, now you know much more about Nutrient Lockout and how to fix it.


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Since 1999, Advanced Nutrients has been committed to educating the community and bringing the most up-to-date knowledge to the forefront of grows across the globe. Every article you read here has been curated by Advanced Nutrients’ industry experts, so you can continue raising your bud weight… and your reputation.

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Over time, components within the nutrients settle on the bottom of the bottle. When you pour a bottle without shaking it, you can potentially be pouring out an unbalanced solution. Shaking up the nutrient bottle ensures you are pouring the right blend into your reservoir, giving your crops the nutrition they need.

Usually, it’s not a problem. But some products are incompatible with each other and can damage your plants when they’re used together. For example, bloom boosters with high PK numbers or low-grade silica products can destabilize your nutrient mix and cause nutrient lockout.

Nutrient manufacturers design their products to be used with each other. In doing so, they include specific portions of each nutrient in each product, so crops receive the right nutrition through each stage of the grow cycle. When you stick with one manufacturer, you don’t have to worry about inadvertently destabilizing your nutrient mixture. One example of why you need to stick with only one manufacturer’s products is Advanced Nutrients’ pH Perfect line. These products are designed to keep your crops’ root zone within a specific pH range. When you use them alongside products from another manufacturer, we can’t guarantee your root zone will maintain its optimal pH level.

Yes! If you’re growing with Advanced Nutrients products, you can use our easy nutrient calculator to generate the correct nutrient chart for your crops in seconds. Check out Advanced Nutrients’ nutrient calculator here. Another great resource is our library of free custom-growing recipes. Try our expert grower-tested nutrient schedules here.

You can also download our official BudLabs app to generate nutrient schedules and receive real-time notifications for specific tasks, including feeding your crops. Upgrade to BudLabs Pro to maintain profiles on an unlimited number of crops.

If you are a grower, visit this link to find the closest Advanced Nutrients Authorized Retailer. If you are a retailer, visit this link to identify our official distributors.

Our greatest passion is growing great cannabis—and helping other growers do the same. That’s why we offer complimentary cultivation support 24/7 from Monday to Friday and from 9 AM until 7 PM PST on Saturday… With the same level of advice licensed producers would pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars to unlock.
Just call 1-800-640-9605 or email support@advancednutrients.com. For Spanish-speaking growers, email spanishsupport@advancednutrients.com.

Yes! If for any reason you are not absolutely thrilled with the results you achieve when you use our products, just bring the unused portion, along with your original sales receipt, back to the place of purchase within six months, and ask for your money back. Find out more about our Grower Guarantee here.

Advanced Nutrients has spent many thousands of man-hours developing a technology that automatically balances your pH for you — putting it in the “sweet spot” and holding it there for one week.

And the technology is so “smart” that it can account for many of the aforementioned variables in your grow room. Our proprietary pH buffering agents and stabilizing mechanisms became the foundation of a new system aptly called pH Perfect® Technology. Learn all about it here.

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