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Plant Food 101: How To Feed Plants So You Get Big Buds And Huge Yields

Just like humans need proper food packed with healthy nutrients to help us grow strong and vigorous, your plants also need the right foods.

Feed your plants the right foods in the right ways and you too could see consistent yields of 3-plus pounds per grow light, like many growers today who follow these feeding guidelines.

To help you on your path to successful growing, in this article we’re going to cover everything you need to know about plant food and what you need for your high-value plants and specialized strains, including:

  • What plant-specific nutrients do and why they’re so important for high-value crops.
  • How to know exactly what to feed your plants during every stage of their growth cycle to get maximum yields, potency and performance.
  • And common feeding mistakes, along with how to fix them as quickly as possible.

Let’s start with the basics…

What Are Plant Nutrients, What Do They Do, And Why Are They So Important?

Just like food for people, your plants need food to survive, thrive, and grow into the high-value performers you want them to be.

Nutrition and food can be broken down into three categories: macronutrients, secondary nutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the big nutrients that are required for health and growth, secondary nutrients are slightly less important, and micronutrients are the small nutrients.

For example, with people food, macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fats. These are the most important nutrients you must have to be healthy and to survive.

For plants there are 16 important nutrients that can be broken up into macro- and micronutrients:

  • Macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K)
  • Secondary nutrients: Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulfur (S)
  • Micronutrients: iron (Fe), boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo)

The bottom line is, your high-value plants need macro-, secondary and micronutrients to thrive.

A Quick Guide To Nitrogen, Phosphorus And Potassium (N-P-K)

Once you get into growing strains of high-value plants, you will find that nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are also commonly referred to as N-P-K.

That’s because these are the three most important nutrients for plants. Without these three nutrients in the proper amounts, your plants will eventually die.

Early on, growers of high-value plants recognized the importance of these nutrients in combination and so began formulating plant food with specific ratios in mind. When you pick up a bottle of base nutrients, you will often see the three numbers on the label:

Proper plant feeding tips: Understanding N-P-K ratios

These numbers stand for the N-P-K ratio in the product. The first number is nitrogen, the second is phosphorus, the third potassium.

Keep in mind, these are the ratios – not a specific amount in the product.

If N-P-K are all essential nutrients for your plants, at this point you may wonder why the ratios in the bottle would make any difference at all.

Why Your Plants Need Specific Nutrients For Each Phase Of Growth

Your plants not only need the right nutrients, but they need them in the right ratios, only at specific times in their life cycle.

To keep things simple, there are two main stages to your plant’s life and they each require a specific ratio of N-P-K for optimum performance:

  • Vegetative stage: high nitrogen, medium phosphorus, high potassium.
  • Flowering stage: low nitrogen, medium phosphorus (much less than most growers have been led to believe), high potassium.

If all this seems confusing, don’t worry, the important thing to remember is this: You have to make sure your plants are getting the optimal levels of nutrition and the nutrients they crave during these times in order to keep them healthy, growing, and later enjoy a great harvest. That’s why scientific testing, research and development with the distinct strains you grow (as opposed to other typical food plants) is so important when choosing your nutrients.

How Often Do You Need To Feed Your Plants?

How often you nourish your plants will be determined by both the type of growing medium and the nutrients you are using. For example:

  • Soil growers: Some growers who plant their seeds in nutritious soil in a vibrant outdoor area may find they hardly need to feed their plants at all. You will have to keep them watered, though, and can add nutrients as needed when you water.
  • Soilless mediums: Using a soilless medium such as peat or sphagnum-based mediums, you’ll have to water and feed your plants often. When the top of the growing medium feels dry, it’s usually the right time to give them water.
  • Coco coir: Using coco coir, you’ll want to feed often, with ample runoff. Coco should remain wet and usually be fed at least daily. You’ll also want to use coco-specific nutrients.
  • Hydroponics: Your plant’s roots are interacting with water constantly, which also contains your nutrients. In some of these hydroponics setups your plants are feeding all the time.

As you might imagine, answering the questions of when to water and feed your plants at this point can get complex and there are many variables based on the strains you’re growing, where you’re growing, the strategy you’re using, and the medium you’re growing in.

How To Know Exactly What To Feed Your Plants For Strong, Healthy Growth And Maximum Yields

In order to figure out exactly what’s right for your personal grow situation, the good news is that you don’t have to guess. There are experts that have done the legwork and experimentation for you.

These are commonly called feeding schedules and they’re a very convenient way to get your grow going.

In fact, here at Advanced Nutrients, we have three excellent ways for you to determine the optimum feeding schedule for your plants:

  1. Nutrient Calculator: When you use our nutrient calculator, you’ll quickly be able to see how much of what nutrients to feed your high-value plants growing hydroponically.
  2. BudLabs Mobile App: If you’d like to take our nutrient calculator into the grow room with you, this is the best way to do it. Simply download the app to your phone (available for both iOS and Android) and you’ll have everything you need in the palm of your hand.
  3. Customized Growing Recipe: To completely customize your grow recipe, you’ll want to use the free recipe generator we provide. With this one page, you can receive a completely custom recipe based on your experience level, growing medium (including coco coir, hydroponics, Pro-Mix/Sunshine Mix/soilless or soil) and more. It’s literally your step-by-step guide.

Once you have the recipe you want to follow, the only thing left for you to do is visit a local store to find your nutrients and get started.

A Quick Guide On How To Mix Nutrients

It’s pretty simple to get your nutrients ready to use.

  1. Vigorously shake your nutrients: The base nutrients you’re using may have been sitting on the shelf for a while, so it’s a smart idea to agitate them to make sure the active ingredients aren’t accumulating at the bottom from sitting too long.
  2. Ready your reservoir: Get your pure, preferably reverse osmosis, or RO-filtered water reservoir ready. Depending on your setup, this could be your reservoir or the container you’re going to use for hand-watering your plants later.
  3. Measure out each nutrient as directed into the reservoir, according to label rate: Using an appropriate measuring device, pour the nutrient from the bottle into your measuring device and then into the water container.

For example, when using pH Perfect® Sensi Grow Part A, the label states:

Use 4 ml per liter during all weeks of vegetative growth.

That means you pour 4 ml of the nutrient into 1 liter of water and use that mixture to feed your plants. Simple!

How To Know If The Nutrients You’re Using Were Designed Specifically For Your High-Value Plants

Many growers are not aware that there is a huge difference in fertilizers that were designed for traditional agricultural crops such as corn, soybean and wheat, and fertilizers that were developed for high-value plants.

A study conducted by the University of Mississippi demonstrated the dramatic difference specialized fertilizers can make when growing specialized strains. It is the only scientific study of its kind, proving that the Advanced Nutrients fertilizers delivered 21 percent bigger yields when compared to regular fertilizers.

The fact is, in this day and age, there is no reason to use regular fertilizers for growing high-value plants.

And whatever you do, don’t make the common beginner mistake of using something like Miracle-Gro for your high-value plants.

Miracle-Gro nutrients and Miracle-Gro soil (or any “extended release” soil, really) will leave you with all kinds of nutrient problems — everything from burning your plants to starving them. Your best bet is to leave those plant formulas for the tomatoes and flowers they were intended to feed.

Here Are Some Common Feeding Issues And How To Fix Them

While growing great plants is not always simple, here’s a quick and simple list of some common feeding issues and how to fix them:

  • Underfeeding: If your plants are looking pale green instead of vibrant, then you could be underfeeding them. You need to give them more nutrients.
  • Overfeeding: Likewise, you could be overfeeding your plants and not know it. This is often accompanied by nutrient burn and could be caused by problems like nutrient lockout.
  • Nutrient lockout: This occurs when the nutrients you’re feeding your plants are unable to be absorbed and so they can’t feed. Discover what you need to know about nutrient lockout here.
  • Nutrient burn: When you give your plants too many nutrients and they end up with brown/black/dark burn spots on the tips of their leaves. This can happen if you don’t recognize signs of nutrient lockout and think plants are underfed, so you add more nutrients.
  • Overwatering: Your plants can be drooping because they’re starved of oxygen if their roots are sitting in stagnant water caused by overwatering. This is one of many plant root problems you can run into.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Often looks like underfeeding in the form of droopy, sad, sick-looking plants. Goes hand in hand with underfeeding, but you could be lacking specific micronutrients even if you’re feeding them enough.
  • pH problems: Your pH levels are critically important to your plant feeding program. Click here to see why pH affects everything you do.
  • Don’t forget to flush! Many nutrient and feeding issues can be fixed by knowing how and why to flush your plants. Don’t forget to do this.

Feeding Your Plants The Right Nutrients At The Right Time And In The Right Amounts Will Give You The Results You Want

Plant food and proper nutrition is so important that it can mean the difference between losing a harvest or enjoying the most bountiful, potent yields of your life.

It’s that important.

So take the time to educate yourself on plant nutrition. Use the tips in this article and check out the recommended resources to see what a big difference the proper plant food and fertilizers can make, and you’ll be improving your growing results in no time!

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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.