Getting everything at a super low price has its side-effects. Just look what cheap ingredients have done for our food system. The more-for-less approach has taken a huge toll on food quality, food equality and much more. The purpose of having an indoor garden is to supply yourself with good food. The one thing you need to never lose sight of is that there is more than your wallet involved here. Like your plants. They have a different perspective, and making do isn’t part of it. Not when you want the most bang for your buck.

For the newcomer to hydroponic gardening, a poor harvest or crop failure leads to much disenchantment. Why start off with an exercise in futility? Indoor gardening with hydroponics has enough other ingredients that can lead to growing problems that it is kind of silly to increase the learning curve over something that really matters. Like having good food in plentiful supply grown at home.

It’s a lot easier to get by with less when they have soil to pull critical elements from as needed. You can grow a garden in excellent soil outdoors with very little additional nutrition at all. Naturally, your harvest will be much better with fertilizer, but the poorer the soil, the more fertilization is really necessary. With hydroponics, the quality of the nutrients and essential elements you add to water is all your plants have to work with.

Now if you’re just experimenting, or your crop is purely for pleasure rather than sustenance, then a cheap, homemade nutrient solution might be just the ticket. However, poor results will certainly cost more in terms of your other investments – like your time, space, water use, energy bill, and anticipation. Oh yes, and the price paid for your equipment. Even if you built the hydroponic system yourself, it isn’t free.

One enterprising blogger recommends that you simply dissolve commercial fertilizer in water. This would be fine if you were growing plants in soil, but you’re not. Simply adding Epsom salts is not going to cover the missing crucial micronutrients. If it were really this easy to create good quality hydroponic nutrients, you wouldn’t be searching for a cheap alternative for nutrients. Any brand would cost less everywhere.

Then you have the issue of needing different nutes for different stages of growth and crops. How do you propose pulling this off with homemade nutrients? The good stuff, according to your plants, is fine tuned to every element they use to excel from the start of a grow to harvest. Very scientific stuff.  Attempting to match this at home is a bit like swimming across the Atlantic. Impossible. Of course, if you want to start a cheap nutrient company, you can always set up your own lab, and do all the necessary trial grows that goes into perfecting the magic. Simply buying good nutes is far cheaper. It’s faster too.

If you’re going to save money on of your hydroponic garden, then build your own hydro system. That makes far more sense than winging it with something as important as plant nutrition. Just like you, your plants won’t thrive eating the wrong stuff.

Still think it will be a lot cheaper to use DIY nutrients? You can learn how to make them HERE, and at the proper ratios for each of your crop’s growth stages. It won’t be easier, or as convenient as using pre-mixed nutrients where you simply open the bottle and dilute it to fit your crop and tank.

Updated 4-20-2016

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Content crafter and Senior Editor at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home. (Some feel she's got a perennial obsession, others say the problem is tomato plants.)

If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.
Tammy Clayton

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