Symptoms of Plant Nutrient Deficiency in Hydroponic Gardens

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Homemade hydroponic systems are especially susceptible to a plant nutrient deficiency. It is all too easy to 'forget your count' when adding teaspoons of nutrient mix to water and accidently 'short changing' the plants.

I know this from experience ... In fact I had to learn this the hard way when running my first hydroponics system. After changing my nutrient water my once thriving plants slowly started showing dark green leaves with splotches and all the lower leaves which started turning yellow.

Of course I had no idea what was going on. First I thought some pest found my plants but could not find any indications of one. Next I thought 'disease' but really couldn't find a match for the symptoms.

Finally I realized the problem began right after changing the nutrient water so I changed it once again, being careful this time, and my plants slowly turned healthy. What I had was most likely a phosphorus and nitrogen plant nutrient deficiency.

When you build your system and something like this happens maybe you will be a little better prepared than I was. That is the reason for the following table showing symptoms of plant nutrient nutrient deficiency, nutrient by nutrient.


ElementDeficiency
Nitrogen Leaves turn a very light color and start to turn yellow starting at the base of the plant first. Plants growth slows dramatically.
Phosphorus Leaves turn a dark green or grey with blotches. Long term deficiency results in poor root formation.
Calcium New leaves never develop and stay small and dry. Long term deficiency stunts growth and causes poor root formation.
Magnesium Leaves turn yellow and develop brown spots but leaf veins stay green. Buds do not develop.
Potassium Leaves turn brown with dark splotches then yellow and they curl up.
Sulphur Leaf veins turn yellow and leaves become very dark near the stem of the plant.
Boron Stems become torn with brown tips and leaves become spindly.
Iron Leaves dry out and turn crinkly while veins stay green.
Manganese Leaves develop a mottled appearance and growth virtually stops.
Zinc Growth rate of plant slows or stops entirely.
Copper, Molybdenum and other trace elements Leaves turn dark brown and fall off.


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