To Feed or Not to Feed. Nutrient Feeding Tips

In this blog we will cover when to start the nutrient feed schedule for your verdeGarden, and some key tips for success. 

Seedlings have their own nutrient reserves

When should you start adding nutrients to your verdeGarden reservoir? Seeds have their own nutritional reserve, so they require no additional nutrients for the first few weeks. The initial leaves on a seedling are part of the seed, called a cotyledon. Cotyledons supply nutrition to the seed to germinate and establishes the plants ability to photosynthesize. 

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Cotyledons from left to right: Kale, Swiss Chard, Cherry Tomato, and Lettuce

Germination to Cotyledon Phase

To germinate seeds the coco coir pucks need to be moist. Fill your reservoir with 4 litres of fresh water. The indoor temperature in your house should be between 18-23 degrees Celsius (65-71 F) for optimal conditions, and a bit cooler at night. The depth of seed is important to provide the right amount of light or darkness, so follow the seed package instructions carefully. Do not add any nutrients at this time. Ensure your pump is running often enough to keep your coco coir pucks moist for the seeds to germinate. 

True Leaves, Time to Feed. Or is it?

Having four true leaves on all your plants is the minimal requirement of when to start the nutrient feed schedule. Because seeds do not germinate at the same rate, some plants may be ready, while others are not. Waiting an extra week, or two, for the slow pokes to catch up is actually a good thing for the fast sprouters. Holding off on feeding forces plants to send out roots to look for nutrients, so when the nutrients does come, they will grow that much quicker because they can uptake more effectively. 

Tips for adding nutrients to your indoor garden

The red dots on the Genovese Basil plant above indicate the cotyledons, and the blue dots are the plants first four true leaves. At this stage, the plant is ready for nutrients. The small cotyledon circled in red should be thinned out, by carefully pulling it out, while allowing the two robust basil plants to remain. 

The "Weekly" Feed Schedule

The nutrient feed schedule provides a "weekly" guideline; however, nutrients should not be added until the reservoir is at least 3/4 empty. This will ensure the nutrients from the previous week has been absorbed by the plants before more nutrients is added. If your verdeGarden is full of seedlings it will likely take longer before your reservoir needs to be refilled, somewhere in range 9 - 14 day range, depending on indoor temperature, humidity, type and size of plants. As the plants mature, they will require more water and feed more often, so now you will be topping up your reservoir and adding nutrients about every 7 days. 

Watch for Nutrient Burn

A common problem inexperienced indoor growers have is the leaves on their plants browning, curling and drying up around the edges. It is important to catch nutrient burn and stop further damage because plants do not have a mechanism to stop overfeeding. Trying to force growth by over-fertilizing can cause irreparable damage. Nutrient burn on lettuce and basil. It is not too late to save these plants by reducing nutrients. 

How to avoid nutrient burn indoor growing with the verdeGardenHow to feed your indoor vegetable garden and avoid nutrient burn

To avoid nutrient burn, ensure the reservoir is at least 3/4 empty before moving on to the next "weekly" feed schedule. You can check the level of water in the reservoir by looking in the poor spout. The pump will also get louder when there is less water, which is a good indication it is time to refill. 

Can I plant new seeds and keep my mature plants?

Yes. When you have a variety of plants at different stages, follow the nutrient requirements for the youngest plants. The more mature plants should be flushed with fresh water from time to time to ensure there is not an excess build up of pH. To improve the growth of the new plants, harvest the mature plants down in size so the seedlings have more access to light and room to grow. You can also move plants around in your verdeGarden. To do so, you may need to gently pull the roots out of the reservoir or off the back of the garden. If the roots are really long you can trim the bottom 1/3 off and compost. 

Left: New seedlings with mature plants, Right: 5 Weeks Later

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