What is Foliar Feeding?
Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants directly through leaves or foliage. Unlike that of root feeding, it is a fast way to provide nutrients, gases and moisture to plant canopy through leaves. The foliar feed can consist of one nutrient element or a combination of various elements which the crops are deficient in.
The technique was invented by Dr. S.H. Wittwer & H.B. Tukey in 1950. The development was carried in the department of agriculture at the Michigan State University.
Why go for Foliar Feeding?
Foliar feeding is undertaken in hydroponic systems to save your crops during water and nutrient deficiencies. If you mix the plant food in half of the nutrient solution, then you can avoid nutrient toxicity and leaf burn.
However, foliar feeding is used as a means to provide essential micro nutrients to the plants that they may not otherwise receive. It is an easy and fast way to give hydroponic plants an extra boost of necessary nutrients. Well, some of the important reasons why hydroponic gardeners choose this technique are:
- Sometimes, the plant suffers from root diseases like root rot which prevents it from taking the nutrients. As a result, it will produce smaller yields. In such cases, foliar feed applied on a regular basis can bring those diseases under control.
- Generally, in a hydroponic system, pH levels are either too high or low and the balance of nutrients that are fed to the plants isn’t that much optimized. Due to this, the crops inhibit certain nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies can also be a result of poor rooting medium that doesn’t hold moisture well enough. In such cases, a foliar feed consisting of specific nutrient elements can help in overcoming those deficiencies after its application. To maintain an optimal pH level of your nutrient solution, you can consider adding Olivia’s pH Adjusters ‘Up’ or Olivia’s pH Adjusters ‘Down’.
- Climatic conditions sometimes prevent the uptake of essential nutrients by the plant which can cause several nutrient deficiencies. This situation calls for the usage of foliar feeding.
- Foliar fertilizing is also accomplished to give the plants some extra nutrients they require to thrive at their best. This is simply done to increase the yield in the most cost-effective way. All it takes is a spray bottle full of an efficient foliar spray!
- To amplify the quality of hydroponic crops, many growers use seaweed extracts as a foliar fertilizer. Those additives consist of wide variety of nutrient elements in traces that can enhance the growth of plants.
- Many plants go under stress when they are under watered or over watered. Even, if they recover from damage, they are less likely to receive all the essential nutrients because of the lost root mass. It is where foliar feed helps plants in getting sufficient nutrients.
- Foliar feeding is also helpful in feeding the plants with the nutrients that don’t translocate i.e. move from one part (of the plant) to another. For example – iron and phosphorous are two examples of such nutrients that need to be fed through foliar spray.
How to Apply Foliar Feed?
The application of foliar fertilizer depends on the size of your hydroponic garden. Foliar feeding is generally done through a hand sprayer or a leaf blower backpack containing the solution. While foliar feeding, make sure that the solution is applied to both sides of the leaves. Moreover, try to apply the fertilizer when the climate is cool because at that time, pores of your plants are widely open and they will receive the solution more effectively.
Things to Consider Before Foliar Feeding:
There are certain factors one need to consider before treating hydroponic plants with foliar feed. They are:
- First foremost thing you need to consider is the pH of the foliar spray. For optimum absorption, its pH should be around 5.8 as too acidity or alkalinity will not allow the leaves to absorb those nutrients effectively.
- Another thing you have to keep in mind is that the grow room should not be too warm as this will make the foliar spray less effective. This is because those fine mist will tend to evaporate much quickly if the temperature of the grow room is too high.
- It is also required to achieve an optimal value of pH of your nutrient solution. The reason here is that a foliar feed does not replaces a nutrient solution even if one is using a good quality spray. So, it is crucial to check the pH balance of your nutrient solution too.
Even your hydroponic plants receive adequate amount of nutrients, they can still be benefited from foliar feeding. Just experiment on a part of your crop before treating the whole plant with foliar fertilizer.