When you are trying to grow plants indoors, there are lots of things that you will keep in mind throughout the process. It is more than possible to miss something important when you are caring for your plants, and one issue that can really damage the health of your plants in the long-term is something known as “nutrient lockout”.

Nutrient lockout is something that can be really challenging and annoying to deal with when you are growing your own vegetables, fruits or herbs. But, if it does happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to throw away those plants you’ve put so much effort into growing.

In this article, we are going to explore nutrient lockout, which is one of the most common issues that growers can experience in their indoor garden. We are going to tell you what it is, how to identify the problem, and how you can fix it with some TLC.

What Is Nutrient Lockout?

Nutrient lockout is something that can occur due to the soil medium that you have chosen to use being oversaturated with specific nutrients, especially chemicals and high salt contents. This can also happen with hydroponic grown plants, and even when you are using plant nutrients with rockwool, pebbles, or coco coir.

Adding even the smallest amount of extra nutrients than your plants need can lead to an accidental overdose of nutrients. When the soil accumulates an excess of salt and other nutrients, one of two things can happen. They can bond together or they can develop an incompatibility. 

When either of these things happen. the plant is not able to absorb the necessary nutrients that it needs to keep growing.

Nutrient lockout is also something that can happen when the pH levels of the water, soil, or nutrients are unsuitable for your plant.

All plants have an ideal pH that they can happily live in, and if the pH level is out of balance, then the plant can start to turn to certain other nutrients over others. With the wrong pH, the roots of the plant will not be able to absorb all of the necessary nutrients that it actually needs to grow healthily and survive.

How To Identify Nutrient Lockout?

It’s really important that you’re able to notice the initial signs of nutrient lockout, as this will help you to act quickly before it starts affecting your plants. Some of the symptoms of nutrients lockout are:

  • Weak or limp plants
  • Curling or yellow leaves
  • Stunted growth

The biggest issue with these symptoms is that they are often the same as other issues that can occur. To make sure that it is actually nutrient lockout that you are dealing with, you will need to check the pH levels of the water, soil, and nutrient solution. If the pH is above 7 or below 5.5, then you have an issue.

How To Fix Nutrient Lockout?

Nutrient lockout is a problem, but it is also something that can be fixed by following these steps.

  • The first action to take if you are going to address nutrient lockout is to stop feeding your plants. If you continue, you’ll only overload them with more nutrients and this  will make the problem worse
  • You should also flush your plants with water. This involves flooding your plants pots with pH-balanced water. This will help to dilute the minerals that are present and rebalance the pH level. If you have a hydroponic system setup, then you will need to use a fresh solution.
  • You also need to make sure that your growing system is fully saturated. This will help with any excess salt that has built up in your growing medium as it will break it up and make it easier for your plant to absorb all of the nutrients that it needs again.
  • Once you have flushed your plants, you should ensure that you let your soil completely dry out before you try to water your plants again. This will help to make sure that you prevent root rot by giving your plants the room that they need to breathe.
  • After all of this, you should water your garden as you normally would for a while before you begin to reintroduce nutrients to your plants. This will ensure that they have been completely flushed and that they will be able to healthily absorb the nutrients again.

It is really important to be careful and delicate throughout this entire process. Otherwise, you can end up with your plants having nutrient lockout all over again. Worse yet, you could end up causing additional problems like root rot, which will only be more harmful to your plants.

As long as you closely follow the above steps, you should be able to restore your plants to their healthy condition, and they will be thriving again in no time.

Can You Prevent Nutrient Lockout?

Nutrient lockout is not always entirely preventable, but there are some things that you can do to help prevent it from happening. There are a few things that you can do to stop it from happening, like flushing out your plants and trying to maintain normal pH levels. 

These are two of the main things that can help with this, though there are some other methods of preventing nutrient lockout. You can follow the above steps to flush out your plants, and we will explain more about the pH levels of your plants below.

However, you should keep in mind that this is not a one time thing, and you will need to continuously work at preventing nutrient lockout if you don’t want to have to deal with it later.

Maintaining The pH Levels

One of the best ways to avoid nutrient lockout is by keeping a close eye of the pH levels of your plant’s environment. You can test the soil to find out the pH level, and if it is off, you can buy a pH adjuster to either increase or decrease the pH.

You should check the soil on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure that your plant is continuing to grow in the healthiest possible environment. If you stick to this, you will be less likely to have to deal with a serious case of nutrient lockout issue in the future.