BetterGrow Hydro Blog

David Lloyd’s Simplicity Method for Successful Hydroponic Cultivation

With over 80 years of combined knowledge and experience with indoor gardening, the BGH staff has the best knowledge available to help you find solutions to fit any and all of your gardening needs.  Featuring an article by David Lloyd, BGH store manager. Beginning his hydroponic career in 2002, Lloyd will be sharing with you his “simplicity method” for successful hydroponic cultivation, which he has proven and refined over years of hydroponic expertise.

David Lloyd’s Simplicity Method

“I’ve been growing for a long time. I’ve been fortunate enough to have dealt with a lot of different nutrient regimens, hydro systems, lighting systems, techniques and just about every indoor gardening tool to come out in the last 8 years. The one thing that I’ve been lead back to during all of that time is this: “Simplicity is the Key”. If you are anything like me, you don’t want to buy any more than what you need. One thing I can’t stand in my garden is 10-15 different bottles of nutrients that I rarely use and have essentially wasted my money on.”

I get a lot of customers coming into the store and calling on the phone asking, “What is the best stuff I can buy?”  While that is an impossible question to answer, it’s almost certainly the thing the new gardener will want to know. My immediate response to that is, “You don’t have to spend a ton of money and have a shelf full of bottles in order to grow high quality and bountiful plants”.  With my Simplicity Method, you will be giving your plants all the essential elements needed to grow healthy and happy plants, without breaking the bank on nutrients.

I like Botanicare’s CNS-17 as my base nutrient. CNS-17 (Commercial Nutrient System) is a highly concentrated and economical fertilizer that was developed by Dr. Lynette Morgan. Dr. Morgan, an internationally recognized hydroponics consultant, researcher, and author, helped create a new fertilizer production technology that provides all the required nutrient ions, in the correct balance, in a single-part system.   In the past, I would rarely recommend a single-part nutrient to my customers. But, unlike many older-style single part systems, CNS-17 contains a complete nutrient regimen and is properly chelated to allow for stability and availability of the full range of major, minor and micro nutrients. With CNS-17, you truly get the high performance of a 2- or 3-part system, with the simplicity of a single-part system. Available in both hydro and coco/soil formulations, CNS-17 works equally well in all types of watering systems. Alongside the CNS-17 base nutrients I like to add in Thrive Alive Red as a seaweed, Hydroplex as a flowering enhancer and Cha-Ching as the finisher.

Thrive Alive Red is made from British Colombian sea kelp which is then fortified with extra nutrients. Thrive Alive will help your plant root quickly and vigorously due to the added B-1. I like to use Thrive Alive as a seed soak and/or rockwool soak to help reduce transplant shock, and I continue to use it all the way through vegetative and flowering. In my opinion, there’s no time in a plant’s life cycle that Thrive Alive won’t help.

Hydroplex is a great flower inducer and accelerator from Botanicare. Its unique formulation increases fruit and flower sites and helps amplify flower size. It also promotes essential oil and natural sugar production. I like to use Hydroplex from the second week of flowering (or when flower knuckles first show) up until the last two to three weeks when I add in Cha-Ching.


Cha-Ching is Fox Farm’s dry flower finishing formula. Numbers are the name of the game with Cha-Ching with its NPK weighing in at 9-50-10. This high phosphorus fertilizer is packed with micronutrients designed to increase essential oil production which will boost flavor and aroma.  It’ll also help your plants produce more vibrant colors and continue to fruit and flower late in the season. You’ll want to go easy with the Cha-Ching, though, as the big numbers may cause some burning if introduced too strong. Always remember, less is better.

STAGE CNS-17 Grow CNS-17 Bloom Thrive Alive Hydroplex Cha-Ching
Cutting / Seedling 15 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 1 / Veg 20 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 2 / Veg 20 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 3 / Veg 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 4 / Transition 15 mL / Gal 10 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 5 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 6 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 7 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 8 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal
Week 9 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 1/4 tsp / Gal
Week 10 / Flowering 25 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 1/4 tsp / Gal
Week 11 / Flowering 15 mL / Gal 5 mL / Gal 1/4 tsp / Gal
Week 12 / Clearing


It’s as simple as that! Now keep in mind, this is a bare-bones feeding schedule. With this system, you can grow robust plants that will produce well without spending a lot of money on enhancers. Of course, there are plenty of additives and enhancers that you could use in place of or in addition to the one’s I mentioned in my feeding schedule. Some could be worth it, while some may not… I’ll save that rant for another e-Newsletter. My one word of advice for adding more parts into any schedule is that you want to avoid doubling up on additives as much as possible. You never want to add two of the same type of fertilizer, especially at full strength. Remember that it’s vital to know what a product actually does, not what it says it does, before you add it into your system.

Get it growin’!


  • The Good Ol American

    Wish I had 2 more hands—-so that I could give you 4 thumbs up!!!!

  • Little Amsterdam

    Nice feeding schedule…! Thank you for sharing the importance of the basics without the fancy snakeoils

  • Snufflupagus

    How is the Botanicare Pure Blend line, which I'm using right now, different from CNS?

    Thanks for the info on Cha-Ching! Just got some and wasn't sure how it fits in with Hydroplex.

    And does Liquid Karma have pretty much the same stuff as Thrive Alive? How do they differ, if not, and should I use both?

  • DavidL


    Pure Blend Pro is Botanicare's Organic single part base fertilizer. CNS 17 is strictly Chemical/Synthetic. Generally, with chemical nutrients, you will get faster and bigger growth. But then you may have the moral dilemma of not using organic nutrients.

    Liquid Karma is similar to Thrive Alive Red as they are both Seaweed based additives. Both companies then fortify their respective products with a proprietary mix of additional additives making them slightly different, but not enough that I would personally consider them drastically unique. Once again, using two of the same types of products (especially at full strength) is not something I would recommend.

  • robert

    When and how often do you change the solution?

  • DavidL


    I recommend changing your nutrient solutions at least once a week for a recirculating system.

  • robert

    David, why do you recommend changing the solution once a week?

    I am currently doing the Lucas Formula and I use GH, I cahange my solution about every 3 weeks with a top off when needed.

    I read that CNS 17 avoids extensive salt build up and was hoping I could use CNS 17 instead.

  • King Richie


    Thanks for the feeding schedule, I have been waiting for something like that since I began growing almost 2 years ago. I buy everything from you because of the price and fast shipping and now you add newsletters with tips into the mix and I know I am buyng from the right company.

    I currently use the CNS17 with an ebb and flow system. I have just been adding the amounts according to the directions on the bottles and I only use 5 gallons of purified water in a 20 gallon res since the plants seem to use that much about every 6 days and i just refill each week with another 5 gallons and feed per the directions. I was wondering how the RIPE product works since I also have this and not the Cha-Ching, will it work as good or is Cha-Ching better to the point where I should switch? Am I ok with just adding 5 fresh gallons of water each week (res is empty every 6 days) or should I use the clearex with each new feeding?

    I am also adding Mothers molasses to my grow, started in week 1 of flowering and I add 1 tbsp. per gallon, is this enough? Should I also be adding this during veg?

    Any help you can provide is much appreciated. If you can ever post a more aggressive feeding schedule that would be real nice too.

    Thanks for the great info, I'll be ordering more again real soon.

  • DavidL


    Changing your reservoir once a week halps give your plants the freshest nutrients possible. In a recirculating system your nutrient solution will quickly become depleted and you will start to experience an imbalanced nutrient solution. This can result in deficiencies and toxicities of any and all the major, minor and micro nutrients. If you were to try to add more nutrients to that imbalanced solution, you will simply make it worse. For optimum performance of your garden, you should change out your reservoir once a week and only top off with fresh, clean water. The fresher your nutrients, the faster your plant will grow!

  • DavidL

    @King Richie

    The only hang up I see in your system is the danger of your pump running dry when it trying to fill up your tray. In order to maintain the longevity of your submersible pump, you should always have it under water.

    CNS Ripe and Cha Ching can be used together. Ripe is more focused on Ripening fruits and flowers where Cha-Ching is more concentrated on resin production. i would still recommend adding in the Cha-Ching at 1/4 tsp/Gal and paying close attention to your plants. Not all plants react the same.

    In an E&F system, i like to use a clearing solution (Clearex, FloraKleen, etc.) once a month, usually when I put my plants into fruiting and flowering, then again halfway through flowering, and then for the final flush. I will make up a batch of clearing solution and top water each plant (top watering will help push all the salts down through the block). Then, once all the plants have been flushed and have finished draining, I dump out all the clearing solution and mix up a fresh batch of nutrients. I then run my system immediately to get nutrients back in the medium.

    And as far as Molasses goes, you can use it all the time. I like to start adding it in mid to late veg as the root system is pretty active at that point so giving it that added sugar will get it really rocking!

    And don't worry, there's more feeding schedules, tips, tricks, secrets and suggestions coming each month! subcribe to our blog to get daily tid bits from myself and the rest of the BGH staff!!

  • Duke Luke

    WoW! Say it how it is! blOOmbAstic! boyee!

  • anthony

    my question is what if i have to flower for 12 weeks…should i just add the regular amount for the missing month

  • DavidL


    For a 12 week flowering variety I suggest simply running flowering weeks 5, 6, 7 & 8 for two weeks each instead of just one to give you 12 total weeks of flowering.

  • robert


    I am looking forward to using your formula for my next grow.

    I presume that the suggested amounts of nutrients are a guide only . What are the recommend PPM and PH for each of the grow stages?



  • DavidL

    @ robert

    Yes, this is a simple outline that, if you feel confident, you can adjust and customize. I suggest trying any changes out on afew plants first before commiting it to your entire garden.

    And as far at pH & PPM goes:


    pH = 5.8-6.0 (hydro) 6.5-6.8 (soil)

    PPM (700 scale) = 600-800 for early veg, 700-1000 for late veg

    Fruiting & Flowering:

    pH = 6.0-6.5 (hydro) 6.5-6.8 (soil)

    PPM (700 scale) = 800-1200 early f&f, 1000-1600 late f&f

    Those pH & PPM values are merely an outline. Watch your plants!!! Remember, your eyes are the best tool you have in your garden!

  • L.A. Proper

    I like this regiment. I have been using a similar one.

    cns 17 bloom + sweet berry and ChaChing…. now i'm thinking bout adding the thrive alive red or similar product!

  • J

    Are you sure about the pH values during flowering David?

    I thought 5.8 through 6.1 was optimal for hydroponic nutrient absorptions?

  • Tim G.

    This has been a HUGE HELP!! My question is I had cns17 and was running calmag because I'm using RO water also am using sm90.. I bought the thrive alive today but am hesitant to add because with 15ml/gal of the cns17, 5ml/gal of the calmag, and 2ml/gal of sm90 my ec meter is at 2.5.. should I drop the calmag and sm90 even tho my water has no calcium in in after being run through an RO machine? And if if I added thrive alive at 5ml/gal I think I'd b pushing 3plus on my ec and would that b bad seeing as the calcmag isn't really npk

  • DavidL

    @J –

    5.8-6.1 will work for Fruiting and Flowering, however, if you increase your pH to 6.2-6.5 you can open up a little more Phosphorus to help increase development. PH values lower than 6.0 will start to substantially restrict Phosphorus. Once again, pay attention to your plants.

    @Tim G.-

    Take a PPM/EC reading before you mix in Thrive Alive and SM-90. If your EC values then are within the range you are looking for, add in the SM-90 and Thrive Alive as instructed. You can also try mixing in your Cal-Mag first to a level of 150-200 PPMs (about .5 EC) then mix in your CNS17. The Thrive Alive and SM-90 contain organic ingredients that can throw your readings off (in simple: EC/PPM measures salt levels and organics don't register the same way) so it's possible that the SM-90 is making it seem like you have more nutrients in your tank than in actuality. As you've heard me say many times before….watch your plants, they'll let you know if you are giving them too much.

  • J


    I need a new EC/PPM meter. Any recommendations? Thanks for all your help – it has been really helpful!

  • David G

    Do you need to measure only EC/PPM, or do you want the meter to also measure pH and/or temperature? Do you want a portable hand-held meter that runs on batteries or a continuous meter that hangs on the wall and plugs into a wall outlet?

  • J

    I already have a separate pH probe so just an economical EC/PPM probe or pen is what I need. Batteries are fine. Unless you recommend a great combo pen?

    My Hanna 98107 just ran out of thread so I got a replacement pH probe. Now I need an EC/PPM pen.

    Thank you for your help David. Awesome blog.

  • J


    Got a Hanna Primo and it is great.

    Thanks again – great info here!

  • J

    Hey David,

    What's the best molasses for a recirculating ebb and flow please?

  • DavidL

    I wouldn't suggest molasses for a reciculating system as it tends to gum up your pump and not stay mixed up in solution very well. Rather, I suggest you go with Botanicare's Sweet Raw (There's also Berry, Citrus or Grape available if you want to add some extra flavor to your fruits). It's a fully formulated carb that will stay in suspension in your reservoir without clogging while still giving you all the benefits of molasses!

  • J

    Thanks David. Do you have a work email I can send you questions at?

    Thanks for all your help.

  • DavidL

    you can email me anytime at:

    [email protected]

  • Robert


    I was using the Lucas formula before,and still had GH Micro and Bloom left.

    I used the Lucas recipe 8/16 and added 5ml thrive alive, 5ml hydroplex and 5ml aquashield per gallon. In addition I am adding flouralicious at 1ml per gallon. Some of my plants are showing a lot of yellow leaves and don't look so good. Figured it to be a Magnesium deficiency and added epsom salt to my reservoir. Please advice,



  • will

    when should my ebb and grow bucket system flood the buckets during flowering and how many times a day?

  • hydroponic

    Well, David this one is really great post regarding hydroponics. And according to me hydroponic is really looking like a revolution in cultivation. And it’s really knowledgeable.

  • Anonymous

    I like this one great idea of hydroponics system.Really,I impress to this excellent technology to improve plants and garden without use any soil.I like this great system.


  • Anonymous

    Indoor gardening is becoming popular all over the world.  This is only possible due the new technology. Many of the investors has been able to achieve high profit margins. give quality products.

  • WTF Dad?

    When I use 20ml gal of CN17 grow it gives me PPMS of about 2800. Is this correct?? 

    I mix in 5 gal RO water, 4 tsp Cal Mag, 100ml of CNS17, almost always 2800PPM…..whats the deal??