Contributed by: ~Shabang
It's simple to find out if you are using too much food or not enough by watching the nutrient concentration levels in your tanks day to day. Don't be concerned with the exact reading, rather watch how it rises and falls from each day to the next. The differences between when you put the solution into the tank and the readings you get several hours later or the next day are what tell you if your plant is eating, drinking or happy.
Start with 1.00 EC (or a SAFE nutrient strength). Next day, if it reads 1.4, it means your plants have been using water and your nutrient solution is becoming more concentrated. This means the concentration of nutrients is too high, so you dilute.
If the meter reads lower than the previous day, 0.7 say, it tells you that the plants are eating nutrients faster than they are drinking water, so you should increase your nutrient strength. If it remains the same, your feeding schedule is on target for now. The nutrient/water intake fluctuates with the growth of the plant, so you must continually monitor it day to day.
Your plants will tell you the optimum nutrient levels. When they are receiving optimum food and water, the readings remain constant. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The reason no one can tell you what PPM/EC levels to use is because every garden is different and every plant has different requirements due to their particular environment. That's why you have a ball park starting figure, but after that your plants will tell you almost exactly what they require.