Growing marijuana indoors offer unique benefits and challenges that you should know in order to end up with a high quality stash of marijuana. Fortunately, there are different indoor marijuana growing systems that offer more security against all hazards brought by cultivating marijuana outdoors, such as decreased yield, law issues, theft, harsh environmental conditions, and animal attacks.
Here is a complete guide of the most popular and widely used grow systems today with details about how they work and why they are best for marijuana plants. Take a look at your available growing space, then decide which growing set up best suits you to effectively grow cannabis plants.
Active vs. Passive
To start a successful indoor grow, we should understand how passive and active growing systems work. As you might think, passive grow systems require minimal maintenance as they have no moving parts like spray emitters and pumps since they purely rely on capillary action in order to move water from the reservoir into the growing medium.
These kinds of set-ups are ideal for beginners as most of them use soil and soil-less mediums which require the growers to still supply water and feed their plants manually—thereby providing actual experiences for new growers about gardening and horticulture.
On the other hand, active growing systems are best for intermediate to experienced growers. Active systems deliver water and nutrients to the plants through moving parts thus allowing cannabis plants to grow faster and healthier. These systems encompass most of other grow systems available in the market as it rewards growers with high quality yields. To elaborate further, active systems are divided into two sub-types:
Non-Hydro vs. Hydro
Technically speaking, hydroponics means cultivating plants without soil. Many indoor growers nowadays actually prefer using soilless mixes which most often contain peat or moss base. Although these mixes may look similar to regular soil, they usually contain more additives in them to supply all the needed nutrients for the plants.
Many new growers misunderstand the difference between a hydroponic and a non-hydroponic grow. Basically, any grow system which doesn’t use the regular top soil is classified as a hydroponic system. The only real non-hydroponics systems used these days are greenhouse gardens and outdoor growing.
Nevertheless, the benefit of these soilless mixes is that these mediums come pest free and are usually sterile. Some of them even have additional organic nutrients, thus giving you an edge over the traditional soil mediums.
Different Types of Hydroponics Systems
There are a lot of commercial hydroponics systems today which are available online and in local grow shops. Most of them are designed to be highly customizable and scalable depending on your growing needs. However, we will talk about the basic and easy-to-use hydroponics systems today to help us understand all the aspects of how indoor marijuana growing systems work.
Deep Water Culture
Deep Water Culture or DWC set ups are great for both new farmers and advanced growers alike. Also known as the “hydro pots” or the “bucket systems”, DWC uses large buckets and containers with netted pots which sit in a hole to allow the roots of marijuana hang down into the container. The buckets are connected to a reservoir, with its size depending on how many containers of marijuana can be linked together into it.
This system works by pumping nutrient rich water solution from the reservoir to irrigation lines at the base of every plant site. The roots of the plants are provided with enough nutrients and oxygen through the rising bubbles in the nutrient solution.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System
NFT system is an example of an active hydroponics system as it allows a thin film of nutrient solution to continuously flow over the roots of marijuana plants. This entire process ensures that marijuana plants get all the hydration and nutrients they need without completely soaking the roots and the upper portion of it stays dry for oxygenation.
NFT systems are not recommended for beginner growers as it requires constant monitoring to detect problems early in the garden. A single pump or power failure can ruin your entire grow and kill your plants.
So far, the Wick hydroponics system is the simplest form of hydroponics. It is a passive type which doesn’t use aeration, pumps, timers etc. It simply works by connecting your grow medium to a thick wick which is submerged into a reservoir containing nutrients and the plant’s natural capillary action will do all the work.
This type of hydroponics system is suitable for small time growers who cultivate a few numbers of plants. Wick system is not suitable for large setups as the wick cannot supply large amounts of nutrients for large numbers of plants.
Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain Method)
The Flood and Drain method is very popular for marijuana home growers as this system is easy as it sounds. It works by periodically flooding the roots of your plants with nutrient solution and allows the roots to absorb everything they need, and then the nutrient solution is returned back to the reservoir for later use.
The act of flooding gives the plants enough time to absorb all the nutrients they need, while the ebb—or the time in between, allows the roots to dry and take the oxygen they need. This system fits new growers, although it still requires adequate knowledge that’s enough for the grower to check potential problems in the set up to prevent future problems.
Soil less Grows
Soil less grow systems are technically called hydroponics but they do not conform to the notion of how hydroponics system work these days. That’s because many hydro systems nowadays are not fit with soil less mixes, like for example in the case of using a peat based soil less mix in ebb and flow system as loose mediums can clog drains, pumps and feed lines.
In the need for more stable mediums, the top feed systems come into the scene. Let’s learn how these grow systems work.
Top Feed Systems
- Top Feed Drip– provides constant flow of nutrient solution and water to the plants. This set up uses individual containers where plants are placed in to ensure that everyone gets enough nutrients and water. It works by slowly dripping water into the medium as the water is pumped up to the tables through the main lines. From there, small irrigations feed the plant individually during some time.
- Top Feed Spray Emitter– uses special sprayer heads over an emitter system as this system provides even watering throughout each plant site. However, this system is not ideal for some specific nutrient programs, like those nutrients with heavy salts simply because salts easily build up in irrigation lines, and then clogs spray emitters.
- Top Feed Timed Flow– This system is almost similar to drip emitter systems, only that it relies on a timer to deliver flow of nutrients and water periodically. This set up is very useful for commercial grow operations which have hundreds of plants.