Do you want to learn how to grow marijuana in hydroponics? If you say yes, then this is the right guide for you.
Before we proceed, let’s discuss what Hydroponics is. In Latin, it literally means “water working”.
Cultivating marijuana using this method involves the practice of using either a flow or bath of nutrient enriched and highly oxygenated water. Growing marijuana plants in a hydroponics setup means that you can grow your plants in a sterile and inert growing medium rather than using soil.
With hydroponics, water, air and nutrients are introduced into the roots with the use of growing mediums. Since the use of this method bypasses the roots as well as the required energy for the plant to get the needed nutrients, you can expect to get quicker growing plants.
The Advantages of Hydroponics
While you can still choose to grow your marijuana plants using the traditional methods of cultivation, some instances and situations may not allow you to freely do so.
This is particularly true if you live in an area where there are strict regulations when it comes to cultivating marijuana. Marijuana plants grow well inevitably when they receive what they actually need, at the right time that they need it, as well as with the right amount needed.
With growing in soil, this is a very challenging task. The reason behind this is that soil is actually an ecosystem that thrives in itself, with changing pH, bacteria, as well as nutrient quantities.
With hydroponics, these variables are reduced, if not, eliminated. The nutrient and pH levels, including the temperature, can be controlled easily.
Also, hydroponics setup will provide you with bigger possible yield, as compared to other methods that are available.
Even though it may considerably be strange for marijuana plants to grow without using natural soil, there are actually plants that can grow well in water, and marijuana is one of them.
Another advantage is that you can easily control the nutrients that need to be added. You only need to have enough substrate that will allow the plant to stay upright. Due to the naturally open nature of the root system, oxygen and nutrients can also easily circulate. This can further enhance the overall efficiency of your plants.
Reality, however, this only means that certain features of cultivating in hydroponics are a whole lot easier compared to growing them in soil. At the same time, it is also easier to monitor the nutrient levels as well as the hydration of the plants.
Selecting Your Marijuana Grow Medium
As you are starting out on your hydroponics marijuana cultivation, the first thing that you have to take into consideration is whether or not you will choose an inert substance.
If your decision is to use one, you also have to select the type that you want to have. This requires careful cleaning in order to provide protection to your plant. What is typically used in hydroponics is growing without the use of inert medium, which is often known as NFT (Nutrient Film Technique).
It involves putting the roots of your plants directly to a film that constantly moves, with such film filled with enriched water. With this, marijuana growers use mediums, such as landscaping fabric in order to cover the roots accordingly, thus blocking the light
On the other hand, if it is your goal to cultivate marijuana by using inert material, there are some options that you can choose from. The basic options may include the use of oasis cubes, rockwool and coco coil.
However, the ones that are considered as most popular are those made of expanded clay, otherwise known as pop rocks, as well as lava rocks. Both of these popular options are the porous ones because they come with neutral pH. They are also cleaned easily and are highly reusable. These also work really well with systems that contain great irrigation system. On top of that, each of them come with advantages highly depending on the system that is being used.
For instance, lava rocks are the ones that are procured easily and are generally cheap. At the same time, you can easily get them in any home improvement store, particularly at the landscaping section. They often come in huge bags with big chunks of very porous, red rocks. They can also work well in any type of system that can gain benefits using the stability of this heavy and large medium. At the same time, they do well when it comes to preventing big plants from possibly damaging the roots. Since they are generally larger, they may also be arranged in order to anchor certain items such as drip lines, air stones, stakes and several others.
Pop rocks, on the other hand, are relatively small. They are balls of fired, pelletized shale. These rocks can hold and transmit water really well. They are also sized evenly, making cleaning relatively easier. This type of material can work really well in most of the growing setups. A lot of growers consider this as a great option for a hydroponics medium. Since the pellets come in even sizes, there is more space for water, as well as for the growth of the roots. AT the same time, since clay has the capability to repel water, with its surface tension causing the balls to retain only a thin coat of water. Pop rocks are generally easy to prepare. All you have to do is to rinse it well. It is the high temperature of the process which works in sterilizing the clay. Keep in mind however, that mold may form within the bags.
Choose Your Growing Setup
Now, you have already decided as to the medium that you will be using. The next consideration is with regard the selection of setup for your plants to grow. It is extremely important to setup a particular system that can certainly meet all of your needs. For instance, it is highly possible, albeit expensive, to purchase a kit that has everything that you might need. While you may have to consider the initial cost, you can also consider it as a great investment because it can turn out to be more cost effective as you choose perfect materials and equipment for your growing project.
For several growers, individual pots that are set into huge water systems can work out really well. As a matter of fact, mesh pots are the best options for this. Afterwards, an air pump, air stone and air hose which has been designed for aquarium use may be added in order to aerate the water. Air bubbles are created, thus keeping your inert material moist, also providing nutrients to the marijuana plants.
Other setups also include the use of drip, ebb and flow, wick and water culture systems. Each of these setups requires the use of particular materials. However, all of the setups require several things, including a tray or growing chamber, a submersible pump, a reservoir, a delivery system, as well as a simple time and grow lights set. There are also other materials that are used in monitoring pH and temperature which can be considered individualized, depending on the setup.
After setting up the system and plants, now you start with the actual work. Regardless of the kind of system that you implement, there are certain things that you need to do in every day and every week. Testing of the sterilizing equipment, pH, as well as the inspection of equipment and plants, including other tasks should be regularly done.
On the other hand, on an everyday basis, your plants should be checked in order to monitor any signs of disease. This also means the need to test the pH, as well as the testing equipment sterilized in between systems both before and after. At the same time, the nutrient solution needs to be changed on a weekly basis. As this happens, all of the filters, pumps, strainers, gaskets, air stones, as well as other equipment need to be thoroughly cleaned.
Checking pH Levels
One of the most important aspects of a hydroponic system is the capability to control pH level. For others, this can mean aiming for a particular number. However, studies show that it is very important to aim for a specific range. The availability of nutrients is usually at its best when the pH is a little acidic. For this reason, it is often best to aim for a pH level which is between 5.5 and 5.8. Reality dictates, however, that maintaining this level is quite challenging. One of the best ways to identify and alter a specific pH level is monitoring daily, as well as changing the solution every week. The solution may be changed often if necessary.
Generally speaking, hydroponic systems typically use less water compared to systems that are referred to as soil-based. However, if you choose to set up using hydroponics, you may have to anticipate encountering and shouldering all costs involved with the setup in an indoor growing space. On top of that, you may also end up finding yourself actually spending more on growing mediums and fertilizers. Mixtures and nutrient solutions will be considered as additional, but they are generally justifiable.
Fortunately, the option of choosing hydroponics setup has already taken off during the recent years. For this, there are already several online vendors that offer great prices for almost everything from equipment and supplies. However, even before you start spending cash, you definitely would want to have an understanding on the basics so that you can make intelligent decisions when purchasing.
1. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
In general, Deep Water Culture is considered as the easiest to start and maintain hydroponics system. You can only expect minimal investment, with a general rule of having just one unit for every plant. In the most basic form, there are three parts involved in DWC. The first part is a reservoir which is light-sealed where your nutrient solution can be stored for protection against impurities, algae and light.
The second part is a small bucket which comes with growing medium, usually perlite or rockwool, hanging on top of your nutrient solution. This second part should be made out of a porous material or mesh in order for the roots to grow down going to the nutrient solution without getting hemmed in. The last part is the airstone which is placed in the nutrient solution. These airstones may be purchased from any pet equipment store, particularly in the aquarium section. These airstones are typically used in fish tanks, as they act in naturally increasing oxygen into any type of solution that is water-based.
The Advantage of DWC is that it comes with easy to access nutrient supply for the plants. However, there are also dangers whenever the water source stays stagnant. With this in mind, it is highly recommended to keep an eye for the possibility of root rot as well as parasites which may thrive in water that is rich in nutrient. It is very important to ensure that each of the containers is light sealed in order to avoid growth of algae.
2. Flood and Drain/Ebb and Flow
As suggested by the name, the ebb and flow system incorporates the need to soak the roots of the plant into a nutrient solution for a specific amount of time, thus draining its roots, and then doing the procedure several times in a day. Most of the systems usually involve the use of a water tight table as well as a plant bed that has the capability of holding some big plants that grow out of lockwood blocks, as well as other medium.
The advantage of using this system is the possibility of avoiding the use of stagnant water which may only result to parasite infestations and root rot. On the other hand, the disadvantages may come from the multiple plant exposure as well as increased investment. Ebb and flow systems are generally created in order to accommodate more than a single plant at any given time. This means that if you notice that your solution requires some sort of tweaking, or if a parasite has entered into the water, you may end up losing several units instead of just a single plant.
3. Top Feed
This system is quite similar to Deep Water Culture, but they are relatively easy to maintain and setup. Just like DWC, there is a reservoir of nutrient solution that is placed under a porous storage container which can hold a plant. The plants need to grow in a medium with a hose placed at the stalk base. The hose is then connected through a pump towards the nutrient solution. A timer is then used in order to activate the pump, raining down the solution on the root system. This is down several times in a day.
Also, anything that is not absorbed is gathered as it continues to drain from the soilless and porous medium going back to the reservoir. One advantage to this is that they are reliable and easy to maintain. At the same time, you even have the option to setup up a single unit for every plant, or getting big pots to store several smaller plants all at once. However, the drawback to this is that you may have to expect paying more on initial investment as compared to working with a very simple DWC system. At the same time, you may have to act really quickly when you notice that the pump breaks so that the roots will not die and dry out.
4. Nutrient Flow/Film Technique (NFT)
NFT hydroponic systems are highly effective, but are often equipment reliant. They utilize capillary mats as their medium, connecting the roots towards the nutrient solution. Most of the time, NFT plants are normally sprouted. However, the seedlings are suspended in order for the roots to enter a special grow chamber that serve as a layer in between the reservoir of the solution and the sprout plants.
At the same time, the bottom of the grow chamber is lined using capillary mats that are covered using a constant nutrient solution flow coming from a pump that is connected towards the reservoir under. These capillary mats serve as the key to the use of the NFT system. The roots should be regulated when it comes to liquid exposure, thus preventing drowning, but still enables for 24/7 access to your nutrient solution. Unfortunately, however, with extra components needed for maintenance as well as the equipment for purchasing, you may have to expect a good amount for investment, not to mention the energy and time that you have to take as well for the process.
Aside from looking into the methods that are available, it is also important to look into several other aspects included in the process. For one, you need to have at least some experience in growing other plants before you start to grow marijuana in a hydroponics setup. At the same time, keep in mind that you are growing marijuana. This means that you need to keep your growing a secret. It is often said that the best way in which you can be shut down from your growing in hydroponics is by telling other people, even those whom you consider as ‘close’.
Here are other things that you have to keep closely in mind:
- Monitor and adjust the pH level of your water accordingly, making sure that it stays in the 5.5 to 6.8 pH range. The maximum range is between 6.3 and 6.5. Also, it is important to know that there is a natural possibility in hydroponics to have an increase in pH level through time as the plants use up more nutrients. Therefore, it is very important to monitor it, adjusting well with either the pH down and up solutions that often come in dry or liquid forms.
- Every 10 days or so, it is vital to change your hydro-water, and then re-supplying it with the necessary fresh, properly mixed nutrients in whatever stage that your plants are in.
- Make sure that the root tissue should not be allowed to get too warm or too cold. This means the need to maintain the nutrient solution with a minimum temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening, and 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime with lights turned on. Fluorescent is not recommended, but the use of HID lighting can produce good heat.
- It is also recommended to supply the right lighting depending on the stage in which your plants are. If all possible move air on the canopy in order to introduce fresh oxygen. Some growers avoid the use of CO2 bottles, rather using liquid carbon, applying it directly to the plants’ roots by combining it together with the hydroponic water. The use of CO2 bottles may require more time and attention because they need to be refilled.
- You may want to start using a net pod system, playing around with it, experimenting accordingly. After being familiar with it, you have to know everything needed in order to create a kit for yourself, being able to create a bigger kit later on which can hold about 4 to 10 plants. On the other hand, if you feel that you are not creative enough, you can just buy the ready-to-use kit that you can purchase from a hydroponic store.
All in all, it is very important to realize that growing marijuana in hydroponics should be just easy. It is also inexpensive, and ultimately satisfying. In the past, marijuana growers using hydroponic setups were dependent on commercially based systems. During recent years, however, this has evidently become a hobby for different growers who want to cultivate weed without having to worry about outdoor conditions. If you have never grown marijuana in this setup before, you can start with the ready-to-use setup before. It is also vital to educate yourself first and start learning about the tricks of this trade.