Cannabis cultivators have long been looking for alternative ways to grow cannabis in the comforts of their home. With the different ways available, growing hydroponically is becoming a famous way to plant your cannabis. This process can be tough especially for beginners however it can be extremely satisfying as well.
The hydroponic process of growing weed refers to cultivating and harvesting cannabis in a water-based and nutrient-rich solution. What makes this process unique is that it doesn’t use soil as the growing base for the cannabis plant. While the roots of the cannabis plant are kept intact by using inert mediums like perlite, moss, clay pellets or vermiculite. This makes sure that the roots get direct nutrition ensuring proper growth.
Comprehensive Guide of Growing Cannabis in Hydroponics
Here is the step-by-step guide that you can use to grow your cannabis hydroponically.
Select a Growing Medium
A growing medium is a substance that will hold in place the intersection of the stem and roots. The roots of your cannabis plant will grow down into the water, search for nutrients from the growing medium. Having an inert medium will also allow good air access to the top of the roots.
There’s a good list of the growing mediums normally used by cannabis cultivators but the most common ones are listed below. Keep in mind that each of this growing medium will have unique benefits and some of them work better given different systems. Using hydroponics will be all about experimenting and see what works best for you.
Clay pebbles are one of the most popular options and they are excellent at aerating root systems. They may sometime require cannabis growers to alter the PH level in order to give an optimal growing environment. Although you have the option to purchase pre-altered pebbles. To make sure that the roots will have spaces to grow through, you will need to play clay pebbles in a plastic hydroponic basket.
This is also one of the popular options for growing hydroponics. This is a substance made up of volcanic rocks with a wool texture. This has an extreme capacity to retain water thus allowing good hydration of the upper root system. This can be placed in a hydroponic basket and can be lodged directly into the top of a bucket or tank without a lid.
This substance is a volcanic glass that expands when exposed to high temperatures. Perlites are often used in garden soils in order to provide aeration, which is the reason why it’s has been beneficial to use as a hydroponic growing medium for cannabis.
The fiber from the coconuts also known as coco coir in the cannabis cultivation industry is a good sustainable option as a growing medium. It allows for good aeration and moisture retention and it’s also known to protect roots from infection due to the presence of plant-stimulating hormones.
Select a Hydroponic Growing Setup For your Cannabis Plant
After choosing your growing medium, it’s now time to choose the type of hydroponic set up to use. The systems listed below are similar in the way that they use the nutrient-enriched water solution. The setups can differ depending on the factors such as water exposure and circulation. Most of the setups can be purchased but you can also make your own by using drills, pumps, air stones, buckets, and pumps.
Deep Water Culture
This is a good setup for beginners and is the cheapest option as well. The plants are placed in a bucket filled with a nutrient solution and an air pump gives a constant supply of oxygen.
Ebb and Flow
This setup is also known as flood and drain and it features water that ebbs and flows. This setup is made up of several buckets suspended above a growing tray that has a water inlet and outlet.
These waterways are connected to an external water tank that contains nutrients with an air stone to aerate the water supply. It also comes with a pump to move the water into the growing tray. It’s important to note that the roots in this setup are not continuously submerged within the water, but the water periodically floods the growing tray and gives it fresh oxygen and nutrient-enriched water.
When the pump cycle ends, all of the water drains back into the external tank. This allows for periodic feeding.
This is very much similar to a drip irrigation system when soil is used as a growing medium. This will consist of a large tray filled with a growing medium like clay pebbles. The cannabis plants are placed directly into the medium and each of them has its own drop pipe nearby.
It has an external water tank with a pump and air stones that are constantly exposed to air and the excess water drips down the medium and back into the external tank.
Nutrient Film Technique
This setup will involve placing plants into a tube that is angled, this way, the water can enter at one side and exit at the other via gravity. The roots will grow down into a tube where they are exposed to the flowing water and the water will then enter from a tank with an air stone and pump and will return back after the cycle has been completed.
This is a basic setup that uses a growing tray that is similar to that of a drip system filled with clay pebbles. Under the tray, the tank of water is placed and from there the wicks exit and enter the growing medium. The water will travel up to the wicks and passively hydrate the medium. The pump is not required for this system.
This setup is probably considered the most futuristic version of hydroponic growing. It uses misted water dispersed through the air to optimize aeration and hydration. The cannabis plants are put in the top of a large tank of water that fills the bottom 25%.
The pump is placed under the water and it sends water into misters under the root system. The fine mist is responsible for constantly soaking the roots thus allowing the plants to receive massive qualities of air and water simultaneously.
Preparing your Growing System For a Successful Cultivation
Once you have chosen your preferred setup, it is vital that you prepare it well to prevent any damaging situations. You will need to sterilize your equipment to minimize the chances of getting contamination. You should also wipe all the buckets, trays, tanks and pipes with rubbing alcohol, hot water, and peroxide. You will need to begin with the following instructions once your setup is done correctly.
Also, you will need to maintain your setup regularly to ensure that it’s an optimal growing environment. Here are some of the major factors that you need to keep in mind.
Monitor the PH Level
Whenever you grow cannabis on hydroponics, you need to constantly test for the PH in the water to ensure that the nutrients are more available to the plant. Normally these nutrients are present when the environment is slightly more acidic.
It’s required that the water should have a PH of 5.5-5.8. You can use a PH testing kit to take regular readings and change the solution every week. On the flowering stage, the preferred PH level is 6.
Keep the water temperature at 20 Degrees Celsius
This is the most ideal water temperature for your cannabis plant. You can use a water thermometer and can be altered using a water heater if the temperature is too cold.
Give Appropriate amount of Nutrients
Your hydroponic cannabis plant requires the same nutrients as those planted in soil. The easiest way to check if your plant is getting enough nutrients is buying hydroponic nutrient solutions that contain all the required nutrients for vegetation and flowering stages.
Growing trays and the tanks will require emptying and cleaning every two weeks. This way, you are ensured that the roots of your plants are safe against invading pathogens and diseases.
Choose a strain for Your Hydroponic Garden
The cannabis strains that are used in hydroponic gardens take nutrients extremely fast and this can result in explosive and rapid growth. For this very reason, never select large, towering Sativa variety.
The ideal cannabis strain for growing hydroponics is the smaller and more compact ones. Using smaller strains can be advantageous as it allows for more diversity and might give you potentially bigger yields.
Advantages of Using Hydroponics in Cannabis
The following are some of the benefits that you can have when you use hydroponics in your weed garden.
The hydroponics system will ensure that your cannabis plant will grow faster compared with the traditional methods. The reason behind this is that in hydroponics, your cannabis plant comes in direct contact with the nutrients and can absorb a lot of it. Experts in cannabis cultivation mentioned that cannabis grows up to 20% faster in hydroponics.
When you grow in hydroponics, you are also allowing your cannabis to produce large yields. The yields are about 20-25% more than that of soil growth. You will also need less space for each plant to grow.
No Weeds present
This is the plant that you don’t see near your cannabis plant and by growing hydroponics, you won’t have to worry about this one. No more pulling every single weed you see like in growing in soil medium.
Fewer chances of getting Diseases & Pests
You are saved from this risk since there is no soil used. Using soil will cause a lot of diseases and pests which makes it tough for you to control the environment. With hydroponics, you can easily get rid of pests if ever they have climbed up on the cannabis plant.