Are you planning to grow marijuana at your residence or at a facility nearby? You will have two choices before you – whether to grow the weed using a traditional soil method, or to use a hydroponic system.
Hydroponic systems have two advantages over the traditional soil system – they allow you to raise crops faster. Second, you will have to work less hard on the cultivation once you truly understand how this system works.
Hydroponics systems are recommended by many growers, but it is important that you should practice it well and get an understanding of how this system works before getting started with it. You could start by growing tomatoes using hydroponics; this should give you a very good idea about the positives and negatives of this system.
So if you want to get started and set up your own hydroponics garden, let’s quickly understand what you will need.
- A Grow Tent or a space for growing
- Lighting system to duplicate the effect of sunlight
- Medium such as Coco Coir or Peat
- Timer for controlling the lighting system
- Ventilation system, especially if you make use of hop lamps such as HPS
- Clones or Seeds
How to Grow Marijuana Using the Hydroponics System?
You can get up to 1 to 3 ounces of weed from each plant in your garden. Of course, this depends on just how healthy your crop is, the surrounding environment and other factors.
The methods used for different types of cannabis plants, whether it is a Sativa or an Indica, are the same. Cannabis Sativa gives you a real high, while Indica has this soothing and calming effect on you.
There are a few things you should know when growing marijuana in your home garden. You should monitor the temperature in your grow room very carefully. This should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit only, but never higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should make it a point to use only filtered water for the plants. Tap water contains fluoride and chlorine, which affect the pH balance. Test the pH levels regularly. This should be between 5.5 and 6.5 – an ideal pH level is 6.15.
Next, hang the lights at the right height, so that they provide a proper coverage. The lights should be placed at an appropriate distance from the top of the crop, and it should cover the entire grow area, including the edges. The grow tent should be lined with Mylar, as Mylar reflects the light back onto the plants.
Lights should be shed on the plants for an appropriate period of time. You don’t need any light for the germination part of the process. But once the seeds start sprouting, you should run the lights for about 18 hours a day on them until they reach about half of their height. For the flowering, you should run the lights for about 12 hours.
Once the plants are in the flowering stage you should separate the male plants from the female plants as you don’t want the female plants to pollinate or reproduce – you are not interested in their seeds.
It is easy to identify the male plants as they have balls, while the female plants have hairs or pistils. The male plants are of no use to you as you cannot use them as pot.
About two weeks you start the harvesting, feed the plants with water only and stop providing them with any nutrients. Use a bud trimmer to trim the plants during the harvesting. Once harvested, store them in an airtight container for about 14 to 28 days for thee curing.
That’s the basics of growing cannabis plant; I have discussed this in detail in my comprehensive guide to growing weed, so do have a look.
Advice from Experts on Growing Healthy Marijuana Plants with the Hydroponic System
Here’s some advice I’ve received from experts on growing healthy cannabis plant. I have implemented much of this advice myself and have benefited immensely from them. Read on!
#1: Make sure to water the plants every two days especially when they are still small. Water them once a day when they are flowering.
#2: Check the moisture levels of the plants with a hygrometer. This will tell you when the plants are dry and need watering.
#3: Don’t water the plants more than you should, or for that matter, less than you should. How do you know that? Check the leaves – if they are wilting, you are not watering the plants enough. If they are drooping, then you are adding too much water.
#4: When the plants are in the flowering stage, the leaves can turn yellow and start dropping off. In that case, stop supplying nutrients to them. Add only water because within a couple of weeks from this point, you will be harvesting the plant.
#5: The harvesting of the crop should be done when the white hairs have turned brownish, and the trichomes have become whitish or yellowish.
#6: Don’t delay the harvesting, but the more time you take for it, the better is the quality of the marijuana.
#7: How do you know that the buds are dry enough? You know because at this point they start snapping off when you pick them instead of bending. That’s the time to use the buds for smoking.
#8: When trimming, make sure to store the leaves somewhere safe and dry. The leaves are rich in THC, and can be used later to make cannabis oil, which has many therapeutic properties.
Advice on Testing pH Levels in the Hydroponic System
One of the most important things to get right in your hydroponic garden is the acidity. pH levels should be maintained at the correct levels, this ensures that the nutrients are properly absorbed. How to test the pH levels?
The soil pH is between 1 and 14, with 1 considered acidic, 14 alkaline and 7 neutral. For marijuana plant grown in a hydroponic system, the ideal pH level is between 5.5 and 6.5. You want the conditions to be slightly acidic.
The pH level can be tested using a number of devices such as the tester pen, pH testing strips and liquid solutions. The tester will tell you what the acid level is when you check the soil sample.
Don’t get scared if your pH levels are found to be a slightly out of this range – the plant can adjust itself to it. But it goes much above 6.5 and below 5.5, you should be worried. That could ruin the crop.
You may want to buy the pH Control Kit from General Hydroponics for this purpose. This kit comes with a pH tester as well.
The Different Growing Mediums for Hydroponics
When you are growing your weed hydroponically, you will need a medium that can replace real soil or real dirt. We discuss the different types of soils or growing mediums for hydroponics.
Peat has always been a popular base for hydroponic systems as it is inexpensive and packed with minerals. The most common types of peat are humus and peat moss. Peat moss is developed in an acidic and low-oxygen environment. The peat consists of vegetation comprising of semi-decomposed matter.
Peat moss has many benefits as a growing medium. It retains moisture very well and releases water only when the plants require it. It prevents the leaching of the nutrients and offers protection to the soil from toughening. However, the peat moss can absorb too much of your nutrients – that is a drawback.
Sphagnum moss is a perfectly natural medium which is used as an ingredient in many soil-free mediums. Unfortunately, many growers fail to recognize its importance for hydroponic production – it can really help you get a decent amount of crop in your hydroponic garden.
Sphagnum moss is highly absorbent and has the ability to retain large amounts of water and offers excellent aeration. It resembles a sponge in many of its properties. For this reason, it is used to make bigger lattices and can hold up the water without spilling it up when used in pots.
Coco coir or coconut fiber is one of the most widely used mediums out there and very popular with marijuana growers all around the world. This is a fully organic medium which is capable of delivering an excellent performance.
Coco coir is produced in excess by the coconut industry, where it is a waste product. It is nothing but crushed husks of coconut. Coco coir is available in different types, such as one that has a high salt content and another that has to be leached before being used.
The advantage of coco coir is popular because of its ability to hold on to water and circulate oxygen. It has a high oxygen capacity, much higher than that of rockwool cubes and is capable of holding on to water. It is also an excellent insect repellent. High grade coir does not contain any nutrients, so there is no contamination of any sort.
Rockwool cubes are the most popular mediums used by marijuana growers. It is made from melted rocks, which have been spun to form fibrous cubes. Rockwool is an excellent insulating material and ensures that the roots of the marijuana plant get the right combination of water and oxygen. These cubes are ideal for plants of all sizes from cuttings to seeds, and are also suitable for big-sized plants.
Rockwool is considered to be a perfect substrate for hydroponic production. Its unique structure makes it an excellent absorbent. Rockwool drains the water slowly but steadily and allows you to grow the crop with ease, without having to worry about the changes in pH levels.
Perlite is a special substance made from volcanic rocks. It is light weight and white in color, and is used to improve the draining of the soil. Perlite has also been found to increase the aeration of the soil and can be used as a soil additive.
Vermiculite is used in the same manner as perlite and the two are often mixed together. Vermiculite has a shiny or flaky appearance and consists of mica that has been expanded by heat. Perlite and vermiculite are light in weight, which is why they are considered ideal for cuttings and starting seeds.
HEC (Hardened Expanded Clay)
HEC pellets are used by many growers as the medium for their hydroponic system as they contain no nutrients of any type. These hydroponic systems drain very well and they ensure that the roots of the plants get a sufficient amount of oxygen, HEC pellets are heavy, so the ensure that the plants remain in place during the watering.
HEC pellets are artificially created products. They are made by baking clay in a kiln and are often referred to as grow rocks. They consist of pebbles that are not more than 18 mm in size. These pellets are abundant in small air pockets. This ensures that they drain very well and are ideally suited to ebb and flow systems such as hydroponics systems which require a lot of watering.
Vital Nutrients for Healthy Growth of Cannabis Plant in the Hydroponic Garden
I have talked about the importance of providing your plants with the right sort of nutrients. There are a number of nutrients that you can opt for, such as those from General Hydroponics. The one I am going to talk to you about is actually used by NASA to grow plants in space – not weed though, NASA does not grow weed as yet! This is a great product for those who believe in growing their plants in an organic environment. Let’s talk about this product a bit more….
General Hydroponics General Organics Go Box
The General Organics Go Box is one of the best food and supplements for plants. It consists of the following fertilizers – the 16 oz. BioThrive Grow and Bloom fertilizers. It is also abundant in samples of many types of GO liquid supplements each of 8 oz. The 8 oz. samples included with this organic product include, BioRoot, CaMg+, BioWeed, BioMarine, BioBud and Diamond Black
What’s good about this product? General Organics provides gardeners with a full range of top-rated plant foods and supplements. What makes it special is how well it combines the ingredients used in traditional agriculture with the more environmentally sustainable and far more efficient methods that are a part of modern day agriculture.
The GO Box starter kit from General Organics as mentioned earlier contains BioThrive Grow and Bloom fertilizers and samples of other vital fertilizers such as BioBud, BioRoot, CaMg+, BioWeed and BioMarine.
These fertilizers are considered essential for the growth of the marijuana plant. What’s more, this product comes with a comprehensive list of instructions and a schedule that show you how to use the nutrients the right way. Follow the instructions well and soon you will be growing weed in abundance.
Best Hydroponic Systems for Growing Cannabis
First, it is important to get yourself familiar with Deep Water Culture or Hydro Pots
Deep Water Culture is the best hydroponic system for growing weed as it is inexpensive and easy to handle. It consists of three parts…
#1: A bucket or a reservoir which contains the nutrients in the form of a water-based solution.
#2: A basket or mesh with rockwool or peat medium, which is ideal for the growth of the roots.
#3: An air stone such as those found in fish tanks, the purpose of which is to supply the nutrients with sufficient amount of air.
There has to be a Deep Water Culture unit for each and every plant that you are going to grow through this system. Basically, you will need a 4-gallon bucket filled with water containing nutrients at the bottom. Then you will need a basket comprising of clay or peat moss where the weed is to be planted. The air bubbles through the liquid and gets into the roots through the air stones.
So if you have many plants, all you need to do is to link each of the buckets with irrigation tubes so that they form a single reservoir. The nutrients are supplied to the plants through this reservoir system.
There are a couple of things you need to be careful about at this stage – one is that the contraption could get contaminated, and the other is stagnant water. You should make sure that the nutrients which are at the bottom of the main container are properly protected from any sort of contamination or light and that the air stone does not malfunction at any stage.
Keeping this in mind, let’s consider some of the popular Deep Water Culture systems that are available in the market.
General Hydroponics Waterfarm
The General Hydroponics Waterfarm costs $58.87, which is reasonable. It is a comprehensive Deep Water Culture system which is ideal for growing all types of plants, small, medium and large. It is the premier hydroponic system from General Hydroponics, a leading brand in the industry.
It is long lasting and you can be sure that this unit will give you service for years to come. It consists of a special square design which makes it possible for growers to pack the modules closely together, in order to build bigger and denser installations.
This system has all the aspects of much larger systems, except that it is available at a much lower cost. So you don’t have to worry about getting a system of a lower quality or performance in lieu of the low price.
PowerGrow® Systems Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Bucket Kit 5 Gallon, 6 inches
What’s good about the PowerGrow® Systems Deep Water Culture? This system is super easy to use and is very convenient. It does not cost much – only $36.95 – which makes it one of the cheapest hydro pots out there. With Deep Water Culture system, you will be growing the crop within no time at all without having to work too hard for it.
The PowerGrow Deep Water Culture System consists of the following:
- 5 Gallon FDA Approved Buckets – 4 in number
- 6″ Net Pot Bucket Lids – 4 in number
- High power Oxygen Pump or Air Pump
- Air Tubing – 4 in number
- Air Stones that disperse oxygen
- A Blue Water Level Indicator
- A Drain
- A Complete Set of Instructions
- Plus, it comes with a 1 Year Warranty.
The PowerGrow Deep Water Culture System comes with most of the things you need for a complete system. The plant roots are completely submerged in the nutrition rich water reservoir which is infused with oxygen.
You get a 5 gallon FDA approved bucket with this system which is ideal for growing large sized cannabis plants. This system is fully capable of preventing deadly strains such Big Bud and Brian Berry Cough which are known to cause a lot of damage to the marijuana crop.
You will also get an oxygen rich solution which is so essential for the healthy growth of the roots and is known to improve the efficiency of the soil. This is considered essential for faster growth of the plants.
The PowerGrow brand is well known among marijuana growers around the United States. It is made in the USA and like all PowerGrow products comes with a 1 year U.S. manufacturer’s warranty. Just make sure to put your gloves on when handling it. The rockwool can be an irritant when you touch it with bare hands.
AutoPot 4pot System Gravity Fed Watering System. Hydroponics and Traditional Gardening
The AutoPot 4-pot system is a different kind of hydroponic system. This is a gravity fed watering system which does not require any pumps or timer and does not need any external supply of power.
This system costs $249, which is a reasonable price to pay for it. It is very versatile and is used by growers in the US and abroad. It is capable of delivering phenomenal results in terms of the crop yield. This system can be extended to include 4 pots, all of which are linked to a single reservoir.
Once this system is set up, the reservoir is filled with water and the liquid solution. The system is easily adaptable and handles all requirements of your crop with little or no monitoring needed.
The AutoPot 4-pot system comes with 4 small pots, each of which can hold 3.9 gallons. It has one large reservoir of 12 gallons. The system does not come with any air stones or a medium. This is something you have to buy extra.
Since the set up for this system is entirely based on gravity, it only sends the nutrients through when the plant has used up the old supply so that new supplies can be sent. This makes it a very efficient hydroponic system. One drawback is that any contamination of the central reservoir could affect the entire system.
While Deep Water Culture units are the simplest types of hydroponic systems, there are other types of systems you will find to be useful.
Ebb and Flow Systems or Flood and Drain Systems
Ebb and Flow systems are highly efficient as they soak and drain the roots of your plants. There is no reason to use air stones for these systems as the water is always in motion and is never stagnant. You will need a timer to go with this system. The only real drawback is that there is an issue with the central reservoir and if it has been infested by bacteria or viruses, then all plants get affected.
Here’s a look at one of my favorite Ebb and Flow systems.
Viagrow V4X4COMP Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System Tray, 4′ x 4′
The Viagrow V4X4COMP Ebb & Flow Hydroponic System Tray costs about $500.00. Here’s what you get with this system.
- A Flood & Drain Fitting Kit
- The Viagrow 211 GPH Submersible Pump
- 50 Liter Bag Grow Rocks from ViaStone
- Black Poly Tubing
- A 3′ x 3′ x 2′ Metal Tray Stand
- A 20 gallon Reservoir
- A 36″ x 36″ x 7″ ID White Flood Tray
- A Grounded Multi Pin Timer
- One-gallon Nursery Pots – 16 in Number
Viagrow is one of the best Ebb and Flow Systems available in the market, which is a four-foot by four-foot in size and comes with a tray and a stand, a timer, pump, a medium for the potting and tubing. You will get 25 pots with this system, which are capable of holding a gallon each.
But you may need to replace them with bigger pots if you are growing bigger sized plants. You can easily grow up to 16 plants at a time, in a limited area. This kit has everything you need for your hydroponic garden except for the lighting and nutrients. You will have to buy the nutrients and lights separately.
The ebb and flow system is an automated system which delivers all the water you need, and ensures that the nutrients and the oxygen are properly supplied to the plants. You will be able to experience high growth rates with this system. You will be surprised at the amount of yield you are going to get. The quality of the weed in terms of aroma, fragrance and flavor is as good as it gets.
Let’s look at three more hydroponic systems that you can use.
Top Feed Systems
Top Feed Systems make use of reservoirs in the same manner as Deep Water Culture, but consist of a pump with a timer that delivers the nutrients to the roots. Any nutrient that gets drained gets back to the reservoir. The important thing to note here is the functioning of the pump – if the pump gets damaged, then the plants will not get the water they need.
Nutrient Film Flow Technique
Hydroponic systems based on the Nutrient Film Flow Technique make use of a capillary mat for the soil instead of clay, moss or Rockwool. The capillary mats are porous mats which ensure that the nutrients circulate properly through the roots. In this system, the plants get all the food they need but do not get drowned in any way. This ensures that there is no stagnation of any solution.
Aeroponics with Misting
Aeroponics with Misting is another special type of hydroponic system which creates the same environment as a rain forest for your plants. This system is very efficient, but you will need a spare room for it, as it will take up some amount of space.
In this system, the plants grow in baskets and their roots are misted as according to a schedule. So you can expect the plants to grow fast, but you will have to monitor their growth closely. In case the pH level gets imbalanced in any way and the plants don’t receive the nutrients they should be getting, then your entire garden could get affected.
One of the best products that makes use of Aeroponics with Misting is the General Hydroponics RainForest 66 Aeroponic System for Medium to Large Size Plants
This system costs $271.99 and is favored by growers who would like to grow big sized marijuana plants. Here’s what you get with the General Hydroponics RainForest 66 Aeroponic System:
- A Central Reservoir of 17-Gallons that comes with a lid
- 6 in plastic cups
- CocoTek liners
- 6 lid inserts
- A Vortex Sprayer
- 3-Part Flora Kit
- CocoTek caps
In this system, the nutrient solution is aerated before being sprayed on the plant roots. The Vortex Sprayer oxygenates the nutrient solution and delivers it to the root system. The only thing is you will need to be constantly on the lookout for pests and prevent any damage to the crop.
A Word on Root Rot
Since you are new to growing marijuana, I have to warn you about root rot. Root rot is a fungus that can do a lot of damage to your crop if you are not careful enough. When your plants get affected by root rot, the leaves start wilting and turn yellowish. The roots appear brownish and have a foul smell about them; they smell like they have rotted from the inside.
Root rot is easily preventable – just don’t water the weeds more than you should. Maintain the temperature of the water at 72 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Get rid of any dead plants or plants that have been spoiled in any way.
Add chemical products called as “root controls” to stop the fungus from spreading. Spray the plant roots with clove oil. A lot of growers use hydrogen peroxide to kill the fungus, but I don’t recommend it as it can kill the beneficial bacteria as well – which you don’t want.
So I have given you a comprehensive review of how different hydroponic systems work, given you some of my recommendations and given great advice on how to grow cannabis plant hydroponically. Stick around for more great information on growing marijuana!