For thousands of years, people have continuously grown and develop cannabis plants for various reasons. It is use for recreation, medical benefits, and even industrial purposes. Cannabis and hemp remains one of the oldest plants known to man. With the years of experience that growers have, there are number of other ways to start sprouting your weed plants!
Using a soil-based cultivation setup is, by far, the most common, traditional, and widely-accepted method of cannabis cultivation. Even early civilizations use soil as their growing medium for cannabis. However, in recent years, a trend of soilless growing has taken the cannabis world by storm. Yes, we are talking about hydroponics.
Now, what exactly is a hydroponics system and how do you use it? More importantly, who came up with the idea of it in the first place? Let’s find out more about what makes this method of growing so appealing!
What is Hydroponics? How does it work?
As the name itself suggests, a hydroponics system is a form of growing cannabis, that does not use soil. Instead, hydroponics mainly relies on water as the primary form of growing medium. The roots of your cannabis plants are slightly submerge into buckets with nutrient-filled water. This will act as a growing medium.
In its basic form, a hydroponics system relies on water tank to holds in water and become the main source of nutrients. This water is subsequently siphoned into these buckets via various water pumps, air tubes, and different kinds of equipment.
A hydroponics system is common in an indoor setup. With all the tools and equipment that you have, it gives growers complete control over how their weed plants develop. But while this is a distinct advantage, one drawback is that it caters to those who have a heavy amount of experience with growing. Operating a hydroponics setup and maintaining it requires a certain degree of understanding when it comes to marijuana.
Equipment used for a hydroponics setup:
Because it is an indoor setup, you will require a lot of devices in order to set it up. While there are different kinds of hydroponic setups available, most of them will make use of some basic tools in order to operate.
Here are some of the things that you will need for a hydroponics system:
- 3-Gallon Water Buckets (1 bucket/plant)
- Water tank (Size depends on garden)
- Alternatives are: Aquariums, Plastic tubs, Steel tanks
- Air tubes
- Drip lines and Emitters
- Air stones
- Growing Medium Amendments (Coco fiber, Perlite, Rock wool, clay pellets)
- Air Pump
A Brief History of Hydroponics
A lot of you may be wondering where the concept of hydroponics comes from. Many people think of it as a new and innovative way of growing marijuana. Growing through hydroponics dates back as far as 600 BCE by some of the earliest civilization. The famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon is believe to have first made use of this growing concept. The ancient region of Mesopotamia, although surrounded by vast rivers, was significantly dry and void of any healthy soils ideal for growing crops.
As a result, botanists from these times installed a water-based system that hydrated the roots. And, at the same time, provided all the nutrients and minerals needed in order to allow plants to thrive. As you can see, this is a similar concept that is use in advance setups today.
Even during the 10th Century, various water tribes and communities residing in boats and floating rafts resorted to hydroponics. It has help to sustain their way of life. This is also common with Aztec tribes that were forcefully evicted from land due to the numerous wars and dangers during the time.
Modern Day Cultivation:
Fast forward hundreds of years later, it was only recently that people opted to use a soilless and water-based system of growing. This is particularly for cannabis. With the technology that we have at our disposal, there are now many ways in which growers can use hydro systems for their growing mediums.
While each of these methods can guarantee the best results in terms of the quality of your buds, operating a hydro system will undoubtedly demand a complete understanding of how marijuana grows and behaves. In today’s cannabis scene, it is common to see hydroponics used by those long-time growers. Even commercial breeders who have built up an expert-level in cannabis growing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponics
Like other cultivation methods out there, hydroponics will offer some of the best and most distinguishable advantages that you can get from it. However, there are drawbacks that may very well influence the decision of growers to use a hydroponics system.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that hydroponics offers! Familiarizing yourself with these may help you weigh your options in choosing the right growing method for your gardens:
- A hydroponics system will undoubtedly bring out the best quality buds that you can get out of any garden. The complete influence and control that you will have allows growers to tweak every single detail to their optimal levels.
- When operated properly, hydroponics also brings a much cleaner and tidy growing setup! Because of the lack of soils, dirt, and other factors, you won’t have to worry about falling leaves, scattering soil, and other debris that is common in soil-based setups. Aside from cleaning your tanks every now and then, it makes for a very neat garden.
- Those who use hydroponics will guarantee that cannabis plants will grow much faster under this type of setup. The whole cultivation process time is cut down by a staggering 40% to 50%! This allows users to maximize the number of harvests in a year.
- Despite being an indoor method, the use of hydroponics brings about larger and more robust yields. This may be due to the purity and accessibility of the nutrients that the plants are getting. A constant flow of minerals reach the plants due to them being inherently place into the growing medium.
- The use of a hydroponics system also increases the protection and immunity of your cannabis plants from pests, molds, and other infestations. With a highly regulated environment, adverse factors will have a hard time finding their way into your beloved weed crop
- Using a hydroponics setup is undoubtedly very complicated and complex to operate. With various tools and measurements to keep track of, you will need to be fully into it to grow your plants through this method. As such, it may seem quite intimidating and does not hold well with beginner growers. The detailed structure of the whole setup is not something that we advise amateurs to try out because it may very well damage your crops if done incorrectly.
- In addition to being complicated, the hydro setup itself can put a significant dent on your wallet. It is actually quite expensive to start a hydroponics system, let alone continue to operate it for many years. You will need to purchase a lot of things in order to make this setup work, some of which may not be available in many areas.
- While a hydroponics setup does well in avoiding diseases and illnesses in your plants, actually having them already contaminate your gardens will prove to be a very difficult obstacle to overcome. Remember that your cannabis plants will constantly be expose to their water medium! Any bacteria found in the growing medium will be tough to get rid of. It might require you to disassemble your whole setup.
- Starting your hydro system will seem intimidating at first. This may lead to growers being skeptical about it.
The Different Hydroponic Systems
Like we said, there are many kinds of hydroponics systems that you get to choose from. While they will differ in one or two areas. One thing remains the same: they will have the highest potential to have the biggest yields out of any other growing method. Choosing the one that best suits your needs will be key. So make sure you make the most out of your hydroponics system.
Here are the different ways of setting up a water-based cannabis garden:
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
The Deep Water Culture (DWC) method is the most general and basic form of a hydroponics setup. It exhibits all the needed elements of water-based growing without adding any other factor that may complicate the experience.
This method applies some pretty basic concepts for the growth of your plants. Each cannabis plant is place in separate water-filler containers (with holes) which will be put into a grow tray/water tank that acts as the reservoir of the growing medium.
Outside of this, installation of air pump is a must to provide oxygen to the growing medium. Afterwards, the sufficient nutrients will be place into the growing medium which also makes their way to the roots via the submersion of the plants. The airstone acts as the catalyst that provides oxygen to the water tank.
Ebb and Flow
Ebb and Flow is a more advanced and detailed way of using a hydroponics system. The main feature of this method is that it does not constantly submerge the roots of your plants into the nutrient-filled growing medium. Instead, it will regularly fill up and drain the water from the tray, giving the plants a cycle of water every now and then.
How exactly does this work? Well, it starts off with the basics. You have your water tank and a grow tray where the containers with plants will be. But instead of submerging the roots into the water tank, the tray will be hovering above the reservoir. The tray and water tank will connect via water pumps, which floods the tray with water for a certain period of time.
Afterwards, through the use of a timer, the water drains from the tray and makes its way back into the water tank. This is a great way of making sure your roots stay hydrated within the intervals of flooding and draining.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
While the Nutrient Film Technique method also submerges the cannabis plants’ roots in water, it allows a constant flow of nutrients to and from the reservoir tank. This ensures the use and rotation of the growing medium in the tank and keeps the water active. Stagnant water may increase the tendency to develop and build up bacteria, which may then contaminate your roots and cause a number of serious diseases.
An NFT setup is similar to the DWC in many ways. However, like the Ebb and Flow Technique, the grow tray hovers above the water tank. They will connect through the use of PVC pipes attach to each side. Water will transfer into the grow tray through the use of a pump. This allows the constant exposure of the roots to nutrients and other minerals provided.
Now, it is important to position your grow tray in a slightly inclined angle. This allows the water to pump from the reservoir to make their way back into the tank for recycling.
The Drip System is a more popular method with advanced growers and commercial breeders. Because it allows people to make use of various amendments and additional growing media to the setup, it provides much more range in the quality control of the gardens.
The Drip System makes use of drip emitters are attach to the water tank’s pumps that regulate and control the amount of water the roots are expose to. Each plant that is on top of the grow tray has a corresponding dripper, as well. It is useful in making sure that the oxygen and nutrient levels of the growing media gets an even distribution.
Also, unlike other hydroponic setups, you can easily interchange the positioning and placement of your cannabis plants by simply detaching the dripper since the roots are not embed into the growing medium. It is also quite easy to clean and disinfect the reservoir of your water without having to worry about your plants’ roots and contamination issues.
Aeroponics is one of the most unique and well-designed types of water-based setups in the cannabis scene. Instead of allowing the free flow of water to the roots, it will mainly rely on the installation of mist novels to sprinkle small doses of water regularly to the plants.
It operates in a fairly simple manner. With the roots of your plants dangling down from the grow tray, the water pump sends the nutrients and oxygenated water into the mist novels. This, in turn, sprinkles its water onto the roots, giving them the sufficient amount of minerals needed.
This is an especially effective way of keeping your plants hydrate well, getting enough oxygen without having to worry about submerging them into the water. With the minimal use of the water and the ability for it to drip down back into the reservoir, you can make sure that no nutrients go to waste.
The Best Nutrients and Amendments for Hydroponics
A hydroponic system doesn’t necessarily forego all the different growing media that will usually come with soil-based setups. In fact, it is quite common to pair water with various amendments in order to keep your plants healthy and upright.
While all types of growing medium can be utilized in a hydroponics setup, there are some that work better than others. We have;
- COCONUT FIBERS – Using these coco fibers is a very environment-friendly way of enhancing the performance of your cannabis plants. They are generally from recycling waste products. Coco fibers are an excellent choice for keeping moisture in your roots and retaining the amounts of nutrients.
- ROCK WOOL – Perhaps the most common amendment used in a hydroponics setup is rock wool. This very accessible and organic form of growing medium gives a lot of nutrients and minerals that cannabis plants require. While it looks like soft sheets of cotton, it is actually from heated rocks which were subsequently turn to thread into tiny structures. It is important to first soak these sheets in water before use and keep the pH levels around 5.5 to 6!
- PERLITE – Perlite is a great, pebble-like solution that helps keep your cannabis plants healthy and clean. The cavities within each piece of perlite help prevent any molds, insects, and bugs from contaminating your gardens. It also works amazingly for retaining moisture and nutrients.
- CLAY PELLETS – These tiny amendments help keep the cannabis plants in place and support their structure! They also help keep a constant flow of air within the growing area. Perlite improves the air circulation around the growing medium and helps the plants absorb more oxygen.
Using a hydroponics setup isn’t the easiest thing to do. Also, it may come at a hefty price that will put a dent on your wallet. But if you have enough resources to pursue a hydroponics set up, then we recommend you to do so! The incredible yields and quality that you will get from a properly-maintained hydroponics system will surely benefit any grower.
If you are a beginner, you might want to first build up some experience using soil-based setups. As you start stacking up your knowledge about how marijuana grows and behaves, you will surely be able to make use of a water-based system in no time!