Not many people enjoy the thought of growing their cannabis plants in water. In fact, to the beginner grower’s mind, it may even seem like a dangerous process that can damage the plants! While it isn’t exactly a simple setup to understand, using a hydroponics setup in your weed gardens is a very advanced form of cultivation!
From the way that it operates to the amounts of amendments that you will have to input to the gardens, a hydroponics setup is a very effective form of cultivation for cannabis plants. Sure, it strays away from the usual use of soil as your main form of substrate. But soilless growing can give just as many benefits to your gardens! Here, we are going to discuss what a hydroponics setup for cannabis plants is. Furthermore, how it impacts your gardens to eventually translate to better yields and healthier harvests!
How Does a Hydroponics Setup Work?
Hydroponics is a form of soilless growing wherein the substrate used for the plants is either water or air. This method of cultivation seeks to provide a uniform growth of the cannabis plants which gives equal amounts of exposure to water, nutrients, light, and air circulation. The use of a hydroponics setup also calls for either a constant flow of nutrient-filled water to and from the roots of the plants or exposing them to certain levels of the same at different time intervals.
In most setups that make use of hydroponics, the plants are generally placed on a platform with their roots suspended in the air. Underneath these platforms, pipes and tubes are used to send ample amounts of water and/or air (depending on if the setup calls for complete submersion or not) to and from the water tank connected to the setup. A basic hydroponics setup will usually look like this:
While this will depend on the kind of hydroponics method you choose, this generally sums up how a hydroponics system depends on a growing medium other than soil to properly provide cannabis plants with the sufficient elements that they need.
But wait a minute, doesn’t the constant flow of water drown the roots of your plants? In many cases, this is a possibility if the setup is not properly operated. By simply forgetting to, let’s say, set the timer can lead to a substantially damaging effect on your plants! But when used correctly, the presence of various equipment such as air stones to oxygenate the water will allow the plants to breathe!
Keep in mind that the use of various soil amendments and other growing mediums such as potting mediums and rockwool is also commonly used in a hydroponics setup. The germination and vegetative stages will usually take place using some rockwool and/or coco coir as their main source of growing mediums with water acting as a constant element during the processes.
Pots, nutrients, and basically any other things you would normally use in growing cannabis are also widely utilized for hydroponics. The main idea of a hydroponics system is to use a soilless medium. This can come in all different forms and methods.
Where Does The Concept of Soilless Growing Come From?
Because it seems like such a high-end and advanced form of growing (which it is), people would think that the concept of soilless growing is something that just recently came to light! However, growing plants without the use of soil as a substrate has actually been practiced for thousands of years now!
Some of the earliest civilizations were actually keen on making a detailed system of soilless cultivation. One of the most well-known documentation of a hydroponics setup is actually a very famous architectural structure: the Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon. This garden, establish during 600 BCE, actually uses a watering system from the East Bank river located right beside the city. As the settlers applied what is known as the trickle system to carefully provide water to their plants, this garden was one of the world’s most advanced cultivation methods during its time.
More and more communities started applying this, such as many tribes and empires in Asia as well as the Aztec civilization which lived in the city of Tenochtitlan. For cannabis plants, however, the use of hydroponics is not something popular until much later in our lifetimes.
Pros and Cons of Using Hydroponics
After learning what a hydroponics setup is, the question still remains: why should I use a hydroponics setup for my cannabis gardens? To fully grasp the reason why growers go out of their way and venture into this method of cultivation, we must first discuss the pros and cons of using hydroponics.
Pros of growing cannabis hydroponically:
- The vegetative stages of your cannabis plants will naturally grow faster in a hydroponics setup comparing as to soil cultivation. This is because the controlled doses of nutrients being given directly to your roots will impact the time they spend actually ingesting and absorbing said minerals.
- Using a hydroponics setup is basically an indoor method of growing. This means that you will also have complete and unhindered control over the climates and conditions of your setup.
- Your plants are safe from outside elements such as natural calamities, infestations, and mold development as a result of indoor growing.
- A hydroponics setup is popular to produce some very high-yielding cannabis plants that are of the highest quality. This should come as no surprise, given that you will be able to control the temperatures, pH levels, nutrient content, and even the humidity levels that your plants will enjoy the most.
- The use of a hydroponics system will basically remove the watering of plants from your usual growing routine. Obviously, the roots will already be able to absorb the much-needed amounts of water during the use of a hydroponics setup.
Cons of growing cannabis hydroponically:
- The building and setting up of a hydroponics setup will more than likely cost you a large amount of money! Additionally, keeping your air stones and other equipment such as timers constantly on will pretty much give you a rise in the electricity bill! It is one concern to build a hydroponics system and another to properly maintain it. Make sure that it is practical for your given situation before jumping straight into it!
- In addition to costing a lot of money, you will need a certain level of experience and understanding of cannabis plants before being able to use a hydroponics setup effectively. This is not something that we advise beginners to pursue immediately.
- One small mistake in the way you use your hydroponics will ultimately lead to some very damaging effects on your plants. For example, rotting roots is possible if the circulation of water is poor. Having your water supplies stay stagnant can also lead to them becoming breeding communities for pests!
- Soils in a garden will pretty much split the effort with the growers in maintaining the development of the plants. Without soil, you will have to pay much closer attention to the details of your gardens.
Making a Basic Hydroponics Setup For Cannabis Gardens:
There are many types of hydroponics out there. The list includes:
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Drip/Trickle System
- Ebb and Flow System
- Wick System
- Nutrient Film Technique
The Deep water Culture (DWC) Technique is perhaps the most commonly used form of hydroponics. For what it’s worth, it is the easiest kind of hydro garden to set up. Aside from the water tank and plant bed you will be using, the whole process will be pretty familiar to growers!
A Deep Water Culture setup will look like this one:
As you can see, the plants’ roots are submerging into the water. There are also airstone and air pumps to act as the main source of air for breathing.
- The two main things to prepare are the water reserves that are filled with nutrients and the placement of the air pump. To prepare your water reserve, take a tub or any container large enough to hold an ample supply of nutrient solution. The plants will require the same types and amounts of nutrients as they would in a soil-based growing operation! Use whatever you are comfortable with during the flowering stages and dilute them into the water. Adjust the amounts of nutrients based on the maturity level of the plants. There are also nutrients specifically for hydroponic plants. You can consider using those as well.
- The next thing that you will have to do is place the air pump close to the water tank. Afterward, take the air stones attached to the air pump and place them at the bottom of your nutrient reserves. This has the effect of providing oxygen to your water supplies, which prevents the roots from drowning and overwatering.
Germination and Caring of Cannabis Plants
- Next, come the germination and caring of plants during their vegetative stages. It is best to use the Paper Towel Method of germination as this will make it a lot easier to transport the seedlings into their vegging mediums. Of course, you can also use some rockwool to sprout up the seeds. Once they have developed into seedlings, take these and transfer them into separate pots filled with coco coir. Coco coir will act as the main soil amendment for our Deep Water Culture Method.
- When you are ready, carefully take the pots containing the plants in their vegetative stages and place them onto the surfaces of your platforms. These will generally have holes that the pots can fit in without falling out. Growers can come up with their own plant beds out of different materials such as styrofoam or hard plastic. With the roots submerging into the nutrient-filled water and the air stones circulating the amounts of oxygen inside the water tank, you can now treat your plants exactly the way you would in a soil-based growing operation!
That is pretty much the basics of setting up your own Deep Water Culture water tank. In order to keep the plants in good condition, proper topping and defoliation is a must. There is a lot more to hydroponics that you should know! But browsing through this article will surely help you decide if it is the right cultivation method for you.
Hydroponics is something that will greatly reward you if you put the right amount of time and effort into it! It may be complex when starting off, especially with regards to the nutrients and water reserves that you will use. But hydroponics is something that a lot of growers now use! Maybe next time, you will be one of the many that find great success in its use!