What is hydroponic cannabis?
The common nickname for cannabis – “grass” – derives from its ability to grow almost everywhere, in varying conditions and different climates. “Hydroponic cannabis” refers to plants grown using a solution of nourishing water and a growing inert medium rather than a soil rich in nutrients. This method could be something as fundamental as the jars for manually watering an inert medium with a nutrient solution. Sophisticated systems with multiple pumps, timers and tanks can require some daily work during growth, as well as requiring more maintenance and higher initial investment.
Cannabis growers have used several hydroponic methods for many years as a way to maximise yields and accelerate growth, the two main advantages of soy-free cultivation. Working with private land can be inefficient and trying for a variety of reasons:
- You may not be able to recycle the soil
- Susceptibility to pest problems
- Difficult to determine the right amount of nutrients
- The pH of the land must be carefully monitored
- Soil quality significantly affects the final product
With some hydroponic methods, it is possible to use small amounts of growing media that can often be reused. Even precisely controlling which nutrients the plants and pH levels receive. With such levels of control, growers discover that their buds are more prominent, healthier and more powerful.
Whether you have cultivated cannabis before or have no experience in cannabis cultivation, hydroponics can be a great way to produce cannabis in any space. At first, it can be confusing and a bit overwhelming, but by learning the basics, you will understand that it is not as difficult as you imagined.
Set up your hydroponic cannabis cultivation system
There are numerous configurations for growing hydroponic cannabis with various benefits. And while there are different types of hydroponic settings that do not use any culture medium at all. Many of them still use some substrate to support root growth.
Different materials all offer slightly different advantages and disadvantages, so you need to think about choosing the right medium for cannabis plants. In this article, we will use the hydroponic drip technique.
While this system is built from the ground up, it should be noted that there are many plug and play systems available for those looking for something easy to configure. Plug and Play systems come with everything they need in a simplified package to allow growers to start on the right foot.
First, we will start with the necessary supplies. Keep in mind that this is just an example and, depending on your space and desired results. Many things can be optimised in a hydroponic system to make it more beneficial to you. This list describes in detail the equipment needed to install your hydroponic system and does not include lights, fans, filters and other basic needs for any cultivation room.
Supplies for hydroponic cultivation:
- 13 or 20-litre bucket (one for each plant)
- Table for hydroponic gardening
- Clay balls (enough to fill each bucket)
- Rockwool cubes (one 1.5 inch starter cap per plant)
- Water tank (depending on the size of the garden)
- Water pump (the bigger, the better)
- Air pump
- Air stone
- Plastic tubes
- Drip line
- Drop emitters (one or two per plant)
Once you have collected your materials, you can start building your hydroponic structure.
- First, set up your tank. Your tank is where your nutrient solution takes place. A container can come in all shapes and sizes depending on your pace of growth and size and contains the water pump and air stone. It will have a line from the air pump to the air stone and a drainage line from the growth table. The tank will have a line from the water pump to the drip line and the power cable for the water pump.
- Then you will create your growth chart. The purpose of the table is to contain and return excess water from the plants to the tank. To do this successfully, the table must have a low point where all excess water will be directed. This weak point is where you install the drain that will bring water to the tank through plastic pipes.
- You can then add the 5-gallon buckets filled with clay balls on the table. Before using the clay granules, it is necessary to soak the pellets during the night to allow them to become completely saturated with water for your drinking plants. Also, the buckets must have holes drilled on the bottom to allow them to drain excess water onto the growth table. It is essential that the holes are about half the diameter of the clay balls to prevent the pellets from passing through or obstructing the vents.
- Take the plastic tube that comes out of the water pump and direct the line to the cultivation table. From here, it is possible to use the tear-drop equipment to pierce the holes in the plastic tube and extend the drip line on each bucket. Finally, connect the droplet emitters at the end of the drip lines.
- From here, you can run your system without plants to see if everything is working correctly. The system should not have stagnant water anywhere. The air pump must always be in operation to keep the water in the oxygenated and moving tank, while the 5-gallon buckets and the culture table discharge any excess water into the container.
- At this point, you are ready and ready to create the nutrient water solution in your tank. Below we will present information on nutrients and how to use them to grow cannabis plants.
- Once the solution is ready, you can present your plants. Take the departures or clones that started growing in rock wool and put them in the clay granules. Insert the drip line so that the moisture reaches the rock wool and the roots of your departures.
One advantage that this setting offers is that it can be easily expanded as you want to grow more plants as long as the tank has enough capacity to supply all plants with enough water. To extend the set of a drip line, all you have do is add more lines to the new vessels.
Nutrients to grow hydroponic cannabis
When you grow hydroponically, you are responsible for providing all the nutrients needed for the plants to survive. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the three essential nutrients for plant growth known as macronutrients. Furthermore, some secondary substances and micronutrients will help the plant’s development. These include boron, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, sulfur and zinc.
Many companies sell nutritious hydroponic solutions that are specifically designed for specific stages of growth. The nitrogen-rich nutrient solutions will be used in the vegetative phase, while the nutrients rich in phosphorus become more necessary in the flowering period.
The nutrients will be premixed in a solution or powdered while the powdered form could be cheaper and less bulky. It is best to stick to premixed nutrients if you are a small grower because they mix easily with water and are more forgiving.
When mixing nutrients, make some measurements to make sure the solution is safe for plants. First of all, make sure you have the right EC reading (electrical conductivity), and secondly, make sure your pH reading is correct.
EC reading is how farmers can tell how robust their solution is and how precious the water is. The more minerals, the higher the CE score. In general, a reading between 0.8 and 2.0 is appropriate for cannabis cultivation. When a plant is young, it will need fewer nutrients than when it is blooming and growing large enough.
Another standard measure used is ppm (parts per million), which is another way to consider your nutrient solution. There are two different scales per ppm used in the cannabis industry: the 500 and the 700. The most effective way to determine ppm is to take an EC reading, multiplying it by 500 or 700 depending on the scale you are using. An EC reading of 2.0 would correspond to 1,000 ppm (500 range) or 1,400 ppm (700 range). Many readers used to measure EC or ppm will do this conversion for you.
The lower the ppm, the less a nutrient is dense. As a general rule, aim at the following densities based on the age of your plant:
- Early seedlings/shoots – 100 to 250 ppm
- Early vegetative phase: from 300 to 400 ppm
- complete – from 450 to 700 ppm
- early flowering – 750 to 950 ppm
- complete flowering / ripening: from 1,000 to 1,600 ppm
Note which scale is based on the nutrients you are using before making nutrient solutions.
Next, you will need to balance the pH level. Between 5.5 and 6 is ideal for cannabis to absorb nutrients. If the levels have decreased significantly, the plants will not be able to absorb the nutrients and will suffer from deficiencies.
You should continue to monitor your solution by taking readings twice a day to make sure everything is at the correct levels. Regardless, it is good practice to change answers every week or two to keep the solution as optimal as possible.
Taking care of cannabis cultivated with hydroponics and soil
Raising a plant with hydroponics is different in many ways from growing in a vegetable garden. One thing to consider is the support the plant is receiving. Unlike a plant that grows in the ground, plants in hydroelectric media could be vulnerable to tipping or breaking. Trellising your garden will help prevent this from happening and will also allow you to train plants to grow in specific directions.
Another thing to consider is pruning. With hydroponics, your plants can grow very fast. This means that you have to be diligent about pruning by removing all the lower foliage and replenishing the plant before moving on to its flowering cycle. You will allow your upper buds (the large larger buds) to receive all the energy they need.
Hydroponic cannabis cultivation requires you to invest the right amount of time and money in developing the system before actually starting your garden. Furthermore, we advise you to make sure that your system works effectively and that your nutrients are of high quality so that your plants thrive. Once you have a knack for hydroponics, you will be well on your way to producing world-class cannabis that is worth it.
Have you ever tried hydroponic cultivation techniques before, both for cannabis plants and other crops? Share your tips, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!