Cannabis is a hardy plant that can adapt very well to different conditions so that it can be easily grown on almost all plant substrates. The most common methods are growing in soil or in hydroponic systems with substrates such as rock wool, coconut, expanded clay or Mapito.
Due to the benefits of using a hydroponic system, growing hydroponic weed has become very popular. However, to novice growers, it may sound off-puttingly technical.
No worries, we tell you exactly how to grow hydroponic weed including the best hydro systems and nutrients.
What is hydroponic weed?
Hydroponic is one of the most used methods of growing cannabis and is a very old cultivation method – archaeologists believe that hydroponics was used in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. There are several types of hydroponic systems, but all are based on the same principle. The idea is simple; it is based on making the nutrients available to the plants by quickly absorbing fertilisers in an inert substrate such as rock wool, expanded clay or Mapito.
How it works
By using an automatic irrigation system, either recirculating (the nutrient solution is reused) or waste-to-drain (the excess nutrient solution is not reused), the cannabis plants are optimally supplied with nutrients. When using expanded clay, it is imperative to stabilise the pH of the substrate to avoid problems with the pH during the grow. If the expanded clay is not stabilised, many difficulties arise for the plants, and they will not be able to absorb the nutrients sufficiently. Also, in recirculating systems, when using unbuffered expanded clay, there are fluctuations in the nutrient tank, which can also lead to over- or under-fertilisation.
In recirculating systems in which the nutrient solution keeps leaving the tank and running back, the pH and EC value can be easily changed by an unbuffered or contaminated substrate. These factors also play a role in waste-to-drain systems, albeit a smaller one.
It is essential to point out that in these systems, the roots are exposed to the air, and constant irrigation is necessary so that the plants can develop without problems and do not dry out. As soon as a lack of moisture stresses the roots, they are severely damaged because they have no protection as in Coco substrate, in which the root ball is less exposed to the air and therefore dries out much more slowly than with expanded clay. On the other hand, if these factors are under control and no mistakes are made, the growth really explodes in such a hydroponic system.
The irrigation methods of the hydroponic systems sometimes differ enormously. There are systems like the Dutch Pot which have permanent 24-hour watering. Some growers water their plants every 15 minutes; others prefer watering them for 15 minutes every hour. Depending on the selected system, an optimal irrigation program must be set, just like when growing in rockwool.
Every grower has to find the ideal watering time for the grow, as this depends on several factors: temperature, humidity and ventilation. If the substrate dries out quickly, more waterings must be carried out, each with the development phase and needs of the plants’ optimal EC value. In hydroponic systems with rockwool or expanded clay, the nutrient uptake of the cannabis plants is more effective than in Coco, which is why the EC value should be slightly lower. The plants must also be checked every day to find an optimal EC value for each strain.
Advantages of growing hydroponic weed
Growing weed in a hydroponic way offers some serious advantages. Let’s dig into that deeper!
- Complete control of nutrients and pH value
- Increased yields
- Using the available space in a optimal manner
- Diagnose problems more easily
- A speedy growth
- No pests or diseases
Hydroponics allows you to control the nutrients your cannabis plants need completely. Dilute them with water and add them to the tank so there is zero waste, unlike adding nutrients to the soil which is comparatively ineffective as some of the nutrients always fail to make it to the roots. You can calculate accurate nutrient measurements to guarantee that your weed plants receive exactly the right amount each day. The risk of root burn from inadvertently giving too much fertiliser is eliminated. Many strains of cannabis plants require a correct pH value to grow properly, and again, hydroponics ensures that the guesswork is removed when it comes to testing the pH value.
The effective fertilisation leads to improved growth and better yields, the end goal of all weed cultivators. Your precious plants don’t have to waste energy trying to get nutrients from the soil. Hydroponics means that they are free to focus on putting their energy on developing strong stalks and lovely leaves and buds.
A hydroponic setup uses less space as the soil needs a lot of space for the roots. You can group your plants more closely together, and more plants mean more weed, once the flowering season begins! It’s also less messy than a soil-based system, no need to spend ages sweeping spilt compost from floors.
Observing the root system is an excellent way to spot signs of nutrient deficiency or stress as problems are usually revealed more rapidly than the parts above ground. If the roots are not white, you need to take action – brown or dark roots are only seen in unhealthy plants.
Hydroponics provides direct access to the nutrients your cannabis needs, close monitoring of pH and constant oxygen supply. As long as you have adequate lighting and good temperature control, plants will grow faster than plants that grow in soil. They are supplied with everything they need so that practically no energy is wasted. Plants which grow healthy and vigorously are also more resistant to diseases.
Many pests and diseases thrive in soil. A hydroponic system instantly offers the answer to all these risks.
Disadvantages of hydroponics
Besides the advantages of growing hydroponically you have to be aware of the disadvantages in order to decide if growing hydroponically is the best option for your culture. So what are the disadvantages?
The cost of the equipment is more expensive than a crop that uses soil. However, after several successful crops, you will almost certainly realise that the investment is worth it.
Although hydroponic cultivation is not difficult, it requires a solid plan of action. You learn it by doing it so take your time and enjoy the learning process
Building a hydroponic system for growing weed
The following list encompasses all the apparatus you need to build a basic indoor hydroponic system. We recommend buying each item separately at the lowest possible price, so you have more funds for expensive but essential lighting and heating.
This is what you need
- A grow space
- Growing medium, such as coir or rockwool
- Mesh or net planting pots
- Hygrometer to measure humidity and a thermometer
- A carbon filter
- LED Lights
- A ventilation fan and an oscillating fan
- Ducting tubes
- Pump or airstone
- Lighting hangers
- Hydroponic reservoir and tray
- pH and PPM meters
Best hydroponic medium to grow weed with
One of the first things you need to do is choosing a growing medium — this is a substance that supports the axis between the stem and roots. The growing medium allows the roots to descend into the water to access nutrients. There are many types of medium, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. It’a matter of experience to see which is best for you.
Clay pebbles are highly popular as they are inexpensive and easy to use; just watch the pH levels as they may need to be altered because of the clay. Place in a basket with gaps for the roots to penetrate into the water.
Rockwool is also a common choice and is a substance made from spinning fibres from basaltic rocks into a wool texture. Rockwool is really good at retaining water, which enables proper hydration of the top root system. However, it is not very environmentally friendly and is also potentially harmful to your health.
Perlite is an amorphous volcanic glass that swells when it is exposed to high temperatures. You may have come across it in compost to prevent compaction and to provide aeration, and it serves the same purpose when used in hydroponics.
Coco coir is the hairy fibre from coconuts and enables proper aeration and moisture retention. Coconut fibres also help protect roots from being affected by plant-stimulating hormones.
Best hydroponic system for weed
All systems use a water solution enriched with nutrients. However, some installations vary according to various factors such as circulation and water exposure. You can buy hydroponics setups online, or you can save money and build one yourself if you have DIY expertise.
Deep water culture is an excellent place to start for beginners and is probably the least expensive option. Cannabis plants are placed in buckets filled with a nutrient solution, and an air pump provides a constant supply of oxygen.
This type of system consists of several buckets hung over a growing tray which has two waterways; an inlet and outlet, both of which are connected to an external tank that contains nutrients. A flood and drain system is a very stable method of cultivation and is highly recommended for novice growers who need a secure hydro system that will still provide great results.
A drip system is an active hydroponic system, which means that it utilises a pump to supply your plants with regular nutrients and water. It is also known as a micro-irrigation system. The system features small emitters to drip the nutrients directly onto your cannabis plants.
If deep water culture is similar to growing cannabis plants in a pond, then the nutrient film technique equates to growing weed over a river. This system involves placing weed plants into an angled tube so that water can flow in one side and leave the other via gravity. The roots descend into the tube, where they are exposed to the flowing water. The water enters from a tank with a pump and airstone and returns once the cycle is complete.
A wick system is a simple hydroponic setup that features a growing tray. A tank of water is placed underneath from which several wicks exit and enter the growing medium. Water flows up the wicks and hydrates the medium without a pump being required.
Best nutrients for hydroponics
In hydroponics, the nutrients the plants need are mixed with the water the plants receive. Here you have two options:
Liquid food needs to be mixed with a certain amount of water. If the plant then absorbs water, it also absorbs nutrients, allowing it to grow.
The capsules are slightly different. These have to be mixed with water, but they will sink to the bottom anyway, no matter how much you mix. When the plant is hungry, it secretes a specific acid that ends up in the water and causes the capsules to disintegrate. The nutrients in the capsules are thus released and mix with the water. The nutrients are then absorbed in the same way as with liquid food. If the plant absorbs some of the water, it automatically absorbs the nutrients in the water. The handy thing about this system is that you can easily give the plant a lot of nutrients, without running the risk that the weed will immediately consume everything.
Best strains for hydroponics
Choosing the right strain is an important consideration when using hydroponics. Plants can absorb nutrients very quickly, which frequently leads to ultra-rapid growth. If space is at a premium, you would be well-advised to opt for a small, bushy Indica rather than a lanky Sativa that will quickly be out of control.
Smaller and bushier varieties are great for indoor hydroponic systems for several reasons. Firstly, it will allow you to grow types of weed plants within a smaller space, enabling greater variation and yields. If your plants do decide to take off, you’ll have enough room to cope with a sudden upsurge in height.
Here are two strains that are brilliant for hydroponic growing:
Anyone who wants to try and grow Blue Dream should be warned – nutrients are very important and potentially expensive as this cannabis strain is famous for its hungry appetite.
One of the many reasons why Blue Dream is an excellent choice for hydroponics is because the nutrients it craves will be optimally absorbed in water. Less waste and less cost. Blue Dream is highly recommended as it offers brilliant highs and effectively treats depression.
Tip: check our feminized Blue Dream strain seeds
White Widow is one of the most potent Ruderalis hybrids currently available on the market with a downright great fruity aroma and taste. Its highs make it a good strain to be used in combating anxiety, stress, anxiety and sleep disorders, a perfect strain for ultimate relaxation after a stressful day. It offers average yields for an auto-flower, but the result is absolutely worth it.
The White Widow Auto is ideal for hydroponic cultivation – and a perfect strain for novice growers due to its robust nature, high natural resistance to mould and its ability to withstand almost any climate. The White Widow Auto has a small to medium build that tends to form one large, dense central bud whose growth and density can be stimulated by pruning the lower branches in time so she can put all her energy into the tops.
Tip: check our feminized White Widow strain seeds
Hydroponics can seem daunting but the effort is worthwhile
Hydroponics can seem off-puttingly complex to a novice grower. All the various components and methods are a lot to take in. Our advice is to start small, select a reliable strain, and regularly tend to the needs of your plants. Using a hydroponic system is very rewarding, and your hard work will pay off with quick harvest time and generous yields.
It’s important to remember that, to produce good weed using hydroponics; it is still vital to use a reliable seed source, such as Weedseedsexpress. You could spend lots of money on expensive hydroponics systems but fail to produce a good crop of weed. A potent strain of genetics is essential for a seed to reach its potential and blossom into high-quality buds filled with sticky resin.
Contact Weedseedsexpress and browse our extensive selection of high quality cannabis seeds.