What comes to mind when you hear the term hydroponic weed? Many people think that it is weed grown by suspending the roots of weed plants into water directly with no growing medium beneath them. But as we will see soon, this is just one of the many ways to grow plants on a hydro basis . In this article, we will look at what hydroponic weed is, the different hydroponic systems you can use to grow it, some of the best marijuana strains for indoor hydro growing, and the pros and cons of growing weed in this way. Let's take a walk to the closest indoor garden.
What is Hydroponic Weed?
Hydroponics is an artistic system of growing plants without the use of soil. You grow the plants in an inert medium and nutrient-rich solution, both held in sterile containers either indoors or in a greenhouse.
Hydroponic weed is marijuana that is grown without the use of any soil. You supply nutrients that the plants would get if they were growing in the soil. This is achievable since the required nutrients, which we will discuss later on in the article, are all soluble in water.
To grow weed hydroponically, you will need to set up a suitable hydroponic system depending on your scale of production, hydroponic skills, and availability of materials. Hydroponic systems can be simple or complicated, and your level of skills in this art should determine which type you choose.
Simply put, a hydroponic system entails using a reservoir to hold the nutrient solution and placing it beneath a growing tray. The tray holds the inert medium in which the weed will grow by developing stems and a root system that penetrates the medium to access the nutrients.
Beginner-friendly Hydroponic Systems
This system is unique as no medium is required although some may be used initially in the germination of seeds or rooting of cuttings. The roots of the weed are hung in the air and nutrients are sprayed into the system using a fine spray.
The roots are exposed to high levels of oxygen which helps the plants grow faster as they save up on energy that would have been used to absorb this oxygen if they were growing in the soil. However, you need to take care not to clog the misting valves as this would hinder moisture from reaching the roots and your plants would die.
2. Wick System
This is an easy yo use hydroponics system that borrows from the candle ideology. The nutrients are absorbed by the weed from the grow tray which gets them through a yarn or cotton wick from the nutrient reservoir. The main downside to this system is that large weed plants may use up the nutrients faster than it is being supplied since the wick uptake is slow. Maintaining enough oxygen levels in the wick system might be hard hence the risk of your weed growing slowly or dying out.
3. Ebb and Flow System
This is a highly effective but tricky system. It is a near self-maintaining ecology that uses a submerged pump to regulate the supply of both nutrients and oxygen to the roots of the weed plants.
The set up involves a reservoir which holds the nutrients solution. The grow trays are pots that dip into the solution. Using a heavier medium such as rockwool will ensure the pots remain stable in the solution and do not float around.
You use a timer to regulate the flow of the solution such that the tray does not flood for over 30 minutes at any given time. Flooding the tray would over-supply nutrients and deprive the roots of oxygen. The system is cyclic as the solution keeps circulating into and out of the reservoir and trays depending on the preset timer duration. A breakdown of the timer or pump would lead to the death of your plants.
4. Deep Water Culture System (DWC)
In this system, the weed plants hang over the nutrient-rich solution. Place the plants in small pots which you then place in larger pots that have a sizable hole in the bottom to allow the pot with the plant to fit in but still remain suspended over the reservoir pot. This makes the plants remain in a dangling position with the roots growing through the bottom and into the reservoir pot to reach the nutrient solution. An air pump is used to eject air into an air stone to supply oxygen into the solution on a real-time basis.
5. Drip Irrigation System
To reduce the amount of water used in growing cannabis plants, a drip irrigation system is used. Small droppers are placed in the growing medium near the roots. The droppers regularly release nutrients to the plants. This system is labor-intensive as the droppers have to be refilled regularly, and so manually.
Advanced Hydroponic Systems
6. Top Feed Drip System
This is a modification of the drip irrigation system. It enables plants to grow uniformly since they all receive equal amounts of nutrients. A network of spaghetti tubes deliver the nutrients to the plants such that the nutrients drip into the top of each pot. A timer-controlled, submerged pump regulates the amount of nutrients that the roots receive. The additional nutrients that the roots and leaves do not absorb are reused in the system through the regular pumping.
7. Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
The nutrient film technique system is most suitable for expert growers given its intense technical aspects. The weed plants are placed in pots holding a medium such as rockwool. The pots are then rested on an inclined channel, preferably made of PVC pipe. Nutrients flow in a single direction within the pipes, with the excess flowing back into the reservoir with the help of a submersible pump.
The system has several shortcomings. Debris and roots of plants with long growth cycles may block the pipes, causing nutrients to stop flowing. Exposing the roots to light destroys them leading to the death of the cannabis plants. You should maintain the temperature in the pipes below 70° Fahrenheit, and oxygen at about 8ppm.
Mediums For Hydroponic Systems
A hydroponic medium is a soil substitute for the hydro grow system. Its purpose is to hold water, nutrients, and oxygen. A medium should be inert so that it does not react with the nutrients to produce substances that could destroy the plant roots. Below is a list of the main mediums you can use to grow hydroponic weed.
Air is easy to use as a medium provided you maintain the correct humidity to ensure the plant roots do not go dry. The NFT system uses air partially, while aeroponic systems use it in entirety.
Rockwool is the most commonly used medium as it holds air and water easily. However, it requires regular pH checks since it has high pH levels.
In case you need a lighter medium, you can use perlite. It is made of glass or sand and does not hold nutrients for a long time.
Also known as hydroton or expanded clay, these clay pellets have tiny holes for holding air and nutrients. Expanded clay is reusable after harvesting by sterilizing it in a hydrogen peroxide-water mixture.
The non-construction type of vermiculite contains traces of Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus, and Magnesium minerals that will nourish your hydroponic weed even more. It has good water and air holding capacity.
If you opt to use water as the primary medium for your hydroponic set up, always ensure it stays aerated using an air stone or pump to supply the roots with enough oxygen for optimal plant growth.
Requirements For Growing Hydroponic Weed
Here's what you will need to grow marijuana in hydroponic gardens:
1. Hydroponic Nutrients
Other than supplying water and oxygen, you need to provide the following minerals or nutrients for your plants.
Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Potassium are the most vital of the nutrients in concentrations if 15% each in most hydroponic solutions. Potassium levels should peak to at least 20% during the flowering stage.
2. Hydroponics Equipment
To set up a simple hydroponic system, you will need equipment like water tanks, PVC pipes, timers, reservoirs, submersible pumps, and holding pots.
Depending on the type of hydroponic system you choose, the following extra equipment will come in handy.
- PPM-EC Meter (Parts Per Million Electrical Conductivity Meter - This device measures the electrical conductivity of water to help you avoid overfeeding and underfeeding. The higher the conductivity, the more the dissolved minerals.
- pH Meter (Potential of Hydrogen Meter) - The optimal hydroponic pH for most cannabis varieties is 6.0. A pH meter will help you measure the pH of the solution so you can adjust it as necessary for better weed growth.
- PPM-TDS Device - This device measures the level of plant food in the water. It measures the total dissolved solids (TDS) in a unit volume of water, expressed in milligrams per liter or parts per million (PPM). The PPM-TDS device helps you know when there is too much nutrient concentration that would limit the amount and circulation of oxygen. If the concentration is too low, the plants suffer malnourishment and slow growth.
- Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers - These two devices are important in regulating the humidity levels in the growing room to between 70 on the higher end and 40 on the lower end.
Which Weed or Marijuana Strains Are Best for Indoor Hydro Grow?
This article would be incomplete if we do not consider some of the best marijuana strains that you can grow indoors on hydro systems. These five will be a good start.
The AK-47 strain is a hybrid that gets ready for harvesting from 50 days. It has a mini Sativa dominance.
2. White Widow
A hybrid of Indian Indica and Brazilian sativa, the White Widow strain is a bit difficult to grow especially for beginners. However, its picky nature makes it a good weed strain to grow indoors in a controlled hydro environment. It takes roughly 60 days to grow to fruition.
3. Northern Lights
This is a forgiving marijuana strain that still thrives despite the many mistakes you make when growing it. It is a very strong weed strain and is thus not recommended for beginner users. It has a flowering stage of 10 or more weeks hence becomes an indoor beauty to behold.
4. OG Kush
Like most other Kush breeds that love hydro installations, OG Kush grows to incredible heights and may be inconvenient if your space is limited. However, it takes less time to reach maturation when grown in hydro setups than in the traditional soil cultivation.
5. Afghan Kush
The Afghan Kush is well resistant to pests, mold, and branch breakages if mishandled. It is famous for its characteristic, sparkling bud clusters. It has high medicinal value which makes it suitable for treating insomnia since it induces sleep. People with low weight issues can use this weed variety to boost their appetite and reduce digestive complications.
Pros and Cons of Hydroponics vs Soil
Pros of Growing Weed Using Soil
- Soil is more forgiving to inattentive growers who do not monitor their crop well
- The end product has a better, natural flavor
- It’s easier to grow weed in soil than in some hydroponic systems - especially the advanced ones.
Cons of Growing Weed Using Soil
- It’s hard to determine the exact concentration level of nutrients
- Pests are a common threat to your weed plants especially in regular farms
- You need to keep monitoring the soil pH to ensure optimal growth
- It is difficult to choose the best quality of soil for the highest quality of the weed
- Soil has limitations for recycling it with the only option being crop rotation. This option may not be suitable for cannabis growers
- It consumes a lot of space.
Pros of Growing Weed Using Hydroponics
- Weed of higher quality as a result of more control in the growth process
- Production is higher from the same small growing space
- Frail plants can receive more support when you customize the feeding regimes in their favor
- The use of pesticides is unnecessary since using no soil means there won't be any soil-borne pests
- Hydro-grown weed matures faster and this allows growers to harvest up to 6 times per year
- The risk of water-distressed plants reduces where every aspect of the system is well monitored
- Automation is possible with techniques such as deep water culture and bubbleponic
- Takes up less space so growers with limited farming space can grow on a small area and still get high yields.
Cons of Growing Weed Using Hydroponics
- Hydroponic systems can be expensive especially for recreational weed growers.
- Technical knowhow is of paramount importance if you are to successfully manage the advanced hydroponic systems.
- Waterborne diseases are common in hydroponic systems. They are persistent when they occur.
- Power outages are a threat to automated hydroponic systems where timers and electrical pumps are in use.
Tricks, Tips, and Hacks For Growing the Best Hydroponic Weed
What should you do to maintain optimal conditions for the proper growth of your weed plants?
- Regulate airflow for optimal temperatures. You can use some fans in different spots of the hydroponic garden or greenhouse to achieve this. The best temperature for hydroponics water is 65° Fahrenheit to optimize the absorption of nutrients. Keep the growing room at around 75° Fahrenheit.
- Control the humidity levels using humidifiers to raise them or dehumidifiers when you need to lower them. The proper humidity level for seedlings and for the vegetative stage is 60-70. You should keep lowering this to about 40% at the blooming stage.
- Sterilize all your hydroponics equipment such as tanks, pipes, reservoirs, and submersible pumps. You can use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to sterilize the equipment.
- Maintain the recommended pH level depending on the hydroponic system you are using. A slightly acidic pH promotes the growth of beneficial fungi, which is good for your plants.
- Regulate lighting to around 400 and 700 nanometers by using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for smaller growing spaces and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights for larger spaces respectively.
- Keep records of the performance of your weed plants between different stages of growth. Take note also of aspects like humidity, pH, planting dates, and other applicable issues as they arise.
Managing your hydroponic weed garden or enterprise shouldn't be an uphill task at all if you consider the different aspects we have discussed. If you are only just getting started, take this article as an ultimate guide to setting up your first hydroponic weed garden. Gardening is a good way to unwind, and it gets even better if you can make some extra money while at it.