The Basics of Starting a Hydroponic Weed Garden

By George January 13, 2019
The Basics of Starting a Hydroponic Weed Garden

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants and vegetables (mainly indoors) without the use of soil. The basic principles of hydroponic weed do not differ too much, as the plant still needs ventilation, light (for photosynthesis), water and nutrients (to help with the metabolization process).

Most hydroponic weed setups are easy to assemble and understand. However, the grower must make sure that their plants get everything they need, in the correct dosages. In this article, we are going to take a look at what you need to start a hydroponic weed garden and what are the basic concepts of this cultivation type.

 

Advantages Of Hydroponic Weed Growing

The thought of starting a hydroponic weed garden can seem daunting, mainly if you have never grown any plants before. However, hydroponics is just as straightforward as soil growing and offers a bunch of advantages compared to traditional grows.

    • Plants Grow Faster

The underlying philosophy of hydroponics is to feed the nutrients directly to the root system through a mixture of water and nutrients. Therefore, the roots do not have to spend their energy searching for them, focusing on growth instead. Experts concur that hydroponic plants grow up to 20% quicker compared to soil-grown ones.

    • Space Efficiency

Constant transplanting is a crucial aspect of soil growing, as the root system needs space to expand. As the pots get bigger and bigger, there is a genuine danger of “running out of grow room.” Hydroponics is perfect for people living in small apartments, as the roots have a ton of space and nutrients to expand, without the need for replanting.

    • Sustainability

All hydroponic weed growing systems use reservoirs filled with water and nutrients. This solution provides the roots with exactly as much water is needed at any given time. Excess amounts return to the tank to be used later. Comparatively, you are using significantly fewer resources than in soil grows, where most of the water goes to waste.

    • No Pests & Weeds

Hydroponic environments are much cleaner than soil, which attracts all sorts of pests and weeds. The most significant risk with hydro is algae forming in the reservoir, but only in extreme cases.

    • Bigger Yields

In hydroponics, the roots have an endless supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered directly on them. That means that plants grow quicker and produce bigger yields.

    • Automation

Although it is always better to be actively involved with your garden, many aspects of hydroponic growing can be automated with timers.

What You Must Have To Start A Hydroponic Weed Garden

Soil growing is simple to understand because it involves little more than a pot, some soil, and a marijuana seed. Hydroponic weed gardens are a bit more complicated, however, as soon as you get a grasp of the basics, you’ll be ready to implement them everywhere.

    • Hydroponic Systems

There are many hydroponic systems available, and it’s up to you to decide which one suits your growing style. Take a look at our guide for more information. The easiest hydroponic setups are:

    • DWC
    • Top feed
    • Ebb and flow
    • Water Oxygenation

It is essential that the nutrient solution in the reservoir is continuously oxygenated. That’s why you should also make sure you have at least two aquarium air pumps available at all times, in case one fails. If the water remains stagnant, the plants will die off rapidly.

    • Water Pumps

In certain hydroponic weed setups, you need a mechanism that transports the nutrient solution to the roots. If you’re up for some DIY, you can use a simple fountain/pond pump, readily available in home improvement stores. However, most hydroponic kits already come with an assorted water pump.

    • Growing Medium

The substance that holds the plant upright since there is no soil to support it. Although there is no single best option, an excellent growing medium must combine water retention with lightness. Some of the best growing mediums are:

    • Rockwool
    • Coco Coir
    • Perlite
    • Vermiculite
    • Floral foam
    • Oasis cubes
    • Pine shavings
    • River sand
    • River rock

No matter which one you choose, you should remember that the growing medium is there to keep the roots moist (not flooded) and maintain plant structure.

    • Nutrients

Bottled nutrients are an essential aspect of any hydroponic grow. However, there are many occasions in which growers supply their plants with way more nutrients than needed. In reality, nutrient brands are not that different. Follow the manufacturer’s dosage recommendations with a side of caution and always double check your sources.

    • Grow lights

Grow lights are the most expensive and crucial part of your hydroponic weed garden. Cannabis needs a lot of light – especially during flowering- to produce big buds. Contrary to herbs and spices that can grow on a windowsill, your weed plant needs a strong grow light to yield big buds.

    • Testing Instruments

You need to actively monitor your nutrient solution pH levels, as well as the environment in your grow room. For this, you will need special measurement material that you can easily obtain from Amazon.

Regulating A Hydroponic Weed Garden

In hydroponic weed growing, the nutrient solution should be your main focal point. You should check it weekly and measure temperature, pH and nutrient levels to ensure everything is going smoothly. While it is true that weed grows quicker on hydro, it also takes less time for the disease to spread.

Why Is The pH Important In Hydroponic Weed Growing

Ideally, you don’t want to use tap water for your nutrient solution, as excess salts can clog up your pumps and drip feeders. A reverse osmosis filter is the best option, although distilled water will work just as well. The optimal pH level for cannabis plants is 5.5-6.5, and you can quickly check its levels with a pH meter. Nutrient levels can be measured with an EC (electrical conductivity meter).

Regardless if you are growing in soil or hydro, pH measurements are crucial to the development of your plant. When the pH in your reservoir and the roots is too acidic or too basic, certain nutrients cannot be absorbed, hampering growth. Management of pH levels is the primary concern of hydroponic growers, as it can get quite volatile in smaller reservoirs.

Monitoring The Temperature Of Your Reservoir

Growing indoors doesn’t mean that your hydroponic garden is immune to extreme cold or extreme heat. Marijuana plants generally like a temperature range of 60-68ºF (18-20ºC), and this is the golden standard you should aim for.

Although the effects of abnormal temperatures take longer to manifest, they can be equally devastating, leading to root and pest problems or even raising the pH levels through water evaporation.

In the case of an overly cold reservoir (when you are growing at a cellar or a poorly insulated room), you can create a smaller area just for your plants. Ideally, you don’t want them placed on the floor, as the temperatures tend to be lower. If issues persist, you can use an aquarium heater. They are readily available in hardware stores.

Due to the inevitable use of indoor grow lights in indoor hydroponics, a hot reservoir is a far more common (and severe) problem. The problem with a warm reservoir is that it can quickly evaporate the water and throw off the pH balance of your nutrient solutions in a heartbeat. Fans and covering the reservoir with reflective materials is a temporary solution, while a special water chiller is recommended in extreme cases.

Indoor Grow Lights For Hydroponic Weed

Indoor grow lights are a huge part of growing marijuana indoors. Photosynthesis (the process of turning sunlight into chemical energy) is the cornerstone of life, and since sunlight is out of the question, you must find a worthy substitute. As we said earlier, cannabis needs a lot of bright light, so you must pick something suitably powerful.

There are three main types of grow lights suitable for hydroponic weed growing:

    • LED (Light-emitting diode) lights – balanced ratio of power/heat production, expensive.
    • HID (high-intensity discharge) lights – powerful and cheap, but produce immense amounts of heat.
    • CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) – cheap, small and cool, not very powerful.

Although HID grow lights are the most popular choices when dealing with marijuana in the flowering phase, there is a slight catch with hydroponics: reservoir temperature should stay on normal levels (see above). While all grow lights will generate heat, HIDs are notorious for being the worst culprits. That’s why LED lights might be a better solution for hydroponic weed, since they emit much less heat than their counterparts.

When buying LED lights, pay close attention to the Watts measurements that the manufacturer advertises. In 90% of cases, the number stated refers to the potential output of the plant when running in full power. However, all of these measurements are purely theoretical: the real power in Watts is usually 50% (or more) lower, so you should check for the actual power draw of the unit before buying. A power output of about 50-75W per plant should be ideal.

Tips & Tricks For Indoor Hydroponic Growing

Overall, growing hydroponic weed is not as complicated as it initially looks. As long as you get a few necessary steps in order, you will be able to grow healthy plants from the comfort of your living room! Here is a checklist of the basic tips for successful hydroponic weed growing.

    • Keep everything clean. Start with new equipment if necessary and always keep some isopropyl alcohol handy for disinfecting your tanks, reservoirs, tubes, and filters. If your nutrient solution is contaminated, your risk a lot of pathogens spreading on the roots of your plant.
    • When measuring pH, it is good to err on the side of more acidic (5.5-6), as this unlocks the ability of the plant to absorb more nutrients. However, as long as you stay at the appropriate levels of 5.5-7, this won’t matter too much. If you want to be on the safe side, change your nutrient solution weekly.
    • Never use tap water on your hydroponic garden. Distilled water is better. Reverse osmosis water is best.
    • Regarding temperature, aim for 60-68ºF (18-20ºC) in the reservoir to avoid the formation of algae. Room temperature can be up to 65-75ºF (19-24ºC).
    • As weed plants mature, they need less humidity. Start with levels of 65% in the seedling phase, dropping to 40% when they reach flowering. As long as you maintain proper airflow, humidity and temperature levels should not be a problem.
    • Obtain a pH and an EC meter. They do not cost much, and they will provide you with useful metrics for your nutrient solution. Don’t forget to record the metrics to get a sense of what works best.
    • Finally, a piece of advice which stays the same regardless of the growing system: Always buy great seeds. Find a reliable source of seeds and stick with it for all your needs. Better yet, get clones from friends, since this is the failsafe way of growing a weed plant. There is no substitute for good genetics!

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