What is hydroponics? Put simply hydroponics is the method of cultivating a plant in a solution of water and nutrients without the use of soil.
Hydroponics is becoming more and more popular among growers, if done correctly using hydro can not only increase the yield but also allow the grow to finish faster. So why isn’t everyone using hydro? Although you can grow faster and achieve bigger yields it is a little more complicated and fiddly than planting in soil, especially if you are fortunate enough to be able to grow in your back garden. However if you are willing to learn how to do a hydro grow properly then the time you invest will more than repay you in bud!
Hydroponics is becoming more and more popular among growers, if done correctly using hydro can not only increase the yield but also allow the grow to finish faster. So why isn’t everyone using hydro? Although you can grow faster and achieve bigger yields it is a little more complicated and fiddly than planting in soil, especially if you are fortunate enough to be able to grow in your back garden. However if you are willing to learn how to do a hydro grow properly then the time and energy you invest will more than repay you in bud!
Different Hydro Mediums
There are a few different mediums you can use for hydro grows, you can have the roots go directly in the water using NFT (nutrient film technique), use rockwool or coco, however by far the most popular and in my experience the easiest to use is clay pellets (see above image). Clay pellets are little spherical hard balls of clay, I find them to be the perfect medium to use for hydro for a number of reasons; they are reusable, easy to clean and prepare and relatively cheap to use, and because they are don’t retain large volumes of water you don’t need to worry about drowning your plants.
Hydroponics can be used with almost any cannabis strain, however some will do better than others, certainly one of the most popular strains for hydroponic grows because of its combined potency and yield is Gorilla Glue. Although if you really want to take advantage of the extra size potential you can get from a hydro grow then try a strain like Critical Mass XL and you and you can’t go wrong.
The different hydroponics systems
Deep Water Culture – Once you have chosen your desired medium, in my case, clay pellets, you need to decide what type of setup you are going to use. For me the most successful and easiest to use has been to use DWC (deep water culture). This method consists of a mesh pot filled with clay pebbles and then suspended over a reservoir with a nutrient and water solution, a submersed aquarium pump oxygenates the solution to prevent the roots from drowning. The benefit of using this type of system is that there a no drip taps or sprays to clog up and so personally I have found this the easiest method to use and therefore what I would recommend to beginners.
Ebb and Flow – This system works by setting up a timed system by which the growing chamber or pots are flooded from the reservoir at intervals and then draining again allowing the plant roots to have an almost continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Drip System – This system is very simple and consists of using a constant dripping tap from the reservoir dripping directly into the grow medium that then filters down through the plants roots and back into the reservoir. Although this method is very simple to set up the drip taps can get clogged up and so it is not one that I use.
NFT (nutrient film technique) – This method consists of having the plants in a tilted system using gravity to naturally allow the nutrient solution to run over the roots and then drain off the other end and then pumped back around in a constant circuit.
Top tips for Hydroponic grows
Regardless of what setup you choose, they all have the same principle of delivering a nutrient solution from the reservoir to the plants roots, draining back into the reservoir and back around again in a cycle. There are some tips that you should follow for all of the methods.
- Change the water in your reservoir every 2-3 weeks.
- Use an air pump with an air stone to ensure your nutrient solution stays oxygenated.
- Use a thermometer to check your water and try to keep the temperature between 65 – 75 degrees. You can do this by either using a water heater or topping up to solution with warm/cold water if it gets too cold or warm.
- After you have finished your growing cycle make sure you flush clean and sterilise, after you have finished your grow drain the reservoir and clean it then fill it with some water and flush it through for 2-3 days with just water to remove any left over nutrient residue. This will ensure that your setup stays in good working order ready for another grow!
Growing with hydroponics isn’t for everyone, some prefer a more simple method such as soil. If you haven’t yet made up your mind on the best growing medium for you, why not have a read of our guide on different growing mediums for cannabis plants.