What is a Hydroponic System for Weed?
Hydroponic weed refers to any cannabis that is grown without the use of soil. Instead of the natural nutrients found in soil, growers will apply their own nutrients throughout the grow process using a variety of growing methods.
While hydro grows are usually less likely to attract pests, hydroponic systems can expose the roots to damage if there is a pump failure or you run out of water. Hydroponic grows also require more maintenance than soil grows because more things can go wrong, a lack of water for a little while or a slight change in pH levels can set back the crop or destroy it. This is why it’s important to start with one of the simpler processes as a beginner.
Despite the extra care required, hydro grows offer growers far more control over the nutrients that go into the plants and allow the water that is not absorbed by the plants’ roots to be recycled back into the system.
Origin of hydroponics
Hydroponics is used to describe this particular cultivation method, which uses another growing medium instead of soil to deliver nutrients to plants. .
The use of hydroponics is believed to date back to 600 BC, where the cultivation method was used in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Hydroponic techniques were also used in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Aztecs to grow crops at Lake Texcoco, and references to hydroponics were found in the writings of Marco Polo following his exploration of China in the late 13th century.
Hydroponics is widely considered to be a more effective cultivation method than soil-based gardens because it allows water and other nutrients to be applied directly to the root — as opposed to soil-based gardens, where water and nutrients are absorbed through the soil. This allows roots to access the nutrients without having to “search” through the soil—which can result in larger, healthier plants.
Hydroponics vs soil
There is a growing body of research suggesting that hydroponic agriculture is a more efficient and reliable method than traditional cultivation in soil. For example:
- A study published in 2015 compared strawberries grown in soil to strawberries grown hydroponically. This project found that, although soil produced the largest individual berries, the “hydroponic strawberries were higher in terms of fruit yield and plant survival rate.” Additionally, the hydroponics setup also produced fruit that was more consistent in terms of size.
- Another 2015 study concluded that hydroponics is a promising technique with great potential for high-efficiency agriculture. Researchers noted that there are still too many energy inputs required to make hydroponics significantly better than soil on a large scale, but suggested that technological advancements could fix this. At that point, large scale hydroponics agriculture would become much more efficient than soil-based agriculture.
- A 2018 study showed that hydroponic agriculture has a higher growth rate than soil-based agriculture, and concluded that hydroponics could be a promising way to grow plants more efficiently than growing them in soil.
Advocates of hydroponic farming argue that hydroponic techniques produce a better final products, as they provide much more control over the growing environment. Additionally, hydroponic techniques are often more efficient than growing in soil because they require fewer inputs and use only what’s needed to feed the plant. There is very little—if any—waste, whereas growing in soil requires many more inputs and a much larger portion of those inputs (plant food, fertilizer, water) go to waste in the soil. At this point, the only real downside to hydroponics is that many setups are indoors, which requires a lot of energy for lighting and ventilation.
When it comes to the final product, the hydro vs soil debate is a matter of preference. Some say that plants grown hydroponically are better quality because they were grown in fully controlled environments. On the other hand, many claim that plants grown in soil have a more complex set of flavors and tastes—something like the “terroir” that wine lovers talk about—that come from the unique environment in which a plant grows.
THE ADVANTAGES OF HYDROPONIC GROWING
If you talk to a grower who has experience with hydroponic growing, one of the first things they’ll probably tell you is that their hydroponic plants grow much, much faster than those in soil. This is a prime advantage of this method of cultivation—hydroponic plants usually grow 30–50% faster and often provide larger yields. A large reason for this is that nutrients within a hydroponic system are much more readily available to plants. The nutrients are suspended in water and enter directly into the root system as there is no soil to navigate through. In contrast, plants growing in soil must search through the medium in order to uptake nutrients from below. Easy access to nutrients allows plants to preserve energy, which is then diverted to growth efforts instead.
MATERIALS NEEDED TO MAKE A DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEM
If you go the DIY route, check out the brief guide below. The list covers all of the equipment you need to construct a basic indoor setup. Simply find the product that suits you for each listed item. Buying your gear separately allows you to invest more heavily into important items such as lighting while reducing the cost in other areas.
Here’s what you’ll need:
a) Lighting (LED or HPS)
b) Lighting hangers
c) Grow tent
d) Hydroponic reservoir and tray
e) Airstone and pump
f) Growing medium (e.g. coco coir)
g) Net mesh planting pots
i) Ventilation fan and ducting tubes
j) Carbon filter
k) Oscillating fan
l) Hydroponic nutrients
m) pH and PPM meters
What are the Mediums for a Hydroponic Grow?
Media are the soil substitutes used in a hydro grow. They are made of a variety of different substances that can be placed in the pot to hold oxygen, nutrients and water and are usually inert, meaning they don’t react with any nutrients to affect the plant’s roots. The word Hydroponics is often confused with a similar type of grow system called container culture, which requires not inert media.
Many growing mediums like rockwool, coconut fiber (also called coco peat), gravel or brick shards are not inert and carry compounds that will react with the nutrients that are applied, often helping the growth of the plant, but also potentially hindering it if they are used unintentionally.
Cervantes prefers container culture to pure hydro-grows.
“Soilless mixes such as Peat Lite™ or Fision’s Sunshine Mix® or similar mixes are very easy to use and buffer nutrients,” he says. “Their nutrient buffering ability makes them forgiving. This forgiving quality is essential when temperatures change or nutrients become imbalanced. The buffering ability gives growers time to correct problems. Hydroponic systems with no buffering ability allow no time to remedy problems causing plants to suffer immediately.”
He looks at choosing the right media as a practical labor-saving element. If a substrate is difficult to use, growers will avoid it. Gravel is heavy and difficult to manage and seldom used. Water must be aerated and moving or roots will drown from lack of oxygen. Electricity is required to operate a pump to aerate and move water. If the electricity goes off for more than 20 minutes, roots start to die. A growing medium such as coco coir (ground up coconut husks), however, provides an environment to hold nutrients (fertilizer) that is absorbed by roots.
Well, it’s air. This can be a very effective medium since roots require an abundance of oxygen to grow, but it is also necessary to ensure that there is consistent humidity so the roots don’t dry. This medium is often used in aeroponic systems and partially in the NFT.
On its own, water is not the ideal medium, but systems like DWC make use of water as a primary medium. What growers should keep in mind when using water is that it has to be aerated using a pump or air stone to ensure that plants’ roots can get enough of the oxygen they require.