Growing Cannabis in Hydroponics – 5 Tips
Whatever name it goes by, marijuana, weed, pot, cannabis, the one thing that remains constant is that the plant is relatively easy to grow at home. The key word here is relative because one must know what they are doing to pull it off.
It is understandable for one to relate hydroponics to plants growing in water. However, the term also points to plants exposed to nutrients while not necessarily immersed in water.
5 Essential Tips for a Good Marijuana Harvest
Growing cannabis in hydroponics, that is, planting the cannabis Sativa without soil, guarantees a shorter grow time with a higher yield than its counterpart. Interestingly, hydroponic marijuana is the industry standard since it offers a better air-to-water ratio than growing in soil. Arguably, the easiest hydroponic method remains hand-watering in a soilless medium. Let’s look at five pieces of advice to set you up for success.
Understand the Basics of Hydroponics
Although we are all about hyping hydroponics marijuana, growing hydro can be tough for someone who hasn’t raised the crop in soil. Often, one has to be familiar with growing the plant using the traditional route before transitioning into hydroponics.
In truth, growing hydro is a tad more complex than soil growing, which calls for resilience on the part of the cultivator. Growing cannabis in hydroponics means that the grower has to optimize for ventilation, light, and nutrients, all of which can be complex to a beginner.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t be successful if you start your growing venture with hydroponic cannabis. After all, who doesn’t like a challenge? Take the resolve, do your research, and most importantly, keep the plans to yourself. More often than not, involving friends and family is what shuts most beginners down, especially when they are overly pessimistic about the idea.
Once you are all set, don’t just limit yourself to marijuana. Why not consider growing some other crops too? Tomatoes, lettuce, and mushrooms thrive when grown hydroponically, and your overall experience with them could provide valuable insights on how best to grow marijuana.
The next step is acquiring the necessary paraphernalia. For a wise shopper, a budget of between $300 and $500 should be enough, assuming you want to start with five plants. You’ll need a soil pH test, timer or stopwatch, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), basins or pots, textile fiber as the potting medium, coir, hydroponic nutrients, polyester film (Mylar) or white paint, and cannabis seedlings.
You’ll want to prepare your grow room next, and most importantly, its walls. While indoor hydroponics would be the default go-to method for a grower just learning the tools of the trade, growing the crop in an inside space presents the apparent challenge of adequate lighting. Most grow rooms tend to be in dark spaces, so they absorb light instead of reflecting it.
Fortunately, that’s where either the white paint or polyester film comes in. Of the two, polyester is the better alternative because Mylar efficiently reflects light to the tune of 90% while white paint reflects up to 55%, which is not bad either. A flat or semi-gloss white is the way to go should you favor painting but if you decide on Mylar, ensure that your grow room is sufficiently ventilated.
Focus on Lighting and Ventilation
Light is vital for photosynthesis, the process via which plants make their food to fuel growth. The method involves carbon dioxide (CO2) and water, making lighting and ventilation core ingredients for a bumper harvest.
To set up your grow lights, mount them higher than your pots while also accounting for the maximum projected height of the crops when fully grown. Clamping is by far the easiest way. CFLs work seamlessly with clamp reflectors, there’s little to no electrical work and wiring involved, and the housing reflects light to the maximum possible level – what’s not to love here?
Before the setup, you must ensure that the CFLs you mount are the best possible lighting source for your growing venture. The fluorescent lights should produce a sufficient number of lumens per square foot or at least the bare minimum. To the uninitiated, lumens are a measure of the visible light to the human eye from a source.
For average-sized plants, the absolute lowest limit is approximately 3,000 lumens per square foot. The ideal number, however, is more like 7,000 to 10,000 lumens per square foot. How does one figure out the total number of lumens they are working with? Luckily, a simple calculation comes to our aid: dividing the total number of lumens emitted by the total number of square feet.
To make it even more practical, let’s assume that we have two CFLs, each with a wattage of 300, producing 40,000 lumens each, and within a space of 18 square feet. Now, we’ll take the total number of lumens produced, 80,000, and divide it by 18. The exact figure is 4,444.44, truncated to two decimal points, which we can round down to 4,400 lumens per square foot.
As you strive to get the ideal amount of lumens per square foot, be careful not to overheat the grow room. Sure, sufficient lighting is necessary for robust growth, but ideal temperatures are just as important. Overheating negates most of the lighting’s positive impact, making temperature monitoring vital if one wishes to be a successful grower. Ensure that your temperature readings are between 80°F to 90°F, with 80-85°F being the ideal conditions for growth.
Irrefutably, proper ventilation is a major factor where temperature control is involved. An oscillating fan would be perfect for a grow room in a closet, whereas a duct system would be more than sufficient for growing in a box.
Get Your Planting Process Right
The process of planting begins with sprouting your marijuana seeds. For them to germinate, the seeds need to be in a moist environment for no less than 24 hours. The activity is as simple as wrapping them in a wet paper towel, covering them with a plate to prevent drying, then waiting for the clock to run out. Alternatively, you could seal the damp paper towel in a plastic bag, store it in a dark, warm place, and check on the seeds a day later.
As soon as they germinate, transfer them to a rock wool block which is the perfect growth medium for marijuana in its early planting stage. Soon enough, your cannabis will put forth a striking root system. When that happens, you can transfer the plant into your potting fiber of choice.
The next step is feeding your plants by irrigating them with a mixture of water and hydroponic nutrients. Without compromise, the water must have a pH of between 5.5-6.0, and one must strictly follow the feeding schedule that comes with the brand of nutrients. New growers have to avoid the temptation of overfeeding their plants within the first two weeks.
Watch Each Stage
Being that what we are growing is hydroponic marijuana, watering the plants is at the heart of the entire process. At any one given time, the top of the coco coir should never dry out completely. Moisten it with the water-nutrients mixture as soon as it starts feeling dry.
In the very early stages, this will translate to watering every few days, but soon enough, you’ll have to do it at least once a day. When watering, ensure that extra water runs off to avoid the accumulation of unused nutrients in your growing medium.
Always be on the lookout for drooping or wilting, and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Fortunately, coco coir is a forgiving medium and will account for under- or over-watering as long as you don’t leave things status quo for too long.
To keep your plants in a vegetative state, expose them to a minimum of 18 hours of light daily. There’s no harm in going as far as 24 hours a day until the plants reach half your desired height. Soon as this happens, stimulate the flowering stage by switching the light exposure strictly to 12 hours a day.
Within a week or two of entering this stage, your plants will differentiate into their male or female versions, and you’ll want to eliminate all the males in your bunch. In addition to not producing buds, male plants pollinate females, directing their energy from budding to making seeds, hence affecting your projected yield.
The next step calls for patience since one must wait between 6-12 weeks for the plants to mature. Some strains may even take longer. A week or two before harvest time, the grower has to stop feeding the plants and stick to watering them with pH’d water only. Your cue to discontinue nutrients will be when you notice leaves changing color and falling off, a sign that the plant is channeling nitrogen, not into the leaves but the buds instead.
Harvesting and Post-processing the Right Way
When your plants are finally ready, you can harvest them by either cutting off buds one at a time or the whole plant. The perfect time to do this is when at least 50% of the plants’ white hairs have turned brown, with the ideal number being 50-75%.
Trim the buds to get rid of any leaves, then hang them upside down in a cool, dark place till the buds snap off cleanly when pressure is applied. Place the snapped-off buds in a clean and airtight container, and once more, store them in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. Ensure that you open the container once a day to release any moisture so that the buds remain dry at all times and don’t grow moldy.