Cannabis Cultivation: What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a cultivation method that uses only water to grow plants, i.e., it’s a method of growing cannabis or any other plant without soil.
There are many reasons why cannabis growers may choose hydroponics to grow their cannabis plants. For example, hydroponics eliminates soil-borne pests that can affect the plant’s roots. Moreover, you will not need to use large amounts of pesticides with this cultivation method.
You would need to add nutrients to the water so the plant can absorb the necessary nutrients to grow and become a healthy and leafy cannabis plant.
There are many methods of hydroponics, and some are more expensive than others. In other words, it will depend on your budget.
What is Hydroponics?
This method is very particular as it only uses water and soil is never used in the cultivation process. Hydroponics is a very old cultivation method, and it has been used since at least the seventeenth century. The first published work about hydroponics was the 1627 book Sylva Sylvarum, or ‘A Natural History’ by Francis Bacon. It was printed in 1627, and it gained popularity after that. However, it wasn’t developed until the nineteenth century, when German botanists Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop developed the technique of soilless cultivation.
This method allows nutrients and water to be applied directly to the roots of the plant. Hence, it is considered more efficient than soil-based cultivation methods. In addition, it is an effective method to save water.
Hydroponics allows the plant to absorb nutrients directly without searching for them in the soil. This method could result in healthier and more vigorous plants.
In addition, this method reduces soil erosion and water pollution. Moreover, pesticides from soil-based cultivation might pollute rivers, streams, and other water sources. In short, hydroponics is also an environmentally friendly cultivation method.
Some studies claim growing plants hydroponically produces higher fruit yields and plant survival rates. However, fruits cultivated in soil have a higher overall mass.
Other research prove that hydroponic cultivation uses less water which means it could be a sustainable alternative to traditional cultivation methods.
Furthermore, hydroponics requires fewer materials such as nutrients, fertilizers, water, and the aforementioned pesticides.
Hydroponics and Cannabis
You can plant cannabis using hydroponics as a cultivation method. There are different techniques to apply this method.
Deep Water Culture
With this hydroponics system, each plant is placed in separate pots. This method is considered the simplest of all hydroponic methods. Plants are usually placed on a Styrofoam platform with water underneath. An air pump supplies air to an air stone that releases nutrients and oxygen that are absorbed by the plants’ roots.
However, this method is not effective for all types of plants. For instance, it is effective for growing lettuce, but it is not recommended for bigger plants such as cannabis.
Another simple hydroponic cultivation method. In this system, plants are placed in a container, and below the container is a reservoir with oxygenated water and nutrients. A hydroton (expanded clay pellets) is used to fill around the roots and a wick (usually a cotton wick) that will absorb the water and nutrients. The wick must be in contact with the plant root. The video below explains the process and how you can build a wicking hydroponic system:
Hydroponics: Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
You will need a reservoir and a water pump. This method doesn’t keep the roots constantly submerged in water. The water pump pumps water (with a nutrient solution) to the grow tray, and then the water with the nutrient solution is drained back into the reservoir so the plants get exposed to oxygen.
If you wish to adopt the ebb-and-flood strategy to reap all of its benefits but are unable to do so because you are not at home during the day or are uncomfortable with electrical devices, here is a solution: Continue using the same growth tray and medium as with the ebb-and-flood method, but without the reservoir. In this setup, the reservoir is replaced with an aquarium aerator. The aerator’s hoses are wrapped around the bottom of the growth tray, and the tray is then filled with the growing material of your choice.
The aim is to keep the growing tray supplied with a constant supply of fertilizer solution and growth material. The aerator pumps air via the perforated tubes in the bottom, reducing stagnation of the nutritious solution. Rotating the rising air bubbles ensures a constant supply of fertilizer solution to the roots of your plants.
With this design, you only need to check for pests on a weekly or biweekly basis and replenish the nutrition solution. It is the ideal alternative for the working grower, offering genuinely outstanding results with the least amount of trouble imaginable.
This is probably the most widely used system in the world. In this system, the nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant. A time-controlled pump is used to deliver the nutrient solution to each plant.
Hydroponics: Nutrient Film Technique
It’s very similar to the water culture technique. However, in this system, plants are placed in a “planting tube.” The nutrient solution is pumped into the growing tray so the roots can absorb all the nutrients, and then it drains back into the reservoir again.
This method is not the most effective because the roots dry out very fast when the flow of nutrients is interrupted (for example, caused by a power interruption).
This method is the most complicated and high-tech of all the hydroponic methods. In this method, the roots hang in the air, and they will be misted with the nutrient solution every few minutes. With the Nutrient Film Technique, the roots will dry out fast if the misting cycles are interrupted. This is probably the most complicated method, and it requires more investment than with other hydroponic systems.
This post was originally published on September 21, 2020. It was most recently updated on January 6, 2022.