Hydroponic Growing and Autoflowering Cannabis System
Hydroponic growing is a fast and efficient way to grow cannabis using water as a medium. In this method, plants feed off of nutrient-infused water rather than absorbing their nutrients from soil. Hydroponic growing systems submerge plants’ roots in water, which is often mixed with preformulated nutrient solutions providing all of the essential nutrients that your plant would otherwise absorb from a terrestrial growing medium.
This growing method has many advantages, making it an appealing option to growers looking to cultivate autoflowering cannabis indoors. Hydroponic systems give the grower complete control over critical factors that are much harder to modulate in a soil-based medium, including nutrient and pH levels.
Growing autoflowering cannabis hydroponically allows you to maximize your plants’ nutrient intake, with their roots feeding directly from a nutrient-infused water reservoir. Soil, on the other hand, makes nutrient levels hard to determine. Furthermore, a wide variety of pre-mixed nutrient solutions are available for growers to mix into the water in which they will suspend their plants, making it easy to obtain the correct nutrient levels and to measure how much you are giving your plants. Since autoflowers are sensitive and have short growth periods, this is crucial to healthy plant growth and successful yields.
Hydroponic systems are known to accelerate the already-rapid growth of autoflowering cannabis, as plants feed faster and more efficiently when their roots can absorb nutrients directly from the water in which they are submerged. When you plant autoflowers in soil, their roots have to spread throughout this dense medium to search for nutrients as they grow, which As a result, roots do not have to extend throughout dense soil in order to absorb the nutrients in your growing medium.
Important Factors and Equipment for a Hydroponic Grow Room
Choosing a Grow Room
When choosing a room for hydroponic growing, there are many factors to take into consideration. We’ve listed the most important of these factors below:
- Adequate space: Determine the dimensions of your equipment and the distance that you’ll need between your ventilation, lights, circulation, and your plants or grow table. Measure the room to ensure that everything will fit properly before beginning setup.
- Water and electricity: Your hydroponic grow room must have steady sources of water and electricity (i.e. faucet or hose and outlet) to fuel your hydroponic system, lights, fans, and other equipment.
- Vacancy: You’ll need an empty, low-traffic room for hydroponic growing so that you can maintain climate control while having enough space for all of your equipment.
Once you’ve determined that your indoor space has enough space and the necessary features for hydroponic growing, you can begin to set up your hydroponic grow room. Below, we list the necessary equipment to prepare a grow room that will accommodate any type of hydroponic system:
- LED Grow Lights
- Hook or lighting hanger to hang your LED light from the ceiling
- Growing containers
- Inline ventilation fans
- Oscillating fans
- Air pump and tubing
- pH monitor
- Dehumidifier and humidifier
- Nutrient solution
- Reflective sheeting to line the walls of your grow room (100% reflective, waterproof mylar is the industry standard)
- Hydroponic trays and hydroponic system
Setting Up Your Hydroponic Grow Room: A Step-by-Step Guide
Once you’ve acquired your equipment and selected an appropriate space, it’s time to set up your hydroponic grow room.
First, apply your reflective mylar sheeting to the walls of your grow room, ensuring that you don’t cover your water and electricity sources. You’ll need to cover the walls, ceiling, and floor of your grow room with reflective sheeting. By doing so, you will increase the amount and coverage of the light emitted from your LED and reflected off the walls, which increases the amount, scope, and coverage of your lighting. This ensures that you achieve optimal light penetration and that your plants receive even coverage, which promotes photosynthesis and healthy, allover growth.
Next, you should set up your air circulation system using the ventilation sources and circulation equipment that you acquired in Step 2. These include your inline ventilation fans, and your oscillating fans: these serve to circulate air throughout the room, while bringing in fresh air and controlling the climate in the room. Fresh, circulating air is essential to healthy plant growth.
Now that you’ve set up your air circulation system, it’s time to install your LED light. Using the hooks or light hangers that you bought when gathering your equipment, mount hooks in the ceiling, which you’ll use to hang your LED light above your plants. Do your research beforehand to make sure your hooks are strong and stable enough to support the weight of your lamp.
Proceed to establish the climate of your hydroponic grow room. This crucial step involves setting up your hygrometer and thermometer. A hygrometer measures the humidity of the air in the room. This will allow you to monitor the humidity and overall climate of your hydroponic grow room, and to make any necessary changes if levels become too high or too low. Check the thermometer consistently to ensure that temperatures are conducive to healthy hydroponic growth, as both temperature and humidity are essential to the growing process, especially when you’re using a water-based hydroponic system.
After you establish a proper growing climate, set up your containers and other equipment necessary for the hydroponic system that you chose in Step 1.
By following these steps, you can establish a hydroponic grow room for any system that you choose to install once you have prepared your designated area. Other types of hydroponic systems include:
- Deep Water Culture
- Nutrient film technique
- Ebb and flow (aka “flood and drain”)
- Drip system
In the discussion below, we will focus on one hydroponic system – Deep Water Cultivation – to provide an example of how your grow room can support one of many hydroponic systems.
Installing Your Hydroponic System: Deep Water Culture
Once you have set up and fully prepared your grow room, you are ready to install your hydroponic system. Though there are various types of hydroponic systems, in this guide, we focus on how to install a Deep Water Cultivation (or reservoir) hydroponic system. This method of hydroponic growing for cannabis plants requires the least amount of equipment, while setup is easy and maintenance is suitable for beginners.
A Deep Water Culture (DWC) involves the use of a reservoir, which is filled with water and infused with a nutrient solution. The reservoir sits directly beneath “net pots”–the containers in which you grow your plants–that have holes in the bottom designed to let roots grow downward and become completely submerged in the reservoir water. As your plants grow and its roots spread through the holes in your net pot and into the water in your reservoir, which acts as a feeding source from which plants absorb the nutrients they would typically derive from soil. The water used in a deep water culture system must be oxygenated using an air pump and/or air stones, which are easily attainable in the form of aquarium pumps or pumps specifically designed for hydroponic growing.
Equipment for Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponics
Below, we provide the equipment necessary to set up your DWC hydroponic system. You will need these items in addition to the aforementioned equipment required to set up your hydroponic grow room:
- Five gallon bucket
- Net pot designed for DWC hydroponics
- Air pump, tubing, and air stones
- A growing medium with low water retention (clay, rockwool, etc)
How to Set Up a Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System
The first step in assembling your DWC system is to set up your reservoir. A DWC reservoir is filled with water that is infused with a nutrient solution, which serves as your plant’s primary feeding source. As your plant grows, its roots will expand downward and through the holes in the net pot as they move downwards towards the reservoir, where they are completely submerged in the water that provides the nutrients they would otherwise absorb from soil.
Fill your reservoir and place a lid or cover on top, which needs to be sturdy and hold a significant amount of weight. This cover will need to be sturdy enough to hold a substantial amount of weight, as it will serve as the surface on which you will place your growing containers and net pots.
Next, you will need to fill your net pots with a medium that has low water retention (rockwool is a popular choice for this reason). We recommend buying net pots that are specifically designed for use in a DWC hydroponic system, as they are engineered to allow roots to grow properly towards the water from which they will absorb the nutrients necessary to grow. Generally, growers are advised to use one reservoir per plant.
Proceed to insert the nutrient solution into your water-filled reservoir. Do your research beforehand to determine the feeding habits of the strain you intend to grow, and to determine what nutrient levels will sustain your plant without overpowering it.
Once you have provided the necessary nutrients for your plants to absorb, you can begin assembling the air pump that will oxygenate the water from which your plants will absorb the nutrients they need to grow. Use an air pump with a cord or air line and plug it into a reliable electricity source; then, connect the line to an air stone at the bottom of your container. When the time comes for your plants to begin feeding from the reservoir, you will run the air pump to oxygenate the water that fills your reservoir. This is essential, as DWC hydroponics will not work without an air pump to oxygenate the water in your reservoir. Aim to use one to two air stones per plant.
No matter what hydroponic system you decide to use, you can rely on these instructions for a step-by-step guide to set up a hydroponic grow room suitable for any hydroponic system. Whether or not you are interested in using DWC, you can rely on the first half of this article to prepare and assemble a grow room appropriate for any hydroponic system.