Stages and Products Needed For Hydroponic Growing
Hydroponic growing is changing the way people cultivate cannabis.
So, what is hydroponic growing?
Traditional cannabis cultivation involves using soil to grow plants, while hydroponic growth can occur without soil use.
Marijuana isn't the only popular plant that's being grown through hydroponic methods.
A quick list of popular plants that can be grown using hydroponics include:
Here are some reasons why people grow marijuana through hydroponic methods instead of traditional soil methods:
- Grower spends less time monitoring pH levels of the soil
- Recycling soil can be challenging
- Soil can attract pests
Growing cannabis hydroponically is starting to sound better and better—but how is it done?
When producing hydroponic marijuana, the grower utilizes stable growing mediums and solutions that are rich with nutrients. Growers who prefer hydroponic methods love having the ability to concoct the perfect nutrient solution that's administered right into the plant's roots instead of fighting the uphill battle of balancing natural soil.
Before we dive into the specific stages of hydroponic growing, it's essential to provide an overview of typical hydroponic growing setups.
What Are the Different Hydroponic Growing Systems?
Generally speaking, there are four standard varieties of hydroponic growing systems, and each type provides its own set of benefits.
It's essential to understand different types of hydroponic systems so you can choose the right setup for your needs and growing space.
First up in our rundown of conventional hydroponic systems, we have a deep water culture setup.
Deep Water Culture Hydroponics
If you're just getting started in hydroponics or running a small-scale growing operation, deep water culture is a great choice.
Hydroponic beginners gravitate toward deep water culture due to the minimal and cost-efficient nature of the setup. Owning a hydroponic setup that's straightforward helps bust the occasionally held perception that all hydroponic systems are complicated.
Here's how deep water culture hydroponics work:
You'll have buckets that contain oxygenated and nutrient-rich water that we referred to in the previous section. While the bucket runs deep with refined water, your plants will sit at the top of the buckets on stable or inert mediums.
- Coco fiber
- Oasis cubes
After your plants are placed in the inert growing medium, their roots hang in the nutrient-filled water all day and all night for optimal results.
Growers love the accelerated growth rates and bigger plants that tend to come from deep water culture hydroponics.
While there are key benefits of using deep water culture hydroponics, downsides include:
- Harder time regulating temperature in warmer climates
- The need to occasionally replace and constantly monitor water
If you're looking to produce 2-6 plants, deep water culture hydroponics are highly recommended.
Let's touch on a second great hydroponic setup for beginners:
Ebb and Flow System
Ebb and flow systems are also known as flood and drain setups and provide the essential benefit of providing growers with a bit more forgiveness in the realm of temperature, pH, and nutrient maintenance. If you mess up nutrient water levels with deep water culture hydroponics, it's easier to compromise your whole process.
Two downsides of Ebb and Flow Systems include the fact that they cost more than a deep water culture setup and are more challenging to set up.
The main components of an ebb and flow system include:
- Your plants being situated in a pot in an inert growing medium
- Once your plants are set up, a reservoir transports nutrients to the plant's roots
Ebb and flow are probably starting to make more sense as a name for this setup. Instead of the deepwater culture way of constantly exposing your plant's roots to nutrient-rich water, the roots will only get what they need a few times a day and air out for more natural growth.
If you consider yourself to be slightly more advanced in the realm of hydroponic growing, then the next setup may be right for you.
Don't be too intimidated to take the next step of working with drip irrigation systems as they're relatively simple in their operation. It's more so the setup that requires some extra steps.
Like the ebb and flow system, drip irrigation involves your plants being placed within an inert medium so that nutrient-filled water can travel from the liquid reservoir to the top of the device. After the nutrient water reaches the top of your growing medium, it will drip down from a system of pipes and tubes connected to your plant's roots.
One key benefit of this hydroponic growing strategy is that it can accelerate the growth of your plants due to the continuous drip flow.
It's essential to take your time setting up drip irrigation systems to avoid emitters clogging or exposing too much of your roots. Having a reliable power source to fuel this system is vital. If your power goes out and you go even day without noticing, your whole operation will fail.
While there are some risks involved, you shouldn't go into drip irrigation with a fearful mindset. Properly setting up a drip irrigation system will reduce the amount of water and nutrients needed compared to other setups.
Lastly, we're going to cover a fourth commonly used system that presents a high-risk, but high-reward scenario.
Aeroponic systems are some of the most complex hydroponic growing systems. People choose to utilize this system because of a large amount of product it's capable of producing.
Out of all the systems we've covered, these are by far the most efficient when it comes to nutrient and water use. These systems utilize a continuous flow system that holds the plant's roots in a dark chamber and periodically sprays a nutrient-rich solution on your plant's roots.
A big reason why aeroponic systems can grow cannabis at an accelerated rate is the high oxygen levels present in the system.
One tip we can give users of aeroponic systems is to make sure the sprayers are open and not clogged as clogged sprayers can quickly ruin your plants.
We've covered the four central hydroponic systems used today. Now let's provide an overview of the different growing stages.
What Are the Hydroponic Growth Stages?
A vital component of growing marijuana efficiently using hydroponics is establishing a tight schedule. Missing out on certain days or times that require you to give attention to your plants can easily compromise the final product.
You're probably wondering what the typical timeline is for hydroponic cannabis growth. On average, the hydroponic growth process occurs over 11 weeks, with the first two weeks dedicated to vegetative growth.
As a lead into the first week of vegetative growth, you need to germinate your seeds.
During the first week of vegetative growth, cannabis plants are known to use high amounts of nitrogen, especially for root growth. When you select a fertilizer to use, make sure the product features high nitrogen levels.
Before you insert your plants into a hydroponic system, make sure the TDS values and pH levels are balanced. TDS stands for "total dissolved solids" and can involve minerals, salts, cations, and more. Water temperatures during the first week should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the first week of growing, make sure that your plant's roots are looking healthy.
Last Week of Vegetation and Flowering
The second week of vegging includes turning all of the plant's lamps on and placing them at a 20-inch distance from the plant. Experts recommend pointing a fan at your plants during the second week to create plant movement for sturdier stems.
It's time to move toward the flowering phase when the plant's tips begin to touch.
Weeks 1-4 of Flowering
During the first week of flowering, it's crucial to reduce the amount of light from 18 hours a day down to 12 hours, so your plant thinks it needs to enter flowering for "Autumn." Keep feeding your plant nitrogen and then start prioritizing phosphorus.
Keep checking for leaf discoloration and other signs of unhealthy plants during initial flowering. During the second week, you'll notice that your plants are growing faster, which calls for pruning.
During the third week of flowering, your plant's growth will slow some, but their water intake will be high. Continue checking the quality of your plants and monitor pH, TDS, and temperature levels.
The third week is when you'll start to see the first signs of flower growth while the fourth week involves more intense bud production. Hydroponic growers recommend switching up the fertilizer to a more phosphorus-rich variety to promote healthier levels of growth during week four.
Weeks 5-9 of Flowering
It's essential to move the lamps as close as possible to your plants during week five without burning the leaves. A great way to make sure your plants won't get burned is by placing your hand under the lamp to make sure your skin doesn't experience discomfort.
During week seven of flowering, your plant will be ingesting tons of water and nutrients, so make sure your TDS and pH levels are properly balanced.
As your plant's buds grow larger during week seven, it's essential to feed them potassium. There are plenty of fertilizers that contain potassium that you can switch to. Week eight is more about THC levels in the plant developing. Since you're almost at the harvest stage, gradually reduce elements such as TDS levels for fewer chemicals in your final product.
Big red flags during these final weeks include looking for signs of mold.
During the last week of flowering, make sure the water pH levels are 5.5 and keep lowering electric conductivity levels so your plants will be flushed of nutrients for a better taste.
It's smart to wait until most of the little hairs on your plants are brown before harvesting.
MJ Wholesale Hydroponic Equipment
MJ Wholesale understands the vital role hydroponics play in the marijuana industry and works to provide quality equipment that streamlines the growing process.
As your plants grow bigger and bigger, pruners become an essential tool.
We're aware of how important it is to be precise with liquid measurements during hydroponic growing. Our beakers and glass reagent bottles provide the accuracy and precision you need to produce quality plants. We even offer replacement parts for liquid reagent bottles, so you're always covered.
Acquiring proper plant storage is key when entering the realm of hydroponics. The MJ Wholesale inventory features a wide array of trays that are tailor suited toward each step of the hydroponic process.
When it comes to drying and curing plants, consider using our dry hanging nets for convenient storage and breathability.
Our hydroponic inventory provides products that help you yield the best possible outcome.
Below are some quick facts and information relating to the hydroponic growing process obtained from an interview with MJ Wholesale’s owner.
Helpful Growing Facts and Information
- Seed to harvest usually takes eight weeks, but the longer you vegetate the seeds, the more product you will yield.
- Vital signs of an unhealthy plant include weltering, change of color, and seed production. Working to maintain light and temperature levels will help you foster healthy growth
- Drying and curing your grown product is a crucial element of post-harvesting. If you don’t regulate the drying and curing environment, the product may grow mold
- When a product goes from a seed to a dispensary, it’s gone through rigorous testing. The quality of products varies from state to state due to different rules and regulations regarding the trial of cannabis. States that have more strict regulations tend to yield higher quality products.