Hydroponics Growing Systems One by One

Each of the hydroponics growing systems has its own way of supporting the plants. Plants require food, water, and oxygen for the roots to keep them from drowning.

Hand Watering

People often do not realize that hand watering can be one of the simplest hydroponics growing systems, but hydroponics boils down to this…the food is in the water.

If you mix perlite, vermiculite, and coconut coir (all nutrient free) and use this to grow your plants in a container garden, you will HAVE TO include some plant food in the water when you hand water. By definition, this is an example of hydroponics gardening. A 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite would work just as well.

Coconut coir and vermiculite retain quite a bit of water. By using more of them in the soiless mix, the containers will stay moist between hand-waterings (every day or two). Sphagnam peat is the base of many commercial potting soils and can be used as a substitute for this purpose also.

Because of its simplicity, this is obviously an easy home method. This is one of the hydroponics growing systems that will easily support organics. No matter what type of system you choose, you will need to learn some hydroponics feeding tips.

Deep Water Culture (DWC)

The deep water culture method, also known as the reservoir method, is one of the easiest of all the true hydroponics growing systems. A container holds about two inches of nutrient solution. Several plant containers sit down in the nutrient solution. An aquarium air pump constantly bubbles in the nutrient solution, keeping the plants roots from drowning.

Often, small holes are made around the bottom 2 inches of the plant pots, allowing the roots to grow out into the nutrient solution. As in the example above, an effort is usually made to keep light from getting to the nutrient solution.

Wherever there is light and nutrients, algae will grow. Algae eat the nutrients you are trying to feed to your plants, and when pieces of algae die they attract fungus gnats. Fungus gnats lead to many other problems.

Because of its simple design and simple function, the reservoir method is a good choice for homemade hydroponics. Since there are no drip or spray emitters to clog, it is also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems.

This system is well suited for volcanic lava chips media, or else a mixture of one part vermiculite to 5 parts expanded clay pellets. As with any hydroponics growing system, you will want to brush up on your hydroponics feeding tips before beginning.

The Flood and Drain Method
aka Ebb and Flow

In the flood and drain method, the plants sit in their own container separate from the nutrient reservoir. From time to time, a pump will kick on. The nutrient solution from the reservoir floods the upper container for a while, soaking the plant roots and the grow medium. The pumps than turn off, and the solution drains back into the reservoir.

Your choice of grow media determines how often and how long you flood the container for. Fast draining, clay pellets may be flooded for a half hour 4 times a day, while the slower draining rockwool can be watered less. This system is also well suited for growing in straight perlite or lava chips.

The parts and function of this hydroponics growing system are pretty basic, making it another good option for a homemade hydroponics system. With a good water pump, you can also use this method for organic hydroponics. It is always a good idea to have a filter before the pump in any system.

Of course, you will make any hydroponics growing system work its best with the right hydroponics feeding tips.

The Drip System

With the drip hydroponics growing system, the plants are again in their own tray, separate from the nutrient reservoir. A pump pushes nutrient solution through many small tubes, which feed each plant from the top. Different emitters can be placed on the end of each tube to make the drip slower or faster.

Once again, a faster draining medium (like clay pellets) will need faster dripping emitters (or more of them per plant). Slower draining media (like rockwool) would use slower dripping emitters.

The standard media for drip systems is rockwool, although clay pellets and lava chips are also sometimes used. Straight perlite should work well in this system also, although I’ve never tried it myself.

The flow rate is difficult to control on a drip system, and the emitters are famous for clogging. These problems are even worse when you try to make your own drip system. You will probably spend a lot of money and have a poorly working system if you try to build a homemade drip system (I know this from personal experience).

Furthermore, organic nutrients are full of small particles that ALWAYS seem to mess up the drip emitter. If you are trying to do organic hydroponics, this is not the system for you.

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The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

In this hydroponics growing system, plants are placed in a tray or gutter separate from the nutrient reservoir. One end of the tray is lower than the other, to encourage the flow of water.

A pump delivers a steady flow of water at one end, creating a constant stream of nutrient solution in the bottom of the tray. In order to make sure the water flowing through the bottom of the tray is nice and even, a layer of absorbant material (called capillary mat) is placed in the bottom.

NFT is another method that is both easy for the homemade hydroponics do-it-yourselfer and also a good choice for organic hydroponics growing systems. Once again the parts, the design, and the function are all simple. once again, there are no drip or spray emitters to clog.

There is one thing to consider, however. You must start with plants that have a root system large enough to hang down into the flowing nutrient solution. Your other option would be to top feed the plants with a drip system until their roots are large enough (which is a pain).

It doesn’t matter what type of media you start your plants in. Once they are in place in the system, the roots will be growing right in the water! This system, when the proper hydroponics feeding tips are followed, works very nicely.

The Wick System

In wick hydroponic growing systems, the plants are again in their own container, separate from the nutrient reservoir. Pieces of absorbant material (usually nylon rope) are buried partially in each plant container. The other end of the rope is allowed to dangle in the nutrient solution. The absorbant material pulls the nutrient solution from the reservoir up into the growing medium.

The system is easy to make as a homemade hydroponics system, and will support organic hydroponics without any problems, but there are a couple of things to consider.

Sometimes it is difficult to get the right moisture level in a wick system. You will have to experiment a little with more absorbant growing mediums (vermiculite/coconut coir). Also, I have seen the wicks suck up less and less water over time (especially when using organics).

If you want to give this method a try, I suggest a 50/50 mix of perlite/vermiculite. Perlite and coconut coir would work as well. Altogether, I think other systems are just as easy to use, and produce better results.

The Aeroponics Method

In these hydroponics growing systems, a large container like this contains several gallons of nutrient solution in the bottom. A pump pushes nutrient solution through spray heads that constantly soak every inch inside the container with a fine mist of nutrient solution.

As you can see, there really is no growing medium in this method. The plants roots hang down into the container and grow mostly in air, except for the few that grow long enough to make it into the nutrient solution in the bottom.

The pump used is a high-pressure pump, and the spray emitters are made specially to deliver a very fine, highly oxygenated spray.

It is often very hard to assemble individual parts into a well-working system, and the individual parts can be expensive as well. Also, the fine-spray emitters will instantly clog if you try to use anything except high quality hydroponic fertilizers (no organics).

Of all the hydroponics growing systems, this is the most difficult to master and the most temperamental. Ph changes and nutrient imbalances occur more quickly because of the increased absorption rates and high levels of oxygenation. Furthermore, with no grow media to protect the roots, the plants react negatively to these changes much more quickly.

More recently, some innovative gardeners have begun to push this new area. Systems are beginning to pop up that are much simpler and that do not rely on pumps.

What is Medicine Marijuana Hydroponics and How to Grow Weed with Hydroponics?

Growing medicine marijuana hydroponically means that you grow the plants in an inert, sterile growing medium instead of in soil. All of the plants’ nutrient requirements are supplied with the water mixed with nutrients. Plants are 80% to 95% water; the remaining parts are carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Plants extract these elements from the air and from water so nutrients are actually a very small amount of the total weight of a plant. It is the plant’s entire atmosphere that needs to be controlled to produce perfect crops.

Medicine marijuana plants, and in fact all plants, do not need to be in a living soil, they require nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S). Those are the macroelements (the big ones) and the small elements known as microelements are iron (Fe), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), boron (B), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and molybdenum (Mo).

On a side note molybdenum is a fantastic metal and creates some of the most impressively stain resistant and sharpest Japanese knives on earth.

Hydroponics introduces the water, nutrients and air to the roots through the mediums and as you bypass the web of roots and the energy required for the plant to acquire the nutrients you get faster growing plants.

Advantages of using hydroponics over soil to grow medicine marijuana are:

  • Cleaner;
  • Less space required;
  • Faster growing time, usually a crop is finished in 12 weeks;
  • More automation means less labour;
  • Avoidance of soil borne pests;
  • More control over the growing environment such as vegetative and flowering times;
  • Higher yields.

Disadvantages using hydroponics to grow medicine marijuana can be:

  • A higher initial set-up cost;
  • More skill and knowledge required with management usually on a daily basis unless you have a very professional set up – but we are here to help;
  • Easier for things to go wrong due to the technical side.

Hydroponic medicine marijuana set up

All growing described on this page is done using the Ebb and Flow system. The Ebb and Flow system is one of, if not the most popular hydroponic methods for growing weed. It is simple and easy to use.

It works like this: A reservoir containing nutrient solution is located below a growing tray. The tray contains the plants that are in containers with growing medium like Rockwool.

The growing bed is filled with nutrient solution by a small pump on a timer to feed and water the plants. The timer then shuts the pump off and the nutrient solution drains freely back into the reservoir.

Ebb and Flow systems’ are favored because of their low maintenance, high productivity, and ease of use. Ideal not only for the beginner, but for the advanced gardener as well.

If you would rather buy a unit rather than grab all the gear from the hardware store (they will know what you are making), it may cost a little more but all parts will be included and you will save time by getting everything at once. I got a 10 plant unit for $250 USD. You can probably find something just as good or better for less money on eBay.

Medicine marijuana lighting
Metal Halide (MH) or High Pressure Sodium (HPS) are the medicine marijuana lights to get for growing hydroponic medicine marijuana. Metal halide light is close to regular room light or cool fluorescent light (blue spectrum) and is best for vegetative (beginning) growth. While high pressure sodium is in the red end of the spectrum and is best for flowering (later) growth.

Expect to pay about $250 for a 250W HPS/MH digital ballast, bulb and reflector combo. Then there is the rest of the hydroponic medicine marijuana setup and everything else you will need to raise your crop hydroponically. You can spend more or less than that, but another $200 to $500 would cover it nicely. Once you get things set up you can continue to raise new crops with your set up and only have to spend money on nutrients, bulbs, and other maintenance.

After a few crops (you will make mistakes at the beginning), your product will be better (if the seeds you used were good) than anything that you would normally buy, at a fraction of the cost.

If you do things properly, you will get about one to two ounces of premium tops per medicine marijuana plant every three to four months. You won’t have to deal with people that you might not trust, and your stash will be clean and healthy as can be.

LED grow lights (light emitting diode) are the new breed and have scientists working around the clock to make them brighter and cheaper using the optimum spectrums. LED grow lights are already the coolest method of growing and they also last approximately six times longer than any HID grow light.

Medicine marijuana growing seeds or clones
If you know someone who grows, ask them for a few clones. If you don’t have access to clones you will have to get seeds. If you don’t already have some, you can ask you friends to save you seeds out of any good weed they may come across.

The better the weed that the seeds come from is, the better your crop will be. If the weed the seeds came from was no good, your crop will probably not be any better.

If you need seeds we totally recommend reading this cannabis seeds page.

Germinate the medicine marijuana seeds
Set up your hydroponic garden before you germinate the seeds. Make sure everything works fine. If you are using clones, skip this section.

The standard thing to do is use a Rockwool cube to start the seed on and surround it with whatever media you use. Keep the Rockwool cube so that the bottom 70% or so is submerged when the water is at max, but keep the top part above the water so that the seed is never submerged.

Another way to germinate seeds and more information, just follow the directions located here to germinate your cannabis seeds. After the seeds have germinated and the root is about a quarter of an inch long, place the seed, root down, on your grow cube or media that is in your hydroponic cups.

There are various types of media available to grow in. Rockwool is one, but there are many others. Media simply means the substance that the roots grow in. Since you aren’t using soil in a hydroponic garden, you need a substitute.

Vegetative medicine marijuana growth
The first phase of medicine marijuana growth is called the vegetative phase. If you plan on using the MH or HPS right away, start with the light about 20 inches or more above the top of the plant and lower the light an inch or so daily until you think the height is right. Too close and the plants will dry and turn brown. Too far and the plants grow too tall as they stretch to get closer to their light source. That is a waste of space. Start high and lower the light an inch or two daily until you think the height is right.

During the first stage of growth, the vegetative stage, keep the light on 16 to 24 hours a day minimum. The longer it is on, the faster the plants will grow, but the higher your electricity bill will be. More on medicine marijuana vegetative growth.

Medicine marijuana flowering
Flowering is the phase of medicine marijuana growth that produces the most THC (the active ingredient that produces the high). Once flowering begins, the height of the plants will taper off as the plant energy is used in the flowering process itself.

You can start flowering when the plants are a minimum of about 6 inches high and have at least 4 sets of leaves. This will take 2 weeks to a month of vegetative growth in most hydroponic gardens. When you want to start flowering, cut the light back to 12-13 hours a day.

The height of the plant will continue to increase for about two to four weeks after flowering has been started, after that all the plants energy will be used for flower production.

Limiting the height of a medicine marijuana plant has always been a difficult task for me, so I just raise the height of the light as the plant grows. There are methods of limiting the height of a plant, but none of them have worked for me, so I’m not going to recommend one, the medicine marijuana growers guide has the most comprehensive descriptions I have seen on limiting the height of weed.

The flowering cycle lasts about two months, sometimes a little longer, depending on the type of seed. So the total length of time to raise a crop should be 3 to 4 months in a hydroponic garden.

During flowering the dark period must be perfectly dark. No room light, sun light, or any other light should reach the plant in the 12 hours of darkness that the plant must get everyday. The strongest light that should reach the plant during flowering would equal that of moonlight.

Stronger light than this will delay flowering, and if it continues there is a chance that the plant will not flower, but stay in the vegetative phase.

This is more important in the first 6 weeks of flowering. When the plants have started to flower for over a month, small amounts of light for short periods of time are not as harmful.

You will know the plants are flowering when you see what look like little white hairs developing at bud sites. They should be visible after about two weeks of the flowering light cycle. These will eventually be the red hairs that you see on good bud that you have probably smoked in the past or are smoking now.

Nutrients
Plant foods are measured in an N-P-K format.

N is Nitrogen
P is Phosphorus
K is Potassium

A 15-15-15 solution contains 15% Nitrogen, 15% Phosphorus, 15% Potassium. A 20-10-5 solution contains 20% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus, 5% Potassium. The percentage of the solution not used by N-P-K is trace elements and inert material.

If you are buying hydroponic nutrient, get the powder kind that mixes with water. It is much cheaper over the long run when you compare it with already mixed solutions.

An all purpose hydroponic nutrient solution with secondary elements like calcium, sulphur and magnesium and trace elements boron, copper, molybdenum, zinc, iron, and manganese will get you through all stages of growth. But depending on the stage of growth, you can adjust different nutrient levels needed at different times to optimize growth. But depending on the stage of growth, you can adjust different nutrient levels needed at different times to optimize growth.

Higher amounts of N are needed when the temperature will be below 80 degrees in the grow room during vegetative growth. 20-20-20, or 23-19-17, or 12-6-6, or something similar, with trace elements should do it.

If temperatures are higher than 80 degrees in the grow room, you need not worry about more N in the formula during vegetative growth.

During flowering the plant needs lots of P, regardless of temperature. 15-30-15, or 5-20-10, or 2-4-3, or something similar, with trace elements should do it.

Do not over fertilize your plants. Too much fertilizer will kill your plants. If you under fertilize, plants will take longer to grow but will not die. Follow the mixing instructions on your hydroponic solution package, if you aren’t sure, use less rather than more.

As water evaporates an is absorbed by the plants, your water reservoir level will drop. Add tap water that has been aged 3 days or longer to the reservoir. I don’t add nutrient solution when I top up the tank, some people do.

Change the nutrient solution every 2 weeks. That is, discard the old solution and clean out the reservoir, pumps, and other equipment that is used with HOT WATER. After cleaning, add tap water that has been aged 3 days or longer to the reservoir then add nutrient solution. You only need to clean the cups and tubing the plants are in before you start a new crop.

The old solution that you are discarding can be used to water house or garden plants. This will at least double the growth rate if you usually water your plants with regular tap water.

Medicine marijuana nutrient cycle
The timer that starts to pump the nutrient solution should turn on and the solution should submerge the plants roots every twenty minutes. As soon as the roots are submerged, the pump can shut down.

If it takes longer than 20 minutes for the roots to get water, the roots will usually grow long, and they can grow very long looking for the nutrient solution source.

In fact they can grow so long and thick that they prevent the solution from reaching all the way up your grow cups. This will also raise the chance of root material being ripped out and clogging the system. Once the flow is clogged by root or other material inside, you will have to take the garden apart and clean it.

Check the root length every few weeks. If it is hard to remove the cups the plants are in because the roots are anchored to the internal channel, the roots are too long. The root should be short enough to not touch the narrow point where the solution enters the cup holder. If they are too long, trim them down with scissors. Make sure they are not going too far, but don’t cut unnecessarily.

Eliminating smell
Growing (and smoking) medicine marijuana will produce odors. Sometimes they can be strong enough to attract attention. If you would like to eliminate the smell from growing and/or smoking medicine marijuana the best thing to do is build an ozone generator.

Storing medicine marijuana
If your weed is going to be stored for more than a year it should be wrapped in an air tight container and be stored somewhere that is dark and cool. A freezer is best, but a fridge, basement, closet, or something similar will do. Dry it first if you grow your own, or if the stuff you have is very moist. And remember that light, air and heat are the things to avoid.

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