To use simple terms, hydroponic growing involves growing your marijuana plants without any soil, but instead using water or another growth medium that is able to be combined with a nutrient solution to feed all of the necessary nutrients to your marijuana plants through their roots directly. It really is that easy!
The easy answer boils down to how the nutrient solution is able to provide exactly what each plant requires at the moment the plant needs it. What this means is each plant can focus solely on growth and plant production instead of any nutrient it might be a little low on. Many marijuana plants end up with bound root balls due to their search for food, but a cannabis plant that is grown hydroponically will not have this issue. More focus is able to be put into the leaves, the buds, and down the line, the flowers of the plant. You will end up with extremely large plants in a small amount of time with a larger yield of buds and flowers. All hydroponic systems require being automated, but this can really help the grower in the long run, as well as the plant. You will never have to worry about giving your marijuana plants too much or little water ever again.
There are many different methods, so you have to choose which you prefer first. They range from super-simple to extremely difficult, so your opinion on what you want to invest in it must be the deciding factor. Every system requires some easy assembly and a bit of mechanical know-how, but it is easy for anyone to do. Each of the methods can be built from home with just everyday tools and pieces of equipment that you can find at almost any hardware store.
Your marijuana plants will require 16 nutrients. The three most detrimental elements are called your macro-elements, and they are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). You will even see these listed on most fertilizer containers at nurseries. The other 13 elements, known as micro-elements, can be found in most soils, even if they are not familiar to you.
If you grow marijuana on a small-scale or hobby level, you should really consider investing in ready-mixed nutrients as they have each nutrient that your marijuana plant is going to need right at your fingertips. The directions are super easy: combine water with the nutrient concentrate in a container, and then put that mixture in your system. If you use a nutrient solution that is made for hydroponics, you will find the best success rate. You will find these nutrients in one of five forms: one-part powder, two-part powder, one-part liquid, two-part liquid or three-part liquid. We have found the best results from General Hydroponics three-part system. With each growing phase needing a slightly different mixture of nutrients, this formula allows you to combine them properly for the best end-result for your plants.
Those growers with experience in hydroponics may consider creating their own unique nutrient combination. Each cannabis plant will consume only what nutrients it requires, so this could save money for the grower due to the lack of wasted nutrients. If you plan to do this, we recommend you get some basic chemistry knowledge first. You will also need a bit of mixing equipment to put these elements together. With as many growers as have researched formulas before you, you can easily find a useful recipe that will give marijuana plants good results. Look around until you find one that will work with the way your system is set up and go from there. If you need to make adjustments over time, you can do that so that the solution you use can match the conditions you have your plants growing in. We still recommend that only those growers that have the right experience and knowledge to do this even try.
Even though you will get amazing results in soil from Dutch-pro, it will not give you the same results as a hydroponic solution. The micro-elements are not the same as your marijuana plant would require. At first, your marijuana plants should look alright, but soon your marijuana plants will begin showing signs of nutrient deficiency. You will want to stick with a nutrient solution that is made specifically for hydroponic use, even if the cost is slightly higher than the soil version. Think of this as a sports car. You would not want cheap gas or truck tires on your premium machine just as you would not want inferior quality solution fed to your marijuana plants. This is why we always recommend the use of Formula Flora when growing marijuana plants, both in soil and hydroponically.
Most nutrient solution additives have blood meal, bone meal and kelp extract in them. You will find that many companies say they will boost "organic" growing mediums by adding in additional amino acids, sugars, enzymes, hormones, plant acids or vitamins that most other growing mediums simply do not contain. We have found these claims to be false. Once we are able to perform more tests down the line using bigger control groups, we will post the results so you can see how we have come to these conclusions.
This refers to how much base or acid you have within the growing medium that you test. If you have a pH of one, your solution is very acidic, but if you have a pH of 14, your solution is super basic. You are aiming for a pH of seven if you want neutrality, but marijuana plants need something in the range of 5.8-6.5 to ensure the roots can absorb all of their nutrients properly.
You can measure pH both chemically and electronically. If you are using chemical means, you will have to replace the strips from the kit because they do get consumed with testing. If you are using electronic means, you will have to pay a bit more upfront but you should not have to replace your tool. To use an electronic measuring device, simply put the pen into your solution and you will be shown a readout on the LCD of what your pH is.
You will need to increase your acid if the pH levels of your solution go too high, so you can use either nitric acid, phosphoric acid or sulfuric acid. These break down when used, leaving you with a little extra Nitrogen, Phosphorus or Sulfur, which your marijuana plants need anyway. You will need to increase your base if the pH levels of your solution go too low. We recommend using either Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide because when they break down, you will get extra Sodium or Potassium, also needed by your cannabis plants.
Use only a little base or acid at a time to adjust your pH levels within your solution because the solution will only need a little bit to change the overall pH level. When making an adjustment, make sure you wait a half hour before re-checking your pH levels because it needs time to cycle through all of the solution. The further from your target zone your pH level is at, the more acid or base you will need to get it back to the right place.
With everyone's attempts to find green growing solutions, hydroponic growers are seeking out solutions as well. Most guidelines that are needed for "organic" growing include the elimination of refined chemicals in any form. That means growers can only use waste from animals or compost. While soil-using growers will end up benefitting, hydroponic growers will end up with a counter-productive cycle. The easiest way to explain why this happens is to give a brief explanation on how marijuana plants get all of their nutrients. As we have already mentioned, marijuana plants require 16 elements. Each one of these elements requires further breaking down to be absorbed by a marijuana plant, and this usually happens when the elements become chemical salts. What needs to be done is putting one necessary element (like Nitrogen, Hydrogen, Oxygen or Calcium) with a corresponding element, allowing the two elements to combine to form a salt. That salt is what your marijuana plants need to absorb through the growing medium.
Now with each of the processes described above being turned over to an organic form, we have to explain how the plants absorb from the roots on up. Composing is where we shall begin. Every part of the compost already has the necessary chains inside it to create the chemical salts out of the elements. Once that all gets put into the soil, bacteria breaks down the chains and create the necessary chemical salts, feeding your cannabis plants. Basically it looks like this: compost plus specific bacteria equals marijuana plant chemical salts. This is why we love Mother Nature and her bounty so much. She gave us the tools to feed our plants. Hydroponic systems, however, there is not the same breakdown from bacteria. That is why we must use a nutrient solution to feed each of our cannabis plants. The end result of this method typically ends up being limited growth, which totally opposes what hydroponic growing systems are all about. You can still get the benefit from organic growth with marijuana plants, but it needs to be done in soil. Just fertilize anything your plants may require into the soil, giving you the same end result.
Want to read more about marijuana? Go to our marijuana grow guide.