The Hydroponics (from the Greek [ lambda ] = ‘Water’ and [ Ponos ] = ‘work’, ‘work’) is a method of farming that, despite what one might think, has centuries old, as Evidence has been found that Aztecs or Romans already used this technique in their cultivation fields and botanical gardens. Probably, the Aztecs were the first to use this method efficiently, and the study of this technique dates from 382 BC. But… what exactly is hydroponics?
We understand by hydroponics – also known as soilless cultivation – the fact of growing plants in an inert (sterile) medium or directly in a mineral solution that nourishes our plants. Thus, in either option, plants receive nutrients through water (from a nutrient solution) and not from the substrate in which they are housed. Let’s see next what are the most used culture media in hydroponics and how to adapt this technique to cannabis cultivation.
To cultivate with this cultivation method, we recommend shorter strains, since in hydroponics, they tend to stretch more than on land. Philosopher Seeds recommends the cultivation of the following varieties to achieve homogeneous harvests even from seeds: Black Bomb, Heaven’s Fruit, Tropimango, Sugar Pop, Orange Candy and Guava Berry Kush.
Hydroponic culture media
As we have mentioned, the hydroponic culture media do not have a reserve of nutrients that the roots of the plants will absorb, but they are completely inert, so it must be the grower who prepares a nutrient solution that feeds the plants. In this way, the substrate is nothing more than a support for the plant to develop an efficient root system with which to absorb the nutrients provided through the irrigation water.
One of the main advantages of using inert substrates is the fact of having total control over the nutrients received by the plants, since it is the grower who has to make the correct nutrient mixture for each stage of crop development. Normally, hydroponic media cause great oxygenation in the root zone, which translates into more roots and better developed (as we will see later, this will also depend on the temperature of the irrigation water).
Traditionally, media such as gravel, washed sand, volcanic rock, or perlite were often used in hydroponic crops. Despite the fact that many of these traditional media continue to be used, new hydroponic substrates have appeared in recent decades. Let’s look at some of the most popular today:
- The arlita, also known as expanded clay, is one of the most popular means of hydroponics between growers. It provides good support for the roots of the plants, with plenty of available oxygen, so that they grow dramatically if they receive enough watering. If we want to save ourselves a long and tedious work, the best thing will be to acquire clay that has been completely washed and with the pH adjusted to a value suitable for cultivation.
- The rock wool ( rockwool ) is also one of the means most used both hydroponics in construction, because it is also an excellent thermal insulator. It was discovered in the early s. XX in Hawaii thanks to the volcanic activity in the area, and since then it has been manufactured from volcanic rock, emulating the action of a volcano on the rocks. Its strand structure and great air retention capacity make it a widely used medium in agriculture.
- The coconut fiber, which comes mainly from Asia, has become a very popular medium in recent decades. Its similarity in texture with the soil and its great capacity for water retention and oxygenation make coconut the substrate of choice for many growers. It is often used to improve floors, and today many commercial substrates have a part of coconut fiber to improve its texture and properties. We recommend reading the post Growing marijuana in coconut.
- The perlite is a derivative of mineral product has been subjected to high temperatures in order to expand (as happens with arlita). It is often used to improve other substrates, although it can be used as a hydroponic growing medium thanks to its water retention and aeration capacity.The mapito is a medium used for years especially by Dutch growers. It is a mixture of rock wool and coconut flakes with a great capacity for oxygenation and moisture retention, perfect for growing marijuana. It is used in much the same way as rockwool.
Hydroponic growing systems
The systems hydro / aeroponic cultivation work great with most varieties of marijuana. Due to its characteristics and needs, this plant adapts wonderfully to these systems, growing vigorously and blooming dramatically if the irrigation parameters are correct.
If we decide on hydroponic cultivation, we mainly have two options: acquire equipment that we only have to assemble and plug in, or make our own. While it may seem like a challenge to the novice cannabis grower, anyone with some hydroponic experience can easily build their own system without spending too much money.
There are numerous hydroponic systems that operate with small variations. These are some of the most used:
- Passive systems, based on the capillary action of the medium surrounding the roots and in which no type of pump is used to supply the nutrient solution. The culture medium remains in contact with the nutrient solution stored in a small tank.
- The ebb and flow systems use a pump to flood a tray where the plants are housed, so that their root zone is completely flooded. Once the flood is complete, the nutrient solution is drained back to the tank awaiting the next irrigation.
- The drip irrigation is one of the most used by the ease of assembly and maintenance and excellent results offered systems. A water pump transports the nutrient solution through a series of irrigation tubes and capillaries from the reservoir to the plants. An irrigation frequency is established according to the needs of the plant depending on the stage of development in which it is.
- In DWC systems, the roots hang from the netpot to the nutrient solution stored at the bottom of the closed bucket that serves as the pot. An air pump constantly oxygenates the nutrient solution producing hundreds of bubbles and micro-splashes, which will nourish the roots of the plants.
- NFT systems consist of a tray through which the nutrient solution slowly flows and on which the plants rest. In this way, the roots of the plants are in permanent contact with the nutrients provided along with the water. A water pump ensures that the nutrient solution circuit is not interrupted.