How to Grow Autoflowering Cannabis Plants in a Hydroponic Setup
Hydroponics is a well-known technique for cultivating indoors. This technique consists of soaking the roots of the plant in a solution of water mixed with nutrients and providing lots of oxygen. Using this method means that there is no soil and plants grow in a sterile, inert growing medium.
The hydroponic method provides the nutrients, water, and oxygen directly to the roots. As there is no need for massive roots or extra energy to absorb the nutrients, the plants grow much faster and bigger.
1. What are pH and PPM Levels?
Before talking about the different hydroponic setups we must advise that in hydroponic grow is essential to measure pH and PPM levels every day. We use the pH meter to know how basic or acidic our solution is and the EC meter is used to measure PPM levels (PPM means particles per million).
A simple way to understand it is we measure pH levels to be sure our plant’s nutrient intake is optimal. We measure PPM levels to make sure we are giving the right amount of nutrients to our plant and to ensure our plant is absorbing nutrients.
2. Measuring and Adjusting pH and EC Levels
In hydroponics, it’s essential to measure pH and PPM levels every day, preferably every time we feed our autoflowers. You should measure runoff and the solution going in, and compare.
PH levels should be around 5.5-5.8. If they are too high or too low your plant will have problems absorbing nutrients. You can use a pH adjusting solution (pH up or pH down) and measure again until it’s as close as possible to the desired amount.
PPM levels go up for each stage so here’s a table to better visualize them:
Note: If PPM levels are too low or too high, your autoflower will show symptoms of under or overfeeding.
3. Hydroponic Setups
No matter which hydroponic system you choose you’ll need a water pump, sometimes an air stone, a timer, and a reservoir to hold the nutrients and the water that you need to feed your plants. Make sure that you pick a large enough reservoir so it can hold enough water and nutrients for a couple of weeks.
The reservoir has to have a lid so your solution doesn’t evaporate. You’ll need another reservoir to hold water where you can test and adjust pH. We recommend having a third one in case one of the other two breaks. The reservoir containing the nutrient solution should be insulated so you can control the temperature.
Hydro Setups: Ebb and flow & Continuous Flow
This hydroponic system is quite simple and it’s the most popular choice within growers because it doesn’t require too much work, it’s low maintenance, and very productive. This system is ideal for beginners.
Ebb and flow works by placing our reservoir under the growing bed. The water pump turns on to fill the growing bed (where the plants are) every 15 min with our solution. When it reaches it’s higher level, the pump turns off and the solution is then drained through a pipe.
In this setup, you can use coco fiber, perlite or clay pebbles to support your plant. Growing hydroponically you need some kind of medium so the roots can hold themselves onto something.
With basically the same setup as the Ebb and flow, the Continuous flow technique is the opposite. This method consists of providing a continuous flow of solution. The never-ending stream of water flows around the roots, allowing them to absorb what they need from it. As opposed to the Ebb and flow this fills all the way to the limit and then drains all at once.
Hydro Setups: Deep water culture (DWC)
Deep water culture is a style of hydroponic growing that may or may not use a medium like perlite, coco, or clay pebbles. In a DWC setup, you have a reservoir filled with a mix of water and nutrients, the lid holds special pots or nets with their roots stretching down having part of them submerged in the solution, this way they have nutrients available all day long and can absorb nutrients when they want to.
As we know, oxygen is essential for plants, so you need to use an air pump (aka air stone) in this setup to keep the solution oxygenated.
Hydro setups: Aeroponics
Aeroponics is a technique very similar to the DWC technique mentioned previously. The setup is the same, a reservoir filled with a solution of water and nutrients. The difference is, instead of submerging the roots, we leave them hanging in midair, using a sprinkler to mist water directly on the roots every 3-5 min.
The reservoir must be lightproof and waterproof which helps create a highly humid environment. There’s no need to use an air stone as the roots are literally surrounded by oxygen.
Hydro setups: Drip Irrigation and Continuous Drip Irrigation
The Drip irrigation method consists of having a large reservoir with tubes that is reaching each pot individually. On the tip of the tubes, there are drippers that are placed above the grow medium (this method can be used with hydroponic mediums or soil).
You have to program a timer that controls the amount of solution and frequency your plants get fed. When the timer turns on, a water pump is activated, watering your plant for the exact amount of time you programmed, not a drop more, not a drop less. Normally they are watered in increments of 15 mins and for a duration of around 4 min. You don’t even have to be there to feed them. Ideally, you would be just checking if the system is working properly and that’s it.
There is an adaptation of the drip irrigation technique called Continuous drip irrigation. It uses the same setup but instead of watering when the timer turns on, the water pump never turns off, providing a continuous flow of solution for the plant. Like in the DWC technique, this way the plants can be fed whenever they need to and will result in faster growth and much bigger plants.
4. In Conclusion
Autoflowers grown in hydroponic setups will grow much taller and quicker due to a constant feeding of nutrients and water. They will develop faster and produce frostier buds with more terpenes than plants growing in normal soil, resulting in overall better quality.
Any strain will do exceptionally well in hydroponic grow. If you have enough space in your grow room try cultivating one of the big yielders like our Orange Sherbet Auto. Hydroponic setup will let her fully develop resulting in a huge yield.
Hydroponics is a well-known technique for cultivating indoors. This technique consists of soaking the roots of the plant in a solution of water mixed with nutri
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