There are many ways to grow cannabis and since autoflower cannabis can be grown in the same way, it only makes sense that making an appearance on the hydroponics scene is inevitable.
Growing hydroponically means growing without any soil medium and is considered an advanced way to grow cannabis. This is due to the high probability of technological issues killing your plants if you’re not careful. There are actually a lot of ways that hydroponics can go wrong, which we will discuss later on.
The benefits of growing in hydroponics really do outweigh the negatives and can be a rewarding experience when done successfully. There are several ways to grow your autoflower cannabis hydroponically. Therefore, that gives you the flexibility to create the system you want to.
Let’s begin by looking at the different types of hydroponics systems and how they can make your autoflower cannabis flourish with large, frosty buds.
Types Of Hydroponic Systems For Growing
When it comes to growing your autoflower cannabis in a hydroponic system you have a large selection of systems that all have their own pros and cons. Ensure that you choose the one that is best for your growing situation.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
This is the most basic of the hydroponic systems available and is highly recommended for those just starting out in this niche. In its simplest form, it is a bucket of nutrient solution that the plant sits above.
The cannabis plant’s roots will reach down into the nutrient solution and have access to all of the nutrition they would want. Think of it as on-demand watering for your autoflower cannabis.
Roots need oxygen and won’t get any if it is just sitting in water unless you add oxygen to your nutrient solution. This is where you can add an airstone into the bucket (just like you would a fish tank). That will allow the roots to get the oxygen they need.
Failure to put in an airstone or two can result in a stunted plant or even worse, a dead autoflower plant.
Research shows that growing autoflower cannabis in a DWC system can see explosive root growth. That is because the plant will have access to all the water it needs at any point. It’s also pretty cool to see how the roots are formed, which you can’t normally see in a soil-medium-based grow.
Another benefit is that if you were to go away on vacation you can have a large reservoir feeding your plants without the need for an irrigation system or timers.
Here is a list of DWC components that you need to create a system for your autoflower cannabis:
- A bucket or plastic tote (to act as the reservoir)
- Net pots for the plant to sit in which fit into a hole above the reservoir
- Clay pellets to provide the stability your autoflower would generally get in the soil
- Air stones for oxygenation
Ebb And Flow (Or Flood And Drain)
Ebb and flow tables are a popular way to grow autoflower cannabis. It works a little differently than the DWC systems above. This method requires that you have a substrate, whether that be coco coir or Rockwool insulation (an excellent substrate) to give the plant stability.
The basic idea is that your autoflower cannabis sits in a flood table (a table with higher sides) and periodically, the table will be flooded with a nutrient solution. Your plants will sit in that solution for a predetermined amount of time before it is drained back into the reservoir for further circulation.
When the table is drained it brings oxygen to the roots and the substrate that you are using will stay damp to keep your plants hydrated in between waterings. The nutrient solution is dependent on what part of the growth cycle your auto-flowering cannabis is in.
The benefit to using an ebb and flow system is that everything is usually on a timer, almost like a set it and forget it type of situation. The only thing you should keep an eye on is making sure the nutrient reservoir stays full enough.
There are setups that use a continuous flow idea which keeps the table semi-flooded so that your autoflower plants have access to nutrition as well as oxygen for the roots.
Growing your autoflower cannabis using aeroponics is an advanced technique that has the highest probability of failure if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is because the roots are suspended in the air while a sprayer periodically douses them with a nutrient solution.
This is unique in that the nutrient solution is sprayed directly onto the roots which allow for immediate uptake. In between the watering intervals, oxygen is able to get to the roots. This is, of course, beneficial to speed up the growth. If done correctly, your plants will explode with growth and you’ll see changes almost daily.
The issue with an aeroponics system lies in how automated it is. A lot of systems have cloud technology built-in which lets you control every aspect, from lights to airflow and everything in between.
You can see how this may be an issue in a power outage where technology doesn’t work. If your system goes down you have about a half-hour before your plants start to show signs of wilt. That is because they are exposed to the air and have no water to keep them wet.
Another potential issue can be found in all of the pumps, spray nozzles, and mechanical aspects. If these parts break down and you can’t fix them, your plant will have a hard life.
If you can dial in your system to account for any potential issues, your autoflower cannabis will grow massively into a healthy flowering plant. As they say, a large return is not without a large risk.
Drip systems are common with growers who are cultivating a large crop. It is automated and ensures that every plant gets the same amount of nutrition and water. These systems are commonly used with substrates like Coco Coir or Rockwool because they have excellent drainage capabilities.
You can use soil as a growing medium with a drip system. However, because the soil contains things like peat moss or perlite, it tends to hold onto water a lot more. This can cause your roots to suffocate which can severely stunt your plant.
Drip systems provide a consistent, steady drip that is designed to keep the substrate moist and allow air to get to the roots.
There are two types of ways this system can work. The first takes the excess nutrient runoff from the plant and recirculates it throughout the system. This is excellent for water conservation.
The other way feeds your plant just enough that there is no excess runoff from your autoflower plants. The last way requires extensive knowledge of your plant. You don’t want to water it too little or the substrate will dry out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions that those new to hydroponics tend to ask when growing autoflower cannabis.
Wouldn’t the cannabis roots suffocate if submerged in water in a hydro system?
In most cases, the cannabis plant will get its oxygen from the water itself. This involves aerating the water by using an air stone or air pump to provide the oxygen the plant needs. Your plant will survive without oxygenated water but will be severely stunted.
Why should I use a hydro system instead of the traditional soil method?
Autoflower cannabis in itself is not a traditional way of growing cannabis which makes it an excellent pairing with hydro systems. Since you don’t have to worry about a photoperiod, ensuring your plants are watered properly with the right nutrient mix really becomes your only main worry.
Autoflower cannabis means a quick turnaround and the hands-off approach that most hydroponic systems boast, makes it accessible for beginner growers.
Is an aeroponic system better than a hydroponic system?
This is a complicated question to answer but the general consensus is to do whatever you want. There are pros and cons to both. However, as long as you manage the environment, water source, and quickly act on issues, you’ll see success with either.
Hydroponics can spread diseases faster as they share a water reservoir with all of the plants. Aeroponic systems generally have multiple reservoirs for a group of plants.
Aeroponic systems are more expensive to build because they have a lot more components and technology needed to make the system run efficiently. You can build a simple hydroponic system with a bucket and some air stones. It really depends on how sophisticated you want to go.
The one advantage to hydro systems is that there is no chance that your plants won’t be watered. With aeroponics, if one of your pumps breaks then you are in a serious situation.
Find out more about growing cannabis – what is the best soil for autoflowering cannabis, how to water autoflowering cannabis plant, pot size for autoflowering cannabis, and more!