You can design and set up a relatively low-cost setup, but it requires a strong understanding of the basic principles of hydroponic cultivation. Alternately, you can forgo designing your own setup and buy premade solutions. A system capable of growing 5-6 plants can start at around $100, and quickly increase from there with features that increase control and ease of use.
Most hydroponic systems are used to grow indoors. However, as long as you have a reliable power supply, hydroponics can be used to grow outdoors, particularly in greenhouses. While you’ll have to deal with factors like light, temperature, and humidity, growing hydroponically in a greenhouse will allow you to maximize yield and quality while avoiding the massive energy requirements of indoor cultivation.
Control Your Environment
A hydroponic grow allows you to exercise total control over the quality and quantity of nutrients your plants receive, whereas with soil grows, nutrients remain in the soil. The nutritional needs of cannabis plants vary throughout the grow process and with hydroponics, you’re able to dial in the mixture of nutrients and tailor it specifically to their progress.
You’ll also be able to use less nutrients overall, as they are absorbed directly into the plants, with nothing lost in soil.
Grow Hydroponically Indoor or Outdoor
With a soil grow, your primary concerns will center around light and nutrients; with hydroponics, you still have to be deliberate in those areas, while also managing a complex and sensitive system that circulates water and nutrients among your plants.
Because it is an organic medium, soil may contain pestilence or disease. A knowledgeable cultivator can take steps to mitigate these risks.
Although these systems can be expensive to start, plants grow at a much faster and predictable rate than when using more traditional soil methods. This generally means higher yields, which translates into bigger profits for commercial growers. For homegrowers, full turnkey hydroponic kits might be a good option to get started producing quality crops.
Hydroponics can refer to many different methods, all of which involve the input of synthetically derived nutrients to feed the plant. Some closely imitate a natural growth environment – like “ebb and flow” technique, which mimics rainfall through an inorganic growth medium, while some involve plants suspended in midair or in a nutrient solution bath with no growth medium – aeroponics and deep water culture, respectively. By eliminating soil, hydroponics can create completely sterile and optimized systems for cannabis.
“There is a lot of technology available now that makes growing easier but when it comes down to growing nothing beats experience and having an eye for detail,” Choice Organics Head Grower Andy Weyers said.
“You can have all the technology and gadgets and still have an unsuccessful grow. Cannabis plants are picky, and getting the best product from them can be tough,” Weyers said. “You really have to give them exactly what they want, and even missing one factor or getting off schedule can compromise the quality of the crop.”
Good cultivation creates good cannabis. The perfect balance of nutrients will develop flavorful, aromatic and potent cannabis, but there are different schools of thought on how to achieve optimal results. Some people prefer a hydroponic system, while some growers only want their cannabis all-natural and soil grown.
“A lot of people prefer soil grown cannabis because the quality of the end product is better,” Weyers said. “Hydro might be more predictable, but the soil helps reveal the true genetic potential of the plant. Hydro always produces the same looking and tasting cookie cutter buds, while soil just creates a little bit more excitement. We choose what is best for our patients and consumers because we are patients and consumers ourselves.”
Cultivators in both hydroponic and soil-based growing monitor plants for signs of disease, but soil has the ability to help eliminate disease before it shows itself to the grower. With the application of beneficial bacteria and fungus, most plant and soil-borne disease and pests can be eliminated. Soil-based growing is based on the most natural growth patterns possible, so the use of pesticides and other synthetic products is more detrimental than helpful.