Did you know that hemp doesn’t need the soil to grow?
Hydroponics refers to a method of cultivating plants on a water-based medium, instead of a soil medium. Hemp, an economically viable variant of the cannabis plant, can be successfully grown hydroponically.
With hydroponic systems, you have increased control over the growth of your plants and this can significantly boost your yields and quality of produce. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about hemp hydroponics.
What is Hemp Hydroponics?
Hemp hydroponics refers to the method of growing hemp plants in a mineral-rich solution. While it may seem like a new phenomenon, farmers have been growing the hemp plant in water-based mediums for decades. In fact, the slang name “weed” came from the fact that cannabis species can grow and thrive almost anywhere – including in water.
Hydroponic systems come in multiple forms ranging from simple basic setups like growing containers and sump tanks to more complex systems that incorporate timers and reservoirs. While sophisticated hemp hydroponic setups offer lower plant maintenance requirements, they’re more costly to acquire and need a lot of expertise to set up correctly.
Top Benefits of Growing Hemp Hydroponically
Still not sure whether to grow hemp hydroponically? These benefits should change your mind:
1. Faster Growth
For starters, hemp plants grown hydroponically have a faster growth and maturity rate compared to those grown in a soil medium. Hydroponic techniques to grow your hemp can enhance the growth rate by up to 50% if done correctly. In hydroponic setups, the plants’ roots are usually suspended in the mineral-rich solution, making the nutrients more readily available to the plants than they would be in a soil medium.
Water, as opposed to soil, allows for easier navigation of the nutrients into the roots. With easier nutrient access, hemp plants can reserve the energy that they would normally expend in navigating through the soil in search of nutrients. This energy is used to support faster growth and development.
2. Larger Quality Yields
You’ll harvest larger, higher quality yields from your hydroponics enclosure than you would in a farmland of the same size. Using hydroponic techniques to grow your hemp can increase your harvest by up to 30%. You won’t have to worry about the adverse weather conditions affecting your crop since hydroponic systems are usually set up in indoor enclosures.
When grown on exposed farmland, your hemp crop is susceptible to external factors such as tropical storms and pest invasions.
Common Hemp Hydroponics Techniques You Can Try
The growth cycle in hemp hydroponics is the same as that in a soil medium. However, there are different hydroponic techniques you can try out:
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
The DWC hydroponic system makes use of clay balls as a substrate for air-suspended hemp roots, with a nutrient-rich tank beneath. Since the roots start off suspended in air, they can only soak in humidity at the initial stages of development. As they grow longer and reach the water tank, nutrient uptake begins – boosting the growth rate of your plants.
The only downside to this system is that it requires close monitoring and maintenance to ensure there’s no root rot from water stagnation. You can prevent the stagnation by using an air pump to oxygenate the water.
Ebb and Flow
The ebb and flow technique makes use of a watering table fixture that’s installed above a mineral-laden water tank. The plants are grown in small mesh pots that are filled in with expanded clay substrate. The pots are attached to the watering table.
An air pump and a timer are required to periodically pump the mineral-rich water from the tank into the watering table where the water flushes through the plant’s roots in the mesh pots and flow back into the tank beneath.
With this method, hemp cultivators are usually in a better position to control root rot (as compared to the DWC technique) because the water only comes into contact with the roots for a short period. And if by any chance you notice signs of root rot, you can always reduce the timer frequency of the watering.
An RSS hydroponic method involves the use of three-gallon flowerpots filled with expanded clay balls to act as a substrate for the hemp plants. All the flowerpots are linked to a drainage system via hose pipes.
The drain is used to feed the plants with water from the nutrient-rich water tank. A pump and timer are used in the setup to facilitate automated watering at specific time intervals. Apart from the need to periodically check your pump for any malfunctions, this technique is generally maintenance-free and quite efficient. This is why it’s one of the most popular methods of growing hemp hydroponically.
Aeroponics is a hydroponics variant that involves the use of a holed-out tray suspended above a nutrient-rich water tank. The holes on the tray are usually covered with neoprene disc, with the hemp plants placed through the holes. The hemp roots stay suspended in the air between the underside of the neoprene discs and the water tank underneath it.
The water tank features a PVC sprinkler system to keep the roots humid. One of the major advantages of this method is that it allows hemp farmers to cultivate up to five times more hemp plants within the same space, compared to an RSS system. However, you need to occasionally check your sprinklers for blockage which may leave your hemp plants underwatered.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
Nutrient film hydroponics technique is mostly used by indoors/greenhouse hemp cultivators. It involves the use of inclined, narrow gutters in which the mineral-rich water runs through. As the water is pumped out of the sump tank, it runs down the slope of the troughs, watering the hemp roots.
This method is relatively easy to set up. However, one major disadvantage is that it takes up more space compared to the rest of the hemp hydroponic systems.
Make Hemp Cultivation Easier with Hemp Hydroponics
While hydroponics hemp systems may be cumbersome to set up, they’ll save you a lot of time and resources in the long run. You don’t have to worry about constant crop care and maintenance using herbicides and pesticides. Even better, this method conserves water – a crucial factor in the sustainability of our future.
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