These common problems in hydroponics happen to even the most experienced grower.
Hydroponics can be a rewarding way to grow cannabis. While it offers numerous advantages, it’s rarely plain sailing from seed to harvest. To avoid the common pitfalls, with this sometimes complex growing method, here are the most commonly encountered problems in hydroponics.
The Right Fertilizer for Hydroponics
When growing cannabis in soil mediums, much of the available nutrient profile should already exist in the soil. This is not the case with hydroponic setups, however. One of the main problems that growers run into in hydroponic grows is that they use a fertilizer formulated for soil rather than a hydroponic-specific one.
Fertilizer solutions formulated for hydroponic grows have a specific nutrient profile that contains the much wider range of nutrients required for hydroponic growth. Always purchase a specially formulated mix or the raw ingredients to make your own.
Poor Sanitation can Kill Your Cannabis Grow
One of the main problems in hydroponics is that pests, algae, and disease can quickly wipe out a cannabis crop when growers do not maintain a clean grow environment. This risk exists for all cannabis grows, but hydroponics make an especially nice environment for pests to thrive. Always wipe surfaces for pathogens and use a sanitizing foot bath before entering the grow area.
Some growers choose to manipulate the conditions to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help keep the ecosystem of the grow healthy and pest-free. But, this is a more complex procedure compared to the act of maintaining a sanitary space through regular and thorough cleaning to prevent any unwelcome bacteria from gaining a foothold.
Fluctuating pH Levels are not Good for Plants
One of the most easily avoidable problems in hydroponics is that of pH. The pH of the nutrient solution in hydroponic grows is crucial for optimal growth. Where soil pH changes will happen slowly thanks to the actions of natural processes and soil microbiomes, this is not the case with hydroponics. The pH in a hydroponic grow can vary widely over short periods of time, even hours. The factors influencing such fluctuations include temperature and the rates of evaporation and nutrient absorption.
To avoid the problems associated with pH fluctuations, growers should consistently monitor the pH of their nutrient solution using technology. Daily testing is essential when growers make any changes to the system, and testing can be reduced when the system becomes more stable. pH testing kits or a pH meter provide the simplest method for growers to achieve consistently.
System Leaks Can Threaten Hydroponic Plants
Leaks can occur in a variety of different places for a variety of different reasons. They can occur if the system becomes clogged up, if the reservoir can’t hold all of the nutrient solution, or in cases of a pump failure.
To help ensure optimal functioning of any hydroponic system, test the entire system thoroughly and give every valve and connection a once over before starting out with a cannabis grow. Then, regular checks are essential as clogged drains and outlets are a common occurrence as the grow proceeds.
Can I Use Hard Water in Hydroponics?
Hard water with high levels of dissolved solids can definitely cause problems in hydroponic systems. Hard water limits the nutrient concentration, and due to the presence of already dissolved minerals, growers can never be sure just which mineral profile the resulting solution contains. Calcium and magnesium salts are of particular concern, as their larger size means that plants can’t efficiently absorb them.
When excessively hard water begins to present problems, growers can dilute the solution with distilled water or filter it through an activated carbon filter to help reduce mineral content.
The Growing Medium for Hydroponics
The choice of growing medium is critical. Some are more absorbent, while others ensure faster drainage. Budget considerations will also come into effect when choosing a growing medium as some mediums are reusable, while others are one-time use.
Growing mediums such as coco coir, perlite, peat moss, Rockwool, and vermiculite are great choices when it comes to growing cannabis. The right medium will support roots and maintain a proper water/oxygen ratio. This choice will take some research, but if this is your first hydroponic grow, coco coir is a good, sustainable choice that doesn’t have massive fluctuations in water retention.
Regular Flushing is Part of Your Grow Responsibility
Not changing out the nutrient solution and flushing the system can have major negative implications on yield. Regularly flushing helps fend off pests, disease, and any issues associated with the nutrient solution.
It can be labor-intensive for home growers to regularly flush a hydroponic system, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure continued high yields.
Nutrient Imbalances Must be Monitored
Nutrient deficiency or toxicity are common problems in hydroponics. There are several causes including temperature, pH, nutrient concentration, and excess amounts of specific nutrients over others.
To avoid issues associated with nutrient deficiencies or toxicity, growers should always exercise care when mixing their nutrient solution. Hard water can be particularly problematic. Filtering it through a reverse osmosis filter or diluting it with distilled water can be helpful in avoiding any of the associated problems. When plants become affected by nutrient deficiencies or toxicity, beginner growers should discard the nutrient solution and begin anew.
Keep Visual Track of Cannabis Plant Health
As with any grow operation, there are always some early warning signs when problems begin to arise. By consistently monitoring the health of the cannabis plants, growers can spot the issues while they can still be remedied.
Common issues include slow growth, deficiencies or toxicity, and discoloring. When detected early, growers can still salvage the crop by making the necessary adjustments to rectify the situation. Take care, before a greater imbalance leads to more significant problems further down the line!
Early detection via regular inspection is the best way to avoid heartbreaking failures and the associated expense.
Hydroponics are a Great Way to Grow Cannabis
Hydroponic methods offer budding growers the opportunity to experiment with an alternate growing method that’s fun, challenging, and extremely rewarding. With a system that works seamlessly, there are few more satisfying ways for home growers to produce their own medicine. But while the benefits are clear, so too are the potential problems and pitfalls. After all, it’s only by making mistakes that we can ever dream of gaining expertise with any growing technique.