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
How To Get The Biggest Yields With Autoflowering Cannabis
Autoflowers have finally earned the respect they deserve. More importantly, they have earned a place in your grow room. With our guide to achieving maximum yields, you will crop the biggest harvest possible from your autoflowers!
TAKING AUTOFLOWERING CANNABIS YIELDS TO THE LIMIT
Autoflowers grow blazingly fast and don’t rely on light hours to enter bloom. As they make growing weed a lot more convenient, autoflowering strains have become very popular as more high-quality strains appear on the market.
There are several things growers can do to encourage bigger yields from their autoflowers.
1. START AUTOFLOWERS IN THEIR FINAL CONTAINERS
Autoflowering cannabis will race from seedling to stash in a quick 60–90 days. When autos are stressed too much or their growth is otherwise slowed, they will still bloom at the same time, and your yields will suffer.
To max out yield, you should sow seeds directly into their final containers. Alternatively, you can germinate them using the paper towel method (or whatever your preferred germination method may be) and then put them straight into large pots. A healthy root zone must be fostered early.
2. USE BIGGER POTS
The bigger the pot, the more the roots will develop and the bigger your plant will be. If you constrain it in a pot that’s too small, your plant’s development and production will be reduced. It is recommended that you use 15–20-litre pots to maximise results without overwhelming your plants. A pot that is too big will be a waste of substrate and fertiliser.
3. CONSIDER POT MATERIAL
A healthy and strong root system means healthy plants with great yields. Consider “smart pots”, like the RQS fabric pot, to give you an advantage in this domain. With their ability to prevent plants from becoming root bound, fabric pots are better for overall development.
In addition, fabric pots make it nearly impossible to overwater your cannabis as they facilitate excellent drainage.
4. USE AN AIRY GROWING MEDIUM
Autoflowers grow fast and vigorously, and have only a limited time to do so. Because of that, you want to support their growth in every way possible. A loose and airy growing medium makes it easier for your autoflowers to develop a strong root system.
If the substrate is too compact, you can make it suitable for autoflowers by adding some perlite and coco coir. See our article here for more tips on the best soil for your autoflowers.
5. ADD A ROOT STIMULANT
Another way to support root development is by adding a root stimulant. One good way to do this is by introducing beneficial fungi into your growing medium. Mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient and water uptake, protect plants from disease, and generally encourage an optimal growing environment.
Easy Roots – Mycorrhiza Mix
6. START SEEDLINGS INDOORS
Whether you are planning an indoor or an outdoor grow, make sure to start your seedlings indoors.
As you and your plants are on the clock from day one, you want to ensure your seedlings root well. A cool white CFL, appropriate LED, or even a sunny windowsill are adequate. Just make sure vegetative growth goes smoothly; ready or not, your autoflowers will bloom on schedule.
7. SUPPORT PLANT STRUCTURE
Staking or plant support of some kind may be needed to keep your plants upright and their buds healthy.
There are several ways you can go about this. Bamboo stakes and strings, trellis netting, or tomato plant cages can all be used to help a plant carry its heavy load. If you want more tips, see this article on five ways to support heavy buds.
8. OPT FOR 18 HOURS OF LIGHT
Opinions differ on whether keeping plants under a constant 24-hour light cycle is beneficial. 18/6 is still the most common, and will save you money on energy.
Indeed, you could potentially grow them with less light, but we are aiming for a huge harvest, so you’ll want to provide them with as many lumens as possible. More light, more buds. Easy.
When grown outdoors, your autoflowers will thrive in the fine summer weather. Sunlight for 18 hours is not essential because Mother Nature’s grow lamp is infinitely more powerful than any artificial bulb.
9. USE REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER
Your water may be fluoridated or chlorinated, or may contain other impurities that hinder healthy microbial growth in the soil. In short, if your domestic water is unsuitable for drinking, it won’t do good for your cannabis plants either. You can solve this by using reverse osmosis water.
Simply spoken, reverse osmosis is a filtration process that results in pure, ultra-filtered water. With this, you are in total control of the mineral profile of your water. This can benefit the growth of your plants and your yield.
10. DIAL IN NUTRIENTS AND PH
Autoflowers are usually smaller, so they drink and eat less compared to large photoperiod plants. If you’re using ordinary cannabis nutrients, a good idea is to start out with 50% or even 25% of the recommended dose.
Soil growers are advised to use lightly fertilised soil for autoflowering cannabis. Heavily fertilised soils will burn these babies. Aside from supplements like enzymes, vitamin B, and beneficial fungi, autoflowers don’t really require large doses of base nutrients during their short vegetative stage. Heck, with good-quality soil, your plants may do just fine without additional nutes all the way to harvest.
If you must add nutrients to the soil early on, do so sparingly. Generally, bloom nutrients and boosters are all that’s needed during their life cycle. Even in flowering, low to medium doses of nutrients will suffice. Over-fertilising plants is a common yield-thwarting mistake autoflower growers often make.
Easy Combo Booster Pack
If the pH is off, your plants can’t uptake nutrients even if they are present. The correct pH for your water when growing in soil is 6.0–7.0. With a few drops of pH up or down products, you can adjust your water to the correct pH window.
11. PRIORITISE CLIMATE CONTROL
Seedlings and young plants prefer a more humid environment, while flowering plants require significantly less humidity to avoid mould and rot.
At times, just a simple standing fan or leaving a window open is all that’s needed to create an optimal growing environment. If that doesn’t cut it, look into solutions such as a heater or air conditioner for your grow room.
12. USE CO₂
It is scientifically proven that plants use CO₂ as fuel for photosynthesis, and with more CO₂ in your grow space, there should be a noticeable difference in growth rate and size.
The thing is, it only makes sense to provide your plants with CO₂ if all the other conditions in your grow room are already optimal. If there are issues with temperature, humidity, water, or nutrients, address these first before looking into a more elaborate (and expensive) CO₂ system.
13. TRAIN YOUR PLANTS
Low-stress training (LST) is a non-destructive training technique that even beginners can use. As the name implies, it is a minimally invasive technique that doesn’t involve any major damage to plants.
All you do is carefully bend and tie down the stem and branches to encourage lateral growth. This way, more bud sites are exposed to your grow light, resulting in fatter nugs and bigger harvests.
If you’re an expert grower and not afraid to put a knife to your plants, you can see whether topping will work for you. Just ensure that everything else is under control before looking into these more-involved plant training techniques.
14. USE SEA OF GREEN (SOG)
The sea of green, or SOG, method involves growing many small plants in close proximity to max out space and yields. This is especially effective in otherwise small grow-ops, and there is no better candidate than autoflowering strains. Their fast growth and short stature essentially do everything for you. Plus, no pruning or excessive handling is needed.
15. USE PROGRESSIVE HARVESTING
It normally happens that the flowers at the top of the canopy mature faster than those at the bottom. Simply clip off the individual buds that are ready, and wait for the rest to ripen. Wait 1–2 weeks between each harvest and watch for signs that they’re ready to pick. Most autoflowering plants only require two cycles of progressive harvesting, but larger plants may need more.
16. DOCUMENT, REFINE, AND REPEAT
Nobody is born a master cannabis grower. To become an expert, you want to pay attention and carefully record each process used in your grow. Only this way will you notice which techniques render the best yields.
Something can always go wrong when growing cannabis. The key to high yields is swiftly and smartly identifying problems as they occur. As you refine your processes, the health and yields of your plants will improve over time.
THE TOP 5 HIGHEST YIELDING RQS AUTOFLOWERING STRAINS 2020
Perhaps more important than any other factor listed above, genetics have a huge influence on a given strain’s production potential. So, before we conclude our guide on achieving maximum yields with autoflowers, here is a list of the highest-yielding autoflowers from Royal Queen Seeds.
1. NORTHERN LIGHT AUTOMATIC
Northern Light is a legendary cannabis strain that derives from Afghan indica genetics. First bred in the 1970s US, and coming to Europe in the 80s, this indica is still a favourite among many cannabis lovers. The autoflowering variant Northern Light Automatic shines with all the goodies of the “big one”, without compromising on flavour and effect. Moreover, she is one of the highest-yielding autoflowers out there with a whopping 550g/m² indoors. She pleases with a sweet, earthy pine flavour and a cerebral effect that is happy and uplifting.
Autoflowering cannabis has come of age now both potent and productive. With our simple 10 step guide, your next autoflowering marijuana harvest will be huge.