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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

7 Tips and Tricks to Maximize Yields in Autoflowers

Fast Buds Team
Feb 4, 2019 · 7 min read

Cannabis growers are always on the hunt to understand the tips and tricks to maximize yields in autoflowers. Most growers have the talent, but they lack information. And that’s a serious handicap when growing autoflowers. Autoflowers grow fast and produce yields in a short span of time, but that comes only with experience. You could grow them just like photoperiod plants, but there are several stark differences.

Autoflowers are actually easy to g row and are considered the latest craze in the world of cannabis. With rapid flowering periods and great yields, there’s no reason to not grow them. They can be a tad intimidating because they are less forgiving than traditional cannabis plants. However, there’s no gain without pain, and you might as well buckle up for the ride.

Most people assume that autoflowers produce small yields, but they can’t be further from the truth. Get this straight — autoflowers can not only produce humongous yields, but the fact that they do so within 2 months isn’t a small feat! But, you gotta follow a small rulebook, so here are 7 tips and tricks to maximize yields in autoflowers if you’re struggling to get the best out of them.

How to maximize yields in autoflowering plants?

Autoflowers don’t give you a lot of time, so it’s critical to plan beforehand. What medium are you going to use? Soilless, soil or hydroponics? What nutrients have you chosen? Have you grown autos before? Have you bought the lights? What about ventilation? Have you set up your grow room?

If you’re unsure of any of these questions, you’re not yet ready to sow autoflowering seeds. Other types of plants allow you to plan things after sowing seeds, but for the love of God, don’t try that with autoflowers. The minute you soak seeds in the water, the clock starts ticking, so think through everything including the medium, container, ventilation, lighting, grow room and space before planting anything.

It’s also important to do some research to purchase autoflowering seeds of the highest quality. You can do everything right but it may all be for naught if the strains aren’t meant to produce high yields. For example, Fastbuds catalog shows you seeds ranging from XXL to L yield category, and you can choose anything depending on the space available.

2) Don’t take the risk of transplanting

It’s recommended that you start autoflowers in their final containers because they don’t have a lot of spare time to recover when they are transplanted. Transplant shock can seriously stunt the plant and the loss of even a day or two in the vegetative period can affect yields greatly.

Sure, some growers grow autos just like photoperiod plants by transplanting them not once by twice! However, they are experienced growers that have attained success after several failures.

If you’re adamant on transplanting, though, make sure that the medium is exactly the same. For instance, if your seedling is growing in a potting mix of coco coir and compost, it should be transplanted to another container containing the exact same mix. Water the seedling container a few hours before transplanting to ensure that the soil is moist. There’s a high risk of hurting the roots when the soil is too dry or wet.

It’s also critical to transplant only after the roots have filled out in the container since the soil will drop off in clumps with the roots stuck to them. In other words, wait until the plant is a little root bound. Since there are so many conditions, it’s best to start directly in the final containers. With no disturbance, you’re all set to get great yields.

3) Choose containers that drain well

Containers must be proportional to the size of the plant. For example, medium-sized plants require at least 5–7 gallon containers whereas big plants need pots that are more than 11 gallons. Remember, the type of container you choose plays a major role as well. Autoflowers love aerated soil that drains very well, so use breathable containers like fabric pots that allow maximum drainage.

4) Reduce nutrient strength

It’s common for beginners to load their plants with too many nutrients and burn them. We get that you love your plants, but you’re only harming your autoflowers by feeding extra nutes. Photoperiod plants have bigger roots, but autoflowers are comparatively smaller and the nutrients have to be adjusted accordingly.

For instance, if your nutrient chart recommends 5ml/liter, start with 2.5ml or 1.25 ml (1/2 or 1/4 strength) and watch how the plant responds. Some autoflowers, like the Tangie ‘Matic or Gorilla Glue, for example, are voracious feeders and require a stronger dose, but make sure you start with big doses only after experimenting with half-strength nutes at first.

It goes without saying that seedlings don’t require nutrients. If you’re going soilless, a mild nutrient solution is fine, but don’t go above 150–200 ppm to avoid burning them.

5) Keep an eye on the pH

The pH is an important factor in determining the yields of autoflowering cannabis strains. Whether you grow hydroponically or use soil as a medium, pH is critical. Although many growers assume that the plant is suffering from nutrient deficiencies, most issues crop up only due to pH imbalance.

For autoflowers growing in soil, pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 is adequate while hydroponic systems do well from 5.5 to 6.5. It’s not necessary to get an exact number, so an average of levels starting from 5.5 to 6.5 is good for autoflowers.

How does the pH dictate the yields, you ask? Well, when the pH falls below 5.5, plants cannot absorb certain nutrients like Calcium and Magnesium even if they are present at the roots. The same logic applies when the pH rises above 7. Suffice it to say that all the nutrients in the world cannot help the plant recover if the pH is not right. With an imbalance in the pH, the nutrients cannot be absorbed and the plants produce very little yields. Therefore, check the pH constantly to ensure that the plants are healthy.

Autoflowers grow even when they get only 12 hours of light from seed to harvest. They are tough and adapt in any situation; however, they thrive when they receive 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. Some growers provide 24 hours of light from the beginning until harvest, but it’s not recommended because plants need some rest and time to recover like the rest of us.

Growers produce good yields with 24 hours, but the quality isn’t as good as plants grown in an 18/6 cycle. The light setup also plays an important role here. Although autos grow well under different types of lighting, they prefer HPS or LEDs over CFL and fluorescent lights.

In particular, full-spectrum LEDs work the best for any type of autoflower. The higher the lumens, the better the yields, but if you cannot afford expensive lighting equipment, CFLs will work well during the vegetative phase.

Autoflowers growing outdoors usually receive only 12 hours of proper sunlight, and you’re probably wondering if that’s enough. However sunlight is the most powerful light compared to artificial systems set up by humans, so autos take advantage of the situation and produce maximum yields outdoors.

7) Use proper training techniques

Due to a shortage of time, not every training technique working for other cannabis plants suit autoflowers. For instance, HST or High-Stress-Techniques work very well on photoperiod plants, but autoflowers prefer Low-Stress-Techniques or LST.

LST is a method that requires bending the stems of the plant so that the light penetrates to the lower parts of the plant. Generally, autoflowers tend to grow one main massive cola while the rest of the plant produces small budlets known as popcorn buds.

As a grower, your job is to ensure that all the buds receive equal light, and that’s where LST helps a great deal. Most growers begin LST after the plants are “Topped”. Topping is another technique that involves cutting off the tip of the main stem, forcing the plant to grow more colas rather than one. Beginners can even “FIM” their plants, which is another method where you cut off only a part of the tip instead of cutting it entirely.

Whether you Top, FIM, or LST the plants, autoflowers will perform well. However, training techniques must be employed only on healthy plants so the plant has time to recover from the initial stress. Unhealthy plants cannot be trained since there’s no time when it comes to autos.

You must also remember to train cannabis plants only during the vegetative stage. Doing so in the flowering phase will stunt the plant drastically. Many growers simply stay away from training autoflowers because they produce good yields even when they aren’t trained; however, a combination of any of the techniques mentioned above will deliver stunning results, which makes training plants a matter of personal choice.

Most autoflowers start flowering in the third or fourth week, so start training only if the plants grow fast and remain healthy enough to be trained. If you’re unsure, it’s okay to not train the plants at all.

Truth be told, autoflowers adapt so well that they produce massive yields even if you leave them alone to do their thing. However, it’s best if you use these tips and tricks to maximize yields in autoflowers.

Cannabis growers are always on the hunt to understand the tips and tricks to maximize yields in autoflowers. Most growers have the talent, but they lack information. And that’s a serious handicap…